Save the Earth?

We do not need to save the Earth, it will be fine without us.  We cannot preserve the ecosystem because there are many, and they are constantly changing.  There has never been a time or a condition of the planet that has been inherently superior to any other.  There is nothing particularly superior about organisms that have been here for centuries, over ones that have just arrived from Asia in cargo holds.  All existing species are successful invasive species.  We are fairly successful, but far less so than cockroaches.  Most of the organisms that have ever been alive are dead, and their kind extinct.

We need to get rid of sanctimonious claims that Earth is our mother and we must nurture her.  Earth does not care whether we die out or not; it would be just fine as an iceball again.  Mars is not dead, and does not need to be revived.

The only entities to whom our continued existence as a species matters are ourselves, and possibly our dogs.  Certainly not our cats, still less our goldfish.

We need to get over the idea that we are harming nature.  We are nature.  Everything we do is natural, even if it leads to results unfavorable to ourselves.  We need to stop thinking in terms of preserving a sacred other, and realize that what we must do is keep the Earth suitable for ourselves to continue to live on.  That’s it, no holy quest, just pure self interest.  It’s something we’re rather good at.

Even then, if we are wildly successful, our species will no longer exist in a few million years, just as our Australopithecine ancestors no longer exist as a species.

Moral imperatives can be successfully refuted by mere denial; solid arguments based on evidence of our pure self interest are much more difficult to refute.  That’s just the way things are.

Time, gentlemen..

Most of the time, I think I look okay, not much different, as time goes by.  I look in the mirror when I shave in the morning, and I see some gray hairs (okay, white hairs), but the rest of me, I tell myself, is holding its own – a little mellower, maybe, a sag here, a wrinkle there, but all things considered, not so bad.

The other times I see myself are mostly reflections in a display window, hasty, on the way elsewhere, a quick glance, and, yeah, I’m alright.  My fly isn’t unzipped, at least.

Every once in a while, though, I have occasion to look in the mirror with my glasses on.

What I see is not necessarily bad, per se – a grandfatherly codger, unthreatening, friendly in an absent-minded way.  But it’s not the dashing figure of my shaving mirror, or even the literally dashing fellow hurrying by the store window.

Of course, I’ve known all along I’m getting old; it’s not a big secret.  I have a birthday every year, and I can count, providing I don’t get distracted and lose my place.  I’m old, face it.  If I’m only reminded every now and then, all the better, no?

Then I reflect on the fact that most of the people I come in contact with day to day are comparatively young, with excellent vision.  What I see occasionally, when I accidentally look in the mirror with my glasses on, they see all the time.

It’s not so much that I’m treated dismissively, or that I feel out of it; on the contrary, I’m in the swim, as much as I want to be.  It’s just the realization of my slow, inevitable decline.  Kind of like leaving a beloved city and seeing its outline receding in the rearview mirror.

With glasses on.

The Bar al-Kabob scrolls

The world of biblical archaeology is reeling from the announcement of a major discovery by a team from the Musée des Choses Incroyable, led by Professor Marcel Douteuse.  In a cave at Bar al-Kabob near the Dead Sea, the team has discovered a scroll, reproduced below, dated to the early first millennium BCE by context.  It appears to be an alternate version of the Book of Genesis, in particular, the section relating to the creation of Man.

 

bar al-kabob-001

Here’s a translation:

After God had made the earth and all the mountains, He found that He had some dust left over.  This He fashioned into a likeness of Himself, and breathed life into it.  Then He saw that there was still some dust left over.  This He made into another likeness of Himself, and breathed life into it, and looked upon His works, and saw that they were good, and called them Adam and Steve.

Paris, January 10, 2015

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Montrouge hostage situation, something new seems to be happening, both here and elsewhere.  It’s as if, in the wake of a horrific storm, the wind has shifted, away from the stale and toxic recriminations of the past, and a fresh breeze is lifting solidarity and a firm resolve to do things differently.  Yesterday’s Le Monde featured a full page ad signed by hundreds of Parisian Muslims denouncing the violence and declaring a resolve to stand with their country in a time of crisis.  Their country.

For the first time in my memory, Muslim leaders from around the world, including Iran, Palestine, Hezbollah, and others, have denounced the attacks as anti-Islamic, one leader going so far as to say the murderers have done immeasurably more harm to Islam than the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo ever could.

In spite of concerns aired early  on that these events might bolster the positions of the anti-immigrant right wing in Europe, the response from the non-Muslim population has been equally encouraging..  Statements by a host of spokesmen from various religions and institutions have been unanimous in their  insistence on separating the actions of the terrorists from the Islamic population at large.  All around Paris, the air of numb shock of yesterday has been replaced by one of firm resolve, not only to not give in to the terrorists, but to reexamine the policies and attitudes on all sides that might have contributed to the atmosphere which gave birth to the tragic events.

What has shocked people most is that the perpetrators spoke perfect, unaccented Parisian French.  They were French citizens, born and raised here, educated with all the egalitarian principles so cherished by the French.  For once, the city center and the banlieu, the troubled suburbs, seem to be speaking with one voice.  We are Paris, they seem to be saying, and we have been attacked, and we will stand together and defend ourselves.

We, all of us, and not just the French, have been given an unexpected gift in a moment of deep crisis: the opportunity for a real reexamination  of the road we have been following, and a chance to correct our course.

