by Ray Jason
It was the last full moon of winter. My little ship, which was facing north, gently veered around to the east - as though she too wanted to admire the luminous moon as it rose above this jungle lagoon. Some unknown instinct had prompted me to write this essay not in the daylight or not by lamplight, but under the spell of moonlight. I abide by such mysterious murmurings.
So I sat on deck with my back leaning against the mast. In my lap was a pen and my trusty clipboard, but tonight it had a small book-light attached to it. Beside me was a cup of soothing green tea. This seemed appropriate - because the catalyst for this essay had been an old Chinese proverb. That morning it had sailed back into my consciousness after years of languishing in my philosophical backwaters. It states with almost unsettling clarity and simplicity a truth that Humanity seems to be ignoring.
“If we don’t change our direction, we will end up where we are headed.”
My philosopher’s mission is to meditate on the sweeping trends that impact the human caravan and to not be distracted by the transient frenzy of day to day events. My quest is to separate the message from the background noise. An effective way to do this is to focus on our most elemental needs. Some of these basics include: water, food, jobs, security and entertainment.
When I step back and contemplate these essentials from a lens that is even as long as my own lifetime, it seems indisputable that the trend-line has not been good. It has not been good for the great mass of ordinary, “just trying to get by” humans. But for those at the apex of the wealth and power pyramid, the last 50 years have been an obscene bonanza.
These “haves,” who I prefer to call The Malignant Overlords, now possess a higher percentage of planetary riches than at any point in history. And they have managed to hypnotize most of the world with the false promise of Representative Government. But those who govern are also rich; and so they “represent” the interests of the few rather than the needs of the many.
Another tool that the rich and powerful use to undermine our interests, is the false promise of Progress. But instead of delivering more freedom, less poverty, greater justice and worldwide peace, we have reaped a very different harvest from the seeds of progress. We have been burdened with too much technology and too much complexity – which have spawned too much dependency.
When I was young, I used to be able to fix my own car. But if I pop the hood on a modern car, I can barely find the engine in there under the canopy of useless doodads … “turn right at the next corner.” A teenager might say, “Awesome, it’s got a talking GPS.” But a philosopher asks, “Should a person who cannot read a map, actually be driving a 3,000 pound missile?”
With that as an initial example, let’s now go back and examine those basics that I listed a few paragraphs ago. Let’s see how the greed of the rich and powerful has affected our lives - despite their supposed panaceas of Democracy and Progress.
· Water Only a few decades ago, water flowing directly from the household tap was safe to drink. It was also inexpensive. But as our techno-industrial civilization polluted more and more water sources, the need for bottled water accelerated. This concentrated control of this most precious human necessity into the hands of fewer and fewer multi-national corporations. Now, high-tech fracking is causing water havoc in two more ways. It requires a huge amount of water to remove the oil, and it often contaminates nearby aquifers and wells. I could also throw in excessive water diverted to Big Agriculture through political lobbying and the dangers of fluoride. But instead, I will ask this important question. Did you, my unknown reader, have any influence on this major shift in the water landscape? Were you consulted before our streams and wells were poisoned? Did you get to ask for further studies on the pros and cons of fluoridation? Of course not, this was just imposed upon you.
· Food And what have the advances in “food technology” bequeathed us? They have blessed us with substances that have to be labeled as “food products” because they are not actually food foods. They are laced with hormones, anti-biotics, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and other additives that our biological systems do not recognize - and can barely process. The result is a significantly obese population that is overfed but undernourished. But that is in the so-called advanced world. In many countries billions of people are both undernourished and underfed. On a planet of plenty, these unfortunates are actually starving to death.
· Jobs This is a category in which we get to witness the ruthless malignancy of our overlords. As absentee owners, they do not care if a factory is shut down and the jobs shipped overseas. They don’t worry if people’s dignity is debased and their community turned into a ghost town. The important thing is the bottom line. And the future gleams even more brightly for the wealthy, as morons disguised as scientists, create better robots to completely negate the need for human workers. And so more and more people are forced to rely on government handouts. But only a fool fails to see that the hand that gives is the same hand that can take away.
· Security Although governments constantly claim that they are providing more and more security FOR their citizens, what they are actually doing is providing more and more security FROM their citizens. Our overlords suspect that the underclass will only tolerate this degree of shafting for so long before they start to display some significant counter-malignancy. They have even invented a new term for this severely stressed sector of the population. They call it the Precariat. Full-spectrum surveillance and militarized police forces certainly do not help me feel more secure.
· Entertainment So, in a world of meaningless work, with Big Brother monitoring you while you are eating processed junk and drinking questionable water, the need for entertainment is obvious. The problem is that the Malignant Overlords realize they must keep the Precariat in a trance. So they force feed them violent superhero movies and music that is vapid or vicious and sporting spectacles that reinforce the “us against them” message. Our Rulers want us distracted, but they certainly do not want us awakened. That is why the alternative media, which is willing to oppose the status quo, is being branded as “fake news” and being severely attacked. And because it is such a genuine threat, those in control have already developed the capacity to shut down the Web. Only an iFool would not believe that the M.O.s would gladly do so.
After editing my moon-spun notes for this essay, I sailed over to a little thatched-roof restaurant for some Sunday brunch. Along the way, I had to alter course to avoid a pretty nasty reef. While doing so, I couldn’t help but recall the proverb that had inspired this meditation.
“If we don’t change our direction, we will end up where we are headed.”
Is the Ship of Humanity not headed for a deadly reef? Have we not been lulled into danger by the comforting belief that because today is like yesterday then tomorrow will be like today? If that is how you feel, then you might want to ponder this. Almost every ship that was ever splintered upon a reef, believed that there was “clear sailing ahead.”