November 19, 2013

ZHA: The Manimal Kingdom

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Is there anybody left who still truly believes we’re going to make it out of this mess unscathed? How much longer can we sustain this collective act that everything’s going to be blue skies and apple pie? Our track record isn’t exactly encouraging for the future. War, genocide, hierarchy, poverty, torture, planetary destruction, mass deception — these are just a few of mankind’s favorite things.

Astronomer Sir Martin Rees recently published a book titled, Our Final Century, which discusses the future of our race. Rees claims that human survival in the 21st century depends upon the whim of a coin toss. At best, we have a 50/50 hope of outlasting the next 100 years. Given humans’ penchant for committing the worst conceivable atrocities against ourselves, I find these to be heartening odds.

Will our divisive tribal mindset last us another century of conflict? What happens when consumer culture burns the last forest and water becomes more valuable than armies? How long will the siege for the last oil well take? Where’s the closest exit located in the event of nuclear holocaust?

You will say these are pointless things to contemplate. Best not to clutter my mind with vain worries and sound like some raving doomsday prophet. Best to eat my Happy Meal, play with my new Apple toy, watch my MTV and think hard about how to make more money. Best repeat that tomorrow, also.

Perhaps, you’re right. But consider this. While we, as humans, possess the power to end ourselves completely, we also grow enough food to feed every last human being. Globally, we spent 1.75 trillion dollars on defense last year, but we are also making huge scientific breakthroughs on modern man’s Promethean Fire:  nuclear energy.

How much suffering could we alleviate if we could just rise above our carnal need to kill each other? Imagine if that money had been put toward a united effort to master nuclear fusion, or a comprehensive solar power program for the globe. We would probably have found a limitless renewable energy plan by now, instead of remaining slaves to this nature raping corporate structure. Surely, some of it could have gone toward immediate relief for the countless wretched folks enduring living hells others have built for them.

The money and science are there to power every home and fill every belly. What is stopping us? Mankind already has the resources and the scientific vision to provide for all of Earth’s citizens in peace, so why don’t we do it? As a member of this species, I must ask this question, regardless of the expected silence from my shadowy Capitalist owners and the rolling eyes of my peers with “M.B.A” branded on their frontal lobes.

The simple answer is we don’t want to. Distracted, we are too busy wanting other things. Next month’s rent. A PS4. The promotion. The election. Junk food. Alcohol. The rights to Arabian petroleum fields for our companies. Fame. Sex. Respect. Defeat of a religious rival. A new BMW. Welfare for groceries to feed our children. Global assertion of our national pride.

Animalistic desire rules the world today, that part of the psyche which thinks strictly in “Us versus Them,” that undercurrent of our minds which must satisfy the ego’s base need, and that overrides abstract universal ideals of justice and truth. The animal mind is so powerful because it is tightly bound to our conception of self, and whispers directly to our fear for self-preservation. It has been locked in our DNA for countless ages. It is what makes us coagulate into divided tribal entities for security (race, nation, gangs, political parties, religion) rather than see the greater picture. Our primal survival instincts are what has allowed us to battle through millions of years of evolution to get to the hard-won spot we are at today, but they are also the prime thing holding us back. Most people are so caught up in the needs, wants and prejudices of the ego, that it is impossible to adopt a broadened worldview that encompasses the good of the entire species. Such a view is naïve, unnatural and incomprehensible to most. Rich and poor alike are busy expanding their personal positions, be it consuming a rival corporation or taking new drug turf.

Human nature is incredibly cyclical, as evidenced by our repetitive bloody history and the continued propagation of violence and deception. We are barely out of the jungle. We are acting like the same bunch of hairless, blood-thirsty apes over and over again, only this time we have nukes. Tribal division may have cut it in the past, when Earth was not united by technology and we hadn’t discovered we were, in fact, one people, but as Mother Earth dies a slow death and tribal tension lingers, I can’t help but see the path we’re on leading us to World War III. Are we fucked? Will our inner animal conquer us? Is it even possible to overcome the beast in our genes?

Sure, there are charities and aid groups that treat the symptoms of man’s ugly side, but the root of the problem is always unaddressed. The only true way to move our species forward and overthrow the existing superstructure is to cultivate a critical mass of enlightened people, unified toward a higher ideal of peace, equity and truth, which can pierce the hunger of ego and the paranoid need for tribalism.

For now, that is but a wisp of a dream. Even if through beautiful chance we survive the coming century, I doubt the majority of humanity will be able to lift themselves from the dog-eat-dog mentality that plagues our kind. But I am allowed to dream of an enlightened Earth, where we are all on the same page of a chapter titled “Peace,” where mankind’s common denominator is kindness and not savagery.

I suppose I could also dream of a future in which the red buttons are pressed, and we are replaced by generations of three-legged, six-eyed, slobbering mutants, green from radiation.

So, brother, heads or tails?