life, sustainability
Comments 13

On being uncomfortable

Summer is slowly passing. In Hawaii the humidity is still like a blanket and we all beg for the Trade Winds to return. As a Norwegian my body is incapable of dealing with any sort of humidity and the last few months have been like an exercise in mind over matter. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

That’s pretty much the mantra for this year, isn’t it, and for any foreseeable future. I am so goddamn uncomfortable right now, in this climate, literally and figuratively.

Literally, the world is burning up. Each year and each month is hotter than the one before. Images of forest fires haunt me and I’ve been having nightmares, waking up with the smell of smoke in my nose. Politically, I’ve never been more discouraged with the direction the world is heading.

There was a parliamentary election in Norway this week and I mailed in my Green Party ballot, after hunting down the only consulate representative on the island. I still take voting very seriously, it feels like doing my part. But to no use. The rightwing (comparatively in Scandinavian terms) capitalist parties are still in power for another four years. The Green Party (a relatively new party in Norway) got 3%. The main issues were, as it is everywhere, taxes and immigrants. The center-capital-socialist parties ran on a platform that Norwegian society is becoming colder, another term for inequality, I suppose, and to reverse the trend. The voters disagreed. In Norway, like most educated countries, the concept of climate change is widely accepted and climate deniers like Trump are widely mocked. But if you make any political moves to actually enforce policies that address climate change, other than prestigious international agreements that make one look good, the vitriol is unlike anything I’ve seen in modern politics. Go to any Green Party Facebook page and marvel at the two completely different realities presented in the comments by ordinary people.

This anger towards environmentalists and, let’s face it, the true conservatives who promote preserving our natural resources at the cost of business and capital (unlike the pro-business conservatives in the US, Norway, and elsewhere) is exhausting to me.

Norway is the 7th largest oil industry in the world, yet we hardly use any of it ourselves. We use hydro (water) power which is very clean so we like to think of ourselves as an exceptionally environmentally friendly country to the point of hubris. We even think our oil industry is somehow “cleaner” than the rest of the world so of course Norway should not only continue but ramp up production. The oil industry is nationalized in Norway so all profits go into a communal ‘savings account’ that currently stand at around $800 billion. More than enough to transition Norway into a clean energy pioneer project, but not with the current government. Instead, the ones in power and their supporters argue that we should open up vulnerable areas in the northern parts (Lofoten) of the country to oil exploration and in the process damage (there is no ‘potentially damage’ when it comes to the oil industry, there are always leaks and environmental destruction.) These gorgeous and unique vistas that have been around for millions of years and are global heritage sites. But it could all be wrecked for another $60 billion in the bank. Norwegian greed knows no bound.

We are only 40 years into the neoliberal experiment and the concept of the individual having to sacrifice anything for the common good is rapidly becoming a four letter word to the majority of the employed, still hanging in there, dwindling middle class. Not even appealing to the future of their own children and grand children can sway them away from their right to luxury cars and tropical vacations. Instead we prefer to argue the science, the logic, the physics, the images in front of our eyes. We are literally going to be arguing ourselves into extinction.

This is a paradigm-shattering video so I’m not sure if I recommend it but Guy McPherson is a biologist who is looking at climate change from the standpoint of a biologist and what happens to a species when you add up everything that is threatening their habitat. The math is terrifying which is also why he spends the last half of this presentation talking about becoming comfortable with death. And why we won’t even begin to tackle climate change before we as a culture starts embracing the fact that we will die. Maybe soon.

“Enlightenment is not for the faint of heart. It’s the destruction of everything you thought to be true.”

And you know what, I’m okay with that now. I wish I wasn’t, but there it is. Neoliberalism has turned fighting climate change into personal responsibility, or worse, a personal contest. Unless you are a vegan who never purchase plastic nor travel outside your bike radius, you are a hypocrite and can shut up about climate science. But that’s absurd. Since when is our society that militant about anything? We even accept priests that sexually abuse children (look, they just don’t have access to women) before we tolerate an environmentalist who owns a car.

So I let all that toxin seep in. Slowly, but surely. I’ve followed the Trump palace intrigues minute to minute and all my brain can process at this point is that money and power can withstand any amount of corruption and untruth. In fact, 2017 saw the death of truth as Trump’s biggest triumph and lasting legacy (aside from naming Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobile, secretary of state – talk about on the nose!) will be the mainstreaming of ‘fake news’. People who can’t follow quality reporting minute to minute and people who didn’t get an education in critical thinking are sitting ducks for this latest capitalist invention – weaponing the news. It’s always been going on to some extent, but the rise of the billionaire class and the internet created a perfect storm of brainwashing tools, complete with social media; your very own, curated 24/7 news channel. I can’t really think of any intervention large enough to break a spell of this magnitude.

