You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
I need to rant. I often feel like I shouldn’t though, like ranting about stuff isn’t a very good idea. It’s pretty, you know, negative! Who wants to read depressing stuff? But sometimes I’m feeling depressed, so, well, what the hell? After all, this is my blog, I suppose. If I can’t rant here, then where can I rant? 🙂
I do want to acknowledge that I’m damn lucky in life, and I know it. I’m surrounded by blessings. Like, over the past few weeks, I’ve had many moments with my kids that have been SOOOO fun, and have made me laugh uproariously or feel my heart melt with love. I’ve had students in my classes share some of the nicest, most personal and inspiring thoughts with me. I’ve shared moments with friends, that have been downright awesome. Good times! But behind this positive veneer, for which I am infinitely grateful, I am aware that the foundation of all our lives, is rapidly crumbling. And it is pissing me off. I don’t know what to do about it. But I’ll start by shaking my fist at the world and ranting on a blog. Why? Because it’s 2016?
Here are a few things on my mind:
First, some rather interesting news has come my way recently. I’ll stick to three….
1) Millions of women (google “Zika virus”) in several countries are being told by their medical authorities not to get pregnant, because it’s too dangerous. Wait a minute….is this a movie, or some dystopian novel? No, unfortunately. This is The Present.
2) Easy-transmission superbugs, resistant to ALL existing antibiotics, are now popping up in China, thanks to overuse of antibiotics in our insanely shameful factory farming industries. Epidemiologists are saying that the human pandemic is now an actual, imminent possibility, that will become increasingly probable, and then inevitable, as we continue down our merry road to destruction. Nothing stops these bugs; they have passed the final anti-biotic barrier the medical community has invented. Thanks a lot, Meat Industry, for ignoring what health scientists have been telling you since I was in elementary school. After all, what do scientists know, anyway? ……and, well, thanks a lot, consumers, including me, for not sufficiently demanding change, going along with the status quo and continuing to buy factory farmed meat even though it is morally reprehensible and imperils our collective future.
3) Sarah Palin is endorsing Donald Trump. And we actually care. About her. About him. Even if it’s just to laugh at them, we spend our time doing this (me included; some of the best laughs I’ve had this week, actually….). But beyond the laughter, consider that Trump is still the leading contender for the Republican nomination, and it is a real possibility that Americans would give “the button” to a racist, war-mongering, anti-science narcissist. Or to Ted Cruz. Yeah ‘merica….bravo.
“The next decade of absurdism, brought to you by the Republican party — putting the laughter back into slaughter and the fun into funeral.”
So, let’s chat about these things for a moment.
First up — the Zika virus. Pretty scary eh? You know what’s weird though? 17 years ago, after taking some ecology classes and learning how dynamic systems work, I realized that global warming would start tipping the balance away from big, long-lived, slow-biology species (K species), like humans, and towards small, short-lived, fast-biology species (r species), like bugs. And the more we destroy biodiversity and burn fossil fuels, the more we tip the balance in favour of the bugs, pests, viruses and other nasty things we don’t want to share our reality with any more than we have to. The Zika virus is no isolated phenomenon. Just watch the viruses of the next 20 years that keep popping up, watch the news for major crop failures and ecosystem collapses due to viruses, blights, pest outbreaks.
Every now and then, just for kicks, google “mass die off”. It is a guarantee that more of this is coming down the pipe….In the last few years, it’s been antelopes, fish, bees, bats, various birds, and probably other species….I don’t look this up too often; it makes me depressed.http://www.cbsnews.com/…/mass-animal-deaths-on-the-rise-wo…/
So, bug world eh? …..hmmmm…..For a few decades of being able to fill our garages and basements with plastic shit that we forget about 3 days after we buy it, and the ability to drive to the convenience store for some beef jerky and a bag of milk? That seems…..really dumb.
And you know, I am not a super-genius to figure this out. It’s really basic science. I knew that Bug World was going to be on the rise 17 years ago, after taking one course in complex systems theory. This is like the ABCs of system dynamics. Any systems thinker who thinks about it for 5 minutes would know this. But most people don’t. I guess it’s more important that we think about which celebrity’s ass has gotten bigger or smaller recently, than that we think 10 years into the future….
I used to feel optimistic that human ingenuity and basic wisdom/sanity would win out. I don’t anymore. After a decade of watching North Americans vote in Dubya & Harper, after 1 out of every 2 people in my own ‘world class city’ voted in a dysfunctional cartoon for Mayor, and people STILL supported him in huge numbers after it became apparent that he was a liar, crack-smoker, racist, and misogynist against whom the majority of City Council actually mutinied, and now the Bizarro-world of Trump-mania? After watching the general public and media largely ignore the accumulation of evidence that our very civilization is imperiled. After people seemingly forget about Hitler’s rhetoric against the Jews that led to the Holocaust, and then turn around and engage in exactly the same rhetoric about Muslims …after armed White men mutiny in the US and the authorities sit around for months doing basically nothing, whereas a Black, Muslim, or Native group doing the same thing would have a multi-trillion dollar military juggernaut blow the shit out of them in, like, a day…..I don’t know. I don’t feel optimistic anymore. I’m starting to just feel numb.
It’s interesting that I’m getting my enviro-psych students to read, just this week, about the tendency for people overwhelmed by the world’s escalating crises to go numb. It’s becoming hard to teach people about this, I have to admit. I am losing hope myself, sometimes. I don’t want my kids or grand-kids to live in a Mad Max world.
