2018 Ready or Not

Last year, 2017, ended not with a bang, but a whimper. While how the current year, 2018, will end is still unknown, the world in general and the U.S. in particular, are not on a good trajectory. While some countries are doing reasonably well, most are not. Even in the States, the microcosm of individuals and places doing well, doesn’t change the macrocosm. I am not worried about the planet as a whole. Earth has survived mass extinctions in the past, and life has continued. The life forms, however, changed. It is as though the planet was saying, “Well that didn’t work. I’ll try something new.”

I doubt whether any of the creatures influenced by a mass extinction ever had the thought that they were about to become extinct, and I wonder whether humans have enough awareness to consider the possibility that another mass extinction might be just around the corner. Those who write books and make movies predicting the end have presented a variety of scenarios. The common themes are the following: (1) humans do themselves in with atomic warfare, (2) aliens invade and do it to us, (3) a random asteroid or comet wipes us out, and (4) disease does us in. The theme I think least likely is “alien invasion.” My guess is that “they” are here and have been watching us but won’t interfere. (They might well have the alien equivalent of the Prime Directive from “Star Trek.”) Whether humans survive as a species may well be the first test of whether we can live to become “interplanetary.”

Given President Trump’s fire and fury speech and North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons program, the saber rattling is obvious. It also begs the question of why and how “we” got here. I would like to say, “Don’t look at me…. It’s not my fault!” After all, I was a radical activist in the 1960s and marched for Civil Rights and against the War in Vietnam. I’ve always done my best to vote for the lesser of two evils. I listened to all the protest music, including “Wide, Wide River by the Fugs:

I’m not the only one to be worried. You know that things are serious when the United Nations puts the world on Red Alert. Another protest song I have posted previously when my concerns about the direction the country (the States) was taking seemed wrong to me. It presents many of the same themes as the song “Wide, Wide River,” with a similar metaphor but without some of the “colorful” language:

The war referred to in The Fugs song was Vietnam. That referred to in the Pete Seeger song was WWII. The common themes are worth noting. At this point, most are familiar with the expression, the fog of war. When the fog gets thick, it’s hard to see what lies ahead. It’s also true, of course, for international relations in general. The truth is that we don’t really understand the intentions of those from other countries. This isn’t new, of course. Cultures have always done what they could to destroy and/or subjugate those from different cultures. England and France, for example, fought what is known as the Hundred Years War. The United States and Canada exist today because the Europeans (primarily the English and the French) wanted the riches of the New World for themselves.

One of the problems is that it is easier to start a war than it is to end one. Another is that outcomes are difficult to predict. The fog of war is an apt metaphor. More than one driver has gone off the coastal highway in California while driving through fog. While movies can be scripted, life can’t be. Although others have said similar things, John Lennon is usually credited for having said, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” He also was very life affirming:

Most people have faith in life when they commit to having children. One of the things that’s on my mind this New Year’s Day is whether we as a species can be willing to affirm life, not only for those who carry our selfish genes, but also for those who don’t. I suspect our survival depends on it.