Forlorn hope

15 Mar

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.

14 Responses to “Forlorn hope”

  1. Julie March 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Hey! My name is Nobody Fewer. jk.

    You are awesome! What you wrote here in this post is awesomer than anything I’ve read lately. My husband and I talk about this shit at length and it’s really nice to *see* someone else who has the same viewpoint.

    I wish I could add something really wise and smart and think-worthy, but you said it all. And way better than I could. Thanks!

  2. Greg Christopher March 16, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Excellent post, dude. I have been this way for a few years now. I used to be young and full of anger and stuff, now I just accept that these people are the way that they are. So I try to do what I can about my little part of the universe.

    Rock on

  3. thesecretatheist March 17, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    I wanted to let you know that I did read this, and found it very thoughtful and thought-provoking. None of those thoughts are forming into ideas that I can write out, though, so I just wanted to let you know that your post didn’t go unnoticed and unappreciated.

  4. godlesspaladin March 17, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Haha, thanks. I’m thinking of adding a widget on the side with links to all the posts I feel are particularly important to me, just to give them extra traffic.

  5. teo March 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    You should really find a way to make this article more popular, because a lot of people have the same thoughts, but they don’t come to the conclusion you come, but to something like “I’ll shoot myself”, “I’ll shoot everybody I can”, “Ill just give up to the system and try to make a lot of money and fuck up everyone I can” etc.

    To you I can only say: thumbs up! That’s the most healthiest worldview I’ve seen for a while 😉

  6. godlesspaladin March 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Hey Teo, thanks! Yeah, the way I see it, just because humanity is fucked, doesn’t mean that gives you a license to make it worse than it already is. Plus, a lot of those people who strike out a humanity (like through shootings) aren’t really affecting humanity because they hurt individual people.

    For example, the Virginia Tech University shootings that happened an hour away from my college: That guy was lashing out at humanity, but he was really just killing innocent people, individual people who had nothing to do with the nebulous humanity he was trying to hurt. It’s just sad when people go that route.

  7. timberwraith March 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Godlesspaladin, I understand what you feel. I’ve felt it, too.

    I can offer this. I’ve been on the planet for four decades and during that time, I have seen a fair amount of positive change in respect to sexism, racism, heterosexism, and cissexism (prejudice against trans people). The difference between the attitudes of my parents, who were born in the 1920s and people in your generation are immense. Actually, the difference between folks of my generation (born in 1960s and 1970s) and your generation is pretty big, too.

    The thing is, change moves at a pace that is not easy to perceive. Change occurs across generations rather than across a few years. It often depends upon the older, oppressive ideas dying with the generation who embraced them.

    It is important that each forward thinking segment of each generation be vocal in challenging the status quo. You lay the groundwork for the next generation. What is radical today becomes common practice decades from now.

    Don’t give up. You may not see the kind of change you want within the span of your own lifetime. Your grandchildren most likely will. Then again, you might too. My “short” few decades on the planet have proven that change is possible—slow, but possible.

  8. teo March 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    “That guy was lashing out at humanity, but he was really just killing innocent people, individual people who had nothing to do with the nebulous humanity he was trying to hurt.”

    Allow me to disagree with you on that point. What is humanity, if not the essence of all individuals? A wise man once said “be the change you want to see in the world” – because you are the world, at least a part of it like everybody else.

    Humanity for everyone of us is the essence of the perceptions of your own behavior and the behavior of others, as far as you can observe it, movies, books etc. add a little bit to it, but there is no objective “humanity” that has nothing to do will innocent or not innocent people, humanity has always something to do with you and me… That guy was mad at these innocent individuals, because according to his perception they weren’t that innocent at all and didn’t deserve to live and that wasn’t based on some abstract humanity, but on his perception of the behaviors to actual others individuals towards him…

  9. Jason Adams March 22, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    “There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present.”

    That’s the most appropriate quote I can find from my 2011 James-Joyce-a-thon.

    I think your point is basically, “Human destruction is inevitable and we’re fucked eventually, but there is beauty and hope in the work and lives of individuals”. Basically.

