We are, each, the embodiment of the human condition. Peoples to a person, unique and the same, our imperatives and characteristics overlapping and bumping into each other, relative and subject to a million and one contexts. We hardly know ourselves, even as we presume to categorise others and seek to negate or reshape them to fit our fleeting comfort.
We cherry-pick ‘n mix micro and macro for argument’s sake and we treat them as isolated systems when it comes to, well, systems. We confuse and conflate effects and correlations, assigning their causes according to tribal instincts, narrow, prescriptive framing and emotional whim. And yet how easily we forget that one thing leads to another. And not just the things we chose to pay attention to.
How we fuss. We scrutinise the heart out of each other, fixing on binary reductions of acceptability or threat. We sacrifice nuance and complexity to distortion and banality. We muddle and manipulate moral equivalence and use whataboutery as the first line of defence and conflate the superficial or irrelevant with the most profound. We take simple things and turn them into complex nightmares and get indignant or complacent when extra care and attention is an obvious requirement. We tie ourselves in neurotic knots and project, as though anything and everything might bring the human world to its knees at any moment and then we saunter, blithely on, as though we were either helpless or invincible.
We’re still fighting for universal respect for and application of human rights; still protesting for socio-economic justice and basic civil equalities. We’re still ascribing sub-human status, according to paranoia and political fancy; still elevating dross to celebrity; still coveting what we think exists over our neighbour’s fence. We’re still monopolising and squandering the resources of our one, beautiful planet; still arguing about whose God is greatest… And over and over we produce ego-riven conflicts and make wars in the name of Peace. We are already on our knees.
We think we see things as they really are but, really, we’re only seeing things as we are, whether we are aware of little more than events and selected details or transfixed by the enormity of the bigger picture. We don’t know when to speak up and when to mind our own business. We don’t recognise what we should and need to control or what we are allowing to have control over us. We don’t discriminate appropriately or effectively; we can’t discern wish from truth nor potential from reality. Some of us think it simpler to just try to control everything and everyone while others simply don’t care and others still haven’t even noticed.
And how we faff. We constantly tinker around the edges of problems, addressing the latest symptoms and ignoring their quite evident causes. This doesn’t just allow old symptoms to fester and their causes to become downgraded, over time, to ‘unfortunate’ but it also adds a whole other level of new causes. We seem hell-bent on rose-tinted nostalgia but we refuse to actively retrace our steps. We would rather pretend that we are merely adapting to forces beyond our control than reaping the consequences of so much that should have been avoided.
We don’t really look at the roots and common threads of our problems; not deeply; not wholly. We glimpse with darting, panicked eyes, wring our hands and do what we can with the skim. Just getting through the day. Lurching with our fingers crossed. But the skim has to go somewhere: it becomes another blanket burden to Society, to add to the already suffocating layers and it creates further opportunities for ideological and financial exploitation. Every burden provides another’s comfort blanket. It isn’t ethical or sustainable.
We live under a constant process of inadequate triage. Tinkering and skimming are default management settings. Like bailing out a distressed boat that was never really seaworthy. There is viable land and most of us have spotted it but the crew prefer that we keep bailing, even as the holes increase and the weather worsens. The crew is drunk on the short-term, shortsighted power of profitable crises. The officers and their minions tell us that that land over there is hostile and to bail faster, lest we run aground the only boat available for that long-promised rising tide to lift.
Between us, we have managed to undermine the subtle and make a virtue out of the dross. We’ve managed to fragment history and turn it into a blueprint for all manner of psychopathic algorithms and effectively reduced Imagination, Reason and Empathy to a small, closed circuit.
We are gullible sponges and cynical repellents, by context, by turn, susceptible to wish and self-fulfilling prophecy. We are sands, easily shifted; blades of grass, bending upon a fixed point. And as entrenched as granite.
[November 8, 2015 (with slight editing)]
Fear creates a feast
to suit the taste
of each invited guest
that takes a seat
and makes request,
to fill the belly of a beast.
We are what we eat.