“People react to fear, not love; they don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true.”
~ Richard Nixon
I blame Celine Dion.
Huh? You ask.
Yep, it is at least partially her fault. She is symbolic, at least for me, of all the world’s ills.
OK, so now that I have already lost you, let me begin. It was December 31st, 1999. Prince, you might remember, wrote a song about it. Clinton was still President. Man do I ever miss that charming old bastard. My ex-girlfriend and I were way out in the east end of Montreal, at her parent’s place, where we had just finished a delicious supper. I wanted to go downtown, anywhere. I just wanted to be out in it, when it, whatever it was, was supposed to happen. She wanted to go to something more structured, somewhere close enough to our apartment, that when it was all said in done, we could simply walk home. I was already drunk. Her dad made sure of that, he always did. So, yes, she was driving.
It was getting late, we still hadn’t decided what to do. Her mother, bless her, piped in; why didn’t we ring in the New Year/Millennium there? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my in laws, but the idea of spending, what was supposed to be the party of the century/Millennium, way out in the suburbs, made me hope that all the doomsday/Y2K freaks were right.
By 11pm, I was well drunk, and we still hadn’t come up with a plan. Time had run out. We were essentially stuck in the burbs. What’s worse, aside from the fact that her dad and I had drank all the wine and were now onto cans of Molson Dry, was that we were stuffed onto a couch, the four of us, watching Celine Dion perform live. So instead of being out there, in the streets of Montreal, digging the scene, I was trapped, inside a duplex with my ex and her parents, listening to my least favourite pop artist squelch us into the 21st Century. Those were dark times.
So no, it is not really Celine Dion’s fault. But for the sake of this piece, she will act as my symbol of societal rot. That is what is wrong right now. It’s goes beyond Islamophobia (see Norway), or the banking/credit crunch (see the Dow), or even class warfare (see London). There is something rotten at the core of humanity and it is stinking up the joint. I will call it Celine Dion. You can call it Justin Bieber. Others might call it Capitalism, or the 24 hour news cycle. Hell maybe it’s all Twitter’s fault. All I know, is that things have not been right for a long, long time and symptoms are beginning to manifest.
So are these symptoms (a crumbling global economy, extreme nationalism, class riots, war and endless famine in Africa, revolutions in the Middle East) indicative of a singular human disease? Or is humanity being eaten alive by a whole series of smaller diseases?
Is humanity too far gone? If not, what can be done to bring us back from the brink?
These are all valid questions, without any true answer. What seems to be true is that humanity is teetering on the edge. The winds of change are not going to be kind to humanity. At least not in the short term.
So what comes next?
Let’s get back to Celine Dion. No not the symbol of all that is wrong with humanity, but the creature, that was on stage on December 31st 1999. Let’s examine why, my girlfriend and I were sitting on a couch, watching her as midnight neared. Why is it, that we didn’t end up downtown with the masses that night? It wasn’t really because my ex and I were in a fight about who was to be the designated driver. And it wasn’t really about where we were going to party (we lived a 20 minute drunken walk from downtown) and how we were going to get home. Nope, this was about fear. My ex had drunk the mass media Kool Aid. She was scared to death of the worse case scenario. You remember the Y2K bug, where there was an overblown concern that all the world’s computers could go on the fritz? Bank machines could stop working, transit systems stop, power grids in jeopardy. Basically, at the stroke of midnight, there was the risk of everything going POP! While she didn’t express this outwardly, her reluctance to decide what to do that night, meant that we stayed, safe and sound at her mommy and daddy’s place. Fear won.
Nothing happened of course. Dick Clark counted down until midnight, the ball dropped, Celine Dion squelched, I begrudgingly kissed my girl, hell, the lights didn’t even flicker. Her dad and I drunkenly stumbled out the front door, lit a couple cherry bombs, yelled at the universe and that was it. Fizzle... welcome to the 21st Century.
Fear is the great human hoodwink. The instrument of control. Used by business people, politicians and religious leaders alike, to steady the masses. Journalism has become the mouthpiece of the fear doctrine. The 24 hour news channels, the remaining few big newspapers and the whole fuzzy network of new media (be it blogs, social media, or on line news sites) make it almost impossible for anyone to not believe the sky is falling. I dare you to turn on CNN, or read the New York Times, or Twitter’s trending topics, or log on to BBC.com and not fear for the future of mankind. Horrible things are happening all around us, and the scariest, doomsday stories, they are at the top of news cycle. Fear sells. That is why the squirrel that can water ski, is at the end of the news broadcast. Not because it is any less mind blowing, that an animal can pull off such an amazing trick, than say, the fact that America no longer has a AAA credit rating. Nope that’s not it, it turns out that misery and despair keep folks tuned in. Super talented squirrels, don’t sell ad space. Sorry Rocky.
So is it as simple as that?
Can we blame all the recent bad news, on the news providers themselves?
Why not shoot the messenger?
Would things be 100 times better if we all just unplugged?
Would we be better off living in ignorance?
