Tangled paradoxes

In each corridor I go in search of answers another paradox shows itself. Was just chatting last night with a buddy and this topic arose, since I can’t shut up about it. I’m always left frustrated by how all seemingly good ideas still wind us humans up in what appear to be unwinnable conundrums.

If we fight some other power to keep it from overtaking us (as in the cases of countries waging war), we risk our own society becoming damaged in the process. In the case of warfare: through maintaining standing armies and the risks (and empire-building) that go along with that; through attacking foreign nationals who very often are mere civilians not belonging to the extremist groups said to be presenting a direct threat to us (which then diminishes people’s respect for our nation’s military actions and gives rise to protests among our own citizens); through the exorbitant costs associated with waging war and how that impacts our economy overall, including how the military wound up transformed into a permanent employment sector in its own right; through soldiers potentially winding up psychologically or physically impacted as a result (and how that then impacts their families and the morale of the nation); through corporations finding ways to cash in on the war games via State contracts, which then provides them with an incentive to further lobby to keep us engaged in war where it can prove profitable; etc.

That’s just a cursory look at how ongoing warfare has led to negative consequences with lasting impact on a nation and its people and their way of life. And that’s not even going into how militarization has seeped into domestic police forces and influenced their tactics used.

See, the problem here for me is that I cannot figure out how we’re not ultimately going to wind up in a totalitarian setup eventually, somehow, some way. All roads appear to lead in that direction, regardless of people’s good intentions or what great ideas they might originally be operating with. Because technologies have changed the way the whole game of Life is played anymore, as have modern economics. The complexity is inescapable at this point, and yet history has taught us that the devil is in the details. What this might mean here is that the means employed determine the end outcome, unrealistic utopian fantasies set aside since they hold no real bearing. And it also means that any highly complex setup is vulnerable to corruption and ‘siphoning’ at various levels therein (as in the case of corporations getting into the mix and seeking ways to profit, even though through doing so they add greater complexity, which then further obscures the total reality of the situation, making it all the more cumbersome to apply necessary and effective checks and balances). Economic efficiency becomes a high priority, which comes with its own drawbacks in terms of how we humans are expected to mold ourselves to fit these demands. Before we know it, maintaining the system in question at all costs becomes a primary focus, because we’ve come to depend upon it and are accustomed to it and basically form an irrational attachment to it, even when it’s demonstrably creating more problems than it’s capable of solving.

The dog days are over…

If we minimized the size, scope and roles of our government, we’d potentially leave ourselves open and vulnerable to other nations that fortify and strengthen their own. And if we further strengthen and enlarge our own, this cycle of ramping up never ends — forward to totalitarianism. Can’t truly opt out or escape since the problem’s gone global and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. This places us in the precarious situation of forcing all other nations to stand down against our demands, lest we wind up being made to stand down to theirs. MAD (mutually-assured destruction) is still with us — it never left and it likely never will.

If we don’t secure our borders, we risk being invaded, if only by an onslaught of immigrants who then wind up dramatically impacting our culture. But if we close our borders, we’re trapping ourselves inside every bit as much as we’re working to keep others out. And, realistically speaking, how does one truly and sufficiently go about securing a nation’s borders? The most determined will likely still find a way, especially along coastlines. This leads back to a massive top-down operation which is only possible under a powerful government. Which then, again, helps pave the way toward totalitarianism.

Another buddy and I were discussing the other day his concerns over climate change and what possible options people have at this point for reversing this trend (if one accepts climate change as a human-exacerbated phenomenon). He speaks of wind and solar power and people growing their own food and living simply. That all sounds well and good, BUT, again, climate change is only one concern among many that humans face today. We can’t put all of our energy toward addressing that, not when that’d leave us wide open in other areas. (See what I said above already about warfare and immigration.) Not to mention that the vast majority of people, here in the U.S. and elsewhere worldwide, don’t view this issue as being the numero uno concern to tackle. Plus, plenty of people are open to nuclear power because they’d rather that than accept drastic changes to their lifestyles and be forced to make sacrifices. Beyond that, these massive wind turbines and complex solar panels are sophisticated technologies requiring corporate manufacturing. Keeps us tied into the money game, which then keeps us supporting this global economic situation, whether we want to or not and likely to humanity’s detriment in the long-run. But it’s inescapable at this juncture.

In continuing our conversation on the matter, I told this buddy that if it came down to jumping on board with a top-down scheme that claims to be capable of handling administering such an undertaking as retooling our energy infrastructure, I’ll personally have to side with not. Not that I don’t care about the environment and not that I don’t think renewable energy is something worth striving toward (or getting back to), but the top-down scheme is yet another avenue toward totalitarianism. It helps pave that road to hell, all good intentions aside. This depresses him to think about, understandably so. But consider how China behaves as if its manufacturing base doesn’t care and how our nation cannot do much to change that. Even if we boycott their products, at this point they’re too powerful and it’s already too late (Thanks WALMART and other big-box stores). Probably shouldn’t have shipped so much of our manufacturing infrastructure to that country in the first place. But what’s done is done — our lack of foresight has screwed us once again.

