SageGreenJournal.org voices out of the West, mostly poetry, personal to planetary...
Lito is Art Goodtimes' partner in this SageGreenJournal adventure. As founder, editor, graphics guy, and all-around instigator I have hesitated to feature my own works on these pages. But like everyone I know, I am daily more alarmed at the way the world is spinning…out of control. Spending more than half the year far from the States, hasn't helped me stop mourning the daily loss of so many important places, creatures, ideas, and social bonds, the unraveling of the world I thought I knew, and still love. Hence this essay:
by Peter Shelton
OK. We know the world is in trouble, big trouble, bigger than we want to admit, but have to anyway, because—well—we know too much. Our parents didn’t, our grand parents didn’t, but we do, now we do. It snuk up on us, didn’t it? We can read the writing on the wall. And it ain’t Greek. We take a certain satisfaction, a guilty satisfaction, in having lived through the very best of times, of all times. The very best times for some that is, for us: we had enough to eat, more than enough, we read books, we had more than enough good books to read, when we got in trouble no one tried to kill us, we felt safe, and we were, and still are—for now. There was a big war, a terrible war, we didn’t fight it, and there would never be another one. That was the promise, and we believed it.
When Anne Frank wrote, before they killed her, that she still believed people were good, we believed her too. We didn’t question whether there was enough room for people to be good, to live good lives, to imagine a good world, a better world, just around the corner, any day now. Just take care of a few details. We repeated mindless slogans that maybe didn’t really make sense, didn’t really apply: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” What boats? A rising tide can drown you too, if you don’t have a boat. A rising tide, a tide of people, a tide of us, in such a hurry to get rich, stay rich, that nothing else matters. Or maybe not all of us, not all of us that greedy, maybe just on autopilot, making more kids because that’s what you do, because you can’t stop, because nobody can stop, look around, take a deep breath, start over and think things through long enough to come up with a different answer.
To a different question. A better question. Not who’s going to hire me, how much will they pay me, how much will I make? Make? Making money is making nothing. Carpenters at least build houses. Maybe the question is about what you can really make, making something, anything, maybe even making a life worth living. Not always the most obvious question: after all, gotta eat, gotta put food on the table, gotta pay the bills, gotta send the kids to school, a better school, a good college, a better college so they’ll get better jobs, make more money, send their kids to better schools, a circular path, leading nowhere, but the preferred path anyway because what other path is there?
Maybe the answer is not even to try to make a better life in such a troubled world, why not try to make a better world. But how the hell do you do that? Get beyond the personal, the private, the me-first life, look for something else, not knowing what, or where, or when you’ll find it. Such a big job, so little time left, and no time to waste, no road map, no resources, no safety net, no guarantees. No more sidelines to sit on, to sit this one out, as though the world, our world, wasn’t coming apart at the seams.
How do we know that? Know the future is so black, or so bleak? Is there a difference? A statement about the future is a prediction that can’t be confirmed, except by living through it, and then it’s no longer about the future. All the evidence is here and now. So we look around, right here, right now, and we’re appalled. Where are all the good guys? Where is the cavalry? The silence is deafening. So many people, already, so much plastic, already, in the oceans, in the bellies of birds, already, already, oceans already so acidic, so warm, already, so much poverty and at the same time so much wealth, so lopsided, so out of balance, already, not in 5 years, or 10 or 20, but right now, so many weapons, so many guns, so many little wars, so many refugees, already, already now for so many years. So many warnings that we haven’t heeded, shrugged off, promised we would deal with then looked the other way, turned business-as-usual into a global religion, raked in the profits, smiled as stock exchanges climbed and kept on climbing, took the money and ran, only there’s no place left to run to. Overseas accounts only shelter abstractions not people, shelter abstract riches from equally abstract taxes, don’t really shelter anything, or anybody. No one can live there.
How long before we say: no one can live here?
The future, our future is unraveling, fast.
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