Back from a short visit to Vancouver, BC, to screen They Had It Coming and Coming to Terms at the Vancity Theatre. Saturday night, city center, excellent cinema: 20 people for one show, 7 for the next. The writing flickers on the wall: the kinds of things I do and have done for 52 years mean zip, nada, nothing. I feel the lid on my coffin whacked down with another few nails, the odor of decay already tangible. Doesn’t help the psyche that along with the obvious evidence that there is really little point in persisting making these films, that in last weeks I’ve also been hobbled by a nasty case of piriformis-sciatica: just another sign that one’s time is getting short. Piling on!
Of course my little personal belated mid-life crisis cud-chew pales next to the cascading events which shout from the headlines each day. In its forth year of severe drought, California, early in the fire-season is in flames, and not for me an academic matter, but close. As I write I think a friend’s house has gone in flames, as has Harbin Hot Springs, where I once went with some frequency when I lived in the Bay Area. Other friends in the Golden State are threatened as well. As, in fact, are we all. Friends in Missoula report the summer has been one of smoke-choked air as fires in Eastern Washington and Oregon sent smoke to the once pristine skies of Montana. Elsewhere harsh changes in weather patterns foretell the accelerating effects of global warming and climate change.
Meantime our carnival of Presidential primary campaigns has tossed up Trump to agitate the know-nothing sector of the body politic, while the corporate controlled press has done its job of first ignoring and belittling the Sanders campaign, though now it grudgingly concedes there is something there, though they are inclined to fraudulently suggest he is the Democrat’s Trump, while insisting there is no way he could win a national election. Meantime Madam Clinton seems in a fatal swoon, and we all are left to ponder where the chips will fall. My own grim reading of the political tea-leaves imagines Sanders becoming the clear nominee of the Democrats, a prospect so dire to the powers-that-be that a little “accident” or shooting in gun-toting America would not surprise in the least.
And over across the pond, the sudden influx of millions of refugees generated by the combination of over-population, drought in the middle-east and good old American/Anglo imperial meddling for very many decades in the same place (Sykes-Picot and before), culminating in the Iraq war fiasco and subsequent after-effects, has spawned the predictable. The Arab spring has turned into the Arab nightmare, as tribal cultures renew their binds, but this time armed with more than scimitars, all to the profit of Western and Russian arms dealers operating through their respective governments who have pumped the region with their wares for 100 years. The irony that the black gold which radically altered these societies, as well as those societies which in vampire fashion sucked this blood of industrialization, and which underlies the phenomenon of global warming, is too bitter to contemplate. Reap what you did not understand you were sowing, but sow you have.
The stresses in the middle-east have long since spilled into the West, from 9/11 to the banlieus of France, and now to the rush of humanity across the plains of Hungary into the heart of Europe. Given Europe’s not-so-distant history one can only shudder at the likely final spasm of this present crisis, which is already hinted at in the xenophobic nationalism on the rise across the continent. The denouement is not likely to be pleasant. Though, being honest, living in Italy over 15 years ago, I already saw (and spoke with friends about) this building crisis, which it seems the politicians and bureaucrats which govern society are blind to see. To me it was so obvious that the influx of migrants, as in the US, would at some juncture cause a drastic rupture in the larger society, and that the ripples would be anything but rational or “nice.” And yet, for Europe, as for the USA, things all seemed well: the imported labor was cheap (the Philippina maid friends had in Rome, the transient seasonal laborers in the San Joaquin Valley), they stayed invisible in the background, and….and then suddenly the equation inverted, and they were too many, not integrated, resorted to crime, and became “a problem.” And now “they,” outsiders, flood in as a massive river – to escape the dysfunction of their own societies (much incurred at the behest of the power-games of the West), the consequences of “globalization,” of global warming and climate change and all the phenomenon incurred by the ravenous appetites of the wealthy parts of the world and the complex politics of the power of that wealth. They ultimately all tie together into a large complex bundle of knots.
So, as my travels have shown me, around the world rural society has been upturned, myriad new instant cities with populations in the multiple millions toss up their glass spikes, sucking all around them into their vortexes of mindless consumerism. Depleting water, arable land, utterly reliant on vast power systems, these cankers now spot the globe, lost in a vast delusion. Minds buried in smart-phones and an endless assault of “entertainment” we – 7 billion plus of us – are sleep-walking to our end.
Seen from a slight distance, it is clear that a complex range of matters – over-population, thoughtless exploitation of natural resources (not thoughtless from a capitalist short-term profit view), climate change, political and economic stresses, and many other things – are all converging in keeping with catastrophe theory, wherein these many strands will coalesce, and seemingly out of the blue, a vast multi-level crisis will emerge and bring our “reality” tumbling down. It is already well under way – tangibly visible in the torrents of immigrants, the dessicated aquifers of the mid-west and western USA, the fires engulfing drought-parched California – but we prefer not to see it until it is forced upon us, and even then refuse to see the threads by which all these things are held together. It seems human nature to be like this, despite all our self-proclaimed “intelligence” which ever stumbles into repeated wars and self-made catastrophes as “the future” always hangs just a bit too far over the horizon for us to imagine it. When it arrives, despite all the obvious evidence which announced it, we are surprised.