Apocryphal “news” stories, insane (or just inane) narratives, names swatted like tennis balls around Twitter… I could retrieve a few, but to what end? You’ve heard most of them. East Indians are saying that they can see the Himalayas for the first time in years as their city streets lie comatose. New Yorkers say they can see fish now in the Hudson as Long Island lies embalmed. Something about Englishmen and their nightingales—the size of their wings… I couldn’t quite make it out, but in the same genre. A CNN mouthpiece publishing a letter to his newborn son or toddler (who obviously can’t read, and hence is obviously not the letter’s true target) celebrating the collapse of the U.S. economy as a vast obstacle removed from the Green New Deal’s Juggernaut. And the prep-school Ocasio girl-woman who masquerades as a hyphenated traditional Latina from the barrio saying… well, basically that it’s a good thing all structure is collapsing around us, because we’re really going to love (those of us who survive) life in Naked-and-Afraid Land.
I hate cars and car culture. Always have. I hate the racket, I hate the razed acres of concrete and glass, I hate the stop-and-start enforced focus on material circumstances that won’t allow your thoughts to stray without deadly risk. I walked six hundred miles of Irish and Scots backroad in a month on two separate occasions in my twenties. I permitted (not purposely) my driver’s license to lapse as a graduate student in Austin, where I walked to classes and to the grocery store and to the laundromat—and then walked dozens more miles per week for pleasure. In retirement these days, I aspire to grow nut and fruit groves on my North Georgia 25 acres, and I seldom have either the need or the want to leave my property. But… but I do have to travel to the grocery store once a week, and I could scarcely hike that sixteen-mile round-trip with a backpack and bring home what my wife and I require to survive. Much of what I unload from the truck also goes into a refrigerator—and, no, I can’t run that from the turns of a windmill.
I “get it”, you see: I mean, that our high-tech, progressive economy’s artificial world is often a noisy, tasteless, stinking, hectic, sometimes poisonous sprawl. I’m all for reducing those horrid qualities. I’m doing what I can on my own to subtract from them. But…
But I don’t understand the ambition to exterminate the human race, or large parts of it, in order to achieve some sort of green silence. Even if nothing were at stake but my own suicide, who would look after my saplings if I checked out? The deer and wild blackberry would gnaw and choke them to nothing within a season. Mother Nature doesn’t favor diversity. She gives the victory to the swift, and she allows the strong to throttle everything weaker around them. Pope Francis says that Mother Nature doesn’t forgive, implying that the human foibles which once found leniency before God’s throne have now grown insufferable before the universe’s new ruler (whom he seems to hold in higher reverence). Quite right: Mother Nature is best pictured as a ravening animal, a T-Rex. Without my human hand, the cherry trees would never bear fruit, the bluebirds would have no houses, and the whole forest would eventually go up in smoke after lightning ignited a conflagration in uncleared brush.
So maybe I should live, and others should die in my place. Maybe all the capitalist car-drivers should go. What gives me the moral authority to pass a death sentence upon them? Why, my self-evident virtue, of course! So let millions starve as we shift all power to solar panels and wind turbines (which will purge more avian species from the earth in less time than any extermination event since the Dinosaur Asteroid), let a PRC-style board of central planning keep my dole coming because I’m one of the faithful (credentials verified by a chip that Bill Gates and Dr. Fauci have planted in my head), and let “the others” shelter-in-place until they rot as squad cars and Humvees cruise the streets. To make an omelet, you have to break some eggs… or whatever version of Pope Lenin’s holy writ Ms. Ocasio thumbed before deleting it.
Would I be safe then? With Big Brother enfolding me deep in his warm data bank, would I finally see a quiet dawn gild skies unplowed by any contrails? Huawei 5G is supposed to combine with the Gates microchip to keep me apprised of any abnormal fluctuations in my vital rhythms. Rising blood pressure? I receive a kind of Amber Alert on my cellphone. Irregular heartbeat? The same. Marcus Welby, M.D., will have fused with SuperNanny (in Gestapo apron) to tweak, instantly and minutely, any slightest menace to my good health. The invasions of privacy pouring in from all directions need not worry me; after all, as that profound ethical philosopher, Andrew Cuomo, has lately opined, nothing is worse than death. (Or as Claudio answered his sister Isabella’s appeal to his honor, “Death is a fearful thing!”) And why will the supreme technicians sitting at the invisible nexus of the planetary network take such interest in my prolonged survival? Why?
Well, why not? Why wouldn’t they? They are the People’s Government. The People’s Government loves the People, by definition. They will see that I’m cared for in all circumstances. If I need to stay home in a mask with a can of Lysol, then I will do so as long as They command. If my job disappears and I have no visible means of support, then They will send a check. They know what’s best for me—and for you. For all of us. They are experts. Why would you be so selfish as to attempt to frustrate their mapping of our safest course? Why should you have the right (again channeling philosopher Cuomo’s wisdom) to precipitate my death through your non-compliance?
