Walking on the Thin Crust of the World

(I’m going to give you fair warning, I write my blog for myself in a way that I don’t even write my books. This is where I write whatever is in my heart and soul, and I don’t worry about whether people will like it or not. So proceed at your own risk.)

I read something this morning that pierced me to my quick.

‘No. I am going to avoid building any arguments. I am going to refuse to stake a claim, to build a case and then defend it. The minute you circle the wagons you are vulnerable. What if you didn’t even want to defend that territory? What if it was not worth dying for? Everyone is picking fights out there. In the streets at night, on the feeds when they should be working, in 140 characters with borrowed opinions and impossible levels of anger. I can’t do it, not anymore. It’s all wasted energy, the flaring of a billion daytime candles. Why light them? What do they illuminate?’

I admit I have done all of the above. Built my arguments, defended them, tried to do so from a place of information, articles I had read from recognized and reliable sources, books from experts, etc. In the end, though, I have come to see that what’s more attractive to people is to latch onto whatever appeals to their own stance, to react from a place of emotion and their perceived tribe whether that stance is backed by understanding and knowledge or not. People want to be angry, and as the quote above says, they are angry at impossible levels. People like that don’t listen, can’t hear, don’t care, they just want to be angry. I’ve seen this all the way from the international stage to the community pages for my own little town on FB. People want to bathe in anger the way a pig bathes in mud. And to slightly misquote Isaac Asimov, people truly believe their ignorance is every bit as valid and valuable as someone with years of study and knowledge and understanding. It all makes me very, very tired. Soul tired. Sick of humanity tired. We are our own worst enemy and the sad thing is we think we’re the most important thing that ever happened. Mother Nature is pretty good at showing us how very wrong we are, and she’s in the process of putting us in our place right now. She really isn’t interested in the colour of your skin, your bank balance or whether you’ve done good works. She’s sending her message and it’s up to us whether we can receive it or not. Right now, I swear I can feel her taking in a deep breath and having a bit of a rest, because we’re not out there messing her up on our usual level. Here’s the thing, we need her, she does not need us, we tend in our great hubris to forget that.

I am not a fan of unchecked, rampant capitalism–and in truth I think we are witnessing the collapse of it now. Just as a balloon cannot keep on growing without finally bursting, neither can economies–and even if they could there is always a terrible price being exacted for it–on the planet, on the poor, on other species, on other countries. Our solutions need to be small, need to be local, need to come from investment in our communities. They need to come from understanding where our food comes from and what the price of that is. They need to come from a place of remembering that nature is not something we take a day trip out into, but something we are an intrinsic part of.

 I have had my blinders ripped off these last few years, and they weren’t really helping me a lot before then, but these last few years have really been informative in a very ugly way. I have an innate mistrust of tribalism in its current forms, well in any form really. I have seen family members post hateful screeds from white supremacist sites, and when I gently pointed out where they were posting from, got blocked, banned etc. Yet they’ll gush over pictures of my half-Chinese grandchildren, while celebrating white nationalism in a country where they have all the advantage anyway–and they don’t recognize the irony of that for a single second. And let me tell you, if you are cool with flying that flag, I have nothing for you. We fought that war in the ‘40s and the right side won. I wonder what those men and women who sacrificed everything to put down a monster, would think of the people storming the streets with their swastika tattoos, AK-47s and placards saying ‘I need a haircut’. This isn’t left or right, this is about being a decent human being, and if you’re out flying a Nazi flag and screaming in the face of a healthcare worker who may later be the person standing on the line between your life and death, you’re not a decent human being, full stop.

A few weeks ago, here in my own country, a man took a rifle and went out and shot and killed 22 people, some random strangers, some not. And the question I was left with after is the question I am always left with after these horrific tragedies–why are people so bloody angry? I’ll be honest, if he decided he wanted to take his own life and leave it there, that’s ultimately up to him, though of course that kind of action leaves terrible pain in its wake as well as questions we can never answer. When I was very small I lived next door to a family with two little girls who I played with all the time. Even after they moved to another city, they would pick me up in the summers and I’d go stay with them for a week or two. Their dad was fun, and he played with us and made us laugh and tucked us into bed at night after telling us wild and wonderful stories. I thought he was magical. There are things you don’t understand as a child, though, like that the dad drank too much, had a temper, etc and that the mom was always balanced on the knife-edge of trying to keep some sort of equilibrium in the household for the sake of her children. Eventually she left him, and one day when she returned to their house to pick up some things of hers and the girls’ he was waiting there for her. He shot her, and then he turned the gun on himself. To this day, I wish for her sake and the sake of those two little girls, that he’d simply shot himself and called it a day. He orphaned his children, who I have no doubt he loved, and yet he still took their mother from them. And to this day I ask myself why he was so bloody angry, so bloody despairing. I see those tides of anger, those high levels everywhere these days, and there are times it makes me want to never leave the house again.

 So during this slow time, pandemic time, I’ve been reflecting a lot. On myself, on what I’m doing with my time on this beautiful planet of ours, and on why people are so angry. One answer that keeps coming to me is that we’re detached from spirit, both our own spirits and that of the world we live in. We’re detached from the rhythms of the seasons, we’re detached from reason. We’ve been fed a myth that we must progress forward like we’re just cogs in an engine, an engine that will eventually eat the world and, of course, us. Yes, I understand people need to get back to their lives and their livelihoods and that most small businesses operate on a very narrow margin of profit–profit that feeds their families and keeps a roof over their heads. Profit that they also put back into their communities. Because when any of us are seeking donations it’s almost always the small business owners we go to–and they rarely fail us. Those are not the people I’m talking about. I’m talking about the corporations who use us up and spit us out like we’re nothing, regardless of all the bullshit they spin about being a family, etc while we drudge for them day in and day out.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell once said that he thought of ‘Civilized and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths’.  We are all walking on a thin crust and we’ve known it for a very long time. We bury that knowledge under daily tasks–cleaning house, going to jobs, holiday gatherings, writing books, planting gardens, raking leaves, painting rooms, but it’s always there and we know it with every breath, with every step we sense that crust is getting thinner and when it breaks we fear it will throw us into utter chaos. I think the crust is breaking now, I think many of us are in lava up to our knees, if not our armpits. Civilizations fall, this is an inevitability that history has shown us again and again. It’s possible ours is falling now, and that is scary, that causes fear, frustration, anger. People feel betrayed when they are stripped of the things they believe are their birthright. After the fall, there is chaos and then perhaps beyond that is what truly matters–whether we survive, how we survive and how we once again find meaning in our lives. We have all lived in a bubble for a very long time, a drug-induced stupor where we could believe action did not have consequence, and that we could stay at the banquet until long after the candles guttered out and still not have to pay the piper. But now we either pay the piper or we’re going to get banned from the castle permanently. And when I say castle I mean the earth as our home.

Humanity has to find its soul, and it can’t be based upon the myth of riches– because there’s never enough of it and it has caused more bloodshed and pain than we can possibly calculate. We’ve run up a terrible debt, and now the bill is due. And it appears no one wants to pay, no one knows how to pay it. We have to recognize the terrible pain we’ve caused in the name of endless growth, endless profit and we have to figure out how to begin to heal that. I don’t have the answers to that but I do think that’s the question–how do we stop before we get banned from the castle forever? How do we find our collective soul before we’re damned beyond redemption? How do we stop being so bloody angry? That thin crust is breaking, is broken, so do we sink or swim?