Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Three thoughts

Three thoughts occurred to me in quick succession today.

It's not so much about choices; there really are very few choices we make. We are guided, shepherded, into behaviours, funnelled into opinions. Whether by neural pathways or social pressures or simply the apparent logical necessity of one idea following another, of evading cognitive dissonance. The internal logic, whether physical or psychic, is oftentimes impossible to escape. But it feels like free will (and this isn't an argument for determinism as much as it is an argument for self-awareness; a call to be aware of the choices we don't make, and the opportunity for breaking our habits). Personality feels like something we own; like a choice of behaviours we make. In fact it is something more like a cage from which we cannot escape, or an opaque, striated net through which our being takes form; the most prominent features we possess are already carved into our external presence, and we assume that it is "us" that makes them so. In fact, it makes us.

Much, so much, has changed in our ways of life in the last century. And we have forgotten very quickly what life used to be like. We - those of us living since the Second World War - are the first generations ever to have not had an overriding concern with acquiring food. This to us now seems unbelievable: food is a natural resource, it simply grows from the ground around us (or even more simply - we are surrounded with opportunities to buy food in shops. The shelves are never empty. How could this change?). How could acquiring and assuring food be a problem? The system of global colonial-capitalism locates us inside a bubble almost at breaking point, but one beyond which we can see no horizon. Food is grown and sold to us; our gardens and natural areas grow plants, we can buy seeds easily for our own use. But if a shift were to occur in how global civilisation operates these finely tuned trade routes can cease to exist and communities will find themselves once more at the mercy of nature - a nature now more violent, more unpredictable, more prone to chaotic and destructive events than pre-industrial society survived.

The rate at which we are degrading the environment ("sawing off the branch we are sitting on" as one climate scientist put it) and the predictions of scientists regarding the medium-term future for our species and planet have made almost no impression on the majority of people. Governments half-heartedly pursue half-baked schemes to reduce carbon emissions but whatever good intentions exist are scuppered by more pressing short-term needs to stay near the top of the civilisation-food chain. At some point in the 21st century, the populace will experience a shock akin to Seth Brundle's son Martin: in the film The Fly 2, Martin is unceremoniously told there is nothing that can be done to prevent his - increasingly rapid - mutation into another form of "life" (to put it kindly - his genetic inheritance is 50% fly, and it is about to assert its dominance). But the injections, they help me - he protests. The injections were just water, Martin. Just for your peace of mind.

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