Friday, December 23, 2016

Are We Sitting on a Powder Keg?

Are we sitting on a powder keg ready to explode?

If you are a student of human history, you will notice a pattern over the decades and centuries.  People seem to get along for a while, try to build a civilization, engage in trade, and whatnot, until, over time, tensions build up and everyone suddenly says, "Fuck it, let's just all kill one another!"

You can try to pin the "source" of this violence on particular trends or events.  But the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was less a cause of World War I, I think, than the human tendency to just go berserk every so often and destroy everything in sight.

And I think this is part of human nature.   We can talk a good game about diplomacy and using sanctions to bring rogue nations in line.  But it is just logical window-dressing covering up the underlying emotional stresses that affect people en mass.  It is a form of mass hysteria.

Since the end of World War II, there have been a number of smaller conflicts flaring up across the planet.  We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than in all of World War II.  In Cambodia, they engaged in genocide.   In a way, these are not "smaller" conflicts, but large ones, just localized.

And today, with terrorism on the rise, it seems armies of people are willing to die just for the hell of it - blow themselves up for a "cause" that will never see to fruition.   I mean, really, does ISIS really think it will prevail?    How delusional do you have to be?

While crime in the United States has dropped steadily over the last years, people's perception of crime has increased dramatically.   Fear seems to dominate the news and many folks are convinced they are just moments away from a carjacking, robbery, or home invasion.

Over time, we have seen a cultivation of a culture of belligerence, which I talked about before.  In the 1960's, our sports stars were Joe Namath, who wore panty hose, and Mohamed Ali, who recited poetry (and was not a gang-banger or Muslim terrorist).   Today our sports stars murder people or run dog-fighting rings.  Poor sportsmanship is no longer the exception, but the norm.  It is only the fear of losing product endorsements that keeps many players in line these days.

But on a personal level, we as individuals have cultivated "bad-ass" personalities in terms of how we act, what we say, how we dress and what we drive.  As I noted in that earlier posting, people dress like they just left a liquor store holdup, and ride motorcycles with straight pipe like they are Hell's Angels - even if they are in fact, mild-mannered insurance salesmen.

We see a lot more violence today - explicit violence -  on the internet and television.  If you want to watch ISIS decapitation videos, it is all there - one click away.  Want to see a Mexican drug lord decapitate an informer with a chainsaw?  It's on the Internet for your viewing pleasure.  Not some actor or stunt double with special effects, but actual people brutally dying on camera in front of you.

Those were once out-of-the-way websites, but today, even the mainstream media has gory videos and photos to show you.  The BBC recently lead with a photo of an armed assassin standing over the body of the Russian ambassador - with video of the assassination available with a click (viewer discretion advised, of course!).

And there isn't much hand-wringing about it, either.  They even ran an article about why they ran the article, along with helpful hints on how to avoid "auto-play" of gory videos on your Facebook feed.

How things have changed since the days of Walter Cronkite.

People are immune to violence - desensitized to the most extreme forms of torture, abuse, and murder.   Poor ISIS is racking their brains trying to come up with some new gruesome form of killing that will make the news and alarm us - as nothing seems to break through the ennui of viewers today.  Mass executions?  Check.   Children shooting prisoners?  Check.  Immolation?  Check?  Drowning in cages?  Check.  About the only thing they haven't done is drawing and quatering, but I hate to give them any ideas (and according to one article, they have already tried this).

When people become desensitized to violence, the world becomes a more dangerous place, as ordinary people will become more willing to engage in violence.

I was at a "sports bar" the other day and while trying to eat, they had the TeeVee running, showing some sort of "extreme" fighting where people were kicking each other in the nuts in some sort of chain-link fenced enclosure.   I was trying to figure out if it was fake like Professional Wrestling, but it was hard to tell.  Seemed a lot of kicks and punches were sort of glancing blows or pulled at the last minute.  What was really disturbing was these wrestlers or boxers or whatever they were ended up in minutes-long embraces that made them look like gay porn stars.

But it struck me that the violence level was much higher than regular boxing or professional wrestling and moreover it seemed that I was the only one in the restaurant that found it unsettling to watch people beat the crap out of each other while I was eating.

Of course, the biggie is the escalating sales of firearms.   While gun ownership has declined from about 50% of households to about 33% in the last few decades, the number of guns per gun owning household has increased dramatically.  Not only that, there are a small number of people who are accumulating vast arsenals of guns, as if preparing for an apocalypse or end times, which some of them actually  profess to be doing.

In the news last week, was the "story" that "Liberals" are now buying guns to protect themselves from the armed conservatives - as if Civil War was pretty much inevitable at this point.   Protecting yourself from "criminals" is no longer deemed the reason to own a gun - being armed for the inevitable armed conflict with your fellow citizens, is.   The shit is going to hit the fan, the narrative goes, and you'd better be prepared for the day of reckoning.  Judgement day is at hand!

Again, this is not some planned event or conspiracy or whatnot - although conspiracy theories certainly play into this.  The more people believe in fiction over reality, the worse it will get.   We are already seeing a parallel to the 1930's today - where people are willing to suspend disbelief and ignore the plight of others.   Aleppo or Czechoslovakia, we really don't care, so long as it isn't in our backyard and we've preserved "Peace for our Time".

Put it all together - people armed to the teeth and acting belligerent,  desensitized to extreme violence and viewing people who disagree with them as less-than-human.   Fear rampant among entire classes of people for little or no reason.  And of course, decades since real conflict or war in our home country.

It is a powder keg waiting to go off.   And the question is, do we try to disarm this ticking bomb, or just prepare for the inevitable, by arming ourselves or escaping to some other country?

Why does humanity have to be so idiotic - time and time again?

Of course, this is Christmas time, a time for peace on earth and goodwill toward men, right?

Well, I hate to be a bummer, but that isn't exactly how the Bible tells it.  The actual quote is:
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men of good will. "

Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 2:1-14
Some other translations are even more succinct:  Peace on earth to men who are in God's favor.

In other words, Merry Christmas to me, and the rest of you can piss off.

This does not bode well.