Would the chaos continue if no one paid attention? I don’t know. I think that there is some value in instant communication. I think there is also value in the fact that the world is watching. The problem remains, in who is controlling the message. Are we being told the truth? Are we being mislead, by a faceless cabal, into believing, what that cabal want us to believe. I don’t want to go off on a conspiracy theory tangent. But the truth of the matter is that there is a tiny percentage of the of the world’s population that controls most of the global wealth and most of the world’s mass media. The two go hand in hand. The powers-that-be need to keep the masses appeased and confused, lest we finally say enough is enough (see London) and take to the streets in disgust.
So here we are. The global economy has tanked, thanks entirely to the people who were supposed to be its expert stewards. We live is an era of heightened racial/religious hysteria, thanks in large part, to events almost 10 years ago (9/11 for those that can’t keep up) and the reaction to it. Wars, wars and more wars. We are in the midst of a mass global malaise, on an over-populated and abused planet. Something has got to give, we are at the tipping point. What comes next, you’d hope, would be up to us, and not the folks that have lead us down the rabbit hole. I fear (there is that word again) however, that it will not. I don’t envision a magical power-shift. When they, the powers-that-be, whoever they are, control the public purse, the police force, the military and the message. The game is rigged. The house always wins. We will continue to be lied to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their lies will become ‘truths’. There is no such thing as journalistic integrity any more. Journalists aren’t allowed to tell the whole truth, they are only allowed to tell the bits that keep the rest of us in check. We’ll just keep sipping the Kool Aid. Oh Yeah!
Am I calling for revolution then?
I believe to a certain extent, that revolution is inevitable. History is cyclical, we are due for some dark times. It’s the ebb and flow of the human experience. We are, perhaps, on the brink of a new dark age. Perhaps we’ve rounded the corner and are beginning the long descent. .
But how is that possible? You ask. What with all our scientific and technological advances.
Shouldn’t these wondrous advances have insured humanity against collapse?
Have we not learned from the mistakes of the past?
Yes, and no. Yes, we can create wonderful machines that can help us communicate ideas instantly, across the planet. Yes, we’ve made wonderful medical advancements (Old fellas can still get boners!). Yes, we can cross oceans via plane, or boat. Yes, food can be mass produced and mass shipped. Yes, we can mobilize (If we are so compelled) large global forces to help aid those in need.
But, all those wonderful advancement have very little to do with the human soul. Humanity has not, and may not even be capable of, curing the afflictions of its psyche. We try, we develop religions, social and moral codes. There are laws and self-help groups. There is psycho-analysis, anti-psychotic drugs, retreats, red wine, good food, sex, pot, a myriad of wonderful concoctions, but to no end. Humans at all ends of the spectrum, be they the powerful, the helpless, or the rest of us, are wired in such a way, that we can’t help but be cruel to others. Humanity is rotten to the core. We can’t help ourselves. It’s in our DNA. We are driven by greed, lust and survival. We will step on our own grandmother to get that last piece of Marie Antoinette’s cake.
So humanity is doomed?
Sure, maybe, if you discount the pure awesomeness that is existence in the first place. But this is not about that. I am not touching that bit of madness with a ten foot pole. My point, aside from the fact that I am not a big Celine Dion fan, is that these are dark times. That you and I are pretty much powerless. There are folks, outside the traditional, malleable political process, that are mean and nasty. They couldn’t care less about you, your family or the plight of famine torn Africa. They do however, like to use their wealth and power to control how you think, what you buy and who you vote for. They do so, through mass media, which they use to control the message. This will always be true. And unless somehow, you find the golden ticket and become one of them; you will be under their direct influence, always and forever. They are the pack leaders, the captains of the not-so-good ship humanity. They are at this point steering that ship right into an iceberg. They can’t help themselves, they are compelled to do so; it is all a symptom of same human disease, that put them in a power position in the first place.
So the light at the end of the tunnel is a fallacy?
Of course! Sure there are a whole bunch of mini-miracles; they happen every day. There are as many good news stories, as there are bad news stories. But we’ve already covered all that. I think though, that if we as a collective, believe that this next wave of revolution, is going to fundamentally change humanity for the better, then we will be horribly disappointed when the dust settles. Personal victories aside. Humanity is not going to be made better by the dismantling of one political system and the development of another. There are systems, which I believe, better serve the masses. I, for example, think that social democracy, is a better system of government, than straight capitalism or libertarianism. I believe that government should exist, solely for the security and well being of its citizens. See, even I, your friendly neighbourhood pessimist, suffers from idealism. It is okay for a person to dream of a better way. Whatever it takes. Some folks use religion, others their work, some believe that family is key, a lot of us use a combination of factors to get us through the day. Again, whatever works. But remember, that no matter the system, no matter how virtuous it seems on paper, it will still be lead by the powerful few, and those buggers will be as mean tomorrow as they are today. Human nature ain’t gonna change via revolution.
History is doing its thing. The situation looks dire. But then again, when hasn’t it? Ask you grandparents how optimistic they were during the Depression, or the World Wars. Ask your parents how powerless they felt during the Vietnam years. Ask yourself how helpless you felt during 9/11 or the whole of the George W. Bush Presidency. Things have always seemed bad, with the potential of getting worse. The sky is always falling. Is today any worse, for me, than January 31st, 1999? No! Celine Dion is not within earshot and their isn’t a Molson Dry in sight. You see what I did there? Full circle. Around and around it goes. Dizzy yet? I am.
“History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”
~ Hunter S. Thompson