Plus Ca Change – David Pascoe
When I was a wee, young lad, my farthest horizons Down The Block To The Corner, and more distantly, The Annual 25-Hour Drive to Southern
KCalifornia, I was confronted with the reality of, not only my personal mortality, but of the possibility – nay, the certainty of the extinction of humanity. No, not something as pedestrian as nuclear warfare. That, that actor who had the sheer, unmitigated gall to occupy the White House had seemed to put paid to the Gorby and the big, bad (but misunderstood, really, Officer Krupke) USSR.
No, we were all going to freeze to death as the planet chilled to a really, really, really cold temperature. Or starve. Or both, I expect. Now, I was four or five, but I’ve come to find out since that the drum of Teh Coming Ice-Age(TM) was being beaten for much longer than I knew about then. This was hard to understand – the whole freezing thing – as I started my life in sunny Pasadena. It became at least accessible once we’d moved to Spokane, and had this strange period called Winter, where the rain became this solid, oppressive, colorless thing that drifted on tiny wings of extinction. Or something.
Once I became aware of our awesome and horrifying fate, I seemed to see it everywhere. (It helped that I could read by then.) I read about it at the doctor’s office, waiting for the MMR shot (traumatizing, that. Far more than a nebulous, chilly future). I read about it when Mom took me along grocery shopping, and wouldn’t buy me the Super Frosted Sugar Bombs, or whatever toxic (but Fortified Mit Vitamins!) breakfast cereal I’d seen commercials for the previous Saturday during The Time of Kar-Tuuns. (Speaking of traumatizing, she’d never buy me the umpteen various Lego sets that I DESPERATELY NEEDED to survive, either. Moms, man.) I even heard people talking about it at church, when I could be bothered to pay attention to what the grown-ups were saying. I mean, seriously, how did they even get enough oxygen at that height? Beggars the imagination, or at least the imagination of a four-year-old.
But, yeah: we were dying, as a species. Weeeelllllll, not dying, per se, but headed toward a Bad End, and nothing we could possibly do would stop it. Except for, probably – and I’m just guessing, here, as I don’t actually remember all the recommended “solutions” from the myriad of
doom-saying glossy magazine covers – spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money on untried and unproven programs that *might* undo the damage we nefarious humans had done to Mother Earth. With malice aforethought, of course.
Three decades on, we’re hearing the same tune again. Unless we cut the legs out from under our economy, unless we reject cold turkey what keeps our civilization running day-to-day (don’t believe me? Look into how much freight moves just by semi each day), unless we pour money into untried and unproven technologies built by companies with surprising amounts of
governmentadministra- no, I take that back: with incestuous, cronyistic (a word, and you knows it) interpenetration that defies belief, we are all going to DIE. The earth will heat, the seas will rise, and it’s our fault because we’re horrible, horrible sinners the ones pursuing our small, avaricious, capitalistic ends while Blessed Gaia burns.
Speaking of ‘orrible, ‘orrible sinners, I recall any number of references to various types through the centuries calling the general populace to repent and … do … stuff, because the End of the World was coming. Now, at least in Western countries, a lot of people making such predictions predicated (hehe) them upon the return of the Christ. Not all, though; not by a long stretch. For some light reading, check out this list. Now, I’m not waiting around for it, regardless of how it comes.
Which is the point, really. People have been predicting the end for a long, long time now. Probably since Ogg saw a peculiar light at night, woke up Mogg and told him the sun wasn’t going to come up in the morning. (Mogg very wisely went back to sleep, since why would one want to meet the End of the World tired and cranky?) In the same way – are you ready for this lateral leap? – we now have people predicting the end of the Republic. Look, I’m not exactly looking to piss anybody off, so I’ll just lay out this quote.
It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 302)
Now, whether or not America slides further and further down the toilet into bureaucratic totalitarianism (and reading up on FDR’s Amerika, I’m not convinced we’re actually that far gone), we have things to be doing. Things that give us hope. (Not change, despite the title. Look, I’m good with change. More or less. Change is a constant, and it’s one to which we adapt, or we don’t. And often die, being historically minded.) Some keep their eyes on eternity, in one form or another. For those of us cursed to be writers, we keep one eye on eternity, at best. I trust the Author understands that. If He doesn’t, we shall have words, I expect. As for others, hope comes from the bizarre, Brownian action of existence, where billionaires enable freedom for writers everywhere. From what I read
in the newspaper on the Utility Formerly Known as the Internet (another article, another kettle of fish) that’s not really supposed to happen. The Rich(TM) are out to oppress and lord their wealth over us mere mortals. Still and all, I have a hope of making a living from my writing, instead of it being reduced to a glorified hobby.
Even five years ago, that wasn’t clear. And, truthfully, in another five years, it may not be part of our reality. I hope in ten years or so, I’ll be writing posts from orbital habitat. Maybe something at one of the Lagrangian points. Which is the point, really. We take potshots at the future from the uncomfortable flux of the present using minds rooted in the past. We can’t know whether the Republic will fall tomorrow, in 2017, or centuries down the road (though I hope we’ll still be arguing about it come then). Everything changes, and we can’t know what form things will take, even in the near future. Take comfort in that, for only the mad or Marxists (but I repeat myself) claim otherwise. And if we who are familiar with bending our minds around the shapes the future may bring can’t see it, even darkly, how much more terrifying must it be to be one who clings to a failed philosophy, always expecting paradise around the next election, and never reaching it?
Eventually, those who can adapt will win. That’s us, by the way. The battlers (hi, Kate!), the early adopters, the malleable of mind, but never of conscience.