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Dear Guy McPherson,
Yep. Me again. Finished reading your book. You’re a tough cookie, although that might be too civilized a metaphor . . . a weathered lizard might be more like it, after all that peasant labor. I’ve got mixed feelings about my own prospects: on the one hand, if I fail to get into a situation where I can even try to do subsistence gardening etcetera then I’ll be “happily dead” sooner rather than later without suffering the aches and pains you describe. (I realize this won’t save me from suffering other aches and pains, although I keep reminding myself that pain can happen as its own phenomenon without adding suffering as an additional layer.) On the other hand, I like the anecdote you tell of the dad with a seven-year old son who hopes to remain alive so his son doesn’t have all the fun without him. I wouldn’t mind remaining alive in the company of people I love as we all strive to glow in meaningful moments together, despite the physical consequences of a subsistence existence.
As far as I can tell, coming out as a Deepener is as difficult as any other kind of coming out. I put quotes around the “happily dead” above because a friend characterized her choice not to prepare in those terms, assuming her dying will occur quickly and this will be better for me/my chances of survival. I only partially begrudge the carpe diem ethic: key being if she can enact that attitude through her own dying . . . I don’t know how to predict that. Certainly there’s a fairly high percentage of my friends making this live-in-the-moment choice. If only their temporal frame for ‘the moment’ included human extinction in 30-70 years, rather than the assumption of life going on, somehow, more or less as it always has. These friendships seem likely to weaken.
Given recent shopping behavior before winter storms (referring to the population in general, most of my friends are not into pre-storm panic), I am unconvinced there’s a sufficient percentage of the population that is not going to completely freak out. Just contemplating the slow onset approach of famine has sent me through spells of panic. Certainly the comfort of the ‘normalcy’ of every day routines still unfolding in (more-or-less) the same ways is both boon and blessing: there are still anchors, but they can so easily obscure their own dependency on civil society (which can evaporate so fast).
Still, clinging to the familiar does not necessarily mean people are not paying attention. “You don’t know what people know,” another friend cautioned me. We cannot assume people are ignorant–there are many factors preventing action and interfering with behavior change. Maintaining accustomed routines is a key skill in communicating resilience–the challenges are to distinguish which routines are the most durable and finding the will to dispense with those that may feel good (in the moment) but do not redress the extended, permanent, devastating costs of whatever industrial economy that temporary feel-good activity involves.
In the final chapter of your book, you ponder answers to the question, “How to live a life not worth living?” The nihilist poses this question in a vacuum. There may not be any “meaning” beyond what we humans create for ourselves as meaningful, but we are meaning-making creatures. That is what we do. We communicate meaning into being. Using language and cognition we apply sense to patterns. ‘Rightly’ or ‘wrongly’ we interpret each other’s actions and inactions. Sense-making, and the values and behaviors that follow (or are invoked), is only possible within boundaries. There is no science without belief, just as there is no religion without faith. Skepticism involves as much commitment as being an apostle.
If, as the evidence overwhelmingly suggests, humanity will soon be extinguished from the planet, then the meaningfulness of living depends upon how humans, as conscious beings, orient to the condition of mass extinction. Since cultural conditioning generally cushions the middle and upper classes from the basic realities of survival, shock is going to be an unavoidable stage in most individuals’ journey. Kubler-Ross’s classic stages on death and dying may be helpful in imagining how to support a collective transition in consciousness.
You’ve been evangelizing for a long time. If we (in industrialized countries) cannot pull off Plan A, which you articulate as powering down with the equanimity of Buddhist monks, then we’ve got to work on Plan B: How many of us can handle dying with tranquility?
I’m writing you directly because I respect your courage and humility. In addition to working toward the survival essentials (water, food, shelter, & community), I have been listening and watching for ways to stimulate robust processes of social resilience. One idea is to talk about the difference between hope and hopium. Would you be willing to elaborate?
Fox News, Boston affiliate channel 25, and Doug VB Goudie should be sued for hate speech. Seriously. Denying Deaf people the right to information in a language they can understand is violence. Ridicule of their language is an act of violence on a continumm that begins with disregard and ends with people dying because they are excluded from public communication.
Watch the ASL version of this blogentry.
The Deaf community in Massachusetts has been lobbying for live simultaneous interpretation of emergency press conferences for decades. Finally, Governor Patrick and his staff figure out the logistics of providing quality professional interpretation and VB makes a mockery of it? First, you’d think VB just discovered he has eyes. Welcome to the world of visual noise! Second, what’s wrong with multitasking? You can’t watch and listen to two different things at the same time? Come on, VB, join the modern world. Third, if he has the hots for Deval, he should take it elsewhere. No, VB, “Deval Deval Deval” is not where people’s attention should be during a PUBLIC EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT. People’s attention should be on the information, not the messenger.
