What Brought The Republics to an End?

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Human groups, with their refined cultures, created the various Republics throughout history and have destroyed them over and over again. Now we all live in a global "Republic of Consumerism". For at least the last fifty years, a large number of us have become aware of what's going on all over the world. We are all members of a global socioeconomic system that is dementedly productive.

Caesar Augustus, the first emperor in the ancient Roman Empire

Caesar Augustus, the first emperor in the ancient Roman Empire

And yet, regardless of our progress we are as in control of our thoughts, ideas, and actions as we ever have been, which is to say, not very much in control at all.

Just give people the equivalent of a jar of peanut butter, a screen, and a beer and they won't care a thing about the topic discussed in the article below - their needs already having been generated and fulfilled by the propaganda of the day. 

The Death of the Republic

Posted on May 21, 2017

By Chris Hedges

The vast majority of the small fraction of humanity that thinks in similar terms or has even noticed the things discussed in Hedges' article are powerless to do anything but vent their disgust. This crippling powerlessness is not their fault, it's only natural.

Even the path to power is barely perceptible and equally as distracting. One rarely understands the society one is struggling to be a part of until it's too late. If one facilitates murder while never pulling the trigger, when precisely did they turn into a killer? Is a child's innocence and potential only predicted on the genes inherited from their grandparents and their equally improbable life experiences? It really does start with your grandparents, and who among us chose them? If we have any freedom at all we simply fit into what we've become and go from there.

We can not, I suppose, know what our will has begotten. If anyone is free to any extent they are wise and suffer from fewer delusions than most. It would be a tidy trick indeed if humanity evolved into a creature with free agency grounded in wise ethics. How much time would that take I wonder? And by our own lofty and hubristic standards of illusion, it seems highly unlikely our species will be around long enough to grow into wise apes. Disregarding the cultural miracle required for a critical mass of us to even want to achieve a state of being we might call wise. 

We seem to have a deadman's switch in our genes. Perhaps our genes aren't selfish enough or finely evolved enough to activate the information requiring wisdom as a trait for long term survival. Or maybe we just lack the discipline to turn it on and make those traits emerge; or maybe it’s just bad luck, our circumstances having not been right for such a trend.

It should be obvious to anyone with a decent education that we evolved in this unique environment and are dependent upon its special balance of complex interacting elements. We can survive in various extreme environments but the spectrum is narrow and nothing to be taken for granted. We may be able to change our environment for our benefit but we are also terrible at predicting the unintended consequences of doing so. We are literally flipping a switch now and the result could be darkness not light.

It makes me think that if God is truly loving, compassionate and merciful than our ability not to notice the hell our stupidity is creating until it's too late is truly a blessing.

Humanity is in control of its destiny in the sense that it's the first species we know of in 3.5 billion years of life on earth that has the ability to self-consciously determine its own demise through its own creations. And, we can reflect upon the habits that are ultimately going to kill us. Amazing! Dare I now utter the cliche: humanity has only been around for a brief blip in terms of geologic time, and yet, here we are reading words on a screen. And the brief blip we call, Human Civilization obviously contains within it destructive qualities that have only recently, in an even briefer blip we call the Industrial Revolution, given us the tools to destroy all life on earth. We are clever beasts - it's only natural that we are enamored with ourselves. 

In this world, bound by temporality, isn't our amazing creativity something to be proud of? Also, shouldn't we be proud of having the privilege of living during the end times; of having the amazing good luck of knowing exactly how we did ourselves in; of knowing the end of the story? We don't have to suffer through the process of contemplating the worries and aspirations of future generations or of fearing unknown horrors to come. We can get all of that for our diversion and pleasure on Netflix or at the Cinema. Our vicarious and virtual lives add value to the mundane expressions of love and euphoria inherent in being part and parcel of nature or simply of taking a quiet, solitary walk in the forest. We may soon disappear but our e-waste will remain in layers of sediment as a testimony to our pride and fortune.

During past mass extinction events, how can we know anything about the suffering of creatures who's habitat became unable to support their lives? Could they have known they were heading for extinction? What did the last Mastodon feel? Apparently, nature is not bound by ethical concerns. Nature obeys it's own mysterious rules. Isn't it ironic that we're the only species we know of in the universe that has the ability to understand some of the rules of nature and apply them in creative ways to control outcomes and produce things?

In 1973 Carl Sagan published “The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective”, and in it, he said this:

"Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff."

Contemplating that is the closest we are ever going to get to experiencing eternity without drugs or deep meditation. (Why does this bring to mind the mad photographer in the movie Apocalypse Now? It's absurd and I giggle.) 

When the last person dies there will be no more memories. Perhaps eternity is simply a universe where humanity doesn't exist. I might have said, nonexistence is eternity or eternity doesn't exist. 

I remember walking around India when I was young with a middle aged man I nicknamed, Rasta Punjab, (he liked Bob Marley) who asked me several times a day, "What is time?" When we finally split up to go our separate ways I asked him if I had ever had the right answer and he said, "I don't know but your answers were entertaining."

So what are we to do? Try taking a journey that makes you wiser and wiser with every experience, with every human interaction, and enjoy every moment of it. 

Every person since the emergence of our species has had but one life. Think of how lucky we are to live in these times where we have just begun to understand the universe and ourselves. There is so much yet to learn so get busy, nothing lasts forever.

Enjoy the end times of The Republic! Viva la revolucion! 


 

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Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.