I’d rather spend my days reading Plato and Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dante, than recording what I see and feel in public. I don’t want to capture images of dead-eyed customers, offended faces complaining about a long list of first world problems. I’d rather read and read and pretend that it’s the same as writing, the same as translating the mood of my shitty age into vividly foul language.
She said she understands our species is dying, and she’s very sad about that, sincerely, but right now we have to get this Christmas shopping done.
I stopped telling myself I wasn’t smart enough to read the foundational philosophers of my civilization, the deep thinkers who first spoke about, and attempted to organize, this unusual experience we casually refer to as human life. I started with Plato, because so many others I’ve already studied were always wrestling with Plato. I started reading The Republic, slowly, reading like a meditation, reading for understanding. And, for understanding, I also started watching online video lectures and documentaries about Plato, Socrates, and Ancient Athens, which led me to a wider field of study known as Political Philosophy. I easily found two online course, introductions to Political Philosophy—one at Yale, the other at U.Penn. Both contained free online video lectures, both included a syllabus with links to free online readings. I’ve been working through these two courses of study, and obsessively following current events on Twitter, all Fall. I gave up TV shows and movies in August. Instead, I skim hundreds of global and national news sources for several hours every day, seven days a week, and read my political philosophy assignments. I watch several lectures each day, and listen to the spin shows on the radio, and meditate. I exercise when I can muster it. Sleep. Repeat. I scribble into a small collection of ongoing journals when I can’t sleep, or to keep myself from crying. And I’m always cleaning my apartment. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. While our species is dying faster and faster. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Human civilization is in hospice, the scientist said—his data was explicit, detailed, graphic—and I have no idea what to write about anymore.
Climate change keeps me from writing some days, more like the news about global warming makes me feel so hopeless about the future—crippled, unable to spark change—that some days I don’t think I’ll get back to writing ever again.
Why not just listen to great music, read the classics, have a lot more sex, and get drunk? I mean, if there’s no hope…
The IPCC and the Pentagon have been weaving horror stories about a half-uninhabitable planet in the next fifty years. Hell on Earth. Coming Soon! Unless we stop our civilization cold, reverse course! Pardigm shift on the count of three!
Meanwhile, the conspiratorial people still insist the whole thing is a massive plot, a scam to grab government funding. Everyone’s in on it, they tell me. Trust no one. They always have links to shady websites, videos and articles, shaky proof. Good guys. Bad guys. It’s a small small Hollywood world after all.
My rich landlord hired a construction team to build a huge concrete planter to house a row of decorative shrubbery—half a city block long, three feet high.
Meanwhile, most of the bridges and roads in New Jersey are crumbling.
All day, every day, on Facebook, on Twitter, people say poor people choose to be poor, homeless people deserve to be homeless, all women secretly want to be raped, and people who threaten the interests of American corporations must die. They say these things in thousands of original and creative ways. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s getting worse.
I mentioned to an acquaintance, a few weeks back, that I wanted to write more about the homeless people of New Jersey. She said she had no sympathy for the homeless because a few homeless men used to harass her and her girlfriends on campus during college. When I called her out on that absolute bullshit stance, she said:
“That’s a very white male thing of you to say.”
In every context, in every situation, there’s always the danger that I will say exactly what’s on my mind. Since my best friend died, and my grandma followed one month after, I have a very low tolerance for meaningless bullshit. The climate is about to flood out huge portions of the planet, creating millions of displaced refugees with no food, no shelter, no fresh water. We’re a few degrees away from a literal Hell on Earth, and rising, while almost every scientist is saying it might be, it’s already too late to avoid the worst of it. And yet people still ask me what TV shows I like to watch, or what I think about two famous strangers getting married? Seriously? Other people actually tell me they don’t believe in science. What? How dare you cling to such stark raving ignorance when there’s so much at stake for all of us.
I spend a huge portion of my time paying attention to both climate scientists and social activists. So, sometimes, often, just for fun, I mash the two up.
First, I watch a YouTube interview or lecture from some leading climate scientist.
“We must stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow!” he or she insists. “This is urgent! Everybody, please listen! We need radical change right now!”
And I follow that with a leading scholar of social change, or the latest professor activist on the television.
“Try to understand,” he or she says, with gentle, somewhat detached compassion. “The kinds of radical changes required come slowly, with struggle, over time. We must be patient.”
Then back to the climate scientists:
“We are almost out of time!”
“A deluge of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere just last year!”
“And if these are methane explosions, we’re fucked. We’re so fucked.”
CAUTION: This game will end a dinner party fast.
My current assignment is to draft, revise, and try to publish new poetry pulled from my old journals, while I also brainstorm and write articles to submit to Truthout.org—because I love @TruthOut.
“And stop thinking you have to be an expert before you start writing,” Luz said, during this morning’s hour long meeting about my writing goals.
And while I work on all of that—including the above-mentioned attitude adjustment—she wants me to write paragraph length blog posts about current events, kinda like notes from the belly of the industrial war beast I was born into by no choice of my own.
Come to think of it, this should be fun. Heh.
If I suddenly had the resources, or a shark-like activist lawyer offered to work for free—just to make a point—I would aggressively sue every single one of the bottom-feeding debt collectors who have called my phone, my wife’s phone, my mother’s and my aunt’s phone, since I lost my steady adjunct professor job in 2009.
I would gladly spend my entire waking day, for as long as it took, writing about the veiled threats, always made with a smile, and the deep and lasting emotional trauma this grinning-voiced aggression has caused me and my family over the past few years.
Just one of many examples: my heart nearly pounds out my chest with panic and anxiety whenever my phone rings. That’s a conditioned emotional response. My debt collectors did that to me, and that’s a fact. Am I supposed to just let that go? Really?
No. No. No. I think I need a few judges to explain this one to me.