From the dawn of mankind our species has been hell-bent on destruction. Someone always wanted what someone else had and would find ever more elaborate ways to take it from them.
We owe much of our technological prowess to our need to destroy. We would pump ever increasing sums of money into military research & development in the hope of coming up with something that would strike a killer blow to our ‘enemies’. By some happy accident, some of it had commercial uses.
Mutually assured stupidity
Some would say we peaked at the atomic bomb. An explosive device so ridiculous, so definitive that it would lay waste to anything in its blast radius. However, with time even the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki rebuilt. Some scars may remain, but they rebuilt.
No, the most destructive thing we humans brought to the world was money. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of money. However, we humans lack the discipline required to know when we have enough.
Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study.
The pursuit of money would lay waste to entire ecosystems; rainforests; wipe out entire species and grant the unscrupulous the power to oppress the desperate. It created a class system, a systemic divide between those that have money and those who don’t and along with it the power to keep those without on a very short leash.
We need to talk about Brexit…
We’re months away from the UK leaving the European Union. At the time of writing, there is no plan. We’ve been promised the UK won’t become a Mad Max style wasteland, but we are stockpiling medicines and non-perishable food.
It was an idea sold to those that have not, by those that have. An idea that promised the earth –the control over our borders (that we already had, we just didn’t implement); control over our laws (which we already had); and sovereignty, which, you guessed it, we already had.
There is little evidence to suggest that the act of leaving the EU will deliver the sort of change people were sold. However, it will deliver a change.
The status quo
Our way of life today is predicated on maintaining the status quo. Many of our jobs, our cars and our consumerist culture is dependent on nothing big happening. Sure, we have times that are lean, followed by times of plenty, but things largely stay the same.
However, we’re about to be cast out. We have become dependent upon overseas companies setting up here, employing us and selling us things, often using money loaned to us by other overseas companies.
The UK was in a useful position –a largely English-speaking island economically attached to one of the largest trading blocs on the planet. We won’t be that anymore. The people who sold us Brexit –the politicians, the millionaire ex-banker who leads UKIP from time to time, who have their money off-shore and are gambling on the Pound dropping like a stone, are likely to make a lot of money from the deal, but the rest of us are in for lean times.
Whilst the press are happy to tell us it’s going to be all unicorns and rainbows, the rest of the world seems to be having a laugh at our expense.
Good news doesn’t sell
We are where we are not by some fluke, but by design. The news has long been our window on the world, but good news doesn’t sell half as well as bad news and sensationalism. Most of our newspapers are leaning into populist claptrap, with the Express and Daily Mail firmly on the far-right and the rest of the broadsheets firmly right of centre.
The need for the most outlandish, unrealistic and shocking headlines has allowed the far-right to steer the political debate. Even the BBC entertained UKIP on its political news and debate programmes more than any other party.
Danger is related to this social dynamic due to the tendency to hostility from the dominant ingroup directed at the deviant outgroup. Poor cycling uptake is due to the accurate assessment of social and physical dangers associated with being identified as a member of a deviant outgroup, discomfort with the idea of challenging the social order by intruding into the territory of the dominant group, and natural reluctance to associate oneself with a deviant, minority outgroup.
Unfortunately, this means that groups of people who fall outside the ordinary are punished if it serves to generate news; to get people to click on links; to generate debate on the BBC’s Question Time. It’s why the media circus following the death of Kim Briggs has led to new laws being proposed, yet scores of people killed every day by motorists are brushed under the carpet, with their families getting short shrift from the criminal justice system. Jurors are very often motorists, they’re unlikely to convict their own.
Things do need to change, but not in the way people may think. I have little doubt that Brexit is going to be an unmitigated disaster, but if nothing changes, or we decide to pull the plug on Brexit, we’re still heading for an unmitigated disaster.
Our pursuit of “more” has led us to a neon-filled; car-centric; largely inactive and obese dystopia that is drowning in plastic. One that thinks nothing of short-term gain at the expense of the only planet we have; a society that will happily take money in exchange for dumping nuclear waste off our coastlines; will happily drive 2 miles to the shop for a newspaper and one that has started to pick schools for their children based on how much pollution their children will be exposed to rather than educational attainment.
I feel as though I’ve run out of energy. I’m struggling to maintain the will and enthusiasm to keep trying to make these arguments for change in ever more inventive ways. You can only bang your head against a brick wall so many times before you can no longer see straight.
Despite all of the evidence in favour of investing in cycling and liveable spaces, people are clutching onto cars by their fingernails. Electric cars, with monumental amounts of embedded Carbon, are the new hotness. Driverless cars are firmly on the horizon, but talk of re-training pedestrians to live with cars that won’t react to their presence has yet to cause people to recoil in horror. The prospect of scores of people losing their freedom, just so a few people can ride around whilst staring at their phone –I mean, more than they already do, has yet to generate any attention in the press.
There’s a part of me that has a slightly twisted curiosity about the future. I mean, just how bleak could it be? Science fiction writers have been imagining the future for many years, often basing their assumptions on the feeling of the time, whilst taking some creative license along the way.
Bladerunner and the book that inspired it, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep depends on us perfecting artificial general intelligence to the point where androids can pass for human, but it is, beneath the neon lights, a polluted hell-hole devoid of animal life. I can’t decide which vision of the future is most likely right now. At the moment I’m imagining one that walks a line between Cormack McCarthy’s The Road; and Wall-E.
All I know is that this isn’t fun anymore. I no longer enjoy trying to convince people there is another way. We’re not going to change course; we’re going to persist with 2019’s entirely voluntary apocalypse; and we’re going to continue destroying the planet in search of profit until it can no longer support us. Frankly, this fate is no more than we deserve.