Dumbfounded, Discouraged, and Dismayed

I haven’t posted anything new in a while. I’ve been too busy reading the political news and wringing my hands. My sense is that the world situation is getting worse. We have, of course, had “dark days” in times past. I’m not sure there has ever been a time the planet was without at least one war going on. Most recently, in the States we experienced the World Wars (I and II), the Korean War, the “conflict” in Vietnam, and whatever is currently going on in the Mid-East. We’ve also had Civil Rights challenges, and various other conflicts and difficulties in various places and at different times in history. Throughout most of the difficulties during my lifetime, however, I managed to persuade myself that “things” were, in general, improving, that there was some hope humanity would live to see a better future. The recent political situation in the States, however, has led to lose confidence in a better future.

Although the election of Trump to the Presidency is certainly a significant part of my loss of faith in a better future, it is by no means the totality. My big worry is about the environment, including both global warming and the loss of species and biodiversity. Humans (including you and me) are responsible for both those problems. A long time ago, a cartoon character named Pogo (created by Walt Kelly) said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” That certainly seems to be the case. The evidence now suggests that we are heading for a new mass extinction, and it is unlikely that humans will survive.

The earth has experienced five mass extinctions in the past. The next, which seems to be well on its way, will be the sixth. One of the things we know for sure about mass extinctions is that the species that arise afterwards are different from those that lived before. Large reptiles once dominated the planet, and that’s no longer the case. For better or worse, mammals have gained ascendency. “Different” isn’t necessarily either good or bad. Humans arose only after the fifth mass extinction, and humanity began with a great deal of promise. Humans, of course, have a lot of biases about “good” and “bad.” We tend to think of other species as good or bad depending on how we relate to them. We like them if we can raise them for food or if we can train them to serve us in other ways. We dislike them if we consider them a threat or competitors for food or territory. Although all species use what intelligence they have to find food, shelter, and opportunities to reproduce, humans have done especially well meeting those needs. Our failures tend to fall into what might be considered the “logical consequences” of being too successful at them. We have certainly done a stellar job of being fruitful and multiplying. When it comes to the earth, we have done a far better job of “subduing” than of “replenishing.”

We are cautioned in a variety of ways “to be careful what we wish for” because we might get it. As a species, we are very good at “wanting” but not so good at anticipating the logical consequences of having our wishes fulfilled. As a species, we are slow to cope with change. For most of human history, the “strong” enslaved the “weak.” Those who lost wars typically ended up as slaves. We know that was common in Europe, but it was also true of Native Americans before Europeans brought their form of it to the Western Hemisphere. In the States, slavery was especially problematic. One by one the European countries outlawed slavery, as did the northern States in the U.S. The Southern States, however, had built their entire economy on slavery. We have not yet outlived that legacy, and many still believe that the South will rise again. Part of that heritage is a belief in the superiority of those descended from White Europeans.

Not everyone living in the Southern U.S. shares that belief, of course, and not everyone from the Northern states is free of that particular bias. We can also see the same tendencies in Europe: The Bosnians hate the Serbs and vice-versa. Love may be fleeting, but hatred can last for generations. In the States, the saying, Black Lives Matter, is a legacy of slavery and the Civil War. And that’s not the only legacy, as the last election in the States made clear. The irony is that many relatively poor people voted for the candidate and political party that want to transfer increasing amounts of wealth from poor people (regardless of race) to those who already have more than they know what to do with. The gap between rich and poor keeps expanding. Whether poor, working whites voted against their self-interest is not clear. For many, certain values are more important than their own economic well being. For so-called “values voters” some beliefs were more important than economic well-being. And, of course, they were lied to. Trump promised to bring back coal, steel, and other “working class” jobs. The one promise Trump has essentially kept is immigration and travel bans. The U.S. is doing a pretty good job of keeping people from elsewhere out.

This is a world-wide problem, however. The real problem isn’t that we are restricting immigration (even when more immigration would work to our advantage), but that the rest of the world is in pretty miserable shape, too. People do their best to migrate to locations where they think life will be better. In times past, the earth still had a lot of relatively empty space, and humans saw opportunities to use that space to advantage. Humans seem to have overpopulated themselves into increasing misery. In spite of that, many (a lot of them Trump voters) want to eliminate birth control. Too many think that God (by whatever name) will magically prevent humans from self-destruction or that a “precious few” will be saved, as in the days when Noah saved humanity and two of every species. That’s not going to happen.

When we have had mass extinctions in the past, the new life forms to arise the following millennia were completely different from the life forms that existed previously. God (whichever one you believe in) will not save us or your special group. The spiritual force often referred to as The All That Is does not hold humanity in special esteem. The All that Is—Source—will simply start a new creation populated by new life forms. Humans, and human evolution, will come to an end, but the Cosmic Energy will continue. It is, after all, infinite and eternal, whereas we are neither.