by Joe Courter
Eating and sleeping are things we share with every other living being in the world. Finding what to eat and determining where to sleep are handled in a variety of ways. Some need to work at it harder than others. Some spend their time as independent entities, some join herds or small groupings. Some live in small areas, others have to either search a wider area or even undertake stunning long-distance migrations. There are ones who live below the water, who live on land or burrowed under it, or who have the ability to soar in the sky. What a wondrous planet we all share.
We humans, though, we are the freaks of the planet in so many ways. Our very brief presence on the planet has seen us develop from nomadic hunter/gatherers to creators of planned agriculture and societies, and with that the cultural practice of acquiring and transmitting knowledge and the use of available materials to create tools and weapons. We are leaving our mark on the planet in so many ways, from the structures we leave behind to, especially now, impacting the climate of the planet itself.
Our freaky-ness is also within each of us, because apart from all the other beings on the planet, we have a highly developed sense of self-awareness and memory. We can see the wondrous-ness around us and figure out how it works. We can move beyond the here and now observation to remember and reflect on the past, and we can speculate and plan on the future.
But here we find ourselves now, living in a world of overwhelming information and, thanks to human ingenuity, a future with a multitude of threats. We have luxuries kings and queens could not dream of, and immense knowledge at our literal fingertips, yet so many live a sped-up, frantic, over-stimulated lifestyle with no time or inclination for civic engagement. Others are trapped in desperate poverty, just trying to survive, excluded from the opportunities so many take for granted.
Meanwhile… in this nation and others… authoritarian populism is on the rise, powered by media-savvy, super rich, extreme minority. Reactionary fear is played as an electoral weapon. The fact is we have a president prone to rash decisions. He has no commitment to truth and utters falsehoods regularly. He is a proven con man with a long history to prove it. He has a small cabal of war hawks around him, and we are on the verge of war on Iran. We are going backwards on so many fronts. It is frightening, and there is no easy path out.
Naomi Klein wrote an important book in 2007 called Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It describes times when a shocking event in a nation is exploited to institute major changes. Think 9/11, or Katrina in New Orleans. Well, Trump’s election was also a shock to so many of us, but it seems to me that rather than one big shock, we are in a situation of constant pulsating shocks to our sensibilities. Things we hold dear, policies we have made incremental positive changes in over the years, are being attacked. We seem paralyzed. Clear progressive leadership is marginalized or dismissed (think Rev. William Barber or Bernie Sanders). Organized labor is, well, disorganized. Media-created distractions abound while truth and historical analysis are hard to find.
We human beings are making a mess. We are mucking up this wondrous place we could all be sharing. And it is this nation that is at the fore, no surprise given its history of conquest and dominance. Evolution has facilitated we humans to do all the bad we’ve done. We have also developed the tools to try and undo it and set it moving on a better path. The youth of the world are waking up to this truth. The Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal are bold plans. They need broad support, and we must all do what we can to turn this mess around.