And so we surrender our collective future, in this swooning vision of the Earthly Father (loving husband of Gaia), to the kind of elite which has deliberately stockpiled 1,500 varieties of corona virus, which specially cultivated one strain in an insecure Wuhan lab to infect humans, which locked its own citizens indoors with infected family members until entire buildings became death traps, which ordered survivors back to work in patently unsafe conditions lest the GDP suffer further, which destroyed documentation and silenced medical professionals lest the truth of its lethal incompetence leak out… which, by the way, has been forcing self-sufficient farmers of the sort I aspire to be off the land (no longer their land, but the People’s land) and into overcrowded cities for decades… this is the paradigm of our Uncle Li who will ensure our long, healthy lives. This is the new pater patriae, the upgraded and non-slaveholding (merely slave-ruling) George Washington. This is the collectivist Nurse Practitioner whose service to humanity in the Wuhan Institute of Virology was financed by 3.7 millions of donated Fauci money, its sister facility in the same city pursuing the same redacted mission statement with more millions from Saint William of Gates. This is the colossus whose gaze blank and pitiless as the sun will save us from our own childish, destructive behavior. This is what CNN reporters and Governor Cuomo and Ms. Latina-Campesina would put at the helm of the good ship New Green Deal. This defoliator of the African continent and heaviest polluter of Earth’s atmosphere in the planet’s history is supposed to redeem us from our great capitalist garbage dump.
I have no answers to such stupefying idiocy. I don’t understand. I cannot comprehend how tens of millions of pampered, college-educated upper-crusters eagerly, even fanatically long to pull the plug on the system that has lofted them to the lap of luxury lest the haunts of their hazily recalled Spring Breaks slip under water in ten years—how this is their Awful Horror, yet they don’t give a damn about an unsecured power grid whose toasting in an inevitable solar storm will leave nine in ten of them dead within months. It’s as if the dismantling of something high-tech can somehow save their puny lives, but the simple, cheap supplementation of the technology on which they tweet and chirp and insta-blather every day must not happen. They must live, cowering under their beds with chips in their heads: they must live at all costs. But… but if only the Great Satan may die, then a weedy, viney planet prowled only by insects and rats is a small price to pay. If anyone lives, then they must live; but if there’s a chance of wiping humanity off the earth, then they’ll volunteer their lives as deliriously as the zealous of Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate.
You can call it childish, or stupid, or insane. Columnists, bloggers, and commentators do so all the time. But that doesn’t explain anything. I’m not interested in marking tallies on a scorecard: I’m trying to understand. Why are full adults more emotionally retarded than toddlers? Why are Ivy League graduates duller than a frozen egg? How can people who design websites and compile spreadsheets leap out a twelve-story window thinking they’re Superman? It’s not a laughing matter, inasmuch as it’s likely to kill our children and grandchildren. What exactly is it? Why is it happening?
Is it a response to the hyper-technologizing of society? Young people texting each other across the table on dates have become an endless stock of jokes… but our capitalist economy, after all, has created them. They can’t be very happy in their state. Is “it” a reflexive attack upon the Dr. Frankenstein who gave them the life of a mute, neutered freak?
Or are we seeing some more specific kind of technological conditioning? Have “social media” and all the rest—the screens, screens, screens that mediate between the human mind and material reality at every turn—produced a freak insufficiently self-conscious to appreciate its freakishness? Do these cyber-human hybrids quite literally not know how to evaluate human nature or to calculate human happiness?
Would they have turned out better if we’d had them read great literature in school? Generations of Westerners used to acquire an immense amount of self-knowledge at an accelerated rate by reading literary classics—as opposed to the propagandistic screeds ramrodded into the curriculum by a corrupt academic establishment. But what, then, corrupted the academic establishment?
Was it our abandonment of the land, of nature—of the daily tutorial in natural limitation which repelling grasshoppers from the garden and keeping foxes out of the henhouse provided? Did we lose our common sense when we all migrated to the city and achieved a much higher lifestyle by spinning basic facts to favor deep-pocketed scoundrels?
At this point, does the ultimate cause even make any difference (to paraphrase yet another great thinker of our times, Ms. Clinton—always pronounced “Missus Clinton”)? Science analyzes causes with a view to comprehending complex chain-reactions and, perhaps, intervening at critical links to forestall catastrophe. Yet we’ve already arrived at the last link; and the chain, in any case, appears to be a “one and out” proposition. You can protect your peanut patch better next summer if you figure out what devastated it last summer. Once civilization’s wagon trundles over the cliff, however, there’s no restraining its free fall for a try at a better outcome.
Maybe I’d just like to know, for my personal satisfaction. I’d like to understand the race of cowering, wired-up inepts lining up—with masks and observing strict social-distancing—outside the door of the slaughterhouse. If the unexamined life is not worth living, as Socrates insisted, then maybe the examined life offers modest rewards.
But when examination brings no insights… then I suppose we must await enlightenment from a source that Socrates but dimly divined beyond this valley of shadows. In the meantime… I have no answers. I just don’t understand.