Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Alive in 2015

Reading through some of my previous year-end posts, I was struck how optimistic last year's post was. I don't remember 2014 with much fondness and yet things then were arguably better than this year. 

I think 2015 is the year when a lot people decided to give up hope in slow, steady progress. I don't have any other explanation for what transpired. The Ebola panic of 2014 has become the immigration panic, ISIS panic, and the Trump panic, and half a dozen other emergencies that have to be DEALT WITH RIGHT NOW! Then, something that does represent an actual challenge for this country, indeed the world, Global Warming brings together the entire world in an agreement that while rudimentary, lays some ground work for the future (as we know it) on this planet. That is a huge achievement that this country helped bring into being.

And yet - we're told this is a country that has lost its greatness. That this country has been humbled and defeated. 

I simply can't believe it. 

I see a country that continues to do what it always does, prioritize business over nearly every concern,  look for quick easy solutions to complex problems, and put up barriers to people we should be welcoming to this country with open-arms. 

I also see a country that continues to be what it always has been, a place that finds meaning in community and fellowship, displays of great sincerity and ingenuity, and constantly changes its demographics and beliefs and outlook.

This country refuses to agree, like it always does. 

I'm not sure what 2016 is going to be like. I have long since stopped guessing about when or if Trump is going to drop out. The fact is, a significant portion of this country likes what Trump is saying. I think they are mistaken but then again, that is why we have elections. If people I agree with cannot overcome a demagogue like Trump, if there aren't enough of us, or if we don't try hard enough, or if we aren't smart enough, then we deserve to fail. 

I don't think we are going to fail.

Yet, it was precisely the idea of failure and collapse I returned to again and again this year. I joked that this was the year of the post-apocalypse. I get maniacal about topics every once in a while. Last year it was True Detective, the year before that -Star Trek, and well, this year I got really keen on reading and watching as much as I could about the fall of human civilization. I don't have a bug-out bag, and although I subscribed to r/collapse, I'm not going to look into fallout shelters any time soon.

I tried to write up my feelings about the post-apocalypse in a previous post but in revisiting it, I see that a lot of what we mean when we write about the end of the world is what we want to keep. What is important is that we fear we might lose. The best, most popular, works of post-apocalyptic fiction put that something in peril, and then show how it arises once more. Which is fine, but it also misses something. Collapses in history have not been abrupt cataclysms. They have been accelerated periods of transition. When the Late Bronze Age civilizations of New Kingdom Egypt, Hittite Empire, and the Mycenaeans fell into hard times, it didn't mean that people stopped living in the Mediterranean basin. It meant they stopped one way of life in favor of a new, more complex form of civilization. 

If I learned anything from this year, it's that while dangers and disasters happen, they often cause the most pain when people refuse to let go of what they perceive to be indispensable. Maybe somethings are worth defending but we have to, as a country, acknowledge that other things might not be worth the trouble.


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