Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Billmon as prophet of the last days

This post by billmon is excellent. It’s an admiring but despairing reaction to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and it captures so much of what’s wrong with our politics, and what’s wrong with human beings. There is so much good stuff in there I’m tempted to copy and paste the whole darn thing. Here’s what mahablog says about it: “This bleak but brilliant post by Billmon exemplifies why we bloggers are either the last, best hope of civilization, or the last, best chroniclers of the end of civilization.”

Here’s an excerpt that echoes my pessimistic “fish out of water” hypothesis:
Maybe as a species we really have reached the same evolutionary dead end as Australopithecus robustus – intelligent enough as a species to create problems we're not bright enough, or adaptable enough, to solve. I don’t know. But if extinction, or a return to the dark ages, is indeed our fate – or our grandchildren’s fate, anyway – I think it will be a Hobson’s choice as to which cultural tendency will bear the largest share of the blame: the arrogant empiricism that has made human society into an instrument of technological progress instead of the other way around, the ignorant prejudices of the masses, who are happy to consume the material benefits of the Enlightenment but unwilling to assume intellectual responsibility for them, or the cynical nihilism of corporate and political elites who are willing to play upon the latter in order to perpetuate the former, which is, after all is said and done, their ultimate claim to power.

None of this seems to faze Gore – or if it does, he and his cinema Boswells manage to keep it well hidden in An Inconvenient Truth. I don’t know if that’s because Al simply doesn’t see the situation in the same bleak terms that I do (he seems like a smart guy, but you never know) or whether, like the doctor protagonist in Camus’s The Plague , he’s decided that work – all that schlepping from airport to airport – is the only sane alternative to despair.
I am perhaps more optimistic than this. I figure after about 350,000,000 people are dislocated or killed by climate-change related disasters (more if they’re African, fewer if they’re cute, blond, American 8-year-olds), our politicians and scientists will find some very expensive solutions and start to implement them. After another quarter billion or so perish, the problem will be brought under control. Some wonk will point out that if we had addressed the problem 20 years earlier half a billion lives could have been saved at one-tenth the cost. And then humanity will do it all over again.


Blogger grishnash said...

I tend to agree. My own take on it is that the future is going to look an awful lot like a constant stream of Hurricane Katrinas over and over again. I'm not talking simply about the storm itself, but all the social and political outcomes as well. The people who will take the brunt of it, of course, will be those with the fewest resources to deal with it. National and local governments will continue to be overwhelmed by events beyond their scope of planning. And once things start to settle down to normal, we'll start rebuilding and making the same mistakes as last time...

9:18 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

I have a feeling that your specialization in commentary on volcanos, hurricanes, and other natural disasters will be more and more in demand in the coming years. All the more reason to establish your blogospheric credibility now, while the field is relatively thin.

10:29 PM, July 11, 2006  

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