Because I’m no longer at university, I finally get to read for pleasure again. Yesterday I picked up Harper’s magazine and devoured almost the whole thing in one night. The financial system in the United States is falling apart; the basic tenets of capitalism — that infinite greed and growth are good — are now reaching their limit. Those two subjects made fascinating reading. This morning I finished reading a short story called “The Next Big Thing” by Steven Millhauser. To anyone who loves the short story, buy or borrow a copy of Harper’s and read this one. It’s about a company called The Next Big Thing that slowly but surely takes control over almost all aspects of the lives of citizens of a small town. One can read it as allegory. The town is never named and the events unfold in a creepy, almost sci-fi manner.
Reading, in turn, inspires writing. I’ve been mulling over some ideas as I walked about town today. I might work on something today. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve been getting ideas for projects just the second school ends. I think by temperament I need the stability — even rigidity — of a job, in order to seek the reprieve of fiction in my free time.
And here is one of the saddest true stories I’ve read in recent memory. I read things like this and I conclude, folks, we’re doomed. Our species, as we’ve known it, is doomed.
With honour killings still going on, motivated by centuries-old myths that are mostly unsubstantiated, what hope do we have of turning our efforts to avoiding environmental armageddon? About no hope, that’s what I’m starting to think. When it come time for me to draw my pension, if pensions still exist by then, I think most of the world will be in a state of perpetual chaos. It’s going to be nasty and brutish indeed. It’s not only the freakish and devastating weather patterns that will take some getting used to, it will be the effect of scarcity on human behaviour. Given how much of human energy is currently spent on waging futile wars, think how much worse it will be when mass migrations occur, and people are fighting because their lives are at stake. The US Navy will be stationed on the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, gunning down boats of hungry refugees. Airports will start to resemble parts ot Baghdad — giant, security fortresses. Europe will be in the eye of the storm because of its relative proximity to some of the poorest places on the planet.
The remarkable thing is, even in places like the Montreal region, where prosperity and rationality supposedly hold sway, people are still making choices that will help secure their own doom. Buying houses in suburbs, for example. And developers and city planners egg on this kind of behviour. Look at any new development outside of the Montreal core. Huge, sprawling, ugly, car intensive catastrophe — that’s what you will find. Take an expressway at 5pm on any weekday. You will be in a sea of oozing traffic. Even though gas is over a dollar thirty a litre, these developments continue — in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary — in fact, in pretty much every city in the continent. I fear that for now, I have not helped things too much, because while I live in the core, I work outside of it. Sigh.
I heard David Suzuki say the other say that while things look pretty bleak, we must remain hopeful and do our best. I agree. However, it would be nice if our leaders would try their best too. Sadly, in Canada, our prime minister along with the premier of Alberta are going to do their utmost to make sure that this country’s environment is going to continue to inexorably slide into collapse. The tar sands are one of the biggest crimes against the planet ever conceived. Even some oil sands companies have stated publicly that a slowdown is called for, but there’s no chance Ed Stelmach will do the right thing. About two weeks ago, he announced new tax breaks for Big Oil so as to encourage yet more investment. We’re talking companies like Exxon, Shell, and BP profiting to the tune of a billion dollars in unclaimed taxes over the next five years. This, despite the fact that these same companies are currently the most profitable in the world. Exxon along made $21 billion in sheer profit last year. Some companies are so rich that in one case, a single executive was handed a severance package of $400 million.
$400 million to one man.
The wool is being pulled over the eyes of humanity. Not even in the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who lived big at the Chateau de Versailles while the peasant ate moldy bread — not even then did humanity find itself so intolerably inegalitarian as it is now. To put it simply, we’re fucked. I mainly believe in living in hope because it makes waiting for the end of days more pleasant.