The losing hand
On the other hand we’re being laid low by success but it’s the wrong kind of success. Most people in America and many around the planet know that things are bad and getting worse. The problems are massive and many of them are new. So new, in fact, that we are struggling to identify them. These are scary and threatening and the surprise of realizing that another range of problems is beginning to emerge to steal what little comfort we have left drives many people into fits of depression or a handful of pain killers.
The original hand is poverty, disease, hunger, and the threat of oppression. We’ve faced that since we knew how to organize ourselves into communities and talk about it. By the end of the twentieth century we could claim to have reduced starvation around the planet and created large pieces of countries or even whole countries where people didn’t starve to death. That took several thousand years and is an achievement of which we can be proud as a species. We didn’t eliminate hunger or many other types of suffering but we did get a leg up on the most basic human need. To do that took not just thousands of years but hundreds of years of rethinking and stumbling on ways to generate the organizations, goods, services, and the economic systems that made that possible. It finally took growth at any cost and the biggest possible carrot of immense wealth for a small percentage to achieve this. But that’s done.
We are now on the other hand and that hand needs to play for everyone and everything on the planet. It’s really that simple. We are stuck with the bill for the first hand success that started coming due at the end of the twentieth century. That’s when the interest on the planetary cost begun to hurt and the pain is escalating. We can see the cost escalating by the day although most people in post industrial countries can still ignore it. Storms, floods, drought, the loss of arctic ice. The trick is to pretend these are all still just individual events. Capetown, South Africa is weeks away from having no water. Take a little wider view (most people won’t and those dedicated to deadly ignorance will rage at the suggestion) and see Africa in drought dating back to the beginning of this century. The Syrian revolt in the Middle East was caused by many things but driven by drought. Will Capetown be abandoned? Who is next?
At the same time the implications of materialist wealth have made the American dream the world dream in detail, color and continuous replay. But if that is the goal you have to be able to pay for it and we just can’t. Climate change mitigation is going to take everything we have for the next hundred years. Much of Africa is already in disaster and the American west is close behind. Just like a bill in our world of wealth rules all, the longer we delay paying the faster the bill grows. It’s a race with death and destruction. We gave death and destruction the edge and then went shopping.
Ah but that’s all lies! Fake news! Tweets the fool in the Oval Office put there by the owners of petrochemicals demand the right to destroy more. Deny everything and lie about the rest! All the folks with big money will support me while I make them richer and ignore reality. Money lets you ignore reality. I have it in writing. And that’s the middle finger of the other hand that is the wave goodbye for America. A sad end.
For the first time in human history we need to all see the larger picture. We all need to understand the variables in the vast planetary integration. We need to think beyond our linear evolution and learn to deal with complex change. What are the odds that will happen. If it doesn’t happen what are the odds that we will survive? I don’t think we have time to play or indulge the dangers of ignorance and greed. That means that we don’t have to time to play with dysfunctional governments and any organization not fully committed to survival and growth in a very different world than we ever imagined.