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Who Cares?
Not Them, Not It, Not Him, Not (Evidently) Us
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Let’s start with the universe and work our way in. Who cares? Not them because as far as we know they aren’t there. As far as we know, no one exists in our galaxy or perhaps anywhere else but us (and the other creatures on this all-too-modest planet of ours). So don’t count on any aliens out there caring what happens to humanity. They won’t.

As for it — Earth — the planet itself can’t, of course, care, no matter what we do to it. And I’m sure it won’t be news to you that, when it comes to him — and I mean, of course, President Donald J. Trump, who reputedly has a void where the normal quotient of human empathy might be — don’t give it a second’s thought. Beyond himself, his businesses, and possibly (just possibly) his family, he clearly couldn’t give less of a damn about us or, for that matter, what happens to anyone after he departs this planet.

As for us, the rest of us here in the United States at least, we already know something about the nature of our caring. A Yale study released last March indicated that 70% of us — a surprising but still less than overwhelming number (given the by-now-well-established apocalyptic dangers involved) — believe that global warming is actually occurring. Less than half of us, however, expect to be personally harmed by it. So, to quote the eminently quotable Alfred E. Newman, “What, me worry?”

Tell that, by the way, to the inhabitants of Ojai and other southern California hotspots — infernos, actually — being reduced to cinders this December, a month that not so long ago wasn’t significant when it came to fires in that state. But such blazes should have been no surprise, thanks to the way fire seasons are lengthening on this warming planet. A burning December is simply part of what the governor of California, on surveying the fire damage recently, dubbed “the new normal” — just as ever more powerful Atlantic hurricanes, growing increasingly fierce as they pass over the warming waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico on their way to batter the United States, are likely to be another new normal of our American world.

In the wake of the hottest year on record, we all now live on a new-normal planet, which means a significantly more extreme one. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the political version of that new normal involves a wildly overheated, overbearing, over-hyped, over-tweeted president (even if only 60-odd percent of us believe that he could truly harm us). He’s a man who, as the New York Times reported recently, begins to boil with doubt and disturbance if he doesn’t find himself in the headlines, the focus of cable everything, for even a day or two. He’s a man who seems to thrive only when the pot is boiling and when he’s the center of the universe. And what a world we’ve prepared for such an incendiary figure! (More on that later.)

We’re all now immersed in an evolving Trumpocalypse. In a sense, we were there even before The Donald entered the Oval Office. Just consider what it meant to elect a visibly disturbed human being to the highest office of the most powerful, potentially destructive nation on Earth. What does that tell you? One possibility: given the near majority of American voters who sent him to the White House, by campaign 2016 we were already living in a deeply disturbed country. And considering the coming of 1% elections, the growth of plutocracy, the blooming of a new Gilded Age whose wealth disparities must already be competitive with its nineteenth-century predecessor, the rise of the national security state, our endless wars (now turning “generational”), the increasing militarization of this country, and the demobilization of its people, to mention only a few twenty-first-century American developments, that should hardly be surprising.

Could Donald Trump Be the End of Evolutionary History?

Recently, as I was mulling over the extremity of this Trumpian moment, a depiction of evolution from my youth popped into my head. Sometimes back then, such illustrations, as I remember them, began with a fish-like creature flippering its way out of the water to be transformed into a reptile, but this one, known as the “March of Progress,” started with a hunched over ape-like creature. What followed were a series of figures that, left to right, grew ever more Homo-sapiens-like and ever more upright to the last guy, a muscular-looking fellow walking oh-so-erectly.

He, of course, was a proud specimen of us and we — it went without saying at the time — were the proud end of the line on this planet. We were it, progress personified! Even in my youth, however, we were also in the process of updating that evolutionary end point. At the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the fear of another kind of end, one that might truly be the end of everything, had become a nightmarish commonplace in our lives.

One night almost 60 years ago, for instance, I can still vividly remember myself on my hands and knees crawling through the rubble of an atomically devastated city. It was just a nightmare, of course, but of a sort that was anything but uncommon for those of us growing up then. And there were times — especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — when those nuclear nightmares left the world of dreams and pop culture for everyday life. And even before that, if you were a child, you regularly experienced the fear of obliteration, as the air raid sirens wailed outside your classroom window, the radio on your teacher’s desk broadcast warnings from Conelrad, and you “ducked and covered” under your flimsy desk.