Which is why it is so insulting that you would even consider asking the ASL interpreter to “tone it down.” You, a non-deaf (“hearing”) person with access to who knows how many communication channels? You can find the information again easily and with no language barrier. Deaf people get one chance to see the information in their own language. And you want to begrudge them the opportunity because you can’t concentrate? Get a grip, man.
Not only does the provision of live simultaneous interpretation during crises give access to the Deaf community to information that you take for granted, it could become a signal to the hearing world that something important is going on and maybe everyone should pay attention too! Precisely because it isn’t every day that an interpreter shows up on the television screen is a fantastic way to let everyone know there’s a situation where personal safety is at risk.
Watch VB’s news commentary.
Here’s a transcript:
WOMAN: Alright, Welcome back 6:25 this morning. It’s time to “Let it Rip” on Fox 25 morning news, VB joining us in studio here. A treat, 2 days in a row we’ve had him here. And we have Bonnie here as well as we Let It Rip on the press conference. Meant to be a serious thing here, we’re talking about a serious blizzard heading our way. But if you watched this thing yesterday, I…I don’t know how you couldn’t be distracted by everything (laughing) that was going on in the background of this. You had Andrea Cabral in the background who was obviously very warm. And is fanning herself, which by the way, was a very nice fan. Looks like she must bring this with her everywhere
Woman: very fashionable fan…then you have this (laughs) sign language person, who is very, very animated and VB I think you said it best before, “she’s at like an 11 and maybe she needs to bring it down to like a 6”.
VB: Look, at one point during this thing, my wife and I were like not listening at all to the governor and we were trying to caption HER. Because this, this stuff is so over the top and so exaggerated. Maybe it is, I don’t even know, but from my viewpoint it was. I was just fascinated on her the whole time, and I don’t know what I was supposed to do because I wasn’t listening to the Governor.
Bonnie: You know what? This came up with Hurricane Sandy too because the interpreter who was at Mayor Blumberg’s press conference was also very, very animated. It actually prompted a lot of articles. There was actually one in ‘The Atlantic’ answering the question “why are these interpreters so animated?”
Woman: They did a whole SNL skit on it, remember? (laughing)
VB: (laughing) what is that whole motion there? (laughing) Look at that!?
Bonnie: Yeah, you know but other than the hand motions, their facial expressions actually modify what is going on. So, if there’s going to be snow, then they can say ‘there’s going to be a lot of snow’. Or its ‘really bad snow’ or ‘you need to hurry’. So, I think that the dramatic interpretation doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, you listen. These people, have…have the pressure of having to translate, on the spot and make sure they capture it dramatically so that people can understand. So if you find it distracting, I don’t know, just focus on the governor. Listen, walk away. you can hear, so VB walk away from the TV and just listen
Gene: (talking over Bonnie) I’ve seen others that have done it and haven’t been that distracting,
Woman: yeah…I have too.
Gene: So I don’t buy that, I don’t buy that at all. I mean, listen, I know she has important information to put out there. And to people who have issues and need that service that’s being provided, but I think it could be done so in a way…that’s all you’re talking about this morning, you know? The Governor is passing along some important information…and you’re trying to listen…and you know, there’s so many other things going on how could you NOT be distracted by it all?
Woman: We’ve obviously seen it at other press conferences..
Gene: (talking over) It’s all everyone is talking about, twitter has all these comments about it
Woman: hashtags for people who are all of a sudden stealing the show, and no one was tweeting any of the information that was coming out of the press conference.
VB: I guarantee you when Richard Davey walked off that stage, whoever greeted him, the first thing Davey says “ Was it me, or was that really distracting?” (woman laughing) Andrea Cabral is fanning him as much as she’s fanning herself. (woman lauging) And second of all, you can see Davey periodically looking out the corner of his eye like “wow! I didn’t see that one coming” and if HE’s distracted? We’re going to be distracted! Let’s say this was 9/11…YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS! There are times, when …
Woman: right, right
VB: its gotta absolutely be focused on the speaker and that was the LAST thing I was focused on here.
Woman: yeah, that’s true.
Woman: Alright, well MYFOXBOSTON.COM or our facebook page if you’d like to weigh in on this we’d love to hear from you…