Living in one place for any length of time supplies a kind of general knowledge, but that tepid way of knowing is often vague to the point of uselessness. I may be able to see and identify, for instance, the particular song of a western meadowlark, and I may thrill at the extraordinary memories it calls forth from my youth on the Great Basin desert, but other than the sound it makes and the emotionally pleasing memories stirred up in my brain, what do I really know about western meadowlarks?
Such was the case, recently, when after two years of intensive work, archaeologists announced the discovery of a 7000 year-old Native burial site off the coast of Florida. Or, similarly, when archaeologists revealed new theories about the workings of the ancient Roman Plutonium, where animal sacrifices were made to reinforce notions of divinity. Or in Sweden, recently, when archaeologists discovered 8000 year-old human heads impaled on spikes.
For long-term thinkers, the most alarming part of our failure to have the right conversation about the causes of predatory mass killings is that our civil liberties are put at risk. The seductive anodynes put forth by short-term thinkers require that law-abiding citizens sacrifice their own freedoms in a well-meaning but clearly improbable effort to stuff the predator genie back into the bottle.
There can be little doubt that Homo Sapiens is the most dangerous predator the world has ever produced. We have enormous brains capable of building systems to overcome friction, the ability to accomplish complex planning within those systems, and opposable thumbs to assist in the execution of the plan. We have canine teeth and forward-looking eyes. We are the most accomplished killers in the animal kingdom, exceptional when hunting alone, but capable of cooperating in large groups to make a kill.
At the current pace of development and disenfranchisement of the human mind, one might be forgiven for wondering at what point a modern version of the Luddites packs a van full of explosives and attempts to drive it through the gates of Google, or Apple, or Intel.
Nevertheless, in an era when the word “Resistance” is bandied about rather cavalierly and, it appears, claimed by every emotional mass movement du jour, I think it’s worth thinking about what a worst-case scenario might actually look like.
This proclivity to study drama rather than its origins — prevalent I think — is one result of our metamorphosis from a nation of can-do optimists with a healthy suspicion of government into a nation of miserable cynics who ironically embrace the influence and beneficence of government no matter the cost.
We are, many of us, walking around with a veteran consumerist’s thousand-yard stare, which can be seen clearly in the aisles of any Target or WalMart, where the shell-shocked and emotionally flat-lined queue up daily to buy mostly disposable products manufactured by sweat-shop slaves in Chittagong and Rangoon. Especially when there is a “Fire Sale” or its cousin, the infamous “Year End” sale, and my personal favorite, the “Blowout Sale
Those of us making a deliberate choice to resist these pernicious influences in our lives had better accept that we will, eventually, be made into outlaws and Indians. Our insistence on remaining reasonably self-reliant—and vigorously defending the benefits of independence–is ultimately threatening to those who would exploit us for profit and notions of progress.
We have so much, we are so virtually surrounded by the abundance of our success, and yet we are among the least satisfied, ardently unhappy, and in some ways spiritually destitute people on the planet. Since 1957, the median income of Americans has risen some 85%, while the average assessment of our own happiness has decreased by 5%. That’s no accident.