ORDER IT NOW

With the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, such fears receded, though they shouldn’t have, since by then, in a world of spreading nuclear states, we already knew about “nuclear winter.” What that meant should have been terrifying. A perfectly imaginable nuclear war, not between superpowers but regional powers like India and Pakistan, could put so much smoke, so many particulates, into the atmosphere as to absorb sunlight for years, radically cooling the planet and possibly starving out most of humanity.

Only in our moment, however, have such nuclear fears returned in a significant way. Under the circumstances, more than half a century after that March of Progress imagery became popular, if we were to provisionally update it, we might have to add a singularly recognizable figure to the far right side of that diorama (appropriately enough): a large but slightly stooped man with a jut-chin, a flaming face, and a distinctive orange comb-over.

Which brings us to a straightforward enough question: Could Donald Trump prove to be the end of evolutionary history? The answer, however provisionally, is that he could. At a minimum, right now he qualifies as the most dangerous man on the planet. He might indeed be the final stopping spot (or at least the person who pointed the way toward it) for human history, for everything that led to this moment, to us.

What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come Round at Last…?

Whatever you do, however, don’t just blame Donald Trump for this. He was simply the particularly unsettling version of Homo sapiens ushered into the White House on a backlash vote of dissatisfaction in 2016. When he got there, he unexpectedly found powers beyond compare awaiting him like so many loaded guns. As was true with the two presidents who preceded him, he automatically became not just the commander-in-chief of this country but its assassin-in-chief; that is, he found himself in personal control of an armada of drone aircraft that could be sent just about anywhere on Earth at his command to kill just about anyone of his choosing. At his beck and call, he also had the equivalent of what historian Chalmers Johnson once called the president’s own private army (now, armies): both the CIA irregulars Johnson was familiar with and the U.S. military’s vast, secretive Special Operations forces. Above all, however, he found himself in charge of the planet’s largest nuclear arsenal, weaponry that he and he alone could order into use.

In short, like this country’s other presidents since August 1945, he was fully weaponized and capable of singlehandedly turning this planet, or significant parts of it, into an instant inferno, a wasteland of — in his incendiary phrase in relation to North Korea — “fire and fury.” On January 20, 2017, in other words, he became the personification of a duck-and-cover planet (even though, as had been true since the 1950s, there was really nowhere to hide). It made no difference that he himself was woefully ignorant about the nature and power of such weaponry.

And speaking of planetary infernos, he also found himself weaponized when it came to a second set of instruments of ultimate destruction about which he was no less ignorant and to which he was even more in thrall. He brought to the Oval Office — Make America Great Again! — a nostalgia for his fossil-fuelized childhood world of the 1950s. Weaponized by Big Energy, he arrived prepared to ensure that the wealthiest and most powerful country on the planet would clear the way for yet more pipelines, fracking, offshore drilling, and just about every other imaginable form of exploitation of oil, natural gas, and coal (but not alternative energy). All of this was intended to create, as he proclaimed, a new “golden age,” not just of American energy independence but of “energy dominance” on a planetary scale. And here’s what that really means: through his executive orders and the decisions of the stunning range of climate deniers and Big Oil enthusiasts he appointed to key posts in his administration, he can indeed ensure that ever more greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will enter the atmosphere in the years to come, creating the basis for another kind of apocalypse.

On the promotion of global warming in his first year in office, it’s reasonable to say, with a certain Trumpian pride, that the president has once again made the United States the planet’s truly “exceptional” nation. In November, only five months after President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw as soon as possible from the Paris climate agreement to fight global warming, Syria (of all countries) finally signed onto it, the last nation on Earth to do so. That meant this country was truly… well, you can’t say left out in the “cold,” not on this planet anymore, but quite literally exceptional in its single-minded efforts to ensure the destruction of the very environment that had for so long ensured humanity’s well-being and made the creation of those illustrations of evolutionary progress possible.

Still, you can’t just blame President Trump for this either. He’s not responsible for the ingenuity, that gift of evolution, that led us, wittingly in the case of nuclear weapons and (initially) unwittingly in the case of climate change, to take powers once relegated to the gods and place them in our own hands — as of January 20, 2017, in fact, in the hands of Donald J. Trump. Don’t blame him alone for the fact that the most apocalyptic moment in our history might come not via an asteroid from outer space, but from Trump Tower.

