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 tom sarbeck on September 15, 2017 at 6:31am

About thinking, a poem (a quintain, with 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables):

"I think / Therefore I am," / Said the philosopher. / Bunk! He didn't feel; he only / Half was.

Comment by Loren Miller on September 15, 2017 at 6:29am

Tom, Peter Boghossian might argue the point with you, especially considering the way some Christians think and how they act as a barrier to progress.  Living as a good example certainly is a good idea, but if no one bothers to notice or treats your behavior as aberrant because you don't believe in the sky daddy they do, it may be time to add active intervention to the mix.

Jerks like Inhofe and Pruitt and too many other misguided people in the current administration seem determined to take us back to the not-so-good old days of acting without considering the consequences of our actions.  This planet can't tolerate that brand of cluelessness anymore, at least not if we want to continue living on it.  As for the ambivalent, I got a message for 'em:

Lead, follow, or get the fuck outta the way!!!

Comment by tom sarbeck on September 15, 2017 at 6:21am

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?"

Loren, I don't recommend talking people out of ... and into ....

Instead, live them out of ... and into ....

Thinking sometimes got in the way of my seeing that.

Comment by tom sarbeck on September 15, 2017 at 5:59am

Daniel, I'm with you on this but I got there after seeing life as lousy, stinking and thankless, a result of growing up in a violent home and not knowing homes could be non-violent and loving.

Comment by Loren Miller on September 12, 2017 at 6:46am

Daniel, I hear you regarding the backstabbing proclivities of professionals.  It's that general attitude which separated me from a position I had held for 24 years, a position I had effectively defined by that time, as well as trained the vast majority of those who followed me.  The whole story is, of course, nowhere near that simple, but the primary premise is sound.

As for millennials, don't all the polls show them to be more likely to be atheistic than the rest of the population?  I wish we had more of 'em on A|N, but I wonder if they're bored by this old-fashioned stuff! [wry chuckle!]

Comment by Daniel W on September 11, 2017 at 10:48am

I'm retired for a year now, but in my workplace, despite people being worked extremely hard, with constant push to work harder, I saw optimism, caring, thoughtfulness, and self sacrifice for the betterment of others, all of the time.  To be honest, that was more among the lower wage workers, while the professionals were more in the back stabbing, dog-eat-dog mode.  Since retiring, it has been the former, not the latter, who I keep up with, share garden produce with, and share thoughts with.  They are people who do, on a day to day basis, try to make positive change.  And inspire me to be better, too.

I keep thinking I need a hiatus from Nexus.  The voices of negativity are too much.  I can't continue being one of the few, if only, voices for a positive vision.  If I had given in to negativity at many junctures of my life, I would, without question, be dead now.  Instead of being as happy as I've been in many years, despite expected lifelong treatment for sarcoma. 

Social progress, and any progress, is nonlinear.  There are steps forward, and steps back, and steps sideways.  The pendulum swings forward and back, and events and people give it a push in either direction.  I don't always believe that "I think I can" will make good things happen, but I'm pretty sure that "We are doomed!" and "I know I can't" will never help.

As for generational shifts,

"Young people (or people today) are ruining everything"  For example, "Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active life is most needed, early emancipation and a lessening sense for both duty and discipline, the haste to know and do all befitting man's estate before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth--all these lack some of the regulatives they still have in older lands with more conservative conditions"  1904, Granville Stanley Hall.

The younger generation is the absolute worst

Also "

"The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching." - Assyrian tablet, c. 2800 BC   (Quoteland forum)

I'm going out for my walk now.  The smoke has cleared, we got a tough of rain, but it's going to be a hot day.

Comment by Teresa Roberts on September 11, 2017 at 10:18am

Not at all. It's the bane of the writer. Trust me. I know. :-)

Comment by Loren Miller on September 11, 2017 at 10:15am

Thanks for catching that, Teresa.  Tangled Finger Syndrome, I suppose! [chuckle!]

Comment by Teresa Roberts on September 11, 2017 at 10:04am

Daniel, when calamities strike in a horrendous fashion, people do seem to wake up for a bit. I suspect it has something to do with the enormous amount of air time surrounding the events and the feeling that the "new awful" is right upon our doorsteps. Unfortunately, as we try to move forward as a society, that feeling is unsustainable. People aren't as moved by every day injustices, poor policy, and social inequality. They get back into their routines and forget what even caused the last horrific event. Change is slow and those of us who find it easier to see many options, multiple solutions to problems, lots of promise in abandoning self defeating old ways to embrace new and better ideas grow tired. When we wait for the worst to happen, before we do something, often it's too late.

Comment by Teresa Roberts on September 11, 2017 at 9:56am

I've shared one of your blog posts with my twitter readers. I'd like to share this one. Did you mean to say COLD mines in the title or COAL mines?

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