Some reflections on the Trump presidency, climate change and what it means to make a difference.
By E.F Nicholson
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
The excerpt from the Dylan Thomas poem is an inspiring and affirming piece of prose that captures that “against all odds, keep fighting” spirit. It’s like a high brow version of the song “The Eye of the Tiger” (shame on me for many that comparison but I think you catch my drift). Its most recent use was in the movie Interstellar, where Matthew McConaughey single-handily (with some slight wingman help from his robot) saves humanity from its eminent demise. As Mathew Mc Awesome shoots off to space, we hear Michael Caine recite Dylan Thomas’s famous poem, capturing the sentiment that we shouldn’t go out without a fight.
It also was adapted for the famous speech in the movie “Independence Day” where the US president unites the world against the horrific threat of global warming. No sorry, I meant aliens. Global warming would have been a lot harder for Will Smith to cinematically punch in the face.
Seeing as the light of sanity and human existence is rapidly fading as we accelerate to a climate change clusterfuck, you should think a poem enticing us to rage, rage and rage some more against the dying light would be a good thing. In the world there certainly seems to be an ample amount of things to rage against and lots of lights/species dying out. A year ago, or ten years ago, I would have agreed. Yet in the aftermath of the US elections and an upcoming President of the USA who denies any climate problems has oddly invoked in me not rage, frustration or even anxiety but a weird kind of fatigued detachment. It’s not a dissociated, numbing out kind of detachment (which I am pretty apt at feeling), rather it’s a realisation that my rage, indignation, fear and frustration really amounts to little regarding making some measureable impact on what I rage against.
It’s also the awareness that the thought, “This is wrong. Trump or Clinton in the White House is such a bad thing” assumes an arrogant knowledge of what the right thing is, takes away all the choices, actions and responsibility of the collective direction of other people’s choices and replaces it with how I personally think things should be. Why? Because I humbly and modestly know what’s best and the rest of the sheeple and morons don’t. As vain and absurd as that line of thinking is, it sums up where the logic of that of indignation leads me. “Ugh!!!! Why can’t the entire world just do as I think?!!!”
So maybe I’m thinking that I might go gentle into that good night. I might just rest back and relax and take in that dying of the light, or a magnificent sunset. As here we are at the crossing of a Rubicon that moves us into what could only be described as the “WTF!!! Really? Are you fucking kidding me?” stage of human evolution. We are faced with the world in its last “minute before midnight,” before the brink of complete human annihilation via increased global warming and one of the world’s biggest polluters, consumers and economies has elected a president who has gone on record saying climate change is a hoax made up by the Chinese. It’s like a politician saying tobacco causing cancer is a far-fetched conspiracy, and then get elected.
Chomsky captures well how crazy this all really is
‘It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history – whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know – and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster…
‘It is no less difficult to find words to capture the utterly astonishing fact that in all of the massive coverage of the electoral extravaganza, none of this receives more than passing mention. At least I am at a loss to find appropriate words.’
It’s beyond surreal or even facile, it’s just a measure of how enthralled, enslaved and truly lost we really are as a civilisation. I can’t help feeling we are such an upside down, inside out world that is so far gone up its own asshole that maybe it’s time to stop raging and really just let it be. As if all the science and data hasn’t freaked out humanity enough so far. I can only think it won’t be until food on the supermarket shelves run out, water doesn’t come out of the tap, the lights no longer switch on and X-Factor announces its last season until people will start to pay attention.
Which includes myself, as other than my intellectual and social media protests, I am an active participant in the very system that’s driving us off the cliff. That isn’t a mark of how lazy or indifferent I am; it’s just the nature of the hamster wheel most of us are caught running on. Two thirds of the world’s population live in abject poverty where survival is as much as they can manage. The majority of us folks in the west, including myself, are caught in the “making a living” to get by mode. All this leaves us with very few choices as to how we opt-out, protest or disengage with the gigantic invisible engine of earning, consuming and taking care of our responsibilities.
Given the scale and speed of acceleration to humanity’s demise, it’s like we are throwing tennis balls at a ten-ton truck that’s only metres away from heading straight over the cliff’s edge. Trump’s election just put the foot on the accelerator and I just don’t have it in me to rage or throw more tennis balls. I can’t help feeling I want de-invest my energy from world affairs, politics and the news and reinvest it into my tangible and immediate relationships. Think global and act local? Might be better to just think local and act local. This is not coming from an isolated nativist point of view, rather from the realisation that a real change has to start with my own karma, consciousness and small circle of relationships.
If we choose to see time as cyclical rather than linear, then the cycle of growth, peak and decay isn’t good or bad, it’s just the way things are. I know I live a privileged life in a privileged part of the world. I don’t contend with violence and war on my doorstep. I don’t deal with famine and abject poverty. So you could argue I have responsibility as a “have” to fight for the “have nots”. Yet it’s worth asking the question of what really does make the world a better place. If all the effort that’s going into saving our planet is failing, then we need to ask ourselves what we are doing wrong. Or even more pertinently, why should I assume there should be some other way?
If “changing the world” or “making the world a better place” is such an immeasurable thing to determine exactly when that’s achieve then by whose subjective definition do we choose to define “better” by?
So to stop raging against light dying outward maybe allows me to cultivate my light inward. As some people argue, we in the depths of the Kali Yuga, the Dark Age within the vast 26 thousand year cosmic cycle. Stuff may just have to get worse before it gets better and that’s not good or bad, it’s just the way these things work. Carl Jung sums it up well when he wrote;
“In classical Chinese philosophy there are two contrary principles, the bright yang and the dark yin. Of these it is said that always when one principle reaches the height of its power, the counter-principle is stirring within it like a germ. This is another, particularly graphic formulation of the psychological law of compensation by an inner opposite. Whenever a civilization reaches its highest point, sooner or later a period of decay sets in. But the apparently meaningless and hopeless collapse into a disorder without aim or purpose, which fills the onlookers with disgust and despair, nevertheless contains within its darkness the germ of a new light.”
So this isn’t me giving up, rather its directing my attention to a hope that is born not of a belief in a certain type of political system, ideology or type of economy, but because of my own innate humanity and the love I feel for life and others. That nurturing compassion and mindfulness on a daily basis is enough. Despite the saturation of messages that are trying to sell and hypnotise us into believing that nothing is ever enough, I take great refuge and solace in knowing that if I can just master that, to be more self-aware and more loving, that will be most potent and powerful change I can contribute to this world and that will be enough.
Art work by http://www.saroltaban.com/