Our Only Peril Comes In Resignation And Despair. Don’t Give In.
“People had children during the Black Plague when one out of four people around them was dying and we live in the best conditions man has known ever. These people act like the first humans on Earth. It’s narcissism on fire.” @bridgetphetasy
This tweet caught my attention last week. In a time where former Canadian cabinet members and lawyers to the U.S. president are detailing the workings of the political sausage factory, it’s easy to become despondent for the fate of our societies.
Yeats’ observation in the run-up to WW II— “The best lack all conviction/ while the worst are full of passionate intensity”— rings true today as we hear of hush money and attempts to hush the attorney general.
If that is not enough to depress you, the latest climate scare campaign is a computer simulation that promises no stratocumulus clouds and a barbecue of the world. “Triggering Cataclysmic Warming” reportedly requires society to thrown trillions of dollars at problems revealed by a software product from eminent scientists.
And there is Oscars Hollywood, where thespians-turned-sages drop their $ 200 K goody bags and designer clothes long enough to preach gloom and racism in solidarity with the working man and woman. Finding no comfort in traditional institutions, these meat puppets shop virtue like it was the dinner buffet at Golden Corral.
This despond has reverberated throughout society. Increasingly, I find myself listening to the laments of my children or the packaged voices in the media who describe a dystopian future of unliveable climate and $10-million condos in their future. They are convinced we live in a time of shrinking resources and diminished expectations.
Which puts me in an odd position. My professional life has been one of the sceptic, casting a “cold eye on life, on death”. Looking past the jugglers and clowns of society has produced a healthy distrust of the elites who run our affairs. I have found work and acceptance for my jaundiced art.
So I am put in an uncomfortable role by the above tweet’s enjoinder to recall a time when hope flourished even though all was death, despair and the oncoming Little Ice Age. What could possibly have led the people of the 14th century to hope when all around them was hopeless?
We’ve never had it so good as human. So why the long face?
The answer, of course, is the fashionable “nihilism on fire” of the modern communications age. While we do live in the best possible time in the history of mankind— free of polio, privation and pirates— the dim bulbs of the Oscars celebrate a Malthusian future because they have placed themselves at the centre of a turning world.
Destined to do great things, they must be at the pivot points in times of great change. Because it’s them. Or, if you prefer, "narcissism on fire”.
So I find myself redefining purpose to young people who see— pace Hollywood or cable TV— no alternative to the dread fossil fuels or poisoned waters that are allegedly about to rise above our heads.
I remind my children of the infinite wellspring of creativity and, sometimes, necessity that has allowed mankind to survive and flourish. When they quote the latest dystopian drama about freezing in the dark or subsisting on radioactive plant roots I tell them how we’ve been here before.
Cow farts? In one of the more benign examples I remind them of the crisis faced by horse dung in the cities in the 19th century. As the cities grew, the mountains of manure left by working animals in the streets and factories of the cities was becoming an “existential crisis” (to use an AOC catch phrase).
The threat to health from so much dung was manifold. It harboured disease. When it dried the flakes blew in the breeze, creating terrible issues for people’s respiratory systems. And, of course, where dispose of it all? The pointy heads of the time despaired. Horses and oxen were the Mack trucks of their day. In NYC there were hundreds of thousands of working horses.
And yet, within a generation, the internal-combustion engine spawned the automobile. Rendering the working horse— and its droppings— a quaint postcard of a bygone era.
This is but one example of such creativity by man. Look at the dike system in Holland, the Salk vaccine, the microchip, the airplane, plastics… the list is endless of the solutions produced in a time of need by humanity.
So as AOC and the fashionable media folk lament catastrophic inevitability with their disaster-of-the-day, take cheer from the real ability of humankind to face its nightmares with determination and creativity. We have been here before. We have survived. Whatever the current merchants of gloom might think redemption is always at our finger tips.
The only peril comes in resignation and despair. Don’t give in.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.