Are we starting to feel a little vulnerable yet? It’s been quite a week, month, season… The Climate Change deniers are having to scramble to explain what on earth (literally) is going on with our weather patterns. Summer seems to have taken the year off, and, all around the world, people are wondering what’s coming next. Large chunks of the Antarctic are breaking off, the latest one being almost twice the size of Prince Edward island. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, closely followed by the even bigger Irma devastating the Caribbean and attacking the entire State of Florida. And Hurricane Jose is following close behind.
Now we can argue (and we do) about how much of this change in climate is directly due to human activity, and how much is part of the historical cycle that has seen major climate change over the centuries. In some ways, it really doesn’t matter, because we are facing the reality and have to deal with it, regardless of why it’s happening. The fact that experts (but who can believe a word they say?) are predicting that large parts of the continents will soon be under water, including some of the world’s major cities and population centres, should bring home to us the need to start thinking about these things more seriously. Not that thinking seriously comes easily to a society that is more concerned with reality TV, celebrity, the destination of the Stanley Cup, World Cup, and other sporting trophies.
But not to worry: by the time climate change has done it’s worst, we humans may have outdone it in terms of (self) destruction. Wars and rumours of wars abound. Terrorism raises its evil head everywhere, killing and maiming civilians in the weird and mistaken belief that this gains some kind of victory for their murderous philosophy. What it does achieve, sadly, is an increase in racism, bigotry and violence across the globe, as we turn on each other, looking for the “others”, the “them” we can blame for everything that we find frightening and threatening.
And, biggest thrill of them all, we have, once again coming to a nation near you, the threat of nuclear destruction. North Korea is determined to have nuclear weapons capable of hitting North America, not to mention their more immediate neighbours, and who do we have in the hot seat responsible for dealing with the situation? Why, none other than that cool-headed, clear-thinking and diplomatically gifted Donald J. Trump. We are in safe hands. He knows that North Korea will respond well to threats of military attack and demands that they back down and humiliate themselves. They will, of course, bow before the righteous stance of the only power to actually use nuclear weapons.
Ah, life, as REM once memorably put it, is bigger, is bigger than you, and you are not me. Profound, indeed. What does it say about the current world situation that China and Vladimir Putin are looked to as the likely peace-makers these days? That George W. Bush is looking, in hindsight, as an intelligent and capable US President? It almost seems that, in just the past year, all the rules, all the assumptions about politics, world affairs and the future of the planet have been tossed out the window and we are in a (dare I say?) New World Order.
In the face of all this, what is there left to say? Quite a lot, in fact. We could, of course, remain quite smug and complacent here in the Great White North. We most certainly should appreciate what we have as a country and a people, and refuse to allow the poisonous hatred and racism get more of a foothold here than it already has. Surely, we can see what effect it has had in other countries, not too far away from us either? Yes, we often seem to be governed by an elite that has neither the brains nor the capacity to lace up their shoes without falling over (something I find difficult myself these days). Yes, Kathleen Wynne seems to be without a clue about how unhappy most Ontarians are about their government. And yes, sometimes you have to wonder what, precisely, municipal government is doing and whether they understand that they are employed by us and are not an autonomous state within North Grenville.
We may have a lot to complain about, and we should complain – loudly and often – that is our right. Too many other people don’t have that freedom. We can write, speak, tweet and express ourselves in so many ways, without an obvious fear of retaliation by government or non-government sinister forces. Big Brother is watching, seeing every e-mail, noting every web site we visit, and knowing precisely where we live. But they are currently using that information to direct advertising at us, trying to scam us in sending money to some Nigerian millionaire eager to share their wealth with us, or claiming that our bank accounts have been frozen and we must send them all our personal information in order to unfreeze our funds. How to respond to this crazy world? In the words of the prophetic Pete Townsend:
“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and grin at the change all around, pick up my guitar and play – just like yesterday – then I’ll get on my knees and pray: We don’t get fooled again”