Below is the text of another meatier-than-usual post I made in a LinkedIn thread, over a year ago. It’s the second of two that I pulled out of the closet, when I started my blog, because of how it demonstrates my views.
I feel myself about ready to reeeeally get into my reply. What have you done, Andy? You’ve encouraged me, that’s what.
I’m no leader, cult or otherwise. But I would like to live in a World where the perspectives in Ishmael are more pervasive. I’m interested in… survival. I’m interested in Humanity and the World… going on, at least to the extent we have control. And all this does related to my (wished for) “most influential” book, so it’s on-thread-topic.
Although I’m not super duper well read.
It pains me to no end to listen to the news, daily, and feel the lack of Ishmael-y views in the newsmakers slowly enabling disaster. We get our view of what’s important and how to see the World (by and large, for the majority of us) from media and the news. What happened in Boston is horrible, yes. What happened in Sandy Hook is terrible, yes. The Gulf oil spill was wretched, yes. All should be kept from happening again.
But those are disasters our minds are evolved to get highly motivated by. An attack, violent and big, on children or communities. Clear enemies we can hunt down and bring to justice. Straightforward suffering. And the actual harm done to the whole system is fairly minor.
But they are very important. I can almost feel the… gladness in the media, and in people on the whole, to have a palatable, understandable horrible problem… unlike political morasses or the economy or climate change. It reminds me of the focus that arose from the US “having an enemy,” like the Nazis or the USSR. It’s a simple “us and them.”
CO2 is not a clear enemy. The slow drip of poisons is not a clear enemy that wreaks havoc with flair like… like animal or rival tribe attacks, which probably caused most of our evolved threat processing abilities. Warmer weather is not like a gunman going after your children. Melting ice is not something that terrifies us. The vague possibility of more deserts or a dying ocean is not a clarion call to arms.
And talking about how they deserve to be seen like those things makes people uncomfortable. And that’s rarely OK.
But the harm, even daily, now, is beyond a few dozen or few hundred dramatic, unexpected injuries and deaths. Millions, if not billions, of innocent people and children are at nebulous risk for horrible climate-shifted death… just not by clear-as-day evil people doing a direct assault on us.
The present feels the most real. It screams to us that it matters. This World of “now.”
The past fades, and in fact doesn’t matter much.
The thing is… soon this present we’re all busy keeping short-term stable will be faded and almost irrelevant. It will be like a dusty mummy of a king.
I keep imagining a future where everything’s collapsing, where millions die as food and water supplies collapse, I imagine being old and talking to the children then, who do not have much of a present to live in, unable to value the distant past that seems all-important to us now.
Can you eat and drink stories about memories?
I imagine telling them… “Well what did you want me to do in my past when my life mattered? Make people uncomfortable?” and also “What did you want us to do? Damage the short term economy and risk lost jobs?”
In terms of “and enemy,” I find myself reminded of… get this… Harry Potter. In book five, Harry spent the summer watching the newspapers, expecting Voldemort to start dramatic, in-the-open muggle killings. But they didn’t happen. And Harry had no idea why. Isn’t that what evil and real danger would do?
The reason was that Voldemort understood human psychology. He knew what would rally people against him… and he didn’t do those things. He relied on trickery and uncertainty.
And in many ways, the problem and consequences of Humanity’s dead-end, grow-grow-grow, only-we-matter relationship with Earth is similar. It’s like a deadly but infinitely tricky enemy that knows our psychological weaknesses. It’s hiding in the shadows, like a psychological trap almost perfectly designed to abuse the evolved failings of the Human threat-detecting mind.
But even the best news is in a bubble, and doesn’t talk about what we really need to be talking about all the time: the coming crash of Humanity’s manner of living with ecological reality. Daily, it’s the clear stories of “right now,” giving off the “when it comes to everything else, everything’s fine” vibe.The preponderance of scientific evidence seems to suggest that we’re in the middle of a perpetual and growing disaster very much like a world-wide oil spill that won’t stop, and it needs the high end coverage that these “easy to process” disasters get for their weeks.
Is that “activism”? Would it be, if the news did it?
But Ishmael perspectives, so hostile to fundamental, foundational views of Civilization’s underpinning culture, are very hard for the Human mind to let in. They challenge such core views that we’ve absorbed since birth that the response to “Ishmael” views is often almost violently allergic. I’m always amazed at how common it is for people who dismiss the book to speak as if they did not in fact read it but had it poorly summarized. Intelligent people. And you can’t tell intelligent people that perspective and emotion is tricking them, to preserve their bond to their cultural foundation.
I’d love to believe the views in “Ishmael” aren’t true. Life would be so much more simple and comfortable. But I find reality refusing to let me, or at least the reality I can discern. I just cannot convince myself that the Ishmael views don’t reflect a larger reality, the reality outside the “only humans matter” bubble we’re so completely used to living in. I’d love forever anyone who could convince me they’re wrong.
Can you assist me?
The easiest way may just to be to argue eloquently to me that, even beyond those “realities,” the ultimate reality is that all is just God’s cosmic, entropic joke.
“Cult” is an interesting word. Not the way you use it necessarily, Andy. I mean generally. Cults and gangs and some other things with negative connotations reflect a deep human need that self-reliant civilized culture doesn’t often provide. A genetic need… one that doesn’t go away just because it seems rational not to have it. Humanity, as we all know, is saddled with many genetic things like that.
“Cults” and “gangs” give people some of what the tribal way of living (almost indisputably the way we evolved, and the impact of that can’t be underestimated) gives people. The true comfort of knowing that one is part of a tight community that wants you to give your all for it, and in turn will give it’s all to you. Our culture, usually, is much more lonely than that. Money is our fundamental community. Yes we have people who care about us and will help us and let us help them, but we’re often expendable to the jobs that give us the money that buys our truly supportive things: land, home, food, insurance, etc.
But people who drift toward them do so because they seem lost to our predominant culture. And the act itself, of joining cults and gangs, seems like an attack on “normal.” It’s like… what, our real culture on its great foundation isn’t good enough for you, you dangerous wackos? Got a problem with Civilization or something? You want to act like animals, which Humans are superior to?
In a lot of ways this “lack” feeling so many have could boil down to “existential loneliness.” Most of us I’m sure feel kind of cut off from others and expendable and alone. But we’re so used to the system in the bubble we’ve never been out of that we can convince ourselves that it’s “right” somehow, and that we just have to get used to it, or that the problem is ours, not the fact that our culture is in many ways fundamentally poorly equipped to feed the hard-wired needs that Evolution has built into us over millions of life-in-the-forge years.
Yeah yeah yeah. I’ll wrap it up. Pity me for opening wide.
Well, Andy, you’ve learned one of the fundamental “interacting with Amos” lessons today. You only wrote one sentence… and look what you set loose on yourself (and everyone).
The Amos lesson?
DO NOT ENCOURAGE HIM!