Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CMD Repost: Memento Mori

Note: This post first appeared on Chickens of Mass Destruction November 2, 2010.

It's the season of Halloween, Samhain, El Día de los Muertos. In many cultures around the world it is time to meditate on death: the death of the crops at the end of the harvest season, as well as the deaths of our fellow humans. It's time to remember and honor those who have passed from this life, as well as to be mindful of our own mortality.

Not coincidentally, here in the USA it is also election time. Our tradition of holding elections on the second Tuesday in November goes back to our agrarian past when roads were poor, travel slow, and polling places up to a day or two travel from home. In most parts of the country as it existed then, in early November the harvest would be done but the worst of winter weather a safe way off.

It all leads me to ponder the meaning of elections for an empire quite probably in the Autumn of its existence. For America is an empire built on optimism and enthusiasm of a most material sort, and the material is getting scarce. A new global paradigm will emerge one way or the other.

Thinking about the most serious crises and perils that our civilization potentially faces in the coming decades--peak oil, famine, disease, environmental toxins, nukes, war and terror, loss of biodiversity, climate change/global weirding, etc., etc.--I am reminded of the pivotal scene from Ghostbusters, wherein the god Gozer commands the titular heroes to "choose the form of the destructor!"

I won't blank my mind or try to think of "something that could never, ever possibly destroy us." I will instead make a choice based on the best possible future for my descendants (should they survive and carry on), all of humanity, and all living beings. I will choose peak oil--or preemptive curtailment of fossil fuel consumption--sooner than later, orderly economic contraction, and a transition to appropriate technology and sustainable living.

I concede that the chances of preemptive curtailment or orderly economic contraction compare to those of simians taking to the air by way of my heinie. But at least I've thought about it in case Gozer is reading this!

Such things are way off the table in the current political discourse, and I have little hope they will gain any traction before things get much worse. And that is a big part of the problem. For the entire history of our country we've been expanding. Now we are up against certain hard limits, and very few are willing to face the facts, change their paradigm, choose the destructor.
In the meantime, there are other reasons to vote, aren't there? If I was in a real battleground state I would be a bit more enthusiastic. As it is, I vote because I still can, and to make small incremental statements about the direction of government.

In this election cycle, in the current climate, I choose to be a Democratic partisan. I don't agree with all the positions of the party or its candidates, and I hold no delusions that casting a ballot alone will move things in my preferred direction. But I find it preferable to ceding any power to the GOP, which is fanning the flames of fear and ignorance to promote the agenda of the rich and greedy.

That is a form of destructor I can do without.

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