A kids’ story from Ron Martin–his message–you can’t stop bad things from happening but you can choose how you respond
“What is the world coming to?” We hear it all the time. I have said it myself.
There likely hasn’t been a generation that hasn’t mourned the “good old days” and that hasn’t thought the “kids these day” are just not what they used to be. But we really are in a period of unusually dramatic change. I don’t think we can deny that the revolution is here and the fundamental changes taking place in our society and on the planet could make the industrial revolution and WWs 1 and 2 look like blips on the historical timeline.
Certainty has been obliterated. Not just in the economy, but in so many things this generation has never questioned before—health care, education, transportation, weather, food production—everything we have previously just assumed would be there for us.
People are looking for someone or something to blame. The idea that there is a giant conspiracy to twist our brains and turn us into nasty mindless robots permeates social media. Even privileged people with exceptionally good lives are quick to get angry and blame governments, corporations, managers, owners, basically anyone in charge of anything, for their inconveniences. People feel like victims but they have trouble identifying the oppressor. The easy target is the 1%, whoever they are, or the corporations, whoever they are, or Trudeau, as if he has personally upended Canadian society.
COVID exacerbated the situation. No one loved that experience and we all became geniuses spouting better ways to deal with it. Many people thought (think) the bumbling governments and fumbling health systems were perfect proof that there were masterminds behind the disaster…forces deliberately messing us up. What COVID did, without a doubt, is create a deep fissure in society that is still affecting us all.
I don’t have a brilliant explanation for our current dilemma. I wish I did. I wish someone did because relationships are not mending and we are more disgruntled than at any time I can remember. Anti vaxxers believe the mainstream population has been duped into getting vaccinated out of fear and lies being promoted by media that is controlled by large corporate interests. The vaccinated believe anti vaxxers are driven by fear of human manipulation and conspiracies around every corner being promoted by large interests controlling social media. COVID will keep us fighting for a long time. Now whenever you have a medical condition you can blame it on the vaccination or on long COVID…which ever side you are on…as long as we can blame…and as long as we can keep proving ourselves right and everyone else wrong.
Humans are not doing very well. We have lost our grip. Almost everyone is feeling a loss of control as we glue ourselves to our devices and read/watch things that reinforce what we already believe.
My sense is that humans are largely the authors of their own destinies and that the general public is as complicit with unhelpful behaviours and decisions as the people they vote to govern them are responsible. I think that masses of humans create destinies that few individual humans really want. I also like Occam’s razor theory…simple explanations for our problems are likely to be more correct than unnecessary and improbable reasons.
So why is our ferry service so damn sketchy these days? The other morning while we were waiting for what appeared to be a 2-hour delayed ferry I heard a loudly disgruntled customer say, “They want us to believe that it’s a staffing issue. They always want to blame the staff.”
“It is the staff,” I said. “Not the staff that gets to work but the staff that no one can find these days to deliver our services.”
He didn’t like my response. He wanted to blame BC ferries and the government. He even wanted to blame Trudeau. Eventually he understood the simple distinction I was trying to make.
“You watch,” another island resident warned me. “Big corps and big developers are behind the ferry delays. They are deliberately messing up the service so it’ll breed discontent and anger and then we’ll support their plan to build bridges between the islands. You wait. The government will go for it. They are just puppets.”
With my head spinning I thought about conversations I had in the 1970s. We talked about the baby boom and the huge, bulging, privileged, middle class society we had built in the western world after WW2. Universities, museums, health care, resorts, investments, malls, material goods, real estate, travel…something for everyone, or perhaps everything for everyone. The more we built the more we wanted and thought we needed. We did it because we could. There was plenty of everything especially our #1 resource—people. We were streaming out of universities in droves. With knowledge and skills only to be exceeded by our expectations followed by the blithe assumption that our excesses were our entitlements.
“What’s going to happen when our generation is 70 and 80? How will the next generations maintain the social edifice that we are building? Will they even want to? Will there be enough people to look after our old bodies? Never mind keep up all the other services we’ve come to expect.”
The answer is no. The answer has always been no. We know that now and we knew it then. But we were 20-something and 80 felt like a long time off. We wanted to enjoy ourselves while we could.
The explanation for the crumbling of the western middle class, the inability of society to maintain what it created, the digging in of corporate fingernails to hold onto control, supply chain issues, rising costs, the destruction of the ecosystem and on and on does not need a grand conspiracy.
What we built was simply unsustainable. We had no business building it in the first place. Our expectations were unreasonable and unfulfillable. We had no business expecting them. Our appetite for personal comfort, self-gratification, material stimulation just could not be satiated.
Sometimes our beautiful planet reminds me of a beleaguered husband or wife who has a demanding spouse that simply can never be satisfied. You see these people around. They drag their poor sorry butts after their loved one getting this and doing that. They look tired and more haggard all the time while they are barked orders they are unable to fulfil.
When we watch we want to say, “Stop! Just stop and be happy with what you’ve got!! Your poor old spouse is not going to be able to run around making you happy forever.”
Writing this has helped me find an answer…for me…for now. “Stop! Just stop and be happy with what I’ve got!! Society is not going to be able to run around and make me happy forever.”
I need to remember the problems we are facing are not about me. They are not about you. They are much bigger than us both r. I wish I could point my finger at who is to blame. It would be easier that way. But the finger would point back at me. Individually we are all part of the problem and collectively my generation has been a huge part of the problem. We built a world that cannot survive and that will take down the ecosystem with it. Individually we may not be able to solve society’s current problems but we can control how we respond to them.
We can stop arguing, demanding and blaming.
We can look inward and reassess our assumptions and realign our needs, wants and expectations.
We can look outward and focus on what we can do, not what we think or what we read, or what someone said was going to happen, but what can we do for someone else?
Do something. Anything. We need each other, folks. We even need people we disagree with. The biggest question is not who is right and who is wrong or who is to blame.
Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote helps us reset our energy and our priorities. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?”