This is perhaps one of the most important posts I’ll ever write on this blog, or at least it is to me personally. As such, this guarantees that almost nobody will read it, and fewer will comment. That always seems to be the case with posts I find particularly important.
Over the past several months, years even, I’ve struggled with faith in humanity. I know that sounds horribly cliché, but this is extremely important to me so if it bothers you then kindly fuck off.
So what do I mean by “Faith in Humanity”? I guess I mean the hope that we won’t ultimately destroy ourselves, that we won’t kill our planet, that we will continue to better ourselves.
This storm of vague ideas has been swirling around in my head for a while. Mostly it has been comprised of just feelings, gut instincts about the world that don’t easily translate into words. I started taking down notes, dictating messages to myself, whenever one of my nondescript feelings manifested itself in some tragedy or another. I figured that if I was going to say that I no longer had faith in humanity I would need evidence to back that up. I recently realized that it doesn’t matter.
Overtime I slowly came to realize that just as the universe is governed by the natural laws of physics, so too is humanity. When a plane takes off from a runway it must fight to overcome inertia. The engine and wings must fight to overcome those forces that would have the plane stay as it were, idle and motionless on the ground. Humanity is much the same way. The natural order of things is to be shit. The natural order of things is for everything to remain the same. It is only through great struggle that we overcome this inertia. I’m not sure I have the energy anymore to fight it.
Human inertia. It’s why it is always easier for conservatives to get elected rather than liberals. It’s why we had to fight so hard to overcome things like slavery and theocracy, our natural barbarism and superstitions. A natural resistance to change; why women had to fight for so long against the conservatives of their day to gain recognition that they too were human beings deserving of equal rights and opportunities. The same can be said for blacks fighting against the conservatives of the 1950’s and 60’s for the same thing. We see it currently as people of non-heteronormative genders fight modern conservatives to be recognized as people deserving equal rights and dignities afforded heterosexual individuals. Human inertia. It’s partly why religion is more successful at propagating itself than science. Religion preaches certainty and inertia. It does not change. The only time something “changes” in religion is once in a while a small sect will split off and declare themselves the sole masters of truth and certainty.
Just as all objects have the natural tendency, through gravity, to fall to the earth, we too have a natural tendency towards suffering, ignorance, and squalor.
The second realization I had was that, at least to most of humanity, reality does not matter.
Once I realized this I lost my interest in debating the merits of ideas. It is no use discussing a concept with someone if they do not recognize that there exists an independent reality, an independent fact, indifferent to how strongly they hold a position.
If you want to see first hand how reality no longer matters, take a look at American politics. It is absolutely pointless to try and have debates on the issues. The issues don’t matter. Conservatives have their narrative and that is it. “Democrats always raise taxes and are fiscally irresponsible.” Well actually, there are times when democrats do cut taxes, but this never gets noticed. It gets so bad that people can make statements that are demonstrably not true like “the healthcare reform will create death panels” and other people will believe it. Fox News and the conservatives constantly do this! They actually incorporate it into their tactics. They know they can make up the most insane shit and their base will swallow it, even if it’s blatantly untrue. They do this so the liberals are always having to defend themselves from bullshit claims that are false in the first place. (Not that any conservative will change their mind when a liberal shows that a claim is wrong because hey, he’s a fucking lib and you can’t trust him!)
Now can you imagine for one second a liberal trying to spew as many paranoid bullshit statements a minute like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin? They could never get away with it! That’s human inertia in action! During the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin paraded her pregnant unwed daughter out onto the stage. All the conservatives went “Aw, isn’t that sweet. They’re going through some rough times but God will help them!” Can you imagine if Obama had a pregnant unwed daughter? Can you image what conservatives would say? Most likely something along the lines of “Great, another fucking nigger crack whore who’ll take my money in welfare!” It’s only a crime when a liberal does it and to hell with your “facts.”
Everyone already has their minds made up, there is no “market place” of ideas in politics. All that decides elections is who has more babies, and who can get more of their people out to vote on election day. My team vs your team, us vs them.
I’ve stopped caring about the news all together. Every day it’s the same story: “Liberals are giant pussies cowering to conservatives who have won yet another victory on their endless march to make the world shit for everybody but their billionaire donors. Elsewhere in the world religious fanatics continue to oppress others, cut the clitorises off of young girls, slaughter gays, and generally fight anything that might ease collective suffering in the name of their one true god. Meanwhile peaceful protesters were brutally put down by the military in <insert country here> as large corporations pressure the government to keep a tighter grip on it’s worker population so as not to cause waves in the stock market.”
