Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Almost Shut Down

I seem drawn to painful truths, and have been so throughout my life.  The repetition, to an extent, inoculates me from matters that others habitually flee.  I often claim, maybe with some hidden pride, that I am tired or even exhausted.  Perhaps it is ironic to take pride in the analysis of tragedy.  But it is a necessary pursuit.  Otherwise injustice reigns unchallenged.  Yes, there can be joy in facing injustice--in wielding a sword of reason and light.  But of course, as everyone knows, the study of human darkness can be depressing and lonely.

This year my tiredness, my exhaustion, almost shut me down.  Donald Trump threatens to become a dictator.  If he does, America falls.  And if America falls, the world falls.  It would be the defeat of the epoch of democracy.  In its place, we would install a type of governance that already has a strong grip:  the rulership of populist fascists.  Putin in Russian.  Erdogan in Tukey.  Modi in India.  Xi in China.  Kim in North Korea.  Duterte in the Philippines, Trump in the United States.  And so on.

Here are some of the implications if fascism becomes world dominant. 

First, efforts to combat global warming will become even weaker than they are now, almost insuring a maximized environmental catastrophe.  Extinction.  Resource depletion.  Climate and geological havoc, leading to mass human migration, fear and panic.  Given the dissipation of human rights, the result will be massacre and genocide.  The wealth gap, already obscene, will stretch into a full-blown neo-feudalism.  Nobles behind walls, a servant professional and artisan class, and teaming masses of the poor.

Racism and sexism, along with other forms of traditional, cultural oppression, will become far worse.  In the USA, what we are looking at is this:  a white nationalist heteronormative patriarchy, with an emphasis on evangelical jingoism.  

Police functions employing advanced AI and robots will allow (a) quick enforcement, (b)  instantaneous identification, (c) ubiquitous surveillance, and (d) privacy-erasing 'citizen scores'.  Standardized 're-education' practices will insure not only conformity but also loyalty.  With police and army functions robotized, the chance of a successful revolution by a 're-educated' people will be minimal.

Furthermore, given a geopolitics of totalitarian dynasties, centered on charismatic tyrants, the genesis of World War Three seems inevitable.   Narcissists with god-complexes cannot back down.  Sooner or later they violently clash.

It might seem far too much to attach all the above to the success of Donald Trump.  But if you look at the high-tech facial recognition platform in China, and also the capacity for complete subservience evinced in North Korea, it becomes more plausible.  Take into account humanity's current willingness to continue to rape the planet Earth (a recent WaPo article says the Amazon rainforest is at a tipping point (1)), and also our eagerness to fall into line behind dictators, adopting their views with fanatic glory, and it becomes more plausible still.

The USA has the mightiest military in world, and the largest economy.  Once it goes dark, there will be enough tenebrosity to snuff out the rest of the light.  No one will be left to check tyranny.

As an ethicist, I've argued that people can be good, that we can eliminate war, that we can defeat oppression.  There are plenty of examples of people changing, culture shifting, and human rights rising up.  Women getting the vote was a big deal.  So was, before that, the idea that people should get to vote.

Looking at the world now, however, I see that human psychology is even more labyrinthian than I feared.  How could so many Americans embrace Trump and his hate, worship him, in fact, Christian people even, at the expense of their country, their dignity, the environment, and world stability?

It's much easier to understand why third-world minions, under mortal duress, obey a dictator than it is to fathom why the Republicans in the Senate of the United States are throwing away our country's two-hundred year old project of rationalism and freedom.   

As for me, I've had a good life.  I was born in a lucky place and time where the middle class was able to enjoy freedom of speech to a large degree, and where the women's movement and the civil rights movement were making progress.  I lived on a planet that was not yet showing obvious massive strain from vast climate change, a change taking place far faster than any other before it in the 4 billion year history of life on Earth (2).

Whatever happens to me next, I at least had these things, and others, that were very special.  I had tragedies and terrible hurdles to overcome, and I'll have more, no doubt.  I've been desperate and on the edge many times.  Maybe I'll go down pathetically.  But on the whole, I've had the chance to get an education, to improve my psychological health, and spend time on creative, philosophical and artistic projects that relied on freedom of thought.  I've enjoyed much time hiking and meditating out in 'nature'. 

For some reason, though, like billions of other people, I am not entirely selfish (Imagine that!).  I am still tremendously saddened by the possibility that democracy is going to die, that our planet is going to be wrecked, and that nuclear war will probably come.  And yes, that Donald Trump is ascendant. 

The problem, in the end, is that, while billions of people feel saddened and worry for the future, billions of others, those who praise and prop tyrants, do not seem to care, not in their public actions or beliefs.  Perhaps they have no choice, either because they were born with no choice, as in North Korea, or they gave up their ability to choose, somewhere along the way, as the people of the United States are in the process of doing now.




Monday, December 2, 2019

Poem: Drifts

Dust swept off the surface.  A poem's flirt with obscurity stalled.  For a while.



clouds drift in leonine fever,
laced with ennui and tinsel,
doomed to stalk the hauteur of a perfect plane.

their scavenge hopeless,
as dismantled as the motives of pterodactyls,
or glassy, strewn toadfish
with swirling gills and fluid ribs.

the drifts, they are road signs
scattered in a lust-drained aftermath,
only hints of lurid pagan beasts.
over-hammered remnants.

but the fire grips them just before night,
renewing their bedlam,
until they sink once again,
no longer ebullient,

anchored to a guttering horizon.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Poem: Written

I have poems lying around, buried and crumpled under books, squashed in miscellanea, etc.  Here's one



it was finally done.  written.
the holes between the letters formed small eyes.
looked up.

so much code coursing the Earth.
parades of happysad tomorrows.
joyous, brutal, shamed or mindless.
pensive or indignant.  
prayerful, cursing, obsequious.

all of it ignored, often,
and yet always read.

the phrases, 
they tended to make their own revisions,
rescript the plot,
fruit the novel's weight.

the intent, actually, had never been to finish. 
or specify a start.

emboldened ,
the twined characters wrote the writer ,
pulled that first afflatus
into their own expanding personas.

offshoots, once fiction,
launched on their own unprecedented trips.

no one could really take credit, though.
the garden existed before the growth.
its thorns had pricked the pace.

those first flowers,
they wanted to capitalize Love,
and stole the pen, in those most critical moments,
before the nuances in the ink
nestled into a glisten of skins
to breathe.