I can’t promise to spell out all of it here. That would be more like a book than a blog post but I’m hoping to start writing much more frequently.
Even before COVID hit in 2019 I was running out of things to say about the current political, social, economic and environmental situation. No one on any side of the political spectrum was really offering any solutions, and I knew that if they did no one would vote for them anyway.
Then when COVID happened it all just got worse. I like most people found myself with a lot more time for escapism. However, I like a great many people couldn’t seem to find it. TV and movies just weren’t speaking to me. So I started exploring new areas. I loaded up on audio books and listened to them while I did other things. Initially, I just listened while I was doing other things like walking the dog and doing the dishes. Then, increasingly, I found myself returning to my book instead of watching TV or movies.
The end result is that since 2020, I haven’t seen many of the shows and movies that ‘everyone has seen’ but I’ve read (listened to) hundreds of books, and a few dozen lecture series from the Great Courses. Many of these have been fiction, but it’s also included books on history, science, politics, economics, folklore and mythology, anthropology and sociology.
Now, as 2023 draws to a close I believe more strongly than before that No one on any side of the political spectrum is really offering any solutions and if they did no one would vote for them anyway. However, now I can take a decent run at explaining why. I won’t try to do that all in one go but a few of my, personal, takeaways.
- We talk a lot about how humans are descended from apes, which sounds like we used to be apes and aren’t anymore. We are still, very much, apes.
- We share a lot of things with chimpanzees, out closest living relatives. This includes being very tribal by nature, having a strong sense of social hierarchy (and the need to improve our personal status). And we are also still very territorial, although this is more about our tribe than us individually. These are things we have to get used to and accommodate. We cannot really change the product of millions of years of evolution simply by willing it or at least we can’t blame people for exhibiting these traits.
- The thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom isn’t our big brains, or opposable thumbs, it is stories. Our civilization, our economies, our nations, our religions, our tribal identities, are based on collections of stories that we’ve decided to believe. If people suddenly stopped believing those stories it would all fall apart almost instantly. If people woke up tomorrow and didn’t recognize the US dollar as a thing of value, the global economy would collapse by the weekend.
- That means that stories are important – including our myths, folklore and even our fiction. When a story resonates with people it goes beyond simple entertainment. It means that they see something in it that reflects who they are, or who they think they are, or who they want to be.
- As long as they aren’t harmful to you or others, and as long as you don’t insist on other people believing them, it is fine to believe things you can’t prove or even things that aren’t true. If believing that there are fairies in your garden, or that there is a special heaven for dogs makes you happy, or makes your life more interesting, or easier to endure then have at it. By all means, clap for Tinkerbell.
- Science is great, but it has limits. Although it keeps trying science can’t explain *why* there was a big bang, it can’t explain what consciousness is, where life came from, or why gravity works (we know that it is, we don’t know why it is). Science knows that we dream, science knows dreams are important but not why we dream. Science can’t explain the placebo effect which is much stronger than most people think. Science doesn’t even know whether the universe we live in is real. So science absolutely has value, but likely won’t answer the big questions in your lifetime, or the lifetime of your grandchildren.
- Given current technology, the solution to our problems does not lie in space. Sending people to space is advancing our technology and providing lots of jobs but we are nowhere near being able to build sustainable colonies in space or visit planets beyond our solar system.
- The “Star Trek future” isn’t coming. It is almost entirely dependent on replicator technology – which is also responsible for the transporters and holodecks – but that isn’t even on the horizon, it’s nowhere near actually happening.
- Nothing about our current civilization is sustainable. What is sustainable, for us, is small groups of nomadic hunter gatherers and / or small farming communities. It’s not just carbon emissions or greenhouse gasses, we are using far too much of everything and the Earth cannot continue to support 8 billion people. According to the World Bank, global GDP in 2022 was $12,647 (USD). So if everything was divided equally, everyone on Earth would get $12,647 worth of goods and services and that number can’t go up by very much without causing environmental catastrophe of one kind or another. Even if we could attain actual equality it would mean a significant lifestyle decline for most people in the West, including the socialists who are pushing for greater justice and equality. (Remember that the 12k includes paying for their share of roads, schools, health care, emergency services, etc.) And that 12k can’t go up by very much. Increasing it would mean using more resources than we are now and our resource consumption needs to go down, not up.
That’s still not a complete list, and I’ll be expanding on many of these thoughts in the coming days, weeks and months but I wanted to prepare everyone. I’m coming back, but the me that’s coming back isn’t the same as the one you used to know and … well … tolerate, sometimes.