If you pay attention to climate change news, then you're no doubt worried and scared for the future, and you feel miserable and depressed about what's about to happen, and you probably are prone to binging on ice cream, Cheetos, and shrimp cocktails as a coping mechanism. Well, if heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, warming oceans, sea level rise, thawing permafrost, the spread of malaria, and strengthening hurricanes are worrying you, I've got some VERY good news. That whole “global warming thing” is about to end!
Yes, it's true. So settle down – we're about to end the use of fossil fuels AND lower global temperatures. Real fast! So get out your ugg boots and Gore-Tex parka (and iodine pills).
That's because there are still thousands of nuclear weapons in existence (more than 13,000), and new nuclear bombs are being made which are considered more “usable” by various governments (by making them “less powerful,” kind of like how a mountain lion is “less powerful” than a tiger.) They're also being made more usable – psychologically. Governments are getting more and more desperate, and will continue to become more desperate. Look at the situation: a planet swarming with ravenous humans, billions of them in miserable poverty, a psychopathic elite with insatiable greed and immense power, a growing shortage of resources, the ongoing mass extinction of life on Earth, the poisoning of the planet, AND the numerous effects of Climate Change, which include widespread droughts, storms, crop-failures and famines. And when people can't even afford a Big Mac and a strawberry milkshake, they get even more desperate and violent. And when governments have a desperate population, they start wars in order to distract them. (Just like how parents turn on the TV to distract their kids.)
Desperation will make people do crazy things. Like use nuclear weapons. (Or let their kids watch “SpongeBob”.) So what I'm getting at is that we're headed for nuclear war.
Look, we've already just barely escaped nuclear war several times already. Nuclear war is going to happen. It's locked-in. From the moment the bomb was invented, it was locked in. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed straight-away (by “the good guys”), those sick scientists and bureaucrats were so giddy with excitement over the little toy they'd created. And then those same psychopaths spent the next few decades detonating hundreds of bombs on South Pacific islands, underground, and hundreds in the atmosphere. And you thought the Nazis were messed up.
Actually, even in the absence of detonating nuclear bombs, we're already in a nuclear war. The ongoing mining of uranium and plutonium and making of nuclear material, including the running of nuclear reactors, is poisoning the planet. That is nuclear war. The use of depleted uranium shells by the U.S. and NATO militaries (“the good guys”) in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1994 and 1995, in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo in 1999, in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and in Syria in 2014, is nuclear war. The use of depleted uranium for civilian uses (yes, even in dental porcelain, among other uses) is nuclear war. Plutonium has been put into satellites in space, including on rockets that exploded in the atmosphere. The Space Shuttle Challenger was set to carry 24 pounds of plutonium – on its next mission. NASA and military planners are currently looking to launch a whole new fleet of nuclear-powered rockets. So you see, nuclear war started in the 1940s and never stopped. We're just so used to poisoning ourselves and the Earth by now (microwave ovens, mobile phones, 5G, Wi-Fi, Roundup, Facebook, The Ellen Degeneres Show, etc.) that we barely notice the ongoing war.
But wait! There's good news! The good news is, nuclear detonations will cool the planet. It's called a nuclear winter, and will follow an even “limited” exchange of nuclear detonations. So if the Earth heating up worries you, you can worry less about that. Also, the use of fossil fuels will come to an abrupt halt. That's good news for the climate movement!
Of course, in full disclosure, there are downsides to nuclear winters. But hey, there's downsides to everything - even going to church (You'll be missing the football game!) But again, not to worry. The downsides of nuclear winter will already be very familiar to you, so no need to stress about additional cognitive load, because they're similar to the consequences of climate change. Namely, the extinction of most life and the deaths of most (if not all) humans.
But wait! There still is good news! (Isn't life a roller-coaster ride?) I don't want to make you depressed, so I'll leave you with something very, very positive. There is a sure, definite, 100% guaranteed way to avoid such a miserable outcome! Just turn off every screen, turn off all electricity, abandon every car, abandon every house, shut down every factory and pipeline, shut down every corporation, find our tribe, live on the land, talk to the animals and plants, and re-learn how to live from our distant ancestors. And if you shrug this suggestion off as “primitive” or “living in the past” or “I'm not giving up my Netflix!”, well then, you're just asking for nuclear winter and climate change – all civilizations end in much the same way. But there it is. Take it or leave it. (Preferably take it.)
Look, don't be mad at me. I didn't design humans to be hunters and gatherers – Nature did. Civilization has just been one disaster after another. Think of our situation like pro football. After your team drafts “the next Tom Brady”, how many seasons full of interceptions, fumbles, and domestic violence arrests does it take before you realize you made a mistake, you need to drop the guy, and you need to draft a new QB? (You see? Sports analogies make everything comprehensible.) Or similarly, if your girlfriend or wife is nothing but endless complaints, nagging and Godzilla impressions, at some point you say, “Enough is enough” and you look for a new girlfriend (or better, you just get a dog.)
Same with our current predicament. How many civilizations full of slavery, war, poverty, pollution, deforestation, famine, and diarrhea-inducing kings and queens (which is all of them) will it take before we realize we need to ditch it and find a new way of living? Except in this case, the new way is the way that already worked - the Old way. We have nothing new to invent.
On that note, I'll leave you with this, from Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1994):
Coyote, who is the creator of all of us, was sitting on his cloud the day after he created Indians. Now, he liked the Indians, liked what they were doing. This is good, he kept saying to himself. But he was bored. He thought and thought about what he should make next in the world. But he couldn't think of anything so he decided to clip his toenails. ... He looked around and around his cloud for somewhere to throw away his clippings. But he couldn't find anywhere and he got mad. He started jumping up and down because he was so mad. Then he accidentally dropped his toenail clippings over the side of the cloud and they fell to the earth. They clippings burrowed into the ground like seeds and grew up to be white man. Coyote, he looked down at his newest creation and said, "Oh, shit.”