So here we are, living with a man whose ultimate urge seems to be to bring the world to a boil around himself. It’s possible that he might indeed be the first president since Harry Truman in 1945 to order the use of nuclear weapons. As Nobel Prize winner Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, recently commented, the world might be only “a tiny tantrum” away from nuclear war in Asia. At the very least, he may already be helping to launch a new global nuclear arms race in which countries from South Korea and Japan to Iran and Saudi Arabia could find themselves with world-ending arsenals, leaving nuclear winter in the hands of… well, don’t even think about it.

ORDER IT NOW

Now, imagine that amended evolutionary chart again or perhaps — in honor of The Donald’s recent announcement that the U.S. was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — call to mind poet William Butler Yeats’s words about a world in which “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” while some “rough beast, its hour come round at last” is slouching “towards Bethlehem to be born.” Think then of what a genuine horror it is that so much world-ending power is in the hands of any single human being, no less such a disturbed and disturbing one.

Of course, while Donald Trump might represent the end of the line that began in some African valley so many millennia ago, nothing on this planet is graven in stone, not when it comes to us. We still have the potential freedom to choose otherwise, to do otherwise. We have the capacity for wonders as well as horrors. We have the ability to create as well as to destroy.

In the phrase of Jonathan Schell, the fate of the Earth remains not just in his hands, but in ours. If they, those nonexistent aliens, don’t care and the planet can’t care and the alien in the White House doesn’t give a damn, then it’s up to us to care. It’s up to us to protest, resist, and change, to communicate and convince, to fight for life rather than its destruction. If you’re of a certain age, all you have to do is look at your children or grandchildren (or those of your friends and neighbors) and you know that no one, Donald Trump included, should have the right to consign them to the flames. What did they ever do to end up in a hell on Earth?

2018 is on the horizon. Let’s make it a better time, not the end of time.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. bob sykes says:

    If anyone, Trump is this planet’s and the US’ savior. He is likely to be a great President, if for no other reasons that he kept the Democrat communists and criminals and pedophiles out of power. Things that enrage fake Americans and fake journalists, encourage real Americans.

    As to global warming. Learn some history. It is established fact that the planet was warmer during the Middle Ages, warmer yet during the Roman expansion, and still warmer during the Minoan age. In fact, we are in the middle of one of the three coldest periods in geological history. Moreover, the temperature trend over the last 10,000 years or so has been down, with fluctuations. We are currently recovering from the Little Ice Age; both the Little Ice Age and the recovery were/are the results of natural processes, orbital mechanics coupled with a variable Sun.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  2. Maybe somebody could tell those 50 shades of brown to learn the calculus by starting with counting their kids.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @bob sykes

    Martin Armstrong Warns “The Sun Is Cooling Faster Than Anyone Suspected”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-20/martin-armstrong-warns-sun-cooling-faster-anyone-suspected

    The globalist gerbils have fucked up, again. Every time they try to sell a narrative on the basis of their “credentials” an army of volunteer smart-pants looks at their “data”. Embarrassing.

  4. TG says:

    Many interesting thoughts, but I propose that the reason that people don’t care about ‘global warming,’ is that it’s not even wrong.

    All those refugees and ‘droughts’ etc. that you read about have nothing to do with ‘global warming’. In the vast majority of cases, rainfall has trended normal (for now, at least) – the issue is simply massive population growth. The population doubles, and doubles again, and even though rainfall is on average, average, the aquifers are drained. No, I don’t blame global warming.

    How many articles blaming a drought on ‘global warming’ have shown the last 20 years of total precipitation for the affected area? No, not abstract things like soil moisture percent in one city in the fall, I mean total annual precipitation. These numbers used to be published publicly, but have largely vanished from the media. I’ve written many journalists and academics who are screaming about droughts, and asked for these numbers – and not only do they not have them, they are puzzled that anyone would even ask!! Because deep down everyone knows it’s a farce.

    And sure, in the long run it might well be a bad idea to dump gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. If you don’t understand it, don’t try to break it, right? But even here, the issue is the growth of the population – ‘conservation’ is simply mathematically unable to keep up with exponential population growth. We can’t support another three billion africans (to name just one continent) in the next century by driving hybrid cars. We can’t even support them by taking the bus. Even living in caves and eating nuts and berries won’t work, if we keep on adding billions after billions.

