Dealing with Being Lost

We can’t even plot where we are let alone where we are going

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by Mike Meyer

We have lost our way and need to identify our location, redefine where we are going, and set a new course. Unfortunately there are problems with doing that. Setting off a firecracker in a room full of cats is the closest analogy to our general reaction to suggestions that we plan a navigational change. This is not a new problem and that is the real problem.

Throughout most of human history this didn’t really matter as our species was busy expanding, conquering, being conquered, and leaving in a huff. The ‘leaving in a huff’ usually meant finding some other place with people who were easier to conquer and kill. The most we could achieve were autocratic empires who’s size and complexity brought shorter eras before the whole thing collapsed into some form of feudal chaos.

As things developed the conquering and killing became too bloody and costly so trading grew steadily in importance. This allowed the evolution of a small but significant subset of humans that simply enjoyed going off and living with other people for a while or longer. This facilitated trade and spread of knowledge.

The point here is not to review the history of the world but that it has been fine to let things happen and for people to set their own individual and group goals. We are still, more or less, following this ancient pattern. It has, after all, worked to the general benefit up until now.

That general benefit means there are nearly eight billion of us, far out weighing other life forms except possibly insects. To our own amazement we have managed, after some six thousand years of civilization, to significantly reduce misery and abject poverty for a majority of the human population. Of course for much of that history there was no conscious interest in improving life for nay but our most immediate social group.

As a result the extent of large group planning has been limited to conquering, enslaving, or killing other relatively large groups. There has been no real interest in planetary direction beyond extending conquest to everywhere and everyone. This has never worked out although China has a couple of good goes at it and the Tartars managed to get most of the Eurasian landmass worried for awhile.

Even with the late imperial ambitions of the United States, the resources and planning weren’t there beyond a traditional military fist in a rather fancy ‘we’re dong this for your own good’ glove. Then things fell apart back home.

The extent of our species overall planning and coordination is still pretty much a lot of shouting and arm waving with frequent threats descending into childish temper tantrums. The most common response is, screw you, I’ll do whatever I want.

Amazingly this seems to have begun to move in the same general direction with something just north of lip service by most of the planet’s sovereign governments. Our, still new, technological, real time communication links have made it increasingly hard to convince one segment of the population that everyone else on the planet is living in the same fear and with the same threat of starvation, too. Distorting and/or destroying those links is clearly understood to be essential to maintaining old fashioned rule by force and fear.

While the bad actors looking to follow their ancestors’ path to wealth and power can get away with trying, the worst actors get trade sanctions or foreign funded insurrections. What this often does is trip these political entities into some form of warlord feudalism. The general population suffers more while their elite travel to Singapore, Paris, or Los Angeles to enjoy their plunder and obtain health services unavailable at home.

That the actions against bad state actors punishes the people and, usually, not the elite doesn’t exactly set well with anyone except for those same people who pay no attention to anything but satisfying their own desires. But there are a lot of them, still, and that is another problem that we can’t seem to figure out.

The current situation is definitely less destructive than starting wars but we are not that far removed from those days. We still can’t make ourselves give up the war thing as that was the most satisfying way to kill time and neighbors so we could steal their resources and enslave them.

A major undiscussed problem, among many, has been the overall entertainment value of war and the use of that as a way to give our male youth a way to prove themselves while thinning the ranks of the most aggressive a bit. Young human males are dangerous animals driven by primitive motives centered in their sexual organs. Violent death and violent sex are closely tied in our species although that is another thing that no one likes to admit.

We are still burdened with the very traditional problem of youthful violence and a portion of that population that are either not presented with constructive alternatives, are unable to accept those alternatives, or are told by their families ot ignore them. There is also the tribal bonding of mourning the dead youth and organizing revenge that, though well understood as a ritual tool, is still cherished by the more reactive parts of the human population. These things extend deep into our evolutionary past.

Of importance is that those parts of the population most tied to the instinctive patterns are most likely to maintain the pretense that these things are important for some higher reason. The extent of their pretense is a major problem now blocking species survival planning.

While we have been able to achieve some broad agreement that really bad state actors need to be sent to bed and denied their dessert, if not killed and their lands plundered, the problem parts of our population are still addicted to power and blood.

The whole point of this discussion is that, unfortunately times have changed. Our poorly managed success threatens most of our planet’s life forms and may destroy our civilization if not our entire species except for some isolated remnants hiding in the mountains. This is a real threat to our, not at all distant, future.

