Thursday, May 27, 2010


Mankind isn't the only species on Earth, we just act like it -Bumper Sticker

Why do we act the way we do? I don't mean individuals necessarily, but why do people act as we do as a collective? I mean, why do we act like we don't care about the people or planet around us? I guess I shouldn't lay this at the feet of all humanity. I tend to view the world from my culture here in "western civilization". Not everyone sees things the same way.

Think seven generations ahead before every important decision – Native American saying

Manifest Destiny and every similar rationalization that came before it, exists to justify the "right" of a larger and stronger people to take away resources from a smaller and weaker one. It's why bullies pick on kids smaller than they are on the playground. It's why adults sexually and physically abuse children. It's why the party most dominant in politics will rush to grab and hold onto as much power as it can. It's why we can hunt a species to extinction and not bat an eye (anyone seen a dodo bird lately?).

As our understanding goes, the species we call dinosaurs were once dominant on this planet. We suppose that some sort of significant planetary event occurred about 65 million years ago to change all that. Slowly, the dinosaurs left the ecosystem, leaving space for smaller, more fragile creatures to rise. Eventually, one type of mammal climbed to the top of the heap: man.

When you're at the top of the food chain, you fear no predators. There are creatures on this planet that are faster and have bigger teeth and claws, but we invented gunpowder. Bang! You're dead.

As with everything else I write, I can see how we should know better but don't behave as if we do. Our fiction says we know better. Consider the remake of the television series V. The "visitors" say they come in peace, but of course, they're lying. They've come to take over, but not with armies or weapons. They've come to take over a piece at a time.

Most people don't realize it, but the current series and the 1983 original mini-series are based on a novel published in 1935 written by Sinclair Lewis called It Can't Happen Here about how a fascist regime came to power in the United States and by subterfuge, established a dictatorship, taking over the country. By the time anyone realizes what's happened, it's too late...or almost.

Similar stories, including various films and television shows in the 1950s and 60s were created along a the same theme, usually with Communism being the big threat. The Science Fiction film classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers contains this underlying plot, but to more current audiences, it probably isn't obvious. The short story To Serve Man could very easily have been the basis for the current V series and has been made and re-made endless times (hint: "To Serve Man" is a cookbook).

The common thread in all of these stories is a race, species, or group who has more power arrive to take resources, including lives, from a group that has less power. Only in the case of these science fiction stories, the group who is always being victimized is humanity.

Now here's the kicker. As humans, we justify our exploitive behavior by telling ourselves that we're the dominant species. As the biggest, baddest, and most powerful, we take what we want because no one can stop us (yeah, I know...cynical, but it explains most of the events we've recorded in human history). We write stories about beings superior to us in intellect, technology, and sometimes in sheer numbers, who come to dominate us the way we have dominated everything else on the planet. If we believe "might makes right", when a bigger force comes against us, why do we fight back?

If we accept "the natural order of things", why won't we take our appropriate place in that order (at least in fiction) when alien reptiles or pod creatures come to dominate us?

We always fight back. In fiction, we usually win, which I guess means we're superior after all, but wait a minute. What if we haven't won?

Depending on your point of view about climate change we may be changing our environment so that it eventually won't sustain us. Not that we'd probably destroy the earth, but we might end up introducing a set of conditions that will restore at least some balance to the environment over the long span of future history.

In the film The Matrix, Agent Smith tells Morpheus that people are like a virus. We move to an area, consume all of the available resources to exhaustion and then move on, leaving nothing behind. Then we proceed to another area and do the same thing. Assuming a closed environment, we'll eventually run out of room and resources (food, water, air). That's in some sense, how the machines took over as the dominant "species" (and notice that humans were still fighting back).

What's the answer? All we have to do is continue to do as we're doing and eventually, we'll consume everything there is to consume and, without the necessities of life, large numbers of us will stop living. Will we damage the ecosystem beyond repair? Maybe. Maybe not. If there aren't nearly as many of us around and if our existence isn't dependant on large, resource consuming economies, then like many other living things, the planet will start to heal. After that, who knows? I'm already way too deep into the realm of speculation to be speaking with a great deal of accuracy.

I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom, but I do wonder how we can write so clearly and accurately in our fantasy and fiction about the dangers of our lifestyle and then not do a damn thing about it.

Maybe we are Borg. Just a thought.


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