Our House is Collapsing
For the first time in my life, I am scared of an uncertain future. Perhaps this is what the millions of Americans felt as they cast ballots for Donald J. Trump. It is not solely Trump’s rise to power that fills me with discomfort. It’s that the world is changing at breakneck pace and we’re trying to slow it down but there’s nothing any of us can do because we are bound to the choices of yesterday and every step we take is in reaction to the ripples from 5, 10, even 20 steps before.
The planet is dying and we only care for short term growth. People starve while bread grows stale in warehouses. People freeze while houses remain empty and unsold. We live in a system predicated on two pillars:
1: Growth is infinitely sustainable.
2: Consumers are rational actors.
History has taught us time and time again that these are demonstrably false precepts.
The former is proven false with a basic understanding of science. There is nothing in this universe (save for perhaps the universe itself) that is “infinite.” So if we were to take this concept of infinite growth and take it to its logical conclusion and grow and expand the human race until every square foot of this planet is dedicated to serving humanity (assuming wanton destruction of the environment wouldn’t disable and disrupt our systems to the point of annihilation), then what? We expand to Mars or the moon and do the same? Then what? Terraform other planets and continue? What happens when the entire solar system is filled? We expand to the rest of the galaxy? This is, of course, assuming that in each instance of expansion we are able to beat the clock and not exhaust all resources before opening a new avenue for sustenance and survival. This is also ignoring the moral dilemma of extinguishing millions of forms of life to serve these interests, or the potential of meeting a species more advanced than we are.
There is greed and arrogance in this line of thinking. Who are we to claim all resources for ourselves? Especially without any real grasp of the consequences of our actions. Regardless of the moral implications of this attitude, it is simply untrue in any reasonable capacity to state that our current trajectory for growth can be infinitely sustained as our consumption of resources and population grows at an exponential rate. There is finite space on this planet, so to assume that infinite growth can be generated from finite resources is a dishonest and frankly dangerous line of reasoning.
Likewise, it is equally incorrect to state that consumers are rational actors when humanity is fundamentally irrational. We are beings born of contradiction: Masculine and Feminine. Logos and Pathos. Good and Evil. Every man, woman, and child has all of these traits in some measure within them. And because these traits are in direct conflict within one another, we live in what can be summarily described as a state of dissonance.
We have developed various coping mechanisms for this existential suffering, specifically: faith, meditation, drug use, and distraction. All are a means of salving the pain and confusion inherent to consciousness. However, all of these remedies are predicated on a lack of rationality.
Faith in many ways can be considered the polar opposite of rationality, as it is a matter of ignoring objective fact in favor of subjective belief. For many individuals this provides great comfort in the face of the random absurdity that is existence. Most specifically it is faith in the premise that this absurdity is not random, that it is all part of a great plan and every bit of pain and suffering experienced by the whole of humanity is a tile in a mosaic that builds a bigger picture. That in the end it all means something and the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished. Whether or not this is true cannot be proved by any kind of objective measure, which is why it is no stretch (nor condemnation) to call faith a demonstration of irrationality.
Mediation, similarly, is the act of acquiescing to the random absurdity of the universe and recognizing you are simply a player in the show, that you are a thinking, breathing part of a greater machine. The main difference between faith and meditation is that mediation can be described as an act of surrender to the meaningless of our existence (save for the virtue inherent to existence itself) while faith is an active attempt to assign meaning to the meaningless. It is not unreasonable to say that meditation is a much more rational choice than blind faith, but in terms of self-preservation surrender is rarely the most rational course of action. It should be noted that the practice of meditation is also a source of great comfort and can lead to many benefits to its practitioners.
Then there are the twins of drug use and distraction. In practice, both accomplish the same thing. Instead of attacking the random pain and suffering of existence in the fashion of faith, or surrendering to it through the practice of meditation, drug use and distraction simply allow individuals to ignore it entirely. In the case of drug use, the sensory faculties are altered chemically in order to dull the awareness of random injustice, or in some cases, to facilitate surrender in a manner similar to meditation. In a way, drug use allows humanity to return to a more basic form of consciousness that allows a temporary reprieve from dissonance.
