As I’ve blogged before, we live on the slipping edge of a vast transformation. Scientists now think that the West Antarctica ice sheet will melt, raising sea levels enough to swamp cities all over the world. It’s inevitable. As if this wasn’t enough, humans are fomenting the sixth major extinction that the Earth has experienced in her three billion years of harboring life:
Let’s continue to fight to minimalize the damage. And yet it’s time, I think, that we faced up to the awful truth: the Earth’s lands and oceans, and perhaps every species on them, including homo sapiens, are going to be radically affected, much more so than they have been already. Above I list two big environmental changes, but there are many others I cannot mention here, either out of time constraints or simply because I just don’t know about them. In a sense, especially concerning the specifics, none of us knows what is going to happen to the rhythms, surfaces, currents, and the biomes of our planet. There are many, many actors, such as the rainforests and coral reefs; the plankton that give us oxygen and the micro-creatures that teem in our soils; the average regional temperatures and the ocean currents such as El Nino.
And on and on.
I’ve sketched a few of the environmental tranmogrifications. But how will this affect the psychological beast that is human society? We all know the probable answer: very badly. Greed, panic, fear and hate, already such powerful dynamics, are going to rear up even uglier heads. I’d predict that in the USA Empire, the Democrats are going to blame the Republicans and vice versa. It’s obvious the Democrats are right on global warming (Republicans claim it is a hoax), but in a way it doesn’t matter: what matters is that schisms will form, grow, and worsen, leading to recriminations and, I fear in many cases, widespread violence. It could well be that within the next hundred years, the USA will suffer a second civil war. Indeed, the ill feelings from the last civil war are still strong in the South (and the entire South, except maybe for Florida, is a Republican stronghold).
If civil war is possible in the Empire, a wealthy, industrialized, and relatively educated and decent country in terms of human rights, imagine how much worse it is likely to be in countries in worse shape. Add to this volatile mix the sprinkled presence of thousands of nuclear weapons. North Korea, an especially awful country in terms of torture and dictatorship, has already threatened to launch such apocalypse-bringers (and does possess them). The most powerful country in the world within the next thirty years is likely to be China, a police state with no Bill of Rights and huge amounts of State-sponsored oppression and censorship. Indeed, China tolerates North Korea’s concentration camps, which are worthy of Auschwitz.
So, yes, we need to keep working to bring about the best possible results. But it is also time to acknowledge our wrongs and apologize to future generations. Why? First of all, it will help us to change our own behavior. The US (or industrial) citizen uses a huge amount of dirty energy compared to the typical third world citizen. Our pampered narcissistic consumerism is at the heart of the absolutely wrong attitude in terms of positive change.
Second, it is courageous and ethical. I know it is tempting to go into denial and just not face our failures and wrongs. The people we need to apologize to have not even been born. Why bother? We will be tucked in our pricey "I'm-special" caskets before the seas rise up and the anomies come down fast. Why not just enjoy our lives and refuse to acknowledge the horrors ahead, including our role in instigating them?
It’s tempting, I know, but ...
Think about how selfish that would be, the same sort of selfish that got us into this mess. Change in future generations to a healthy mindset is more likely if we set an example of at least partial virtue. We can’t erase our wrongs, but we can still face up to them.
Another thing, very important, perhaps the most important: denial is a wonderful thing for those in denial, but for those denied, it really really hurts. It wounds and even cripples the mind. For instance, parents deny they did something wrong to their children. Works for them. Disfigures the child. Another case: A plutocracy denies it is being cruel to those outside the elite cadre. Works for the rich, but creates a sea of outrage that damages the fabric of souls, and can lead to vicious retaliation.
Again, the US Empire denies it has exploited third-world countries (as the Colonial Empires denied they hurt the colonized during the Age of Imperalism). This works fine for the US citizen, who gets to traipse through a giant supermarket and buy plentiful foods grown and harvested by the oppressed; but, across the world, the cries of those seeking justice fester unheard; and they struggle not to succumb to hatred for the stone-eared “imperalists.” If we don’t even acknowledge their suffering, which we contribute to, and benefit from, why shouldn’t they hate us? Everyone’s mind gets poisoned by denial.
To deny, I conclude, is vicious to those denied. It is a quintessentially selfish act, the prerogative of those with the power to live happily by ignoring the injustices they inflict. And so we should not go into denial when it comes to those we potential deny : the people of the near future.
Isn’t it enough that we trash the world, disrupt the seas, extinct the animals, and breed volatile circumstances assured to invoke tremendous emigration and epic bloodshed, without us also refusing to apologize and take responsibility?
Let’s face what we are, what we’ve done, and bravely take the first step toward changing the psychology of selfishness to a psychology of care. Of empathy. It might well make a difference to those not born yet if we acknowledge our wrongs and apologize. And if we don’t, it is more likely that they will simply loath us. And then the cycle of hate is likely to continue--until the end comes.