Part of the problem with a worldview devoted to science and the belief that everything is completely random and coincidental is that it can blind us to the pattern-seeking wisdom innate to our species. Thus people can see events transpire that, in combination, send a clear message and patently refuse to acknowledge the message under the guise of their faith in a random universe. Setting aside the inconsistency of a “random universe” having ordered and explicable laws which these people seek to define, refine, and demonstrate the consistency of, it’s just not a good use of the human brain to assume there’s nothing to be gleaned from stringing patterns together and trying to discern a communication. We are pattern-seekers for a reason and that reason is probably not to help keep us from surviving.

The pattern clearly being expressed of late is that lousy methods of power-generation are going to kill us. No, really, they are. And probably a good bit faster than the relatively glacial pace of the alleged global warming/climate change/neo ice-age/buy fluorescent bulbs movement. I’ve long considered the above to be sort of a noble lie, a bit of a fudging of things in order to get us to move away from patterns of global organization and behavior that are clearly problematic for other reasons. Basically, if Al Gore’s theology is the only reason you’re going to cut down on your waste and lobby for better energy sources, it’s better than not taking those steps at all. Except, you know, when you believe that individuals instead of corporations move the bar on these things, or when you believe that buying new things to replace old functional things is somehow the solution. But hey.

Getting back to the point. Oil will kill us. Nuclear power will kill us. Coal will kill us. Not slowly, not over time, but quickly and fiercely and with the power of a dark, choking asphyxiation. And you can sit there and say “Gee, isn’t it funny that we went through a massive phase where coal-mining cave-ins were the biggest news story on the planet, and that was almost immediately followed by a massive phase where the biggest, most devastating oil spill was the biggest news story on the planet, and that was almost immediately followed by the emerging reality of sequential nuclear meltdowns triggered by a highly predictable and common event being the biggest news story on the planet – wow that must be random.” You can say that to yourself if you want to. But if you do, with that conclusion, then, respectfully, you are an idiot. And you should think about what is making you an idiot and how you can fix that.

I’ve posted a bit (mostly on Facebook, which is starting, even for me, to steal time away from this page) about Zeitgeist lately and the accompanying movement and the three movies and all that. And while I find their dismissiveness about deeper meaning and accompanying faith in science to be in line with what I criticize above, I do at least value the movement’s general sense of urgency about the problems facing our planet and the obvious unacceptability of what so many people unthinkingly put up with on a daily basis. One of the most frustrating things about being alive on Earth at this stage of history is having to feel crazy all the time for finding the problems apparent in almost every aspect of human structures to be so obvious while everyone else thinks they’re more or less fine (or at least intractable). I’m not saying it would be easy to create Utopia tomorrow, but it does seem clear that major steps we could take in that direction are relatively simple and apparent. And they all just require that internal recognition of what’s distracting us and how to get away from it.

Of course, I can also see the extreme effectiveness of capitalism as a general system in distracting us from what’s important. Surely capitalism isn’t the only structure in place keeping us from realizing the potential we really have to improve our lot and our planet’s lot, but it’s by far the biggest and most effective at present. Discussion of creating actually sustainable forms of power that lack the ability to go awry and destroy ecosystems or small swaths of civilization (or perhaps the entire planet’s ecosystem and civilization) is waved down by the shrugging declaration that the market will somehow solve for calamity, that the invisible hand is smart enough to anticipate short- and long-term consequences that don’t involve money. It’s relatively obvious to the thoughtful that corporations will not start investing with any seriousness in sustainable forms of energy until unsustainable ones have become unprofitable. And it should be relatively obvious now that the risks associated with those more traditional forms of energy are overriding any profit gained from their use. Unfortunately, the profit motive has no slot for accounting for human welfare.

When a government is found to be oppressive, people are lauded and cheered for rebelling against that system. Why not with an economic mode of oppression as well? Here is a clear and stark demonstration of the fact that corporations, capitalism, and the system that keeps them in place as the dominant ways of conducting human affairs are going to kill us. Quickly and painfully. They will kill our animals, they will kill our people, they will kill our way of life. You know, all those things terrorists are allegedly about to do because they “hate” us. Except that capitalists are indifferent to such things, something that can prove far more devastating than hate. Hate at least acknowledges the need for value structures, emotions, prioritization of values. Indifference is lethal, is swift in its disregard. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. I fear capitalists far more than terrorists. The capitalists are actually killing us in high volume numbers, and with far less self-awareness.

So what’s the prescription? What’s the answer to watching every form of popular energy generation go haywire and cause increasing levels of disaster? What’s the answer to watching economic riots generate massive instability and upheaval that also offers the opportunity for change? It’s to embrace the change, to push it further, to take advantage of the power of examination that comes from things being difficult, to start advocating stringently and ardently for an end to the status quo. For something, anything, to replace the currently accepted standards of resource distribution and the currently accepted resources themselves. For the process by which we change these things and which we ultimately decide on to account for things like human meaning and the importance of human values and lives, not merely faith in that system itself. Devoted faith in any system, be it the scientific method, the invisible hand, the concept of randomness, or even the concept of democracy, can blind us to the flaws and failings of such systems. And as we are seeing all over the world, this yields disastrous consequences.