But I digress into specifics. What about human nature on a larger picture?
Well speaking of larger, the greater the number of people hurt/killed/in need, the less we care. How horrible is that? If we see a fellow human being hacked to death we are horrified and outraged. It be logical then to believe that hearing of 100,000 people being hacked to death would make us feel the horrified and outraged 100,000 times more, but no, we couldn’t give a shit. Genocide? *yawn* What’s on sports?
We also collectively never learn from our mistakes. If you pay attention, you’ll notice there is a cycle of disasters. A perfect example are mine collapses. Every few years a mining disaster will happen, costing millions of dollars and human lives. Families are destroyed, politicians outraged, and the press calls for blood. What happens? An investigation. Somebody gets sued and more protective legislation is passed. Everything calms down for a few years as mines buck up and put forth the extra effort to operate safely. Then, one day, someone decides they can cut just a little corner, then a little more, and a little more, and soon enough the whole thing explodes again and the cycle repeats.
It happens all the time. I am numb when I see another massive disaster that leaves families destroyed and the environment ruined. It’s just what we do. There is no point getting upset because it’s just going to happen again. I guarantee it.
So is humanity going to hell in a hand-basket? Is it because of “kids these days”? Is society going to collapse? Is the end near? Sort of.
The people who normally say those things are social conservatives that don’t understand why the world is changing. I don’t believe in hell, kids have always been this way, society will never “collapse” because as long as there are people there will be “society”, and the only way there will be an “end” is if we make one.
For a while I used to dismiss people who thought we were coming closer to the brink of destruction. I used to rationalize that humanity has always been like this, we will continue to push the envelope forever because there is no end to that envelope. I reassured myself of this with the following saying:
“Uniforms and weapons change, war doesn’t.”
But I was wrong.
You see, there is something very important hidden in that saying that nobody really pays attention to: “weapons change.” Humanity has always been like it is now, and we always will be. That doesn’t change. What DOES change is our technology. I can’t overstate the importance of this. Throughout history the damaged humanity could do to itself and the planet was always limited by our technology. Now we’ve reached a point where we can exterminate all life on the planet 7 times over with a push of a button. Each day we dump millions of tons of toxins and trash into our environment. We are speeding towards the cliff and people are only pressing the gas pedal harder.
What am I supposed to do? Go out and join a protest? Change my light bulbs? I’ve done all that. It doesn’t do shit. It’s a rain drop in a desert. Nothing will change until all of humanity collectively decides to change. That won’t happen until the danger is so imminent, so in your face, not even conservatives will be able to ignore it, though many will try. By that time it will be too little too late. It’s just our nature.
For the longest time I avoided this conclusion because of the despair I thought it would bring. Are there enough good things about humanity to warrant hope that we can change our nature, limit suffering, and not destroy ourselves?
I liken this to my views on religion. One of the most common arguments I hear from believers when I tell them religion is harmful is: “But religion does so much good in the world! Look at all the charities and shelters! Look how much hope it brings to people!” Ignoring the fact that there are plenty of secular charities and shelters with a lot lower instance of their leaders driving around in mercedes, “giving people hope” doesn’t help the millions of people around the world who are forced to undergo some physical or emotional torment/suffering/death because of their (but more often someone else’s) religious convictions. The sum of religion’s good does not out weigh the sum of its evil.
And so it is with humanity.
The problem is in how bitter this is to swallow. Just as with religion, there are some very beautiful aspects of humanity that make one extremely reluctant to declare it hopeless. For me two things stand out among the rest: Art and science. The only time I’ve ever felt the awe that others call a “religious experience” is when I stood in awe of either some form of art or in awe at understanding, through science, some magnificent part of the universe. Human art can be amazing, breath taking, mind blowing. Nothing cheers me up better than listening to great music at the end of a long day.
Science has the ability to move me just as powerfully as art. The first time I saw this video it left me in tears. Tears for just how amazing the universe is, and tears for just how far we’ve come, only for us to inevitably make it all shit.
So I guess the important question now is “where does this leave me?” Do I become a nihilist? Do I just shoot myself?
While I’ve come to the conclusion humanity is fucked, individual human beings aren’t. People as a group might be nasty, barbaric, superstitious, and willfully ignorant, but individual people can be amazing. I’m still here, I still have the opportunity to feel and enjoy life before the rest of mankind kills us all off, so I’m going to do just that.