So, how DO we make meaningful change happen? Like, this rant is not a good idea, I know. It’s not “strategic” at all. Should I point out how few people will read a message this long, or negative? It doesn’t even start off well; instead, it starts with a news story that sounds icky. I’d be way better off posting something funny. Maybe a baby picture? Something about a cat? I hear Simon Cowell got particularly emotional the other day after a singing performance….People love that stuff.
I know, based on social psych research, how to craft a much more compelling message than this. I shouldn’t even mention that most people won’t read this, because that social norm information will make it even less likely for people to do so. (Although I did hide that way down in here, where most people haven’t read to anyway….so it probably makes no difference….)
But, is there no place to just speak from the heart? I’m kind of tired of social psychology and its ‘wisdom’, a lot of the time. Do we really need to “persuade” people? Is there not some basic “bottom line” past which rational argument actually does work? Is there not some point where the evidence can be compelling enough, and one can say, “holy shit everyone, we’re in trouble”…and that’s enough to get people to act? I would like to believe that. But no, it’s just not true.
We ignore practically every piece of important information, and instead soothe our disturbed emotions with trivia. Consider the amount of time we spend analyzing sports, compared to the amount of time we spend thinking about the TRILLION dollars a year or so we dedicate to blowing people up….. And if you’re a fan who thinks, “but hockey IS important!”, then go read some columns on cricket, badminton, speed skating, bob sledding, surfing, skateboarding, or whatever else you DON’T care about, and you’ll quickly get a sense of the trillions of people-hours and IQ-points that get sunk into this, compared to the miniscule amount of time & intellectual energy we spend considering, say, the policies of the politicians we’re going to vote for.
Consider how much the average person knows about the Kardashians versus how much they know about how Western economic & military policies have increased terrorism around the world. Why does ISIS exist anyway? How many people have spent even 10 minutes reading about that? How many have spent 10 hours and have actually scratched the surface of this complex issue?
I had a great conversation with my son yesterday about US military policy (he wanted to know why they drone-bomb people), and how it has increased terrorism, how in fact, the “good guys” are responsible in large part for creating the people we now condemn as “the bad guys”. It took a few minutes, and a couple of analogies, but he understood, no problem. It’s not too complicated for a nine-year-old to figure out….
Consider that we could take TEN DAYS of the global military budget (or 20 days of just the US’ military budget), and with that money, give basic education to every single child in the poorest 50 countries in the world. Like Oscar Goldman knew about the bionic man, WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. We are just too busy watching zombie flicks and playing slither.io (I love that game….), to do what needs to be done.
We watch Americans kill each other in huge numbers because of guns, ignore the HUGE differences in violence in other countries who don’t allow guns in every handbag, closet and glove compartment, and then still think the “right to bear assault rifles” is something we need to debate? Obama tries to do something about it, and the right-wing goes apeshit, and people actually listen to them and think, “gee they have a point; maybe we WOULD be safer with more guns.” Obama recommends laws that are EXACTLY what REPUBLICANS have been saying since REAGAN, but now, because Obama is saying it, it’s radical, socialist, big government tyranny?
We know that economic growth is going almost 100% to the richest of the richest of the rich, and still, we are confused about economic policies and trade agreements? We believe the rising tide lifts all boats, but ignore the fact that the yachts get bigger while the masses just hang on to the debris of their lives, and pray that they don’t drown?
In Canada, we know, incontrovertibly, that the oilsands are a bad long-term bet economically, are atrocious for human health, and are the world’s single biggest climate-change-accelerating disaster, and we have to argue whether we should allow more billions to be poured into pipelines and other infrastructure, committing us even further to fossil fuels?
No wonder renowned climate scientist James Hansen decided to scale back working in his lab, ‘advising’ politicians who don’t listen to the science anyway, and writing more scientific papers that will have no impact on government policy, and instead, started getting arrested on the protest lines. At least he’ll be able to look his grandchildren in the eye and say, “Sorry kids….I tried my best.”
Ahhh, how nice, the people sitting beside me in this coffee shop are such a cross-section of humanity. Let’s see; the nearby ones, 20-somethings, are talking about how drunk they got last weekend, and how their buddy hung up on his girlfriend because “she’s such a bitch anyway.” ….laughter all around the table……And the 55-ish man with the frown lines is complaining to the elderly women sitting across from him about “the Chinese” who work in the store down the street. And I quote, “they’re so stupid; can’t they learn English if they want to be in our country?” She nods, sagely. And I think, hmmm, yes, “the Chinese” are stupid; that makes sense; what a rock solid argument you have there, buddy. The two older men playing chess? One of them mentioned Trump a few minutes ago. I didn’t catch the whole exchange, but did hear him say, “Well, at least he’d bomb the shit outta them Muzzlims….” I glance over to the well-dressed young man sitting at another nearby table, wondering if he’s catching any of this. But no, he’s got headphones on, and is scrolling through pics from a list of “Instagram’s 25 hottest women”.
Blahhhh. Ok…..thanks for reading my angry rant. Next up: something positive!
Your candid tone is really funny here. A good rant wanes off bitter feelings. Happy I found your blog through some random scrolling in social media. I recall taking a class of yours nearly a decade ago which I got a lot out of and am deeply thankful for. I hope you’re well!
Hi Anonymous! Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my writing, and I really appreciate your comments about my class. I haven’t been teaching for several years now due to health problems, and I miss it greatly. It is truly heart-lifting to hear that someone from a decade ago (nearly!) remembers a class with me fondly. Thank you so much. I hope you’re well too! 🙂
I really hope your health recovers. I’d love to see your platform grow and potentially contribute to a project that comes out of it. I think you have my email in case we speak more at length.
Thanks so much “Anon”. 🙂 I hope so too! And yes, I’ll send you a message…would love to hear your ideas! Cheers