The old patterns are still strong and there are a significant portion of our population who see no reason to change anything. To them it has always been pure Darwinism and the powerful and strong survive on the backs of the weak. And if the weak disappear, technology is now presented as the means to allow the strong to continue without change. That is the simplistic understanding of technology, right?

The numbers of people that support the rich and powerful in this group are heavily involved in the previously mentioned and very old self delusion about their purpose in life. Being sacrificed for the elite is not part of that delusion. The failure of those masses to see the looming presence of their pending sacrifice for the reactive elite is increasingly disconcerting.

So we really have a problem. The hardest part of this multifaceted problem is how successful we have been. The part of the population predisposed to not thinking much farther ahead than the next paycheck are easily swayed by ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and ‘those are somebody else’s problems’.

The members of this group who have become very rich and very powerful by ignoring the future and anyone else’s well-being play very well on the old authoritarian theme of, ‘it’s just you and me, kid. We’ll get rid of all those others who don’t look like us then you can be rich, too’. The fact that this never works out as advertised is quickly declared fake news or a sinful lack of faith in the, above mentioned, higher justification delusion.

As a result the matrix of unique problems now facing our planet are difficult to get across because all of the standards used to judge traditional success are positive. That those standards are inherently self serving and, now, seriously distorted not to mention blind to the, now, critical variables destroying us, is the result of our reliance on centuries of whomever has the most stuff gets to make the rules. That’s another way of saying that it’s easier to let folks do want they want than figure out what is really needed for all of us because this, incidentally, supports those with the most stuff.

In a world dedicated to endless material gain and increasing that gain by arbitrary national groups, the motivation to pull together for the common good and everyone’s survival is anemic at best and laughable to many. This is not a survival characteristic in the 21st century.

While our success to date is being used to keep the less perceptive in line with the rich opportunists, most of whom really don’t give a shit due to personality defects, the reactive denial of the planetary climate crisis is getting harder to keep together. This means that the followers of the problem opportunists are sliding down to the hard core. And that means things will get ugly. In the US and other badly stumbling governments this could break at any time.

Since the opportunist, predatory capitalist, and authoritarian classes have become one under neoliberalism, we can count on them to do anything to hold power and maintain their definition of value and success. While functioning leadership and aware (woke)populations in less crippled states are anxious, concerned and very aware that things are terribly wrong because waves crashing on rocks is not what we should be seeing dead ahead, and they are slowing down to recheck their course. they are relatively small boast in the flotilla.

When an opportunistic leadership keeps shouting that the course is fine, full speed ahead, it’s time for a major change. The fact that these people, whatever position of power they have managed to steal, are generally incompetent is another major hint that the very large changes are needed.

These people to be removed from power in order to improve our hopes of survival. We also need a new definition of planetary well being and a much more precise set of planetary standards to get out of this mess and to prevent worse in the future. This is obvious to the majority of our population. So what is the problem?

Yes, we’re back to the room full of cats with a whole string of lit firecrackers. Cats are not social animals and not primates with the intellectual tools to deal with abstractions to facilitate hypothetical futures and, hence, to plan. We need to start working at a our true level for our own sake and all the cats, too.

One of the first things we need to do is stop allowing people who are reactive, opportunistic, deceitful, and make wild claims while threatening people to take control in hard times. The last several thousand years of history, at least, shows that this has a very low success rate. The fact that parts of our population will demand it and vote for an opportunist to try it one more time is a far larger problem than people are willing to admit.

The fundamental realization now should be that we need to:

  1. Remove any one in positions of authority who doesn’t understand what is happening or refused to acknowledge reality.
  2. Understand that we now need a planetary planning organization to handle planetary disasters.
  3. Existing systems of government are broken and, if not broken, probably irrelevant.
  4. This is not a tweek or adjustment but a full redesign and we need to do it at the planetary level.

Because of these issues this process needs to be handled by all of us without reliance on incompetent and dysfunctional governments. We are seeing this beginning to happen.

If we know where we need to go, and we do, we need to start moving quickly in that direction. The old governments will either move along or we fall to the side and die. And that includes the politicians on all sides of this who are trying to claim we just make a few little changes and everything will be fine.

This is really our only hope. Anything else is part of the old delusion.

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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