From the publisher … Fragility

the quality of being easily broken or damaged.
the quality of being delicate or vulnerable.

When I started last month’s Publisher Note, I thought it would be “Resilience and Fragility.” Resilience kinda took over, so now fragility gets its turn. There are different levels of fragility to talk about. With all the climate news and awareness of climate change, much can be seen. Human behavior on this planet IS changing things. Temperature rise is undeniable. But also habitat loss is having profound impacts, especially on migratory birds, but also on other species whose forests are cut or burned as agriculture and development move forward. The evolution of life and patterns of living depend on consistency. It is a fragile balance. Introducing non-native species has a profound impact on that balance, and there are many examples here in Florida, from kudzu to pythons. We humans have done all kinds of stuff, newcomers that we are to the web of life, which was moving along just fine without us; only now, through science and record keeping, can we see the damage. The planet will absorb the worst we can do, but the life forms on it will be impacted for centuries. With our rapid evolution moving beyond just biological changes, but also by means of tool using and culture building, we have in effect become an invasive species, and that eons-long balance of nature is getting thrown out of whack, thanks to us.

Nations seem like very stable things, but with the rise of authoritarian populists around the world, I am beginning to think we may be in a new era. The slow motion Brexit in the UK is part of this, with a social media aided vote to leave the European Union. The day after the vote, the #1 searched item in the UK was the EU, as if voters realized they perhaps did not really understand what they had just done. There are predictions of Brexit being very traumatic should it go through. How fragile is the UK? This rise of authoritarian leaders in the past decade or so is fueled by this new phenomena of social media. But when do authoritarians leave peacefully? Now that we have impeachment hearings in motion, if impeached, will Trump leave on his own? How will his devoted followers react? How will we, the sensible majority, act in the face of his likely resistance to leaving? Is this USA fragile? We see in other nations people rising up. How would we respond to, say, cancelled elections? Or blatant fraud?

Fragility has also come in as an insult, as with the right referring to those who find troubling the depiction of, or the reality of, violence, racism, or sexism. “Snowflakes” is the term used by these folks, who can’t seem to grasp that other people may have a higher degree of sensitivity, perhaps because of personal traumatic experiences, or simply empathy with the struggle others face, which make them more affected by such imagery and/or realities. It is used as a dismissive term, that these fragile snowflakes are lesser beings who can be discounted. We are in a time where arrogance is celebrated and empathy seen as weakness.

Another aspect of fragility is in our becoming so polarized that we have trouble finding common ground with people we disagree with. Again, I believe our change from a more thoughtful culture that valued reading, history, and exchange of ideas has moved to entrenched camps, especially how the right wing sees the left as this threat to their way of life. Again, our wonderful mass media and social media have backed us into corners. This is not a good thing because another aspect of fragility that regards this and other nations is the rise of an electronic monetary system. Chaos could easily ensue if there is a major breakdown, as people more and more live without ready cash. Local or regional power failures can give us examples, but if the internet went down, things could come to a screeching halt, as banks themselves would be severely affected. In this aspect, I would hope our basic humanity would kick in, but damn, it shouldn’t take a disaster to bring us together. There are a lot of problems to solve right now. Tough times lie ahead. We need resilience.

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