Hey N- Would you like to be paid a proper wage?
A doom and gloom prophet like me is caught in a predicament. However scientifically attested the coming doom might be people don’t want to believe it, and the more you try to tell them the more they say oh that’s all doom and gloom and believe it even less. They are not bad people, they just can’t imagine it. The philosophes who were the think tank of the French Revolution never dreamt it would end in the Terror. How could that happen when we are all being so reasonable? Not wishing to think there was a concentration camp on their doorstep, the inhabitants of Mauthausen did note it seems awfully smoky up there. Human beings are experts at evading the unwelcomely obvious by evoking the comfortingly fictional, and never more so than now. Once people stopped believing in imaginary hells it became necessary to construct real ones, said Isaiah Berlin, and here we are doing it, not finished the job yet it is true but at least our kids will be able to inherit the full hell. The capacity of human beings to dress up what is stupid and base as rational and noble seems almost infinite. Think of the British Empire. What could have been more self-sacrificing and noble than bringing civilization and Christianity to the savage and the heathen? In the name of free trade and saving their souls, no less. But we can see now that its driving agenda was stealing other peoples’ stuff so those eminent Victorians could get even richer than they were already (not the scum who drove the steam engines and worked the mills of course), and telling the heathen that their religions were worthless was a subtler way of exerting dominance over them. Let it never be forgot, wrote Hilaire Belloc, we have the maxim gun and they have not. Well at least we’ve got over that one. Except that we haven’t. Women in Bangladesh are still working ten hours a day for less than a dollar. But then again, how much these days we care about non-white people. Uttering a racist word now is like mentioning prostitution in polite society in the Victorian age, notwithstanding the extra-ordinary number of Victorian men who used prostitutes. I feel like shouting Hey N-, would you like to be paid a proper wage.
The scientific evidence that climate change and its terrible consequences are man-made is now indisputable and overwhelming, but for that very reason people don’t want to pay attention to it. If we really want to do something about it in the narrow window of opportunity we have left, not that we do, we first need to recognize that human beings are chronic self-deceivers. Reality can be, and often is, far more horrible than we ever imagined. Who could have even imagined Auschwitz before it happened? But it did. I am in despair. It does seem awfully smoky up there.