Trick title – there's no surviving cancel culture! First of all, any society in which “cancel culture” exists, is a sick society, as cancel culture is just one of many signs that the society is in the process of self-destructing. Other signs of societal self-destruction include deforestation, spraying poison on food, the existence of nuclear weapons, liposuction, opera, the existence of the nation-state, and well, civilization.
But okay, let's say you want to live in denial of all that other stuff and you just want to not get cancelled. Well, it's easy! Simply never state your opinion about anything. Then you have nothing to fear!
Even what seems like a benign, meaningless opinion can get you in trouble. Say you're like me, and you think that chocolate is the only worthwhile flavour for any kind of dessert, and that all the others are a waste of time, space, and baking ingredients, and you wonder if there's something mentally deficient with anyone who doesn't love chocolate like you do. Well, if you voice that seemingly harmless opinion, you might offend some vanilla-lover out there, or even worse, a strawberry-flavoured-dessert lover. (Come on, who chooses strawberry ice cream?!) And who knows what they might do with your opinion about desserts. You might be accused of racism, or xenophobia, or misogyny. Who knows. People have issues, they read into things, and they have to give themselves a reason to feel superior. So keep your love of chocolate to yourself. (When you're at the supermarket, throw in some Starbursts or Twizzlers with your chocolate purchase, just in case people are watching. You can throw them away or feed them to your dog once you get home.)
You might say that if someone voices actual racist or misogynist opinions, they should be cancelled, that they “deserve it”. That's not just dumb, it's also idiotic. If everyone lost their job for saying something mean, ignorant or stupid, the world would be entirely unemployed. No President, Prime Minister, MP, or Congressman would last more than five minutes. We all say dumb things at some point in our lives (and politicians say them even more.) It's sort of like the referees in professional sports. The refs can actually call a penalty on every play (American football) or every drive to the basket (basketball) or on every ping (ping pong). But they don't because no one would watch anymore. The players, as good as they are, can't help being human. And when someone does get called for a penalty, they don't get kicked off the team!
Even if there are people who firmly believe their politically-incorrect views and love spouting them, what does cancel culture do? It reinforces those views. Do the people doing the cancelling actually think their victims will learn to be more tolerant? No! They'll just learn to be more careful about who they express themselves to.
Cancel culture is bullying. It is a form of superiority complex. It is a form of projection or deflection. It is the result of insecurities and is a reflection of those doing the cancelling. If you want people to be more tolerant, or to be more open, bullying and coercion is the absolute worst approach. Punitive consequences and punishments never worked. Ever. Does spanking a child make them more loving and empathetic? And since when did sending students to detention work? Never! Just makes the kids hate the teacher even more. Since when did prison reduce crime? Never! (Besides, the real criminals never go to jail.) So the whole punitive response is bone-headed.
A good approach to take is: stop caring what people say! First, to try to force everyone else to think like you do is not just idiotic and destined to fail, but authoritarian and totalitarian. Are you Stalin? Mussolini? My ex-girlfriend? An added benefit if you stop caring what people say is that you'll live happier.
Finally, if you do become a target to be “cancelled”, then just take some time off, lay low, be patient, and soon enough everyone will have forgotten, and you can move on again. You'll be surprised how fast. Because in our cell-phone-Google-video game-Netflix society, our attention span has been reduced to that of a Chihuahua. (I should point out that this is not an anti-Mexican comment. I love Mexico and Mexicans, and just to be clear, I believe the U.S. should return Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California to the indigenous Mexicans from whom it was stolen. I apologise for singling out Chihuahuas. Let's change the dog breed to Welsh Corgi. There. Can't possibly get in trouble with that one.)
The point is, when you have people with the attention span of Corgis controlling nuclear weapons, there are much bigger problems in the world than being cancelled.
(P.S. - I actually love all dogs and they are much better at being human than any politician or bureaucrat.)
The Tao te Ching is the ultimate survival guide. It was written roughly 2500 years ago, by a figure known as Lao Tse (Laozi), or “Old Master”, though there is debate about whether such a person existed, or if the book is a compilation of writings by more than one author. Regardless, it is one of the most important books ever written, and has enormous relevance to survival.
Some of the themes covered in the book have to do with simplicity, contentedness, living in harmony with nature, and humility. These are all crucial for survival, whether in the wilderness or in civilization, whether for the individual or for the human species as a whole. Actually, these were all key characteristics of hunter-gatherer cultures across the globe, but have been severely lacking for the 6,000-year history of civilizations. In fact, the Tao te Ching contradicts civilization – even as it seems to give guidance for wise governance, leadership, or statecraft – guidance which is impossible for civilizations to follow. Again, the only examples of the Tao te Ching in action were in hunter-gatherer societies. And remember, hunter-gatherers were the true masters of survival, having lived on Earth for two million years, without destroying the life-sustaining abilities of the planet, and while allowing people to live healthy, meaningful, and joyous lives. If the people cannot live healthy, meaningful and joyous lives, then there is no reason for such a way of life to survive. That's why civilizations always fail, always collapse, and always end.
There are countless translations of the Tao te Ching, which can vary widely, so read from a few to get a better sense of the meaning. If you can read Chinese, you're even better off. Read it, consider it, discuss it with others.
Let's have a look at a few lines to get a sense. (Stephen Mitchell translation)