That phrase of Shakespeare’s has been in mind for a few days as an accurate description of what I see when I look at the activity of the human race. We face an increasing threat of devastating global warming, which has already begun to affect many countries and will soon affect all, and the response of the rich and powerful of the world is to try to run things so that they will become richer and more powerful even if they end up in artificial environments poised on the surface of a burnt out planet. This means conspicuous consumption of earth’s diminishing resources, complete carelessness with the lives of the poor and the creatures or the earth, and vicious brutality towards anyone who gets in the road. And the Islamic jihadis who claim to stand for justice in opposition to the power of the rich, are touched by a hysterical self-righteous extremism that simply adds to the evils they try to oppose.
There is nowhere on earth that offers me news of anything better; the many people who work for justice, goodness and beauty are forced to exist on the margins of power and are always vulnerable to its priorities.
Yes, I know this sounds extreme, but my view stems from the realisation that I have been wilfully optimistic in refusing to see that the destructive people are more powerful that the others, and that most of what actually happens is what they want to happen. How could I have failed to see this? I think probably I didn’t want to see it and therefore ignored it. Check it with your own view of the world- that’s the reality, isn’t it? – it’s going to hell in a handcart, because we’ve permitted comfy rich boys, like the U.K Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is presently delivering a budget which will enhance the lives of the rich and damage those of the poor, while failing to address any of the real problems of our country, to decide our futures. Yes, yes, it’s called democracy, I know. But does anyone think that their grandchildren, who are already poorer than them and will live precarious lives on an overheating earth, subject to vicious wars for the remaining sources of energy, does anyone think they’ll be grateful that it was all done democratically?
The instinct of people who begin to see how they’ve been shafted is not encouraging: witness the rise of right wing parties in Europe, the US, and in many other places. They have a common gift to their supporters: someone to blame other than themselves, for the state of the world, usually foreigners. Clearly these people are not seeking real solutions. They want instant magical solutions that will solve the problem at a stroke, building walls over vast territories to keep foreigners out (Trump) or jailing everyone who disagrees (Putin). None of these are quite as mad as North Korea’s drive to make its armed forces larger than its civilian population, but they’re at least competing. Nothing rational has any effect on the pathetic, demented, squealing rage that falls for these solutions. It’s as if the passengers on the Titanic, being warned that it might crash, started fighting to finish the whisky and diverted the crew’s attention from the danger.
I used to quote Gramsci, the great Italian Marxist, who prescribed, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” meaning that things would probably go wrong but you could fight them successfully. I still want to fight and will continue in this blog to encourage others to fight, but I don’t anticipate victory: I think evil and destruction are the default settings of the human race.
And what about God? Will he/she not intervene to avert catastrophe? No. God has already intervened through the great prophets and teachers, and in person in Jesus, and it hasn’t worked. Well, not enough anyway. Maybe God has always known this, and having done his/her best, is already dreaming a successor to Homo sapiens.
Come on, come on, someone will be saying, all this is some kind of provocation, you don’t really think this. Ah but I do, and one of the strongest supports for my argument is myself: why haven’t I fought harder? Why have I sometimes added my own evil and destructiveness to the common pile? My only excuse is that I’m a human being.