On my news channel the headlines are screaming; the wealthiest companies in the world are stashing $20 billion into offshore tax havens EACH MONTH. Permanently out of reach for the public. EACH MONTH. That’s enough to cover universal basic income AND healthcare for both US and Europe. We subsidize the oil industry $10 million A MINUTE! $5 trillion a year. In January 2017, the richest 8 men in the world had the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3,5 billion people. Less than 6 months later that number was only 5 men had the equivalently wealth. That’s how fast their fortunes grow. That’s how poor the rest of us are!

I find myself censoring myself a lot this year. Everything I say come out so negative. I don’t want to be a negative person. Maybe I’m depressed? When you’re depressed your mind plays tricks on you to back up all your negative thoughts. But I don’t feel depressed. In fact, in the quiet moments, I’m actually quite happy. I feel in control of my little insignificant future road for the first time in a long time. I feel, dare I say, optimistic about my projects I’m spending a significant chunk of my life pursuing. So, maybe not depressed. And all my negative thoughts are backed up by science so… I’m just uncomfortable being me right now.

I’ve always been a weird little introvert. A thinker, a writer. I’ve been depressed, I’ve been restless. But I’ve never not liked myself. That’s a different feeling than all of the above. Normally I would freak out. Oh my God, I feel this way now so I will feel this way forever. But I’m choosing to look at it differently this time. Being uncomfortable is where growth happens. So if not liking myself right now means that I will be a better person/artist in the future soon, I’ll take it.

As for the world… I can only control the little part of it which I occupy. I can create stories to impact the spaces around me beyond my touch. So that’s what I’m doing. I like that. I’m excited about that. And I hope to share them with you all soon.

13 Comments

  1. I think it’s important to keep in mind that every perspective is just that: one person’s educated guess at what’s going to happen. Guy McPherson provides compelling arguments, but other scientists disagree with his doomsday predictions with equally compelling arguments. I like his core message — carpe diem! — but I also still believe in hope.

  2. I passed through HNL yesterday (on my way home from Kauai) and thought of you. Every time that happens you publish a post the next day – spooky!
    I know what you mean – coming from wildfire-ridden CA and spending time in hot and humid Kauai with nothing but 24-hr media coverage of Irma on the news, it’s easy to start thinking the worst. But, like you, I think it just makes me more determined to take action – it’s time for many to break out of their comfortable routines.

  3. It’s good to step back and take a look at the big, bigger, biggest picture. Then in order to function, and stay sane, we step back in to our smaller world and do the best we can. :)

  4. The near future is going to be ugly. Populations will collapse, people will starve or be subject to untold violence as everyday people try to secure for themselves and theirs the basic necessities to stay alive. Forget plastic, forget whether a character in this or that cartoon is openly gay or whatever – we’re too late in the game. It’s arguing about the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic.

    It’s time to become very used to death, because it’s coming en masse whether we voted for it or not.

  5. We do not have the luxury of giving up. Keep FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT and know that you are but one of the legions of warriors fighting from small enclaves worldwide.

  6. It’s difficult not to be dragged down in the face the greed. But the other side is that people are waking up to it, becoming more politically savvy, speaking out. We have to believe that the tipping point will be reached where mainstream opinion will push for change change. To be honest, although politics is seeing a return to polarised left-wing and right-wing parties, you could think of that as an improvement on the centrist model of a decade ago, where people were disengaged and didn’t believe they had any power. People are protesting now, speaking out, and that’s got to be a good thing. It’s only when people believe they can change things, that change can happen. So I hold onto that, in the face of what I agree is at times unrelenting negativity.

  7. I can so relate to this post, as usual. I didn’t watch the video, but the quote about getting used to death is really powerful. Buddhists and Indigenous people have been sharing nuggets of wisdom about death for a long time — and it truly is wisdom. I believe the only way that I can find peace in this world-gone-mad is to accept how temporary it is … and how microscopically temporary my own existence is (at least on this Earth). Ultimately, everything I do comes from a combination of conscience and a desire to embrace joy (my own and that of others). I am beginning to understand how difficult — seemingly impossible — it is to change the world for the better. And yet I find myself wanting to do more, to be better … not because I think it’s going to change others, but because it makes me feel better about myself. I feel empathy for everyone, including (especially?!) the ones who seem least deserving of it, because I believe they’re missing the type of joy that can only exist as a counter-balance to the sadness/darkness of conscience. I don’t know if these words are even coherent, but it feels good to type them. :)

    • Sorry. It’s pretty intense. But I’m the kind of person who’d rather know than not know and find a way to live with the duality of life/death future/no future. Do you want to talk about it?

      • luckily a friend rang to talk about other things and I had to walk the dog so the immediate impact was diluted – I suppose it’s the thought that the collapse of civilization (which I’ve been vaguely expecting for a while) will make things worse rather than better that was a particular shock… I’ll link your blog if a post emerges from processing this

  8. I keep writing comments and then deleting them because it seems pointless – nearly deleted this. Thanks for keeping going!

    • Any comment is a great comment – as long as it’s not mean! Thanks for leaving this one, it really means a lot to me that you keep reading my musings :)

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