Over many thousands of years humanity has become locked into what has become an existential struggle with ourselves that we refuse to honestly recognize. Our struggle is existential because our rapid development of technology has outstripped our ability to use our technology honestly. Our struggle with honesty and self honesty is due to the potently addictive nature of the molecules of our emotionalism. Humanity is addicted to an aspect of its own brain chemistry.
Every thought we think, every choice we make is influenced by our emotional state of the moment. The more emotion we employ the more prone to errors we become. People experience a kind of auto-intoxication from their emotional responses that makes the idea of substituting what we wish or want for what actually exists feel appealing in the moment. We then, very commonly, make choices and act based on our false perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. This fundamental dishonesty with the self is the source of all unnecessary human suffering, and unnecessary animal suffering, too.
There are currently 8 billion people alive on our planet and all but for a rounding error extravagantly value their emotions based on false beliefs. I’m not sure anybody has solved it in application; I certainly haven’t. I hesitate to say “all” when referring to 8 billion of anything. The beliefs and expectations people value and the moral values they internalize, in turn, are a product of our ongoing cycle of reproduction. We raise our children with our beliefs, more or less, without sufficiently examining our own beliefs, first.
All of the major pressures humanity is experiencing are collectively self induced by our species.
Our climate crisis represents many billions of decisions made by billions of people over more than a century to reject the physical limits of our environment and the impacts of our choices. We collectively pretended our individual choices don’t amount to a hill of beans – they’re inconsequential, while we also pretended that our collective ventures were still too puny to harm our massive world as a whole. We pretended money, technological progress, and the comforts of excess were more important than survival.
Our economic crises, wealth inequality, and all of their roll-off effects are due to billions of people making many billions of everyday choices to value their emotions concerning money more than the harm caused by their pursuit of wealth. The only reason the rich want to be richer is because they possess an uncontrolled addiction to their emotions pertaining to acquiring, amassing, and holding onto more money. Why do the rest of us value their greed like we do? Why do we respect those who are most enthralled with their emotionalism? I suspect our own false beliefs and denials will answer that. I suspect in many cases it boils down to “If they can do it, I can do it, too.” or some other simple self validation. What does your conscience whisper while reading this?
Our social crises, racism, sexism, chauvinism, sexual bigotry, and in fact prejudice in all of its forms stem directly from the way people choose to value their emotions pertaining to the values they hold relevant to the prejudice in question. Most violence and sexual abuse happens for the same reason; people’s emotionally driven choices. Some people enjoy and become addicted to hate and fear to the point they become outwardly proud of their ignorance regardless of the personal fallout they endure from people with more inclusive values. Some people choose to enjoy the conflict. Such people are more prone to engaging in acts of violence because they do not possess the same values of self restraint and respect for other people that many of us value. Some people do not care what is real.
Humanity has become lost in a mental fog of its own creation. People chose over thousands of years to indulge their emotionalism to try to cheat their way out of accepting the horrors of our world, and of our existence. What happened as a result was we created a plethora of new horrors with which we must contend – in avoidance of the real problem. In tandem with our emotional charging of our life experiences we developed and then clung to any ideas that seemed to make life more tolerable, no matter how farfetched the ideas may be. It’s important to remember that before the advent of scientific investigation people simply had no foundation of knowledge about how we and the world actually work. We had ideas but few facts. Over time, people learned they could comfort themselves with their emotions by adhering to beliefs and values that predicate comforting emotional responses. And so began religion. The facts of our world were unimportant in comparison to our desire to cope with the horror by any means necessary.
In modern times people’s lives are more disparate in character than ever. Over here, we have millions of people whose lives are dominated by their entertainment pursuits, and over here we have millions people still struggling to grow enough food by hand to survive another season. It is far too easy for us to discount the life experience of other people in faraway places, who live in ways we can barely imagine, and that we don’t want to imagine in too much detail. Every single one of our 8 billion people are equally real and each person possesses an equally infinite capacity to suffer. How then do so many of us bury ourselves in fantasy in avoidance of life, turning a blind eye to everybody out of our line of sight? Emotionalism, simply put. Emotionalism is how we facilitate the dishonesty with ourselves necessary to dishonestly reject real aspects of ourselves and each other. It’s how we pretend the other people who we don’t know personally in our building or city or nation or planet are not really real – not to a degree that’s worth thinking or worrying about – except perhaps in the most topical manners.
Humanity doesn’t have very long to recover from its emotional addictions. Our climate crisis has accelerated and potentiated into something we can no longer significantly influence, not that we’ve honestly tried, yet, even with 50 years of environmental movements behind us. Our climate crisis severely threatens global food supplies and it seems unlikely with the pace of its acceleration that we will be able to feed ourselves, globally, beyond perhaps 2040 or 2050. And then things continue to get rapidly worse in the proceeding 50 years needed to get to the year 2100 milestone everybody tries to imagine as being so significant. Our ecological collapse is hastening, too. It’s more difficult to predict due to the complexity of not just our environment but the organisms within it, too, but it is accelerating. By some estimates insects may globally die off by around 2040. For all of these reasons and more I think humanity will become extinct during this century.
If this is true, if I turn out to be reasonably correct, what’s the point of doing anything at this late stage? It’s a valid question I’ve been asked repeatedly. The answer is fairly simple. We exist, and we suffer. We are still procreating, which means we’re still creating new generations of people who will suffer the worst of our climate crisis along with all of our other crises. We are in decline and we cannot change it because we refuse to accept it. As a species we have lost the battle for sapience, choosing instead to succumb to emotionally driven fantasies. Our pending extinction is collectively deserved in the sense that it is physical cause and effect. We’re still causing it.
But the suffering humanity will experience as our decline accelerates is still mutable. This is the one aspect of our climate crisis over which we can still choose to exert human agency. We could choose to suffer much less as we decline because most of our suffering is unnecessary and self inflicted due to our emotional addictions. We could individually and cooperatively try to help ourselves attain better values, beliefs, and expectations so that we don’t cause so much unnecessary suffering as we approach the end. We could greatly reduce the amount of suffering we experience in totality with this same attitude.
I just don’t think we will. I think our emotional addictions are too strong. Our brains have adapted to exist throughout our lives in a varying state of auto-intoxication because our world is just too damned marginal for us to avoid suffering beyond our capacity to bear. The amount of work it has taken me to pull myself up just enough to see it, just my eyes above the water line of this ocean of dishonestly derived emotionalism tells me that very few people will have either the opportunity or inclination to undertake a similar path of self edification. And for many of us it’s not even our fault. The demands and expectations piled upon us by the system and the people we value are often too much.
The irony is that we complicated our lives to the point we don’t have a minute to think about our selves and we do this in avoidance of thinking about our selves. Because we are afraid. We are afraid because we internalized other people’s expectations telling us we should be afraid of that which we do not fully understand when we should have been taught to embrace the unknown as the greatest teacher there is. We have only to ask the right questions and to possess the moral rectitude to answer ourselves honestly. This applies to both the internal human scales and to how we perceive and interact with the grand scales of our environment.
Of all of the reasons a sapient species could become extinct I think ours chose the absolute dumbest reason possible. We should at least have the decorum to rename ourselves from Homo sapiens sapiens (“sapiens” meaning “wise) to something more appropriate, like Homo sapiens error. The word “error” derives from the Latin and includes meanings like “delusion” or “to stray away [from reality]”. This describes both the nature and the impact of our delusion succinctly and it implies a finality I believe is warranted.