Friday, June 27, 2014

Observations, June 2014

Here in LA you'd never guess that the state of California is weathering the worst drought in its history. Lawns and gardens are green, flowers bloom, the infamous palms have yet to succumb to desiccation. But when I walk out in the hills I see a different landscape, parched beyond recognition -- beyond anything I've seen or could have imagined in years past.

I've spent a good part of the last year reading up on the latest climate change data, and I've learned that the outlook is very bad, far worse than most people know. Part of that story is the Western drought: unceasing, intensifying, bewildering. The fires will be very bad. If not this year, then soon. It cannot be any other way without rain.

In the US -- ostensibly still among the wealthiest nations on earth -- the income chasm between rich and poor has grown to be nearly unbreachable by any mortal soul. The disparity has grown stunning. The stinging contrast between the insatiable consumption of the wealthy and the utter dejection of most everybody else assaults my senses and vexes my sense of justice.

Elsewhere in the world there's a growing fire of a different kind as nation after nation is consumed by uncontrollable conflagrations of violence. These fires are burning now out of control and apparently spreading. Iraq, a country utterly destroyed by the US, not once but twice, now burns with ethnic and religious hatred, as do Syria, the Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria, and so on. A UN count announced yesterday tallies the number of refugees on earth to be  some 50 million, greater than at any time since the end of Second World War, if not in all of human history.

Yet around me I see only a great and willful denial of reality. People are desperate to believe everything is ok, but it's not and deep inside, below the scan of the conscious, we all know it. The culture of denial is now endemic. The Great Lie has taken on a life and logic of its own. People can barely pull their faces out of their smartphones long enough to note their immediate surroundings, much less take an interest in the great forces at work in the world. The Great Lie persists, even in the face of overwhelming negation.

All this leaves me exasperated and exhausted, grasping for a foothold on the featureless cliff face of reality.

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