So: here it is, then, the topsy-turvy world I vaguely remember from Brave New World. A world where the absurdity is so great that it frequently occasionally feels as though the world has flipped absolutely over and up has become down and everything has changed so rapidly, so unalterably, and so inexplicably that nothing really makes sense.
For example, Chilean coal miners will have to live in a hole underground for three to four months, BP oil spills in the Gulf and we add chemicals on top of it and scientists admit that no one knows what any of it on that scale will mean in the long term. We routinely blast the tops from mountains and push the peaks into the rivers below, so we destroy two things simultaneously and we barely even shrug. We invent nuclear power. We expand its use, even though we’re still not sure what to do with the spent rods when they can’t be recycled any longer. So we bury them: radioactive bones hidden by the dog-people. We frack. And all of it, for what? So there can be a light in the refrigerator. So that even our closets can be air-conditioned. And things like that seem absurdly frivolous to exchange human lives and the earth for.
We feed grass-eating animals corn. And then we supplement the corn with soybeans. And then we supplement that with meat by-product. So we have cows eating cows and corn and soybeans and chickens unwittingly cannibalizing chickens. And then, because they seem so unhealthy, we hop them up on antibiotics. And then we decide that, with chickens especially, they’re really just too, well, chicken-like and so we genetically modify them. All of which seems less than humane. And why? So McDonald’s can give us nuggets for a quarter apiece on Thursdays and so kids will have an excuse to eat more ketchup. And that seems a bit strange, too.
And there’s the sex life of frogs to consider. You know, the frogs with three legs or six eyes or what have you. The ones with rapidly diminishing male populations because the assorted melange of Prozac, hormone replacements, Rogaine, pesticide, and road salt in the waterways seems to affect hormone production and encourage strange genetic mutations. Endocrine disruption from microscopic amounts of chemicals that can’t quite be filtered out or eradicated. And it seems to have hit certain amphibious species first, which really sucks if you’re a frog, but will eventually get to us, too. (And in some research, it already has: American male youths have lower levels of testosterone; the birth rate for males is actually decreasing, and there’s still the question of what’s causing all the ADHD, autism, depression, and cancers). And for all the unambiguous gains due to the use of chemicals, when the water contains trace amounts of every single thing we put on or in ourselves or our land and you’re contemplating genderless or mutated frogs incapable of reproducing, it’s a little difficult not to feel that something eerie and peculiar and upside-down is happening.
And there are the conflicts and the wars and the pretexts. And people shooting because that’s what they were once ordered to do. Then the other team has to shoot back. And so on. Sometimes there’s a reason. Sometimes we only say there is. And sometimes, in some places, even those fighting admit that they don’t know why: that’s just what they’ve always done. And how in Africa (of course it is Africa; these stories are always in Africa), just over the weekend in Congo, an entire village was gang-raped: all the women, including grandmothers, and many of the children. And in other villages, the children are simply kidnapped, handed weapons, told to kill their families, and to kill or be killed. They are turned into soldiers for a non-army in a non-war. They are fighting because that’s what they’ve always done and no one stopped to ask “what for?” and besides, the government (such as it is) is following them and they’d be in trouble if they stopped. And so they go on.
And even in small, trivial matters, it all seems a bit bizarre, if I think about it much. Here, where there’s the gift of peace and occasional leisure, we have a steady diet of reality shows which ostensibly are about design or art or food. And they can be fun to watch. But the whole point seems really to be not celebrating human ingenuity or creativity, but participating vicariously in the subtle thrills of back-biting, back-stabbling, and other assorted methods of carping, sniping, and judging. The most vicious, catty comment is the highlight. The tearing down of another person, if wittily done, is the most entertaining. Only: we as people have declared bear-baiting inhumane. We no longer gather at arenas to watch people in shackles try to outrun big game cats. We like to think we are more modern and enlightened than that. But what is all the snark if not just another bloodsport, really?
It just seems to me that we all arrive in this world and we learn it and accept it. And when we grow up, we are just too busy, too threatened, too inundated and distracted by the living of life that we never have the opportunity to look at it long enough to ask ourselves if it’s really the one we want. If this life, this world, is the one we wanted or the best we can do. And maybe it is. And that would be fine, too. But I wonder sometimes if what we really need is just to halt everything for one day. To close all the non-essential things (and some of the “essential” ones, too) so that everybody could just stop for one second and look. Daydream. Think. Question. Or just breathe.
I need a snow day. And, judging from the looks of things, the entire world needs one, too.