UndiscoveredCountrySailing lnto Undiscovered Country

by Kurt Griffith/Talking Stone

“The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
       – William Shakespeare

One of the privileges of Art Directing the Wheel of the Yearis that I usually get to spew out a page or two at the end of the process to fill in gaps in the pagination after the rest of y’all have had your say. It is not really a chore, as there is always some topic or other that has been itching me any given moment. Of course as of this writing we’re coming out of an extraordinary year, and sailed straight-up into what could rather charitably be described as “undiscovered country.” 

But in case some of you have not been paying attention, let me catch y’all up.
                 “Donald Trump, a misogynist and a racist businessman who verifiably made 87 false statements in the course of only five days of the election campaign, is no longer a candidate. He’s sitting in the White House.”
                  –  Klaus Brinkbäumer, Der Spiegel.

That’s the Short Version, but it gets us there. President Trump brought with him a cadre of advisors and Cabinet choices that would appear, at best, non-typical, but could be potentially quite destructive to the shape of the Republic as we once knew it. While one could argue that the Republic could do with a bit of shaking up, one ought to go about that with a bit of care.

What is clear is that the misery and discontent of the unheard many for the benefit of the wealthy and privileged few has made itself felt in the rejection of both establishment parties by a fair measure of the electorate. An even greater percentage, discouraged, alienated, and frustrated with the entire process, simply stayed home on election day. But having crawled this piece of the planet for going on three score years, I feel there’s more going on here than the surface tension of politics.

We have been talking about the Big Picture for a long time in these pages, most famously in our Age of Limits supplements. Most people now perceive sharp lines of division, a fragile and deteriorating economy, the closing down of opportunity for most working people, the increasing dysfunction of government, and a political class that does not represent the overwhelming majority of the citizenry in any meaningful way, and rising global instability. I feel that all of these things are the spreading fracture lines of the Age of Limits reaching into every aspect of people’s lives. The inconvenient truth is that there is a blessed honking great pile of people filling up every nook and cranny of a finite system petri dish that is our Mother Earth. To go along with this of course is climate change, which makes population pressure, resource depletion, environmental degradation, sustainability issues, economic instability and inequality all worse and more difficult, for everyone. 

Again the Short Version–we’re beginning to run a little tight, on nearly everything. Stress. This most clearly manifests in economic and political instability, as nations scramble to shore up enough food, water, cash, and resources to sustain their peoples. Disenfranchised peoples around the world push back against kleptocratic and repressive regimes. More and more people grow aware of the pernicious and predatory influence of an ascendant corporatism that promotes massive global inequality. And make no mistake, corporate elites and the über-wealthy have a rather simple goal, and they bend laws, and co-op and corrupt governments around the world to achieve it. As a certain acerbic Court Jester once said –

                       “They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying – to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking.” – George Carlin, 2005.

One of the better ways of pushing back is to actually become more adept at the lost art of critical thinking. One of the things done to us is to keep most of us fighting over the last slice, while they walk away with 90% of the freakin’ pie. I’ll go back to the first lesson of Zen Buddhism and Shamanism—Pay Attention. It’s not easy, it’s hard work, and often discouraging. There’s a lot of noise out there now, and precious little signal.

“Fake News” has become a thing. It has reached a point where the amount of misinformation, distortion, and outright bullshit out there is so pervasive that the term has been turned back on itself to mean “any information I don’t agree with.” This discredits the few folk who are at least  to get back to journalism. But bear in mind that there is a qualitative difference between editorial stance, slant even, and straight-up utter fabrication. Discern, be skeptical, distrust anything partisan, un-sourced, or mostly shouting. If it sounds too good or to crazed to be true, it probably isn’t. Check dodgy stuff out. As for Science, understand how data and peer review works. Learn enough basic science to be an informed reader. A rock dropped from high enough will still kill you dead. Physics does not care about your politics.

Bad stuff goin’ down? Yeah, probably get worse. Is stuff we’re accustomed to going away? Probably. Much of the world I grew up with is already in the dustbin of history. I left the suburbs of New York City for the hills of the West Virginia panhandle partly to negotiate the curve of decline more gracefully. I don’t know what’s coming, but I keep a drafting table in the basement against the heavy changes that could come in my lifetime.

But as I observed the morning after the election, the sun still came up. Rain falls. Grass grows. Elders pass over. Kids grow up. We still have to chop wood, carry water, haul stones, suck down a cup of coffee and park it at the workstation. But also hang with good people. Acquire practical skills. Be decent to your neighbors, no matter who they voted for I neither have the time or the inclination to play the destructive “enemies game.” Washington is only two hours from my house, but it might as well be light years. It’s the people around you that matter. Take care of each other, we’re all here in the Undiscovered Country.