We’ve all got a book in us – or two
A dream of a missionary

The end of the world – Part 2

The endCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - As regular readers will know, our esteemed guide and editor has until very recently been in a world of pain, having undergone unpleasant surgery in a hopefully successful attempt to treat a debilitating back condition.

Anyone who has undergone major surgery can tell you that the easy bit is the time spent unconscious on the operating room table. What follows is almost invariably unpleasant. It is merely a question of degree really.

While Keith has been struggling to recover strength and mobility I have, as it happens, had an unwanted medical experience.

At around 1.00am on America’s Independence Day I had the exquisitely painful and terrifying experience of a heart attack.

Very fortunately, this event happened in a major hospital and very close to a splendidly equipped Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory and, even more fortuitously, in the presence of some highly skilled doctors and nurses, who collectively saved my life.

I want to tell you that a life threatening event brings about a marvellous clarification of your priorities in life, notably the urgent need and desire to actually remain alive.

If you survive the experience, you are firstly, filled with gratitude to those who saved you and who love you and, secondly, given to pondering just what your life has been about and whether anything you have done really matters.

Also, you are brought face to face with the awful truth that your allotted time on this planet may end rather abruptly and certainly far sooner than you may have planned.

It is very confronting to stare into your personal abyss but it seems to me to be a more intelligent alternative to outright denial.

Happily, for the time being at least, my world has not ended but the finishing line has definitely appeared upon the radar screen and I don’t much like the look of it.

In June I wrote about how the world regularly ends for us all, both as individuals and, sometimes, as a civilisation.

I pointed out how Papua New Guinea’s world had already ended at least twice in the last century and that it seemed probable that it was about to end again, mostly because the neo-liberal capitalist experiment of the last 40 years or so seems likely to soon collapse under the weight of its various contradictions.

Now, as I recover from my own near miss with oblivion, I am even more firmly of the view that we are witnessing the end of this world, at a geo-political level at least.

The Covid-19 virus has revealed the flaws and fissures in the global neo-liberal system. The exploitative, inequitable, unjust and startlingly fragile basis of this system is now very obvious to anyone who cares to examine the evidence.

The abject failure of the proponents of unfettered capitalism to address the current crisis by other than screaming for government bailouts reveals the fundamental hypocrisy of the incessantly repeated mantra that the market always knows best and is a naturally self correcting system. It doesn’t and it isn’t.

Despite this, the greatest proponents of global neo-liberalism, most of whom live in the USA, cling to the forlorn hope that normality will be restored very soon and all will once again be right in the world.

This is a triumph of wishful thinking over any real understanding of history.

My strong sense is that the forces of revolutionary change are emerging once again, as epitomised by the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements.

The immediate social context for these movements is a visceral anger at being excluded, marginalised, exploited or denied opportunities simply because of gender or colour.

But the broader issue is that this is the result of a fundamentally flawed system, not just skewed individual values and behaviours.

It seems pretty clear that the great currents of history are moving us all inexorably somewhere new, the nature of which remains unclear.

As with all tectonic events, the build up to change is very slow but the actual moment when the change occurs can be very abrupt.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that such changes are rarely foreseen by those who undergo them.

Events like the English Civil War and the American, French, Russian and Chinese revolutions only ever looked inevitable in hindsight.

Change is a frightening prospect for the current ruling elites of our world, who increasingly are flailing about in a desperate attempt to shore up their position.

History suggests these frantic efforts will ultimately fail but they may stave off the feared changes for a while longer.

The only issue in question for me is whether capitalism can respond to the many crises it now confronts by changing its nature or whether it will be entirely torn down and rebuilt.

I once hoped that I might live long enough to see at least the first glimmerings of an answer to this question but my health problems mean that my world may end before neo-liberal capitalism.

While this is annoying, I comfort myself with the knowledge that I have lived through the end of European imperialism as well as the demise of Marxist Leninist communism.

Both seemed permanent and immutable right up until the moment they weren’t.

Also, I have seen Papua New Guinea emerge as a sovereign nation and, while there have been many stumbles along the way, it still remains part of the world’s democratic nations.

That is no small achievement and one that many of us now ancient ex-kiaps and other colonial types thought might not occur.

As for communism, it exists in name only.

I sometimes wonder what all those Marxists, Leninists, Trotskyites and Maoists now believe. Their world ended long ago when the vast but rotten philosophical edifice of communism collapsed under the weight of the lies, distortions, hypocrisy, cruelty and murder needed to sustain it.

It was an ugly and messy end for an ugly and messy system.

Now it is the turn of global neo-liberal capitalism.

Its moment of ascendancy has passed.

If our ruling elites feel disposed to glance ahead, they will see the end of this version of the world looming.

The only question is whether they can bring themselves to understand and respond intelligently to demands for change or prefer to doggedly resist change to the bitter end.

Unfortunately history provides no clear guide but I hope that the wise amongst us will choose to bend to the winds of change and not wait until they and we are broken by them.

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

Filled with gratitude, Chris, too I have shared the surgeon's knife and so my life spared.

Now is not only a time of "global neo-liberalism".

Now 'fight fought' is the scale of that impact by humans on all other earthly creatures, as in "the largest example of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing the world has ever seen".

See: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/china-accused-of-using-football-stadium-style-lighting-to-plunder-fisheries-20200722-p55eci.html

Lindsay F Bond

Almost unheralded as time and generations edge by, the measure of a monumental change is the numbers, the rates of population growth and decline.

Article by BBC ventures a chart with a title 'Fertility Rate', though the discussion is mostly of projected decline of numbers of human births.

See: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53409521

The projection for Nigeria is not of decline. Nor might it be for PNG. Where would a "global neo-liberal system" (or its remnants) likely source its workers?

Richard Jones

Just like you and KJ, Chris, I too had a stint in hospital. Thankfully mine was short.

One mid-May Saturday morning I awoke with a burning pain in the right-hand side of the chest. It was about 3.30 am.

An ambulance was called (at our ages never let your ambo subscription lapse) and off we trundled about three blocks down to the almost new $690 million Bendigo hospital.

Blood tests were taken, X-rays carried out, heart monitors stuck to the skin - a raft of diagnostic procedures.

Six hours later, about 9.30 am, the head emergency department doctor came over to tell me it was not a heart-related pain. But a chest strain caused by - he knew not what.

I recalled I'd been sawing up some overhanging tree branches from a neighbour's property to fit into the green bin.

"That's probably what caused it," he said and off I trundled not long after 9.30 am.

Just a six-hour stay for me, but I saw at first-hand how busy and attentive the emergency staff were - and are, under their present stresses.

Lindsay F Bond

Between sigh and sign, signalling is often easily subdued.
Between cry and crisis, at an earlier epoch, fester evolved.
After Hus, "It was almost exactly 100 years later, in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention onto the church door at Wittenberg."
See: https://reformationtours.com/jan-hus/

Yet not only of religious beliefs, there were structural settings of societies such as for "security of living together in a protected place", some recourse to safety of numbers, upon which leaders clambered and claimed serf survival was a product of the leader's initiative.

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