Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 22

Today I'd like to talk about Thomas Malthus. Malthus wrote a short work predicting the end of humanity, due to unsustainable population growth. He showed that there were a limited set of resources, particularly food. He took the existence of a finite resource and exponential population growth to its most logical end point.He predicted that human beings would starve to death. He wrote this in 1798. He did not, and really could not, predict the agricultural revolution. Invention and knowledge increased humans' ability to produce food at a much more productive rate.

I bring up Malthus because he fits the current theme of those that are not, per se, end times prophets, but doomsday seers, nonetheless. Now I'm not one of those that says that global warming isn't occurring. What I  am saying is that we, as human beings, like to be scared. It's why we go to horror movies and ride roller coasters and tell ghost stories. I think that much of the doomsday scenarios pique that latent part of our brain that gets our adrenaline pumping. That's why people want to watch movies where a major city gets flattened by a meteor, or frozen, or burned, or Godzilla'd... That's why we can't get enough of the history channel when they talk about how the world will end. It's exciting. Even negative events are still major events and we treat them as such. The old entertainment schedule used to be sports, sitcoms, dramas and novels. It seems in today's world our entertainment has turned into reality, some more reality, staged reality, news, and news that looks like a reality show. It seems once we got a taste for real suffering, real pain, real catastrophe, the fictional substitute became too bland. The real danger here is that it's removed. It's someone else's pain and it's far away. Admit it. We don't watch it because we empathize or because it will affect us. We watch it because it's exciting. We watch severe weather like we're kids waiting for Santa to come. Do you really need a "storm tracker update" every 15 minutes? Do you really need to go out with the other throngs of people to buy bread, milk and eggs? It's the excitement of feeling that your a part of something that's really happening and it's happening on a big scale. Let's keep naming them: war in Israel/Palestine, riots in Egypt, Sandy and the Jersey shore, "zombies" eating people's faces in L.A. This isn't news, it's entertainment. It's the last cry for help of the post-modern era. I am so far removed from real people and real issues, that I crave it so badly, I will tune in every chance I get to watch other people live through a real experience. I'm looking forward to the Apocalypse since it will give everyone a chance to truly experience all at once. There will be no audience, only participants.

And that brings us back to Malthus. I think we spend our time worrying about these predictions and how we'll go. The real truth of the "end" is that it is the end of something, which always marks the beginning of something else. Malthus couldn't understand the world in terms that were beyond his current level of thinking.  A dog can't have any concept what it must be like to be human. A coral doesn't dream about what it must be like to see. Humans can't even begin to conceive of reality that is the mind of God. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes,

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.        Albert Einstein