If you were living in a dark age, would you know it? If you were a cavalryman under the command of the ancestral Artorius Castus (disputedly the bloodline of the historical “King Arthur”, assuming such a person ever even existed) would you have known that yours was a dark age? Echoing Patrick Stewart’s line from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Best of Both Worlds, part 1” (S3.e26):
I wonder if the Emperor Honorius, watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman empire was about to fall? This is … just another page in history, isn’t it? Will this be the end of our civilization? Turn the page.
(H/t to Jane Schneider over at “The Zoo” for reminding me of this scene.)
With each and every twitter storm from the Butthurt-Baby Elect, our fearless leader demonstrates that he possesses neither the intelligence nor the emotional stability to manage a $10.00 stamp collection, much less that one nation with the largest economy, and largest military, in the world. But it is not just that our economy and military is “bigger” than “anyone else’s” in the world – gawd, what comes next? Shall we unzip our trousers and start comparing genital sizes? (Or hand sizes … ? I might not be Michael Jordan, but this last one is generally not a competition you want to get into with me.) Rather, they are big in a way that “big” has never been seen before.
Emperor Honorius’s Rome was big for its day, but it scarcely reached beyond the Mediterranean sea and a few bits of Western and Northern Europe; it was not even a patch on the civilizations of Persia, China, or India of its own day. We do not perambulate in a garden of such graciously limited luxuries. When WE screw the pooch, we are looking at the possibility of catastrophes of genuinely existential proportions.
Now, there are plenty of comparatively smaller disasters looming on the horizon because of Trump’s narcissistic sociopathy. The destruction of our educational system, of our healthcare and retirement systems, the undermining of decades of civil rights work, and the general disdain for the Constitutional basis of law, are horrors whose consequences all of us will be dealing with for the remainder of our lives. Give your stomach a moment to settle at the recognition that these are just the “minor” threats we currently face. The major threats, the genuinely existential threats, that I see are two: war and AGW.
A word is called for here about the term “existential”, and how I am using it. A “catastrophe of genuinely existential proportions” is one in which the existence of humanity or, at the very least, civilization in any recognizable form, is at serious risk. Thus, a bolide or comet strike (such as that portrayed in the film Deep Impact) would comprise such a threat. (The term used in the movie was E.L.E., or Extinction Level Event.) Under the worst case scenario in the film, humanity, as a biological species, will continue to survive (at least 1,000,000 people in the United States alone – a more than adequately deep genetic pool), but anything remotely approaching current civilization would certainly be wiped out. This is what I mean by “existential threat.”
Returning to the primary theme, hands down, one of the most singularly contemptible lies told during this recent presidential campaign was Jill Stein’s infantile assertion that Trump was preferable to Clinton because Clinton would start a nuclear war with Russia. As with all such childish canards (and the self-absorbed ideologues who spew them) facts play no role. For example, Trump had already declared his intention to scrap the Iran Nuclear deal – hands down one of the two best international agreements of recent decades – in favor of an overtly hostile posture toward Iran. We now hear rumblings from amongst Trump supporters and proxies of an overt war with Iran to steal their oil (because that worked so well in Iraq … ) There is very little reason to believe that an invasion of Iran would enjoy anything like the relative military successes “enjoyed” in the early stages of the invasion of Iraq. (On this account, it would be well to recall how the Iranians ground the Iraqi invaders to a halt in that bloody war of attrition.)
But as horrific as such a war would be, would it escalate to an existential threat, to either humanity or human civilization? This could only happen in the case of a full-scale thermonuclear war – an all-out Armageddon – involving two or more of the nuclear super-powers. I think such an outcome is extremely unlikely. Butthurt-Baby Cheeto Jesus just doesn’t have the ideological commitment to risk his own skin, regardless of how unbounded his narcissism happens to be; he will play to religious extremists, but he is not one of them, so ruat caelum is not on his list of things to do.
However, the second possibility, AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) is very much on the list of things that the Sociopath-In-Chief can, and evidently intends, to rain down upon us. (Many people shy away from the term “global warming,” because so many of the slack-jawed are just all puzzled and dumb-founded about the confusing distinction between “GLOBAL warming” and “my-back-yard-warming-at-this-immediate-instance.” Personally, I am profoundly reluctant to molly-coddle the galactically stupid.) It seems very unlikely that AGW could achieve the level of a human existence threat, but unchecked it will certainly be an existential challenge to civilization, a structure of relationships that are integrally built into the generic system of connections that constitute the global climate of the past 11,000 years. Every farm, every road, every city, every point of contact and every line of transmission, every last tenuous thread of interactive, inter-relational, inter-dependent linkage that is the possibility of contemporary civilization, will be functionally erased by the end of this century in the absence of swift and determined action right now.
And now, that action will not be taken.
Donald Trump doesn’t care, because he is a narcissistic sociopath, and he doesn’t care about anything that does not stroke is infantile, butthurt ego right now. He only cares about his children in so far as they stroke his ego – witness his grotesque, sexual predator comments about his own daughter. If he has, or ever has, grandchildren, the farthest his interest will ever go will be toward the best way to cook and eat them. If you’ve been paying attention to his cabinet appointments as Butthurt-Baby Elect, then you’ll notice that they are, in general, rather less concerned about their grandchildren’s welfare than Trump is.
This, to my way of thinking, is very nearly the definition of an existential threat. Because the consequences their actions (or inactions) will not come to fruition for upwards of another 80 years or so, then those consequences are of no possible interest to these monsters. And even as their lives are ripped apart, the pathetic individuals who voted these monsters into power will continue to blame anyone other than themselves. Ironic, I suppose, that the party that constantly spews about the importance of individual responsibility is the first party to run away from that responsibility, screaming and whining about how unfair it is that anyone would even suggest they own up to what they have done.
So this is what we are up against, real existential threats. How do we “turn the page” when it looks like it is the last page in the book? All I can think of now is a different story, of a long, dark highway, and standing up to say what you have to say, say what you have to say, say what you have to say, … and then, turn the page …