We always think about the future, whether we want to or not. And we ignore the past. I just wrote these words in the past. You have already read them. Do you remember any of them? I don’t either.
But the future, the future is always just out of reach, before us, expectation and hope clashing with our cynicism and frustration, and forming a murky picture of reality to which no one can mutually relate. It is the same future, perceived differently. Like with the past, the future belongs to the victors, however they may define themselves.
These days it is the self-proclaimed victims who are triumphant. We have committed so much oppression and hatred against each other, that this seems the only thing which can draw us together, equal and free. We have been horrible savages throughout all of time, raping and killing and bombing and stealing and declaring one another’s lives a part of our own. And yet we live in an age of such boiled over simmering rage, that the victims have somehow become the oppressors, dealing their equal and opposite outrage over historic wrongs by reversing the trend not so much for the benefit of humanity, but for the elevation of a new group.
Think, if you can, about recent African genocidal campaigns–modern day tribal warfare with weapons of mass destruction. Let’s just focus on Rwanda for the duration of this paragraph. The majority population, the Hutu, had been brutally ruled over by colonial powers who preferred the pampered minority Tutsi. The Tutsi ruling party reflected their European masters by reigning like kings. After being treated second class for nearly 100 years, not to mention coping with the previous generations of tribal animus, the Hutu finally overthrew the government, demanding revenge for past crimes. The result was the massacre of more than 800,000 people in less than a month. Check out the smug attitude of triumph this once victimized majority take in their revenge over civilians running away from machetes.
How does this particularly gruesome atrocity apply in any way to the immediate future you may ask, hungover from the exhaustive good-time you may have had on the last night of the previous year? You might simply laugh me off, or condemn me as a negative jerk consumed with potential disaster (this is not too far from the truth either, so you got me!), but I always try to focus on the grim nuances of reality, seeing how and why things may happen. So I wish to offer a ‘worst case scenario’ speculation about just a handful of the potential disasters we have to look forward to in the coming year.
- Outright Civil/World War
This is an easy one to predict, and I am sure that there will be movie after movie after book after TV show that will continue this nightmare fantasy. But I am more interested in the potential absolute breakdown of civilization. The cartoonishly horrifying image I selected for this has nothing to do with the temporal reality of the build up to such a potentially apocalyptic climax. Let me try an image that may hit a little closer to the reality of what I want to imply:
My twitter page is prefaced with a quote from Irish novelist John Banville (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=john%20banville&sts=t) from his brief, early book The Newton Letter (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780446392839&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used). It runs, “Who knows the sweat stink of power like a disenchanted lover renouncing all claim to loyalty?”
That quote, for me, has led to what I believe is a rather harsh understanding of just how cruel any sort of break-up is, even if the feeling is mutual, and even if the separation is without any drama. What happens is that we swear off everything we once felt, or even revolt against the person who for however long we believed ourselves to be. And we grow vengeful. And petty. And cruel. That buried pain we seek to expiate not through humility or prayer, nor any other medieval lashings or leeches that bleed the ill humors out of our souls, but with a newfound righteousness in the falsehood of everything else. This is the all out warfare I am thinking of. This is how a world war is little more than a wide-scale civil war. This is where we are going. I see this, just like I feel a tingle in my jaw when a car in another lane rips around a corner at the moment they come into view. You can feel this shudder–this dance on our future graves. Do not pretend that I am alone with these sensations.
2. The Return of Never-ending Hatred
This is not just about the Jews, although certainly we have an enormous amount of history to back such a claim up. But no, it is about the division of people into smaller and smaller groups until the race war, or gender war, or whatever sort of holy war you want to define it as for future generations, becomes more about every-man-for-himself, and the occasional alliances needed for our survival that we are bound to betray. Blame the Jews, or the Muslims; the Christians and Hindus and Atheists and all those other stupid faiths who’s only goal seems to be division. Convert or die. Imposing our absolute will. We just need to tell everyone it is somebody else’s fault. This does not have to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or really anti-anything–even anti-anti-everything! If we look at modern day politics, this too has dissolved into ethnic labeling, and the easy dismissal of another person’s human value based upon a generalized name. If you look at this picture I selected you might jump to the conclusion that this is clearly a Nazi piece, painting an exaggerated scrawl of the evil Jew, waves of power glimmering off his fingers as he rests upon the skulls of those he destroyed (and I wonder why the coins are not being greedily poured into one of the skulls?) But compare this to the earlier Rwandan horror. Realize that this cartoon predates Hitler. For those who might recognize the language, it is Russian. Pictured before us is one of presumed The Elders of Zion. And this fear, this conspiratorial, paranoid style of blame is the real point I wanted to make. We are in no way changed from this mindset, and all this social media bullshit that I, too, exploit for my own ends, feeds into such easy solutions for the problems we have been making for ourselves, and our parents and children, since before history was ever recorded.
3. Ill With Want
And it is here that we might finally come, with the endless battles and all the petty differences of wars. We might just destroy our ability to survive. All the food will be gone. All the water. Even cannibalism can only go so far if this is all that remains to feast upon. This sort of natural apocalypse is what it all comes down to anyway. We are ill with want, and wanting as we do is the real disease. We can make all of the capitalistic or socialistic or anarchistic arguments and justifications for our selfishness and greed that we desire, but this does not change that fact that we are suffering from the most horrible pandemic we have ever dug out of the swamps, and chopped down in the rain forests. The disease is our need to have things. Listen to your children: “If I don’t have this I will . . .” or, after dinner, demanding a second dessert, “You’re starving me to death!” We can, perhaps, laugh these statements off as the hyper-dramatic histrionics of youth, but those grabby notions never really melt away. Mine mine mine! is a mantra. It is why the environment is so rapidly changing. It is the cause of the greater storms, and the wider range of temperature spikes, and the increase in food parasites, and the explosion of insects, and every other mild to extremely uncomfortable change we cope with year after year after year. It is not so much because of what we have done, but because of what we still want. This is the arbiter of the future: how much can we do without?
I want to finish this one on a different note. Here’s another picture:
This is how I see the new year. Make of that what you will.