Canaries and Coal Mines and What to Do About Them

... your Earth was crumbling all around you. You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms.  All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won't take the hint!  In every moment there's the possibility of a better future, but you people won't believe it.  And because you won't believe it you won't do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.
-- Hugh Laurie as Governor Nix, Tomorrowland

This part of a speech from an otherwise okay to mediocre movie gives a frightening yet accurate vision of those who either cannot or will not be involved in rescuing this planet from our own collective ineptitude. Put simply, there are those who just can't be stirred to act, can't be bothered, are so self-involved that action even to save themselves is too much to ask.  It reminds me too much of the believers’ “Jesus, Take the Wheel” mindset, which wants their savior to relieve them of the responsibility and burden of living their own lives.

More than anything else, THIS I suspect is what we're up against: the indifference and inertia of those who figure that it's either not their problem or see themselves as impotent to change it.  Or they’d rather just stare into their cell phones, update their Facebook page or play another game of Candy Crush than even acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be solved and that they could participate in its solution.

Commit, Josephson! If you’re not committed to anything, you’re just taking up space!
-- Gregory Peck as David Stillwell, Mirage

Honestly, I wonder if people can be shamed or goaded into commitment anymore.  Back in the days of John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” it might have been possible.  The problem is that Watergate came not long after that, and then Iran-Contra and Monica Lewinsky and too many other governmental fuck-ups for them to be able to claim any kind of moral high ground.  Evangelical Christians, at least some of them, are committed to their beliefs, but some are merely along for the ride, covering themselves with Pascal’s Wager … just in case, you understand.

And so it is left to those of us who actually give a damn.  We repeatedly petition the Congress people and write the newspapers and poke and prod and cajole and harass until something gets done.  Whereupon we might cheer for a while and pat ourselves on the back before tackling the next critical issue that no one else wants to admit needs attention.

It’s a lousy, stinking, thankless job … but somebody’s got to do it.

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Comment by Daniel W on September 11, 2017 at 9:48am

Loren, thank you for your committment to a better tomorrow!

Don't despair. Today is the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack. Of those who were killed in that attack, there were 412 emergency workers.  I think that shows ultimate committment.

A virtual "Cajun navy" of rescuers went to Houston in the hurricane Harvey aftetmath.  I saw articles about people from Arizona, New Jersey,  and Georgia going there too.

I think there are good people who care and work to help others, everywhere.

There is a lot of craziness out there.  I wont disagree.  And even here on Nexus, sometimes the pessimism, fear, and obsession with bad events, maked me want to give up and quit.

But so far, I haven't.  Like Teresa just said, there are a growing number in 2017 who also welcome new ideas and social progress.

Comment by Loren Miller on September 11, 2017 at 9:32am

Thanks for your comment, Teresa.  While writing this blog, I kept asking myself, "How do you talk someone OUT of being ambivalent and getting INVOLVED, particularly when they seem determined NOT to be?"  I'm not even certain that Peter Boghossian has an answer for that one.

Comment by Teresa Roberts on September 11, 2017 at 9:25am

I'm so tired of so many people down through the ages right up to this very day of supposed unprecedented progress who are STILL choosing to be a card carrying member of the wrong side of history. Yes, just as there were those who joined the enlightenment and embraced new thought, there are a growing number in 2017 who also welcome new ideas and social progress, but it's too slow and too strenuous to convince the ignorant who resist. 

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