Leaving a mess for the kids to clean up
15 December 2020
TUMBY BAY - Back in 1993 the pop group Aerosmith sang in the opening lines of Livin’ on the Edge, “There's something wrong with the world today. I don’t know what it is.”
The idea that there is something wrong with the world, including the people in it and the way they behave, is a feeling that has probably been around ever since our forebears crawled out of the swamps and grew legs.
Thankfully, no matter the era, there have always been dissenters who have agitated for different and better ways of doing things. Indeed, dissent and radicalism have been the driving forces of change.
However, while the path of human progress is assisted by many dissenters advocating and sometimes achieving positive outcomes, there are always strong vested interests pushing against them.
At the moment we seem to be in an era in which vested interests are in the ascendancy and tenuously holding the line against change.
This is concerning because we now seem to have reached a critical point in human history where what we do over the next few years will have a lasting impact on future generations and possibly the planet itself.
Without doubt there have been many dark days in the history of the world, but the current crises of climate change, overpopulation, rapidly depleting natural resources, environmental damage and savage economic exploitation seem to have collectively topped anything that has gone before.
Many elderly people will tell you that in their lifetimes no period has felt as dire as this one now.
For those of us in our twilight years it seems a sad legacy to leave for our children and grandchildren.
By and large, and particularly in the West, our generation has enjoyed what have been the most progressive, enlightened, peaceful and comfortable lives experienced in human history.
Unfortunately all that has come at a cost.
The debt collector is now standing at the door and it seems our immediate descendants might have to pay for all we have enjoyed unless something is done very quickly to remediate the problems facing the world.
It is particularly galling to know that the solutions to these problems are well-known and, given the willpower, eminently achievable.
We know how to slow down climate change. We know how to control population growth. We know how to sustainably manage natural resources. We know what needs to be done to ensure economic equity.
We also know what the major impediments are to doing these things – greed, power, fanaticism, ignorance, stupidity and inertia.
We can accuse other people of the first three but, as for the rest, we must admit their pointed relevance to us.
Claiming that we don’t understand what is happening to the world and whimpering that as individuals we lack the power to change anything are classic excuses used time and again throughout history.
As an excuse, for most of us, claims of ignorance and disempowerment are feeble and untrue. History tells us that, given the will, great change can be accomplished by ordinary people.
Despite what they think, the purveyors of greed, power and fanaticism are far from invincible. In most cases they wield their power because we have allowed them to do so.
People like Trump/Biden, Morrison/Albanese and Marape/Namah are there because, one way or another, ordinary people put them there.
Getting rid of them and not replacing them with different versions of the same thing requires us to step away from the herd, discard our complacency and think before we vote.
If enough of us do that we will elect leaders of true quality who can lead the way to a better world.
Will we do that? Probably not. The state of the world has a short way to go before it becomes truly insufferable.
Unfortunately, by then it will be too late.
Firstly, technicalities; Aerosmith (1970) is a rock band and mentioning them in the same category of 'popular music' bands as say The Beetles (1957), is akin to ranking ACDC (1973) as a 'boy band', like The Beetles, yeah nah bro.
"There's something wrong with the world today. I don’t know what it is.”
But finish the verse Phil:
"There's something wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
We're seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain't his
It sure ain't no surprise, yeah"
Is this politically incorrect?
This is the correct position to be in; cognisant of our own lack of sufficient wisdom.
It's the usual starting point for learning.
"Indeed, dissent and radicalism have been the driving forces of change."
Yes, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, communist Russia, Cuba and China, and imperial Japan were the star performers.
(I'm sure someone smart can link that dissenting and radical Mr Marx to Emperor Hirohito.)
But what about human ingenuity, science, innovation and technology which are driven by profit to this day?
Hirohito didn't see Einstein coming so he can blame Hitler for that one too.
"There are always strong vested interests pushing against them"
Yes, in-country (above) there were billions of dead bodies but only millions more when the Aryans and the Sunrise spread their radical notions of world conquest about a century after the West had concluded that conquering colonies was a bad idea.
(Though "Hitler didn't really want to rule the world more than he wanted kill the Jews".)
There's always one joker, eh laka.
Thanks Churchill, yu boi!
"At the moment we seem to be in an era in which vested interests are in the ascendancy and tenuously holding the line against change."
It could be argued that vested interests are funding today's chaos. Multinational organisations, tech giants, mainstream media, billionaires environmentalists and social justice investors.
Are they stakeholders (equity) or shareholders (profitability)?