This all ties in with conversations on how “Leftists” talk the talk when it comes to “green living,” but in reality they’re as tied in and dependent on the current status quo as the rest of us. Driving a Prius doesn’t really change a thing. Small drops in the bucket might make us feel better, like we’re at least doing our part to try to improve environmental conditions, but very often it’s just another illusion. Why? Because we live in a massive infrastructure, a concrete jungle, powered by heavy dependence on oil and coal, and even if we switched over to nuclear power that wouldn’t imply our biggest worries are behind us. Possibly Chernobyl-izing more arable land sounds every bit as folly as anything else humanity has managed to step in thus far.

Sound pessimistic? Yeah, I know. Yet another reason for why I’m not having kids.

Any and all attempts to reverse these trends or to take an alternative path is fraught with equally bad, if not much worse, consequences. We have a massive global population and must contend with the competition that arises over resources as a result. And the complexity of the technologies we in developed nations rely most on are fueled by the big money game. One way or another, major corporations are here to stay (unless we manage to across-the-board knock ourselves back into the Stone Age somehow). Government can either attempt to regulate them or become enmeshed and intertwined with them, the latter already being the case. So big government’s here and big business is here and neither are going anywhere. Any ideas we come up with to try to overhaul life as we know it will depend on these entities aiding us. Because asking them to stand aside and not obstruct us just isn’t realistic anymore. All possible solutions will be handled by some sort of centralized power, top-down system. These entities indeed intend to maintain the power they have already and to expand it where possible. That is their driving goal, for better or worse.

And this is where someone like me can’t sufficiently adapt. Have to so long as I’m here, but really resenting where it all appears to be heading. What other alternatives are feasible? Split this country into several sovereign communities (as it once was intended to be) where each does as it wishes and no centralized power can dictate, and we’ll probably wind up invaded by both Mexico and Canada by next week. Simply because then they could. We’d be rendered defenseless. So the “traditional” dream is dead, folks. I too like the idea of people living on the land and staying out of the muck so long as they’re able. Best of luck to them! I don’t begrudge people for doing what they think is best during what time remains that they can get away with it. But I see limits on the horizon. Eventually the old ways won’t be allowed to fly any longer, and they won’t prove sustainable or practical for most. Not in this setup.

Welcome to modern life.

I don’t know what to say to us right about now. Feels like nearly all advice is pointless. People are going to do what people are going to do. And I suspect some of those unable or unwilling to adjust will turn destructive as a result. That’s to be expected from obstructed people whose lives feel devoid of meaning, made to compete with machines that grow more sophisticated by the year, made to play a game that not everybody can win at (or even nominally succeed at). Such is modern life. Some will give up before even leaving the starting line. And I won’t be surprised if a growing number of people choose not to have children as well…kind of like caged animals in a zoo reacting to being kept in captivity. Won’t surprise me a bit. And there’s where we get into another arm of what will pave the way toward totalitarianism. The trend is already being labeled as “domestic terrorism,” though I prefer to simplify it by calling it what it is at root: insanity.

Insanity, as I prefer to refer to it as, can (and will) take many forms. People today sure do love to diagnose one another with various psychiatric labels, but in truth we’re all struggling to various degrees, pseudo-scientific explanations aside. Some cope better than others, but it’s mostly a matter of putting on an acceptable facade. We really have no idea what goes on behind the masks others show to the world, much as we love to speculate. Some insanity plays out in rather benign ways and is being catered to and exploited by Big Pharma. More severe cases warrant lock-up in mental institutions or prisons (which are fast becoming the same thing). All of that already plays into the power-structure-that-be. And when someone flips out and decides to go psycho on some random group of people, this reinforces the necessity of expanding domestic police forces and is then also used to justify them beefing up their security measures. Which corporations exploit by peddling wares to law enforcement agencies that allow for greater surveillance of the citizenry. This paranoid panic drummed up among the citizens through the popular media encourages us to turn on one another and to snitch to authorities, seeing as how we’re not all on the same team and regard one another more often than not as strangers worthy of suspicion. So we feed the beast, through our own actions or through alerting authorities to “questionable suspects,” and around and around it all spirals.

Where it ends, nobody knows…

Sound like a happy and productive future? Sound like something worth celebrating? Sound like a cause for optimism?

People say that we somehow need to regain the reins of this System, to figure out a way to subdue it and overhaul it, but time for that has passed. We’re now committed to it. We necessarily depend on it while simultaneously fearing its scope and power. The System is entrenched, and we’re entrenched within it, both as employees and citizens dependent on everything it offers in order to maintain our livelihoods. And what alternative is there?

Fight it how? Lobby to change a few laws? ha  Go for it, folks. Try that. As was brought up in a recent conversation, the moderate people do indeed wind up making concessions and compromises that inevitably just dig them deeper into this mess. The so-called “radicals” on the fringes, misguided as they may seem and indeed be, are the only ones willing to make a big stink, and how many do you imagine will wind up imprisoned for their troubles? But, then again, what alternative can the radicals bring to the table either? Thousands of communities going their own ways apparently won’t work anymore. A break in law and order would just result in opposing groups taking advantage of one another and seizing key resources for themselves. Because that’s where we stand today — saturated with several decades of easy living, forever seeking the easy way out, competing and pushing boundaries where we think we can get away with it — yet still up against other powers-that-be.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of good people in the world. But it only takes a calloused, self-serving, social-contract-dismissing minority interest to fuck it up for everybody else.

So there we have it. Where can we as individuals go from here when this is the outlook? Is this merely a problem in my own perception? What is still worth looking forward to and striving toward?

Anyway, my break is over and I need to head back to work.

[Lightly edited since for punctuation and greater clarification.]

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