May 07, 2007
A feeling of dread, or doom, or just a malaise haunts me. There’s that feeling you get when you contemplate suicide that nothing matters, and it’s a little like that. I’m fairly certain I know what a person who commits suicide feels like. I used to say I didn’t understand suicide, because it didn’t make sense. Why not, instead, go climb a dangerous mountain? swim the English channel? parachute jump? Hell, if you want to die, why not do something really silly, or dangerous, or antisocial? Why not do something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do? Always thinking of efficiency I guess. I wouldn’t want people to waste a death. (Hmm, I think the insanity is creeping in). Actually, I have felt that depression that precedes suicide. It’s a feeling of extreme ennui. Sometimes there is also pain, and you want the pain to go away. Some people, of course, commit suicide with no intention of dying; it’s just to make a statement and hope someone notices. Some people commit suicide to make someone else feel bad. Actually, I have been brought back from the brink of suicide several times when I begin thinking; I have thoughts of those who would be saddened by it. The idea that there are people who care whether I live or die is enough to bring me out. So, perhaps my brain can prevent me from offing myself by making me think. As I said, I know what makes people kill themselves. It’s a loss of interest in anything. Why continue when nothing makes you happy? when nothing gives you any pleasure? This feeling contradicts rational thought, suppresses it. It’s hard to think when you don’t care to think, when your thoughts are what brought you to this place in the first place. Ennui – is that the modern state of mind? Seems common. People say you should have something to believe in, but sometimes you lose interest in believing in anything. It’s all bullshit. It’s funny to think of those people who kill themselves, thinking that the world will notice, will care, will mourn their loss. The world goes on, people continue to live and procreate and die. Humanity continues. Individuals die, and it doesn’t matter. When whole cultures die, or nations disappear, that is tragic. Some of us have such egocentric views of the world, of life itself, as though our own personal life is of great importance. Actually it is of importance to those we help feel important. Without a social net, there is no one to care. You have to touch someone. I remember when Scott jumped off the Golden Gate bridge. He left a note, saying something like, “I can’t make anyone happy anymore.” That was his life: playing guitar and singing for kids in hospitals, giving massages, teaching mediation, reflection, calmness. And, yet, he couldn’t banish his own demons. He had been brought up to be an engineer, a recognized successful professional. All his schooling meant nothing to him. That was his parents’ dream, not his. He wanted to be happy, and he did that by making other people happy. Faced with a common bout of depression, I imagine he couldn’t handle that loss of interest.
I wonder if the Romans in the declining stage of their empire felt this way? In the US, our empire is at its height, but recent events and politicians have made it certain that we will go no higher, that our ideals mean nothing, and the freedom and democracy we want the world to have is seriously flawed in our own country. The free enterprise system we try to export to the world is seriously flawed as well, having degenerated into greed, without long-term planning, without the infrastructure that is necessary to keep a country economically viable. Our future is in hock to creditors as we fail to produce wealth ourselves, and squander what we should be investing on war. This was a country rich in natural “resources” that we have also squandered with poor husbandry, senseless waste, and greed.
Our small farmers and entrepreneurs prop up the image we have of a country made strong by its people, while multinational corporations suck the country dry.
In the end, we will become a backwater nation, with strong feelings of patriotism and religion and culture, but little to offer the world. We will be of little importance to the world leaders, like Japan and China and the European Union.
Our military might is all that keeps us on top these days, but it used to be the promise of freedom, individual rights, and economic success that had people look up to us, respect us and trust us. We have squandered that too. We can continue to build fortress America, walling ourselves in, taxing imports while the balance of trade remains unbalanced, fighting never-ending wars, but we will eventually fail. We do not have the respect of the world, we do not have economic viability, we do not have moral capital.
We are not preparing our children for the real world, but simply to be office workers, or service providers. We may well end up as highly valued service providers, not as innovators and revolutionaries. I think our time has come and is going. All of this is not directly perceived by this country’s people, but it is felt. The jingoists protest, and they have their champions, but their champions are without morals, without vision, without a firm grasp on reality, and they are failing. Patriotism and prayer will not save the USA. Crime will increase, suicide will increase, pollution will increase, waste will increase, and exploitation will increase. Sensationalism and escapism may increase, but ennui will replace our hopes and dreams.
Oil – There is only half as much oil as previously estimated.
Though civilization prides itself on its divorce from the natural world, all life remains dependent on our ecology–even human life. Civilization is even more at the mercy of the elements than other modes of human culture. The precarious nature of agriculture makes the civilized food supply utterly dependent on a very small number of closely-related, fickle cereal grains that require very precise parameters of temperature, soil, acidity, rainfall, etc. Those parameters are about to change drastically.
We have recently broken a sort of “tipping point” regarding global warming. An increasing number of scientists are now saying that it is too late. The warnings sounded since the 1970s went unheeded, and now the globe is warming under its own feedback loop, regardless of what we do.
WHO concluded that 160,000 people die from the effects of global warming every year, and they expect this number to double by 2020–with 3,000-4,000 in the U.S. alone. By 2015, Mt. Kilimanjaro will no longer have an ice cap. Rising sea levels could wipe out most of our cities (which tend to be on coasts, or at the very least, rivers) as the polar ice caps melt.
The frequency of extreme rainfall events (EREs) will increase between 30 and 110 percent (depending on the region) by 2015. The increase in torrential rains will cause significant damage to ecology, agriculture, human habitat and infrastructure (houses, schools, hospitals, shops, public utilities, sewerage, roads, bridges… ). EREs disrupt all human activities and result in loss of topsoil, human and animal life. In other areas, it will be severe drought that is the problem.
The full effects of global warming will continue to unfold over the centuries to come, but we are already seeing the first effects, as with the extinction of the Gulf Stream and the resulting hurricanes in the Gulf and bitterly cold European winter. We can expect these effects to intensify, and to even be joined by other problems, such as water wars.
We are already in the midst of the most severe mass extinction in the history of the planet. By 2014, it is expected that 50% of the species in the rain forest will remain. By 2015, the tipping point will be breached, and only 45.9% will remain–less than half. In 2012-2015, only 10% virgin rain forests will remain, leaving only 50% of rain forest species. This is a vital threshold in the process of mass extinction, because most of the earth’s species–and most of the earth’s oxygen–comes out of the rain forests. Breaching this threshold threatens escalating cascades of extinction and critical ecosystem failure that could even threaten the survival of our species.
It’s over – Collapse is no longer a future possibility, but a reality. Individual cities or carved-out fiefdoms might persist for a century or more, just as in most collapses where a few pockets struggled on for some time. Perhaps the USA is committing suicide? Without a strong defense of our values and beliefs, we’ve lost what makes us who we were.