I pray for the people of Japan, just as I did for those on the Gulf Coast and those trapped in mines and will continue to for all the victims of our idiocy. It is not kind that this world requires death as the only antidote to stupidity, that until people start keeling over in large numbers, no one pays attention. It is perhaps the natural consequence of an overpopulated planet in a rudimentary stage of development. It will not always need to be so. But I do hope that these people and those like them can be spared to the greatest extent possible, while we still manage to learn from their suffering.

Which reminds me, before I close, about one of the last major earthquakes in Japan and what hypocrisy and myopia that one reminded me of. Since nothing really became of this poem I wrote in 1995, I might as well attach it here as another addendum about the nature of humanity and how the answers should be clear, or at least clearer. This was written on January 21, 1995, four days after the major Kobe earthquake of that year, amidst Japan initially refusing aid from the West and getting massive criticism for this decision.

SHAKEN EARTH
by Storey Clayton

The earth shakes and the World moves.

We look to Kobe
A city in Japan
We look from the western world
The world of united states and european communities
The world that is so vastly far and different
From Japan
And Kobe

We look and see a town
No a city
No a metropolis
No the seventh-largest group of humanity on our Planet
It is torn apart
By its own Earth
Ripped from its foundations
By the very Home it sits upon

Thousands die
Hundreds of thousands lose their homes
Millions feel frightened

‘Tis a frightening thing indeed
When the mere trembling of our Planet
Tears millions of children
And women
And also men
From deep within Kyoto
And Osaka
And also Kobe

We look and see humans
Different and similar
As are all humans
Different and similar
The west stares urgently upon the East
And says to its fellow Humans
“We shall help, Brothers and Sisters”

And
With vague politeness
But
Solid rejection
the Answer
is No

No Help
No help for the people of Kyoto
No help for the people of Osaka
No help for the people of Kobe
Who sit in the cold and
very Carefully
Warm their hands
to the Fire
That burns the city
through the Aftershocks
But warms their hands

that hold no food and little water

The west criticizes it’s afflicted Brothers and Sisters
And these Siblings’ government

But these people of united states and european communities
No longer say
That the people
Are equal
To their government

Perhaps they realized
That Bill Clinton
And John Major
And Helmut Kohl
Are not the perfect embodiment
Of every western human

Perhaps

Perhaps in the East
Where thousands freeze
And starve
And dehydrate

Perhaps then they thought about
The Last Time the Earth Shook

The Last Great Earthquake of this
Great Land

That one too took an unbelievable Toll
And on children and women as well as men

Perhaps the two momentous earthquakes
Of 1945
Made Japan’s leaders
Think Twice
And Twice Again
About accepting their western “siblings”

Was anyone in Kobe
in mid-January of 1995
Who had also been in
Hiroshima
or Nagasaki
50 years before?

Had they survived through
the Bombing
the Radiation
the Fallout
the Cancer
the Memories

To come to a new life
In a new city
A fresh city
Named Kobe

Had that person awoken
Five decades later
To the same morning
That had haunted the person
For their entire life?

Perhaps the person felt the Earth
that person’s own Earth
Shake
as they then felt their
Mind
Shake
Endlessly

Fifty years chased by ghosts
Phantoms of the past
Shadows in one’s eyes
Shadows blocking one’s mind
Shadows enveloping one’s body
Shadows knocking on one’s soul

And then the sixty seconds
That erase half a century of
Recovery

Perhaps

Perhaps the nation of Japan
On its several West-Pacific islands
Was not so quick to forget
The last time Japanese soil
Shook and
Crumbled and
Burned

And yet we
in our united states and european communities
Do We Understand?

Maybe

Maybe if the United States had forgotten
The thousands of
Volunteering
Trained
Military
Fighting
Men
who died instantly in the waters of Hawaii
in December of 1941

Then

Maybe

Japan could forget
The Thousands of
Unprepared
Civilian
Peaceful
Men, Women, and Children
who died both instantly
and over time
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
from 1945-1995

But who would know?

They were “our enemies” last time
So we had a right to do what we did!??????!

Didn’t we?

Of course these United States
Have the right to
Play Creator
By making the Earth shake
With the impact of colliding plates
And a fear inspired that is
A Million Fold
Greater

Of Course

a tremor from within is the Will
or Whim
of the Planet we all must inhabit
as Humans
we have no control
none have control
we all have hope

a tremor from outside is the Will
or Whim
of another Human that few of us
really Know
let alone
Trod Upon
Daily
we have no control
some have control
we have less hope

If one has the power
To vanquish “enemies”
With the strength of
Ten-thousand
Kobe earthquakes
Why should one stop
Before that point?

After all,
it is Human Nature
to “KNOW”
that one’s enemies
are the bad ones
and the beholding Human
is good and right

So

Is Japan Justified
in not trusting a people
who fifty years ago
confused the grand people of a lost nation
with the lost emperor of a grand nation
at a cost
unspeakable and
unexperienced in
our western lands

Are they justified to let their people starve
After those United States made their people die?

A question

One for philosophers to ponder

On a well-fed night

That is chilly outside yet warm within

A question to ponder

Some night when

There is no “enemy”

There is no 1941 or 1945 in the Human records

And there is no possibility for an earthquake

From the ground or

From the air

on our Planet

the one which we all must inhabit

as Humans

Different and Similar

Tied to different parts of the World

but all Tied to the World.