"Where what we do over the next few years will have a lasting impact on future generations and possibly the planet itself."
Twelve years to go apparently.
Uh huh, ok.
"Our generation has enjoyed what have been the most progressive, enlightened, peaceful and comfortable lives experienced in human history."
According to the high and low standards set by Western world where "Rome is the light". But look what happened to them.
The world always appears to be a mess but what's amiss is that for the past few decades (not very long) we've had nothing serious to contend with except apathy, indifference and overconfidence in how smart we think we are.
"We know how to slow down climate change. We know how to control population growth. We know how to sustainably manage natural resources. We know what needs to be done to ensure economic equity."
Yes, yes, how smart we think we are is not identical to how smart we know we are which is not equal to how smart we really are and their equality is elusive.
But that's by the by because now we're into equity. Same, same mango ah?
Here's some radical ways to "ensure economic equity".
1. High taxes on the rich is a tame notion. I say we make the entire developed world provide 50% of its GDP to bringing the developing world into the same Dimension X, which we'll call the Enveloped world.
2. The whole world needs to cease and desist with this corrupt and despicable consumerism. Women need to stop shopping now and being such hot fish that men buy hotrod engines to lure you with - you're ruining the planet.
3. We have to share the wealth absolutely equally, so the first thing we need is guns and several rounds of ammo to put down those "non-dissenting, non-radicals trying to resist the force of change". Find them on Facebook, pile on them on Twitter and excommunicate the to extinction, or lock up those 'deplorables'.
"We also know what the major impediments are to doing these things – greed, power, fanaticism, ignorance, stupidity and inertia."
Easy answer but challenging to unravel and to plumb the depth, unless we listen to Steve Tyler above.
"We can accuse other people of the first three but, as for the rest, we must admit their pointed relevance to us."
True story, bro.
But I'm greedy, love power and get fanatical too, so umma keep my cards on this round.
"History tells us that, given the will, great change can be accomplished by ordinary people."
Yes, often with guns and ammo and standing on either end of the barrel.
"Getting rid of them [political leaders] and not replacing them with different versions of the same thing requires us to step away from the herd, discard our complacency and think before we vote. If enough of us do that we will elect leaders of true quality who can lead the way to a better world."
I thought the point of democracy was that we want to make sure the political class are doing what they're supposed to do for us regardless of what their "true quality" is.
Besides, it's already a better world with you in it Phil, and everyone's an asshole until you get to know them better.
Except Marx and Hitler. They was all asshole.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 15 December 2020 at 09:40 AM
Great insight, Phil. On the debt our lifestyles have and are still generating.
I agree with the caveat that the implications of climate change were well known well before they entered public consciousness. Scientists for the oil industry presented to executives in the 1950s and 60s models and projections which have proved highly accurate.
Not only did the oil industry choose to ignore this advice they sought actively to downplay and discredit it, and still do today.
They even beat down support from the right for action on climate change - Thatcher and Reagan were prominent advocates for action on global warming in the 1980s.
Forty years later and we are in much worse state than we were then. Yes, I agree it's not enough to point the finger and absolve ourselves but we must be aware of the criminal conduct of those driven by greed.
Which seems to me a big part of the answer to, "There's something wrong with the world today. I don’t know what it is."
It's a system that exists because of and for the consumption of nature, and rewards those who do with great wealth, power and privilege.
We measure wealth by money and GDP, not the wellbeing of people, or our planet - the only one known to support life. So those oil barons made a "rational" decision to maximise profit and the planet be damned.
Until we address the chronic inefficiency, waste, and inequality of a colonial/capitalist system I suspect we will make little headway.
Trusting the system that brought us here to lead us out seems naive at best.
But as you wrote, there are very powerful vested interests lined up to stop progress. They succeeded in the 1980s. I'm sure they like their chances now.
Perhaps the solution is actually generational - that the Trumps, Murdochs etc die or fade away.
No, we don't have time and I'm not waiting, but power is so entrenched and the populous largely misinformed and distracted making urgent change harder.
Ironically, the widespread protests for action on climate change were having an impact - then Covid. Nothing beats feet in the street.
Authoritarians are scared of public displays of people power. Perhaps this will resume once (if) we have quelled the pandemic.
Thought provoking piece, thank you.
Posted by: Simon Jackson | 15 December 2020 at 09:26 AM
We have evolved vertically in scale but stagnated horizontally in virtue.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 15 December 2020 at 08:05 AM