Don’t be afraid to not be afraid
By Alex Call
I hear so much pessimism these days. Every crisis that explodes forth from the 24/7 media provokes another tortured wave of anguish about the state of the world: Sandy Hook, Boston, Iran, and so forth. There’s a lot of fraught hand-wringing going on and I sense a sense that people feel the world is out of control and falling apart.
There’s no doubt that there are many, many very difficult problems in the world. What? Terrorists? Wars? School shootings? Terrible! What’s this world coming to? Oh me, Oh my! We like to expect that things will progress and get quickly better; this is the myth and faith that we grew up with; the myth of progress as swift and a faith that sure, steady change for the better is always coming.
This myth is pervasive in American culture: Manifest Destiny, the New Deal, Morning in America. It has gotten boosts along the way: Westward Expansion, Emancipation of the Slaves, Progressive Initiatives such as Women’s Suffrage, Integration, and environmental laws, always onward and upward. By the 1950’s, Television was helping bring this myth in bite-sized form into every living room: Spandex jackets for everyone. The ‘60’s took it over the top: Free Love, Freedom, World Peace. The future was so bright.
It seems all this brightness was too much for those of a conservative bent. Over the last several decades there has been a pulse of war drums from the Right, calling progress dangerous and appealing to racial, religious, and ethnic fears. Greed, Glorious Greed, has co-opted the language of Love and hipness and caused a polarization of America’s wealth and political views. The angry, fearful tirades of the Right Wing media have mercilessly eroded the audacious cathedrals of hope projected by progressive visionaries. The World seems darker by the day. Each media-frenzy crisis builds more anxiety into an increasingly nervous society. What will happen with the Iranians? Shooters at the Mall? Will North Korea shoot Nukes at us? Doomsday Preppers, stockpile your ammo and canned goods! The End is Nigh! The myth has failed us.
But wait! Are things really as bad as they seem? Are we actually just hearing more about the world’s problems in greater detail? Consider this: In WWII, just seventy years ago, perhaps up to two hundred million people died. Thousands of soldiers fell in single days, sometimes more than a hundred thousand in one battle. We all know what happened to those millions who were incinerated, raped, shot, beheaded, and firebombed.
The dropping of the A-bombs on Japan in 1945 were and are a cosmic punctuation mark on the World’s violence. It has steadily, if unevenly, lessened since then. Though every conflict is terrible and morally inexcusable, really, wars have gotten smaller and less likely to expand with every decade. We now feel horror at handfuls of deaths, as we should. The Media that brings conflict and terror into our mindsets actually produces this effect: we are coming to not accept tragic, needless deaths. This is a very good trend. If it continues, we shall call for hearings into a single killing in Nigeria, a drone strike in Yemen, or a street- corner shooting in Chicago with a vehemence that will ultimately yield a result of less killing. Current potential conflicts are already subject to intense, instant, jet and ‘net diplomacy, which tends to tamp down aggressive war.
Racial tensions, though simmering now, are also waning. The United States of America has a black president. Think about it! Gay marriage is rapidly becoming legal and will soon be the Law of the entire Land. People are turning away from dogmatic, institutionalized churches in favor of community spirit and non-religious spirituality.
I do see three problems looming that must be addressed. Climate change is an established fact and we are seeing the increasingly devastating results now. The inequity between rich and poor on a global scale is unsustainable and must be corrected. The last problem is the biggest: population growth simply must be corralled at once. Laboratory studies have always shown that populations of test animals crash through disease when the numbers get too high. We are seeing Sars, Aids, H1N1, and other viruses crop up and more will come.
Greed is still king, and money-based resistance to environmental controls has led to the Climate crisis. Social/financial inequity is simply wrong and must go; its emerging erosion finds expression in the economic revolutions around the world. I have at least a glimmer of hope that the ultimately empty impulse to acquire wealth that you can’t keep will someday lose its dark appeal for the elites, replaced by inspired desire to manage our resources on a global scale for the benefit of all. Hey, you could make a buck that way, you know! In fact, there is plenty for everyone if we would bend our minds to figuring it out. As for population control, we must look reality in the eye and discard outdated religious thinking that was meant to increase the flock to produce revenue for Churches and States. Overpopulate too much and most of humanity may well fall to microbes. These are serious issues with which we are facing deadlines. The time to act is now.
That’s why I am happy to see the unmistakable positive signs of change. Peaceful change, brought by educated populaces is the developing wave of the future. I used to think that the 60’s had been taken over by body snatchers who embodied the very antithesis of what was espoused in that brief time of cosmic inspiration. But now I believe that in fact the organic orchards of the 60’s are just beginning to bear fruit. It’s just taken longer than the myth promised. It’s really not a bad myth. Progress that eases the suffering of the people and beings of the world is not bad.
So I think we might open the hatches on our bunkers and start planting gardens. We might put up our weapons and say howdy to our neighbors. It’s a beautiful planet and a wonderful time to be alive. Thing might just be OK. Our fears are not good seeds to plant, let’s plant hope instead.
Don’t be afraid to not be afraid; you might change the world after all.