Distraction also serves as a means to ignore reality, but takes an active approach by presenting an alternative reality where everything happens for a reason, where every moment of suffering actually does contribute to a larger picture. While this is most obvious in art and entertainment, all forms of culture, including news, businesses, and law, serve as distraction in some capacity, in that they all attempt to create order from chaos.
Overindulgence in any of these coping mechanisms are dangerous to a sentient species, but this fails to take into consideration that humanity has invented a way to sow irrationality. Incalculable resources are spent waging war for the minds of the public, this being a by-product of the irrational way we have chosen to allocate our resources.
In an effort to reflect the inherent inequality of the diversity of ours species, we have devised a system where more resources go to the most capable while less, sometimes no resources at all are allocated to the least capable among us. With hard work and determination, an individual can become more capable and in turn earn more resources for themselves. At least, this is the narrative being pushed by those who have benefited most from this system, whose capability and intentions are questionable. This also ignores the fact that there is not only inequality in individual nature and skill set, but there is also inequality in individual upbringing. That is, highly capable individuals can be born to families with little resources and vice versa. There are cases where an individual is so capable that they are able to thrive in spite of their initial lack of opportunity and resources, while there are also individuals so incapable they are unable to succeed in spite of every advantage afforded to them.
This complication can be attributed to the idea that humanity is shackled to the past. The consequences of today will not be felt or understood until tomorrow, which creates a compound effect that occurs in a series of missteps and irrational choices. This effect exists with or without artificial irrationality that is created by individual humans. However, in the face of advertisement and propaganda, it becomes impossible to judge not only what is objectively rational or irrational, but whether or not it is even fact or fiction. And through this obfuscation of truth, many people stand to gain many resources.
And so they make it their mission to keep the scales tipped in their favor by ensuring the population at large is constantly off-balance. Through mistrust and manipulation, the population remains divided. Compound this with the inherent dissonance of human consciousness and you have something that cannot, by any measure of the term, be referred to as a rational actor.
By succumbing to our worst impulses of fear, avarice, and sadism, we exist in a system where the incapable are punished for their bad luck and the capable are rewarded for their selfishness. We pay lip service to empathy and selflessness, while privately calculating the best way to improve our individual standings. The conquered do not crave freedom: rather, they wish to become conquerors themselves.
If we do not come together and serve the best interests of all of humanity, then we will all surely perish. If we do not ensure every person brought into this world is afforded the basic necessities of existence, as opposed to the current system of zero-sum competition, then we will soon find ourselves in the hands of the incapable. This is no dramatization. The fact of the matter is that if a shrinking population controls a growing number of resources, as is the current trend, we will find ourselves at the mercy of the most selfish among us, a scenario that some believe is our present situation.
There is no simple solution. There is no silver bullet to save humanity from itself. Abolition of capitalism can arguably lead to a better system, but it has an equal chance of leading to a similarly ill-equipped system.
The reality may be that humanity is doomed regardless due to the incompetence and selfishness of the past. The first step is to understand the inherent injustice and irrationality of our present system and take immediate steps to correct that. This would involve acknowledging two precepts:
1: All humans are entitled to the barest necessities of survival, specifically food, water, and shelter from the elements.
2: Currency in all forms is an artificial construct that has no inherent value save for the value assigned to it.
If we stabilize the value of currency and collectively work to provide all humans with the basic necessities of life, we would arguably have an existence with less pain and suffering for all. However, for such a system to be truly effective there needs to be stringent management of resources, especially including the number of people there are.
Unfortunately, the current cultural climate of the world would not feasibly allow for such restrictions. The drive to reproduce is too deeply ingrained in our psyches to combat. Likewise, the will to live and our fear of death would never allow for a culling of the least capable, specifically the very sick, the very old, and the very incompetent. This is not a call for widespread extermination of the elderly or disabled, but rather an examination of objective efficiency and resource management. This is simply calling attention to the reality that we cannot provide the necessary resources for all while allowing limitless, or “infinite” growth of the human population, which has proven itself to be rife with irrationality and incompetence.
And so we find ourselves in our current predicament with no clear answer or hope. We each continue individually struggling for survival, pulling in millions of different directions, but collectively accomplishing nothing and going nowhere. Unless a major breakthrough in science or cultural awareness occurs, it is reasonable to state that humanity’s future is a grim prospect rife with suffering.