…And all I do is keep refreshing the news sites, hoping something is better.
It hasn’t gotten better yet.
If The Grand Chessboard taught me anything, it’s that populist national decisions — including those regarding neighboring nations — are structured largely on sentiment, not fact, and ripped down the pre-perforated edge of history, not folded on potential future value.
This disconnect between narrative and reality is bad in the best of times, but right now, as so many lie senselessly murdered and many more pray in vain for some semblance of a meaning to it all, our inability to make sense of the world at any scale, in any real, unsimplified way — to stare the machine of the world square in the gearbox, meticulous in our comprehension of every spring, every escapement — hurts in a uniquely shearing, jagged way.
A graph so simple can show the reason we can have movie blockbusters lighting up a new middle class in China the very moment America’s own middle class struggles to stay relevant amid closing factories and self-driving cars.
Other graphs will add more to the mix, complicate the soup.
Covert arms sales to destabilize regions now rising back up against us, changing the flow and temperatures of immigrants and emigres.
Missionary developments in the third world bringing aid at the expense of entire swaths of existent culture suppressed and wiped out, whitewashing and anglicisizing expectations and leaving scars of endless regional fighting, movements and lives and deaths.
Layers on layers on layers of the plumbing of the human system.
But who can eat such dismal math? Knowing the relations of these billions of figures — do you, in your home, at your job, in your car, feel better for it? Is it a narrative you can accept that yields as pleasant, self-satisfied dreaming at night, as saying “we’re superior”, or “they must just hate our freedom”, or “they had it coming”?
…be honest with yourself, and with me.
In my darkest moments, when we hear of another brutal killing, when intersections of history, hatred and high-velocity bullets all cross in gunfire and glass and endless trains of police cars marking out the boundary, sealing like tape around the ragged puncture hole in the hull that sucked all the humanity out of the world, a catastrophic crash in the life product the customer was never supposed to experience -
In these moments, I’m most afraid that we’ll never beat back these evergreen stories that our brains tell themselves to feel better and compel us to act against our neighbor. That no data, no understanding will ever be enough, and that tools may never exist to fashion a better world out of our current broken one because we are fundamentally at our limit of social complexity understanding.
The machine’s elegant clockwork infinities muddy in our eyes, into a slate-gray sheet.
Is this how we’ll die as a species?
I almost can’t blame us.
We tried. We almost got better.
We cured so many diseases, we grew so much food.
We built nuclear weapons and managed not to kill every human being on earth with them.
We built rockets to meet our long-lost sister, still newborn after 4 billion years and nearly a quarter million miles away.
And we went further still.
And — we’re still so young.
I don’t want us to die.
Pinned into a corner of some bullshit arm of some bullshit galaxy, forced to kill and eat our own because we couldn’t figure out how to make magic fire before our 200,000 years were up.
Because our brains weren’t good enough.
Because we had no chance against our own fear.
Because we had too many safeties, or too few.
These were supposed to be wonderful times for optimists — the world of connection all our dog-eared trade paperbacks promised.
We stood on the shoulders of giants for this.
To my brothers and sisters and cousins of every house on every flag on every crack of every plate on all of Earth, I’m trying to cry somehow. But I don’t have the courage. I stay stone and I stare at the pipes and I try to make it make some sense, because that feels strong.
Love is strong.
Feeling is strong.
I love you.
I don’t know how to save us all.
I feel like I was supposed to know how.
I just know I love you.
Please stay alive.