The Narrowness Of Our Thinking, or, A Message To Zort 137
As I, like you, surf the waves of this interminable election season, I am once again disappointed at the relative nearness of the horizon for which even the most progressive candidates are aiming. Yes, we have a socialist running for president, and yes, he seems to be doing fairly well (though nearly guaranteed to lose). But even the Great Septuagenarian Avenger can’t or won’t say what needs to be said about the system in which my children will grow to an increasingly despairing adulthood.
As a people, we have narrowed the scope of our thinking and limited the range of our compassion until any crumb dropped from the master’s table seems like manna from the heaven we mostly don’t believe in anymore. We’ve fallen so far that even the ideas of a patrician such as FDR seem like the radical ravings of a revolutionary compared with what we’ll now accept as progress.
Companies don’t send hundreds of thousands of jobs to distant lands (like Canada) because they otherwise stand to lose money. They offshore the work to make even more obscene profits than the merely profane profits they’d make if they kept those jobs here at home. The idea of ever-increasing profit is no longer even questioned. It’s taken as a given, like sunrises, death, and private health insurance. It’s been so long since the charter of any corporation was revoked – an act which, in these days of corporate personhood, is murder – that most citizens don’t even realize that’s an option. Corporations are here to stay, they must be profitable, and they may use any means necessary to achieve that end. The recent release of the Panama Papers is shocking only for the utter lack of surprise contained in those pages. We might have a few proper names that we previously lacked, but we certainly have no new information about the way our system works.
There is more than enough food to feed every person in the world. There is more than enough money to clothe and house and educate every person in the world. We have the technology and the resources to cure – or at least ameliorate the symptoms of – most illnesses. We know the kinds of food people should eat to remain healthy, and we know how to grow them with relatively little harm to the planet on which we live. These are not opinions. They are facts. That they seem like science fiction is only because we’ve lost the ability to think beyond … well, beyond. Here in The West, we’re raised to consume, taught to obey, and steered away from thoughts that might rock this leaky dinghy on which we’ve staked our meager survival. In the global south, the fight for survival is so clear and present that there aren’t extra hours in the day to imagine a world better than this, and even fewer hours with which to act upon such daydreams in any case.
Any sane observer of this planet – the aliens, say, that we have to hope won’t show up to marvel at our ineptitude – could only conclude that we are so hateful and lacking in compassion that we choose to let children starve while we build bigger weapons, bigger cars, bigger factory farms. Because otherwise how could the human race let this much suffering happen? The argument against the Biblical god is that He couldn’t possibly be all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving, because babies die of malnutrition and innocent children are beaten to death. But using that same logic, it becomes harder and harder to believe in the existence of humanity. Perhaps we’ve been replaced, without our knowledge, by seven billion perfect copies with the hearts taken out.
In these debauched and dismaying times, it’s incumbent upon all of us to work to lessen the suffering of our fellow travelers on this spaceship. That’s an inescapable truth. But that lessening suffering is the apex of our hopes is the surest sign that this experiment – human life on earth – has failed. When the aliens do, inevitably, arrive, the best we can hope for is that we’re already gone. Zort 137 and its comrades can land, take a few selfies in front of moss-covered mounds that used to be skyscrapers, then head back onto the spaceways to meet up with other creatures who spent more time focusing on improving the lives of everyone than on poisoning and bludgeoning and short-changing and enslaving as many of their fellow beings as possible.
Zort 137, if you’re reading this, we’re not sorry. Most of us never really even realized we were doing it.