This changes everything, and nothing. Last spring I wrote a post on the Gulf Oil Spill, Mourning for the World. This Spring sees a different disaster whose implications will leak out upon our world at a rate, fast or slow, we can only guess at. There is still the kind of unreality, a “Phony War” feel to the way we’ve taken – or failed to take – on the implications of what has been unleashed. Thought of the Phony War, that period between September 1939 to May 1940 when the world seemed to hold its breath unable to process the enormity of what was inexorably under way; brings to mind a similar process in the Summer of 1914 before the Guns of August. Funny the difference between these events during which the world beyond the United States dealt with an impending doom and the way this country has handled such calamities. From “Remember the Maine!” to “Remember Pearl Harbor!” to Remember Ground Zero!” we’ve managed for over a century to package disaster and market it to ourselves and the world as a means to sell our empire and its “goods.” A marketing job that’s been so successful, we all now have a hard time thinking in any other terms.
What happens when a calamity strikes that can’t be “sold” as an opportunity for expansion and further repression? This has been what’s been keeping our owners sleepless lately. They don’t know what to do about the Gulf – hide it, pretend it didn’t happen – the emergences – that’s right, emergences, not emergencies – in North African and Arabia – try ignoring, when that fails fire off the back-inventory of missiles – and now the evolving tragedy in Japan.
That’s not quite right. Yes, it’s a tragedy, yes it’s evolving, and yes, it initiated in Japan; but it is already a world-wide tragedy and is just a hint of more to come.
For once, I must say I can identify with the numbed silence of our owners and their mouth-pieces. There isn’t much to say when we start to do the math on what’s already been released and what is at a high probability of joining it to make eddies and swirls across the air and oceans of this globe. This time we don’t have mile-deep ocean hiding the extent of the damage as in the Gulf, instead, we have an invisible menace whose effects – like those of microbes before our current hygienic frenzy – are not only unseen, but beyond our contemplation, beyond the limits of our imaginations.
This shouldn’t still be true, after all, I’m approaching sixty and my whole life-span fits comfortably in the “Nuclear Age.” We’ve had a long time to contemplate, have had many dystopic fantasies to draw-on in our attempts to digest the implications. Somehow, and this seems to be the case whenever something truly catastrophic strikes – as opposed to a “marketing possibility” – the fact has an impact that cannot be predicted, or prepared for. This is another example, another case, for letting go of fantasies of control…, but let’s save that for another time. It is true, when faced with a fatal blow and the bleed-out that follows it, we do not respond in whatever ways we had imagined we would.
I find I’ve picked-up a nervous little cough. I assume it’s psychosomatic, the result of having to make thousands of little decisions every day where normally there was no doubt. Should I take in a breath of air? I can’t live without it. This shouldn’t be a question at all! On the other hand as those tendrils spread, as the cocktail of hot isotopes and trans-uranic elements is fed into the air and ocean, there is an increasingly statistically relevant possibility that one of those breaths will bring me my death.
There is plenty of precedent for this, and enough irony to bring a smile to the most jaded observer. In the 1950’s an epidemic of air-borne radiation induced illness occurred throughout the North. This couldn’t be surprising as the U.S. and the C.C.C.P. were vying with each other to contaminate their home-soil as they tried to intimidate each other with the power of their bombs.
The whole thing has never come into general public awareness. This shouldn’t be surprising either. We are uniquely well-suited to turning a blind-eye to whatever might kill us if its cause is a bit obscure and there are strong emotional reasons to look the other way. In this case another epidemic, one that was being roundly ignored also in those years, got to eventually play the fall-guy. Smoking.
Funny, smoking tobacco, which does voluntarily admit a soup of toxic organic chemistry into our systems, is deadly. Also, during those years of fall-out laced with pounds of plutonium, the dispersed nano-particles – before the latest craze for introducing the indestructible micro-small into the world’s metabolism – of plutonium fell on the tobacco crop – as well as everywhere else. Smokers for years thereafter have been recycling those particles until a number of them would lodge in their lungs and breed their own blossom of burgeoning “growth.” So, smoking killed all those famous and glamorous movie-stars of the fifties, with a little help from the desserts of New Mexico, the atolls of the South Pacific, Siberia, and the Russian arctic.
Likely we’ll try to hide this disaster from ourselves. The Phony War will go on. At least until the clever-boys find a way to “capitalize” on it.
The somnambulist’s dance goes on until the last possible moment, but then something either awakens the dreamer or they die. This event is enormity writ large. It follows on last year’s enormity and depicts a trend of escalation that shows no sign of letting up. The inability of owners to continue to convince themselves that their fate can be isolated from that of the world at large becomes more viable at every moment. Of course it’s a long leap from a general recognition of irrelevance and one of their kind actually leaving the stage gracefully – just look at Libya….
We are witnesses, to good and bad. We have little choice so long as we find any value in life. I personally find it more valuable each day – funny how being a “doomer” could cure someone of chronic depression and anxiety, but so it goes! I go on taking each breath. Eventually we will all metabolize this latest assault on our viability – one that even more than misplaced-oil strikes directly at the heart of the way life maintains itself.
At some point the balance will shift. This might stop, or at least slow-down the continued talk of future insanities – probably not. One thing this moment does teach us. We never know how an actual realization will strike us or what its consequences might be until after the fact. Life points us at its revelations even as its movement takes us inexorably towards the consequences we’ve so long striven to avoid.
Two bits of “local news:”
I’ve carved out a painting studio from the wreckage of dead-tech and dusty disappointments that had cluttered the foundations of our home here on a fragile little island a few feet above ocean’s reach.
These two events signal changes that will be taking me away from the kind of intense engagement I’ve kept-up on an almost daily basis here at Horizons of Significance. I do hope to continue writing here. I also hope that taking on a longer lead-time and a slower cycle will lead to better writing. I want to thank everyone who reads these posts for your attention and I look forward to whatever life brings us.