When I look at America, here’s what I see. A country where the extreme, fanatical right wing takeover of its institutions — all of them — is almost complete. From laws to courts, representation to presidency, norms to rules, from press to public sphere — America is now controlled almost entirely and exclusively by the most fanatical kind of right wingers the rich world hasn’t seen for decades, probably since Nazi Germany. Yes, I mean that. Let me make my case — and you can judge for yourself whether my words carry any weight.
We easily associate empathy, compassion, an open heart, support, cooperation, honesty, integrity, and gratitude with love, but how about boundaries, limits, grief, anger, discernment, comfort with not knowing, and a commitment to working on our personal and cultural shadow?
There is another reason for fending off sorrow about the loss of the wild natural places we love to visit and the communities where we live, and this is perhaps the hardest one of all to accept and overcome. Many of us are simply afraid that if we allow ourselves to wade, even for a moment, into the feelings of sadness for the living world that lap at the edge of our consciousness, we will find ourselves pulled so ruthlessly into grief and despair that we will never emerge.
I was recently asked to respond to a short email interview. My response seems like a nice summary of how I’ve spent the last decade and a half of my life, so I thought I would share it here.
It is time for us baby boomers to honestly acknowledge what we did and didn’t do with the gifts given to us by our forebears and be clear about our legacy with which we have saddled the next and succeeding generations.
The 21st century is going to be the first time — ever — that the human species stops increasing, expanding, and growing. The human population is — for the first time in history — projected to finally peak around 2050, for the first time ever, in a hundred thousand years. Let me put all that in perspective, if your response is — “so what?” — I think it is one of the most significant events of all time, and I don’t say that for hyperbole’s sake. So powerful and meaningful that we haven’t even begun to think about it. I think it explains everything from today’s wave of fascism, to climate change — to tomorrow’s urgent, desperate need for better paradigms of everything, from economics to politics to society
Is there more to us than Thanatos? I believe there is. Art, medicine, literature tell me so. A little child’s laugh tells me so. The water against the waves does, too. But I also believe that we’ve been told for so long that there isn’t more to us than Thanatos — that all we are is little walking vessels of greed, rage, spite, and hate — that Thanatos is all we know how to be anymore. Let us, then, begin the difficult, beautiful work of discovering a greater truth about ourselves.
So who are we trying to please, by refusing to call all this what it is? Why won’t we say the words we should, must, say? We must be trying to please someone — because we are letting everything we cherish and treasure be destroyed by thugs and mafias. We are watching democracy be raped by fat men with little hands. We are watching fascism be reborn in our very own country, as little children are caged. But they are braver than us, my friends. We are the ones afraid to utter the name of the beast. But the beast only snarls and laughs, because he knows now how much he has frightened us.
The longer we pretend this dystopian world is not imminent, the more unprepared and disempowered we will be. The ruling elite’s goal is to keep us entertained, frightened and passive while they build draconian structures of oppression grounded in this dark reality. It is up to us to pit power against power. Ours against theirs. Even if we cannot alter the larger culture, we can at least create self-sustaining enclaves where we can approximate freedom. We can keep alive the burning embers of a world based on mutual aid rather than mutual exploitation. And this, given what lies in front of us, will be a victory.