What follows here is a text composed of reconstructed reading notes culled from a recent notebook. I noticed that the way they happened to fall together seemed to provide a set of provocative test questions as to whether or not the human race is likely to survive. I would suggest that people reading the questions answer them (giving a single point to each "yes" and to each "no"). Then add up each of the two separate scores, and report the final verdict back to Virgil.
A time of troubles and crisis points can make or break a civilization. At this juncture in history, our major crises--climate change, economic breakdown, and terrorism--can't be managed alone. They are systemic threats that demand global resolutions. Our success will be measured not by money or power, but by resilience: the ability to change and adapt. The line between our personal lives and the world has become ever more permeable. We are in a profound crisis that is going to demand radical changes, and require engagement, action, and personal responsibility. And the outcome is uncertain. Conformity to old ideas is now lethal; only radical rebellion can change the planet when everything that we cherish is under threat. Two hundred years of growth economy has destroyed the "steady state" of the ecosphere. Will we continue to recklessly pillage and not listen to our own warnings?
Democracies have often gone to war with totalitarian states, but never with each other. But is democracy in the U.S. now at war with itself? Democrats always break their word, and Republicans lie to begin with--but they stick to that lie and thus seem more honest. Are compromises crippling? Is compromise beyond a certain point a deal-breaker? Are the balance of forces biased against significant reform?
The essential skill of the next fifty years will be crisis management in an age of limited resources and instability, uncertainty, and unpredictability. These are the ideas on which we must base our policies if we are going to match conditions in the world around us. The qualities needed will be preparedness, readiness, alertness, vigilance, and the ability to teach ourselves to see differently. Do we have these qualities and are we likely to use them?
Can art help? In our compromised world, can art still be a catalyst for change? The economic boom times are over, and capitalism is flat on its face. But art is still trapped in the "dead objects" paradigm: "Damien Hirst's pickled shark nets $17 million in art auction." Changing our ways is proving difficult for mankind. Given the intensity of economic and environmental collapse, can art do anything in this, Barack Obama's, new "age of responsibility" to make itself more relevant? Certainly the path out of the crisis cannot be a return to the status quo. Or can it? The problem is that we do not look at the consequences of our acts until it is too late to deal with them. Will this ever change?
Is the human race a flawed species? Is the human race doomed? Is it fit to survive? Will our proclivities toward greed and fear do us in? Is there still any possibility left for not heading off into utter disaster? Can that "Green New Deal" for the twenty-first century save us, or will the credit crunch, the oil crunch, and the climate crunch lead to collapse? Does humanity have the will to reverse the damage it has done to the world--and is that damage even reversible any more?
Buckminster Fuller: "We are facing our final evolutionary exam."
Ronald Reagan (in 1981): "A trillion dollars would be a stack of thousand-dollar bills 67 miles high."
Norman Mailer (in a letter to his wife, Beatrice, August 8, 1945): "Really, Darling, the vista is horrifying...I believe that to survive the world, cities of tomorrow will be built a mile beneath the earth."
Morris Berman: "I am no longer convinced that the institution of some new paradigm can really save us."
God: "Please don't ask me to come down there."
Applying the American model of freedom and democracy to other cultures and religions outside America has very real limitations. To think otherwise is politically reckless. Anti-Western Islamism has only grown stronger because of our occupation of those lands. We have failed to win in these countries, and we will go on failing to win. Sending more Americans to die will not change that painful reality. Occupations are inherently humiliating. People prefer to run their own affairs. Keeping our troops in Muslim countries is the problem, not the solution. Our motives for being there are seen as suspect and predominantly imperialistic. Would it be better to spend less time on manipulating the world and more on appreciating it?
True or false? Science makes progress, humanity does not.