Interesting Times

An ancient Chinese curse goes as follows: "May you live in interesting times."  In this way we definitely live in interesting times lately.

What do people do in interesting times? In this time of instant communication from all parts of the globe, the interesting and the unfortunate are all available for view by anyone with an appropriate mass media outlet, be that newspaper, internet, or tv.  But "interesting" often simply means a vague and passive spectatorship. Mel Brooks said once, "Comedy is when it happens to someone else, tragedy is when it happens to you."  If that's the case we must be all laughing our heads off, but while the chuckles keep coming till our throats are raw, the back of our minds are clearly itching with the thought, "when will it be my turn?"  Indeed. When will the airborne toxic event blow across the ocean and over my city? When will my state's right-wing wackos take away my benefits?  When will my country's airforce bomb my family?

And most importantly, when it is my turn, will the rest of the world just drop their jaws and look on in distanced, vague shock and awe, like we're doing now?

The signs are that everywhere is, after all, pretty much the same.  When Chernobyl happend, we knew very little while it was happening, because the secretive and defensive Soviet Union, "evil empire" that it was, could never admit how deeply it had fucked up.  And yet here we are, 25 years later, looking at a very different sort of nation, we're always told, dealing with a potentially comparable disaster.  Japan is a "first world" state, rich, prosperous, gifted with all the tools and technologies that a G-8 nation has at its disposal, and proud of an open, liberal democracy. And yet,

Given the reported radiation levels, John Price, an Australian-based nuclear safety expert, said he saw few health risks for the general public so far. But he said he was surprised by how little information the Japanese were sharing.

"We don't know even the fundamentals of what's happening, what's wrong, what isn't working. We're all guessing," he said. "I would have thought they would put on a panel of experts every two hours."

Indeed. It doesn't instill a lot of confidence. If one first-world power can lie and obfuscate about an unprecedented catastrophe, why can't another? And if Germany can veto a Libyan no-fly zone, why can't the U.S. pretend that everything is just fine, don't mind that animated graphic of the "plume", while it rushes to rescue its diplomats and soldiers from the land of the rising sun?

And isn't it interesting that just 11 months ago we were watching another plume, this time a black, underwater one, not an airborne, white one, spread slowly toward what was valuable to us? Toward what really interests us (ourselves and ours)?

And in a way, don't we secretly, subconsciously, kind of want these interesting things to drift our way, so it can be about us? (actually, a couple months ago it did, the interesting, it came here here to Tucson. It was about us and I have a hint for you - it kinda sucked.)

And we're thinking, the Libyans and the Wisconsonians and the Japanese and the Bahrainians and the jaguar and the wolves and the poor and the immigrants, they can all go fuck themselves. But get me my fucking potassium iodide and my cheap gas, god dammit. Give it to me before I'm up to my neck in boiling hot water.

So damn interesting.

Capitalism stops at nothing,

Capitalism stops at nothing, but the end it apparently in sight.

I agree it's interesting,

I agree it's interesting, and I agree that a lot of people's response is through the lens of the personal, but I disagree that people's response is for others to "go fuck themselves" as you so eloquently put it. You are assuming that just because they haven't sold their SUV and paddled to Japan on a raft of recycled Coke bottles to help that they don't care. I think that's both unfair AND unrealistic.

I believe that we (all of us with some consciousness about the links you so clearly and accurately identify here) need to do a better job of socializing those links, and preferably in a way that invites people to see a path for themselves to make some changes in their lives. It's not easy making big changes that go against the tide of commerce, politics, culture, and language and to assume that people are unfeeling because they haven't gone as far as you would like them to is both harsh and self-limiting. From my seat the current warm tidal movement of information across the planet seems to be driving a different set of reactions which includes empathy, support, outrage, fear, and inspiration. None of those are the same thing as thinking others should go fuck themselves.

But yes, interesting for sure.

Thanks Bob. You're right.

Thanks Bob.
You're right. there's gentler ways I could be communicating when discussing this stuff, for sure. I just get tired of trying to be gentle sometimes. other times i try hard to be.
I do think there's a bell curve of "caring" or whatever word we might use for it. On one extreme, or perhaps not even on the graph, is "ignorant of issue." but then there's "go fuck yourself". depending on level of optimism, which you seem to have more of than i, that tail is way out, a few standard deviations from the mean. then there's "i really care and my heart aches for those poor japanese/libyans/salmon/whatever, but i'm powerless to do much, sorry", and then, y'know all the way up through "i'm changing my lifestyle somewhat in order to help" and further to "i'm sacrificing a lot of my own comfort to help" and on up to mother theresa types. and then to me. ha. just kidding.
but, you get my drift. i think the world has all types and you are probably right that the peak of that curve is centered further toward the "i care and i'm doing all i reasonably can about it" end of the graph than what i implied in my original post. BUT: i do know, just from reading youtube comments and other internet bullshit and overhearing random dipshits out in the world that there ARE some folks who really seriously don't give a damn. maybe that's for a good reason, like a rainforest activist stole their lunch money when they were a kid or they're just so fucked up from other kinds of abuse and bad karma, but the fact remains that they really don't care much at all. now the number of those types out there is debatable, and it may be decreasing all the time with that warm tide you mention, but it's most definitely nonzero still.
And I can't resist, to again be kind of an asshole about it, quoting, or paraphrasing, Derek Jensen, who wrote once that future generations won't care whether you recycled, or drove a hybrid, or never took plane trips or didn't eat meat or turned off the lights or only had one child or whatever other conscious change in the way you live you made in order to help. All they'll care about is whether in their time there's enough for them to survive on. I guess this doesn't do much good in explaining to people how they might live more responsibly but maybe it does help to put into perspective what's at stake.
I dunno. I'll stress though that I'm not perfect, not at all, and I'm often throwing stones in glass houses. Sometimes I manage to lob softballs and hopefully that helps.

Yeah, I totally get the

Yeah, I totally get the image of my great-grandchild standing on a sand dune looking out over a salty marshland wondering where she'll get some freshwater from. I'm fairly sure she's not going to give a shit about what I did or didn't do individually to make things either better or worse, she'll just be pissed it all sucks so bad.

I just finished reading this:

in which some people from an ecologically collapsing future decide to fix things by sending some intervention back to change what happens with Columbus was in the new world. Somewhat interesting...

I've been thinking a lot about the cross-generational nature of the world-creation/destruction we are all involved in everyday, partly because my grandfather just died and I've been rehashing his life story in my head and thinking about how it relates to Stella (my daughter). I don't have any conclusions, but I do want to think more about imagining the future as an act of global reprogramming. A little more 1-to-1 association between our actions and global effects won't hurt, but when you get down to it we can probably tech our way out of this mess if we start taking it seriously in time to focus the upcoming nanotech wave on mitigation and not porn.

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