Is that the sun, breaking through the dark clouds?  I certainly hope s0.

Hark, the Harold!

Mikels Skele:

Yes, it’s that time of yesr again.

Originally posted on Omniop:

The season being what it is, all thoughts turn to balls of holly, and the Wee Three Kings of Orion Tar.  And who could forget Guy d’Stew, thy perfect knight?  Let there be peas on earth.  Remember, tri-star Xavier was bored on Christmas day.

I’m dreaming of a wide Christmas, Gloria’s dreams, from havin’ a dove.  So let the belle’s own bobtails ring.  We’ll sing a slaying song tonight, while riding in a one whore soapen sleigh.  In the meadow, you can build a snowman, and pretend that he is parson brown.  Or any other color, for that matter.  In the immortal words of the beloved Carol:

Frosty the snowman
Had a very shiny nose
And everywhere that Frosty went
The lamb was sure to go!

There must have been some cabbage in that old top hat you found.

Christmas, they say, should be year-round.  In that spirit, when Autumn…

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Why the Bad Guys are Winning

Mikels Skele:

An important essay by an old friend.

Originally posted on Analog Thoughts in a Digital World:

The police are getting away with murder. The country has been taken over during the past 30 plus years by corporate fascists, who now control the judiciary, the House of Representatives, and soon the Senate; in 2016 they will most likely take the White House as well, and the coup will be complete. They have accomplished this through the corruption of an already flawed and conservative system, using massive influxes of cash and the good old boy network of rich white males to whom all politicians must kowtow if they are to be elected. The rights of women and minorities are back where they were 50 years ago, and it is going to get worse. The environment has been degraded to the point of no return and the human population of the planet continues to increase in number and decrease in intelligence and compassion.

Where is the US left in…

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When work became work

Work, for many, if not most, is a drudge.  As the saying goes, that’s why they pay you to do it.  We take it as a kind of law of nature.  We’ve elevated leisure time to a kind of sacred status; that’s what all the advertising and consumerism is about, isn’t it?  Get more stuff to make the time you’re off work more awesome.  Of course, very little is not awesome these days, but that’s another post altogether.  And what’s the pinnacle of awesomeness?  Why, retirement, of course.  Picture yourself, free at last of your pointy-haired boss (and he of you, for that matter), lounging on a sunny beach somewhere, umbrella-topped drink tipping in your drowsy hand.  Or finally getting your golf handicap down to single digits.  It’s you time, unproductive by sacred right.

Only, when the time comes, the euphoria lasts a month or two, and then too often leisure replaces work as the major source of drudgery.  Some people decline so much they slip into chronic depression; some even die not long after.  Cruelly, it seems that, after all, drudgery was a personality trait, not an externally imposed condition.  What’s going on?  Was it always thus?

There’s a Twitter meme that rises to the top of the sludge periodically, one of those quote things that you get to attribute to anyone you like, as long as they’re sufficiently famous, that goes, “If you see a difference between play and work, you’re not doing one of them right.”  Seems vapid enough, as these things go, but it persists because it has the ring of truth to it.  Or is it the desire of truth?

You might be tempted to dismiss this whole issue as a First World problem; the overwhelming majority of people throughout the world have no time to spare for thinking about the quality of their work experience, let alone of their leisure time.  What they do is integral with their survival.

Is it possible that such a clear link between work and survival actually makes work more satisfying?  There have been, to my knowledge, no studies of this, but, given that roughly the first 250,000 years of human development were spent hunting and gathering, I would say that it’s a distinct possibility.  For better or worse, though, since it first occurred to someone to plant food and raise stock about 10,000 years ago, the link has grown increasingly obscure, and therein may lie the issue.  Most of us no longer get food and shelter directly from our work; what we get is the means to obtain these things, and not always to the degree we think necessary.

My father used to say there was no such thing as a job without dignity.  In my rebellious youth, I understood this to be a kind of statement of egalitarianism, a solidarity with the Working Class.  Collecting trash was just as good as producing it, from the standpoint of dignity.

Cool, I thought, that the stodgy old coot could express such an idea in spite of himself.

Although I can’t claim to be certain of what he actually meant to say, my own understanding of the sentiment has changed over the years.  Dignity, as such, is simply not a characteristic of work.  That is, such dignity as there is, is supplied by the worker.  Of course, it may be easier or more difficult, or even, rarely, impossible, depending on such things as difficulty, collegiality, and management.  This brings up the social factor, which I believe to be critical.

There has never been a documented case of a truly feral human.  Society, love it or hate it, is what we do; it’s how we’ve survived all these thousands of years despite our wimpy claws and fangs.  Maybe we find work satisfying to the degree that it enriches our social relationships, either by providing a context for them, or by creating a sense of significant contribution.  This is how cleaning sewers can be rewarding, and how pushing numbers around a hedge fund can be numbing, despite the vastly greater material rewards of the latter.  It’s why billionaires refuse to leave the rest of us alone, but insist on doing some kind of job, even (shudder) politics.

It also explains the retirement conundrum.  Even the most menial of jobs usually involves social contact with fellow workers, even if that interaction is limited to griping about working conditions, or tyrannical bosses.  Retire, and you’re suddenly booted out of a society that was, for better or worse, the milieu of the majority of your waking hours for most of your life.

I won’t say love your job and it will love you back, but maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty to jump the fence into those greener pastures.  We might find it considerably more swampy than we thought.