Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Future Shocked

Regular readers may have long ago picked up on the fact that one of the things I've been attempting to do with this diary is to better understand the past.

That's become increasingly difficult to do as this year has unfolded. It seems that it's hard to focus on the past when wave after wave of current events are washing over it and threatening to carry it entirely away.

I have to say, I expected 2011 to behave itself much better than it has. Instead, it's acting like a bratty child with ADHD, bouncing off the walls and screaming its lungs out. If there was a way to slip a year a few tranquilizers, I would do so now without a second thought. (I might even slap it silly if I knew which end was least likely to slap back.)

Ordinary years are bad enough, what with their standard number of car accidents and drownings and all the other hazards of life that anyone with access to good statistical data can predict with uncanny accuracy. The goal of a sane society would be to better understand those statistics and the incidents they represent and then work to influence them in a positive way as part of a common human quest to make life on this planet as pleasant as possible for the greatest number possible.

Alas, it seems an unending series of extraordinarily unfortunate events have indefinitely postponed the opportunity to deal with merely normal hazards.

And as one extraordinarily unfortunate event has followed on the heels of another, it seems that we can't even begin to comprehend (let alone deal with) one of these events before the next is upon us.

Consider the Tucson massacre of early January. Has anyone yet really grasped its significance? Have we even begun to identify let alone grapple with the deeper issues related to mental illness and easy access to guns that it raised? No, we have not. Perhaps we had time to shed a tear for the child who was killed or to cheer on Rep. Giffords' recovery before the start of the next Big Thing, but honestly, I can't recall. "Things are in the saddle and ride mankind," as Emerson said, and things seem to have acquired a new set of spurs.

Tunisia.... Egypt.... The unrelenting Republican assault on public workers and their unions.... Japan's earthquake and tsunami and nuclear disasters.... Libya.... It's as if the Fates have overdosed on amphetamines and are now determined to squeeze an entire year's worth of news into just three months....

At what point does the rush of events overwhelm our ability to deal with them in even a perfunctory manner? At what point do we and/or our institutions just shut down?

Earlier human beings certainly faced tremendous challenges but what in our long evolutionary history has prepared us to deal with the peculiar challenges presented by today's complex social, economic, political, and technological systems or their even more complex interactions?

Exactly how are we to adequately learn from and adapt to an event like last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf when hit with a nuclear power crisis less than a year later?

Exactly how are we to successfully pay for and manage a new war in Libya when we have yet to successfully pay for or manage the nearly decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Exactly how are we going to find and nurture the enlightened political leaders of the future when the issues raised by the assassinations of our political leaders of the 1960s continue to be ignored (or written off as unsolvable)?

There's more I could say, but at this point I suppose it all boils down to this:

Move to Canada.

Unplug the TV.

Hope for the best.

(If you have an opinion as to which region of Canada is most likely to make it to 2015 with a minimum of icy build-up on its wings, please share!)


  1. "Unplug the TV" sounds like a GREAT start.
    Is the Central Ohio Society of Atheists, Freethinkers and other Criminally Insane planning anything for the 2011 TV Turnoff week next month? It's April 18-25.

    As for moving to Canada, Adbusters was started in Vancouver which is where the mildest winters are to be found. No icy wings near the Puget Sound. Well, not many--Seattle declares weather a emergency if the forecast temperature approaches freezing.

    Here's a link to an AdBusters article from their Whole Brain Catalog. The title is, "What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?"
    Does that sound like your journalistic beat or what?

  2. You forgot the time-tested (reality-bested) "Head in the sand" option! ;-)

    This is, indeed, a challenging time. (One acquaintance told me, in a blasé manner, that it was to be expected, since the world is going to end next year, anyway. Argh!!! Since when have putative Xians become Mayans?)

    As to unplugging the tv, since it's Pledge Month on PBS, and all their normally enlightening programs, like Frontline, or Need To Know, seem to be preempted by Doo Wop Oldies infomercial-type shows, instead, everyone should simply switch to radio, NPR or progressive stations. Should their areas not actually HAVE progressive stations - my understanding is that finding liberal talk radio in the mid-west has become rarer than finding a heart in a Rethuglican representative - I urge all who thirst for rational thought to seek it online, instead. Let's just hope they don't hack the liberal, i.e. rational, sites.