    I agree with you but I don’t really think there’s anything new about this. The atomic bomb has been able to wipe out vast chunks of humanity for about seventy years now, and conventional weapons have been able to level whole cities for longer than that. Even before that, there’s nothing to have prevented the whole planet being hit by a meteor and rendered as lifeless as its neighbors.
    The point being, we’ve always been teetering on the brink of destruction and we will continue there until someone or something does us in. This only accentuates the beautiful freakishness of our existence and makes the best accomplishments of humanity, from Shakespeare to Einstein, seem unspeakably awesome and heroic.
    Of course, there could always be a way out from this global destruction thing too. I’m cheering on the prospect of the most rosy Utopian sci-fi here: terraforming Mars, orbiting cities, planetary colonization. Not impossible!

  10. godlesspaladin March 24, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Hey everybody, thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it.

    @timberwraith: I completely agree with you that we have obviously made social change in the past 100 years, but I don’t feel this addresses the bigger picture. First off, this social change is mainly relegated to the Western world, and secondly, it has only been in the past 100 years or so. That’s just a faction of a blip on the historical scale.

    It also doesn’t address the technology aspect. I feel this could go either way. Yes technology allows people access to incredible information and the ability to communicate more efficiently, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll use that technology to better their world. (For example, how many people use technology to affect real social/economic change vs how many people use it to play farmville and look at kittens on youtube?)

    Secondly, the average Joe isn’t the only one with access to this technology. Governments and the powerful have equal, if not more access to it in order to use the technology to secure their power. I feel this arms race could go either way. (Well actually, I think the powerful will eventually win in this arms race and will use the technology to keep a tighter grip on their citizens. It’s a dystopian 1984ish view, but that’s where I feel we’re going)

    @teo: that’s a really good point, I didn’t think about it that way. You’ve changed my mind about that. 🙂

    @Jason: That would be awesome, but we can’t escape ourselves no matter where we go. We’d just bring all our earth problems to a new planet…not that it wouldn’t be kick ass.

  11. thesecretatheist March 25, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    I tend to fall somewhere between:

    a) the outlook that, though the changes will be slow, we have the hope of the Utopian, sci-fi future where we inhabit many plants across the galaxy, perhaps universe, and most of the major issues are fixed. Life continues to improve for the human race and we make great strides in justice, equality, and well-being.

    and b) the idea that we are always going to struggle with the issues of human suffering and injustice. It may not always be directed towards the same groups of people but it will always be there. Poverty and disaster will always strike large portions of our population and the human condition will always, for the most part, suck.

    I tend to flip back and forth between those two viewpoints a lot and ignore the one where the human race causes the destruction of all life on Earth before we are able to establish a foothold elsewhere. Because I just don’t want to think about that future. That one or the one where the human race is wiped out by a natural disaster or an outside force.

    I guess I am still mostly an optimist, though I realize that things rarely work out in the best possible way for everyone. I realize that the majority of the people aren’t nearly smart enough to realize the truth of things and truly make the world a better place, and that those in power rarely care about the fate of the little man or the human race as a whole, but there are those who are smart enough and care enough to try to make a change. Whether or not their attempts come to fruition is another story, but I draw my hope from the fact that there are always those who try. Also I find some hope in the fact that humans have been on this Earth for a few hundred thousand years and have managed not to totally fuck everything up yet. Maybe we’ll make it another hundred thousand or so years.

  12. thesecretatheist March 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    And yes, this is the first time we’ve had the technology to easily wipe out all life on Earth, but there have been many points in human history where our actions could have ended all human life and civilization. It became less and less a likelihood as we spread out. That is why I hope for the day when humanity can inhabit the stars. It’ll be much harder for a few in power to bring about the destruction of our race when we are spread amongst the stars.

    Then, perhaps, the day will come when someone develops technology that could wipe out all life in our galaxy. That is the time that I hope our descendants find a way to traverse the distances between galaxies and can inhabit other galaxies.

    Yeah, it’s a slim chance, but it’s a chance, and I like to imagine it happening even if it is highly unlikely.

  13. llbigwave July 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I just read this post for the first time today, and I’d like to say thank you for helping put into words so many of those random, non-crystallized thoughts that have rambled through my head for so long. Very nice post!


  1. America is a lost cause « The Godless Paladin - June 11, 2011

    […] every sentiment echoed in that post, but my rage is more of one of silent acceptance. I lost my faith in humanity a few months ago, but I lost faith in American politics long before […]

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