    Consider the US. Since 1970, per-capita energy consumption has fallen significantly. But because of the government’s policy of maximizing population growth, total energy consumption continues to increase. But we can’t talk about that. So American have conserved energy, but energy consumption continues to climb, can we blame people for thinking that it’s all pointless?

    And there is nothing inevitable about population growth. There is a virtual ban on talking about it, but it is largely the policies of the rich over the last century or so that have led us to this place. Maximizing the fertility rate, allowing excessing immigration (which does not just move people around, it maximizes total growth – a world without borders is a world that will soon be a global Bangladesh), and perhaps most importantly, refusing to allow any public discussion of the obvious consequences of people having more children than they can afford to support.

    So given that there is absolutely nothing that the average person can do, and that even talking about the real causes of what’s going on is de-facto forbidden, surely the path of reason is to enjoy the party while it lasts.

    • Agree: Simply Simon
  5. I could explain to you Global warming but you probably wouldn’t care.

  6. “A Yale study released last March indicated that 70% of us — a surprising but still less than overwhelming number (given the by-now-well-established apocalyptic dangers involved) — believe that global warming is actually occurring.”

    A surprisingly high number when one understands the tortured science that is presented by the largely unknowing MSM and its camp followers as “conclusive” and “settled” that global warming is happening, that it is anthropogenic in causation, and that it will lead to catastrophe (the latter being specifically denied as settled by most of the 98% who are quoted as indicating there is climate change, since the possible effects are speculative at best).

  7. I’m an American; living in a Democracy, and I resent the implication that Donald Trump is the cause of our demise as a world power. He is a new-comer, a johnny-come -lately, and in no way deserves all the accolades. I was here first and as a voting member of the World’s Oldest Democracy I demand my share of credit for the stinking mess we have become. Trump! Bah Humbug.
    http://www.robertmagill.wordpress.com

    • Replies: @dearieme
  8. Sir Q says:

    Enough of this sour grapes crap about POTUS. The crap you SJWs put all thinking people through when we didn’t support your B.O. those times. I’m talking outright accusations of ‘racist’ and ‘honkie’ that reminded me of the time I was guilty of ‘walking at night in Oakland while white’ (getting to the BART station after the Rodney King verdicts LOL)

  9. MBlanc46 says:

    Jeez, guy, calm down. Lie down, Breathe deeply. Have a drink. Things will look better in the morning.

  10. The hysteria of school children during the Cold War was induced by the “sky is falling” snowflakes of that time period. I remember it well, but sadly the snowflakes have increased in number considerably since then, creating a generation or two of children who have become overprotected victims of political correctness and wards of the State.

  11. dearieme says:
    @Robert Magill

    “the World’s Oldest Democracy”: by what fantasy do you guys persuade yourselves of that?

  12. Marietta says:

    “If you’re of a certain age, all you have to do is look at your children or grandchildren (or those of your friends and neighbors) and you know that no one, Donald Trump included, should have the right to consign them to the flames.”

    A bit too late for that, don’t you think, hmm, Tom Engelhardt? A great number of your children and grandchildren have already died of abortion. Perhaps you should fight abortion instead of the phantom global warming.

    Seriously, Trump is no God. You’re giving him too much power by thinking he could control the weather. He’s not even been in office for a year and you already blame him for what only God could do.

    How old are you? A few years back, it was global freeze that prophets of doom like you were selling. Now it’s global warming. Make up your minds. It all sounds like poppycock and balderdash.

  13. This hysterical bitch thinks The Donald is Lucifer. He exhibits stage four Trump Derangement Syndrome. Get a grip Tom. There is much more in life than fear and loathing.

  14. I certainly don’t care about the fictitious anthropogenic climate change.

    I won’t even start to tear that scam apart, that’s your job to research it, I already have. One clue: the numbers have been proven to be false, “massaged” on so many occasions. Most recently NASA’s numbers of a week ago or so.

    Mostly it pisses me off because it’s fake as he::. A phony pretense at doing something when habitat-destruction is the real game, and oh yeah, I think we’re killing some brown people…just a few…and homeless…oh yeah…but keep giving money to tax scam “enviro groups”

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