The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. The seat on the small van was too small
The World Has Already Ended
If you've ever seen the movie Soylent Green, you know it's not about cannibalism. It's about the banality of social collapse. It's not quick. It's a slow burn. Nobody shows any sense of urgency about anything. Everyone still watches talk shows, even if they have to pedal a bike to generate electricity for their television. Nobody under 50 remembers anything better.
Here's the plot twist:
It's not that corporations are using people as the main ingredient in everyone's favorite new food. It's this: When Charlton Heston finds out, nobody cares. You already know what's going to happen.
Nothing's going to change.
He could shout from the rooftops that the rich are feeding the poor to each other, and nobody would care. Nobody would protest. Nobody would sign a petition. Nobody would act surprised, even if they believed him. They only care about getting through the next day. They care about their next meal or their next water ration. That's when you realize the point of the film.
They've been eating each other the whole time.
They've been doing it for generations.
Soylent Green just makes it official.
The scenes that stay with you aren't the fights and riots. It's the everyday stuff. People go around making casual remarks about the heat. It's 90F degrees outside, even in the middle of the night. You're rich if you can afford a steak or a jar of jelly. You find dead moms in the street all the time. You don't act surprised. You drop their kid off at the nearest homeless shelter.
You say, "Got room for one more?"
No, they don't.
The movie came out in 1973, around the same time when scientists at major universities were compiling data and designing models that predicted our imminent doom. One study by MIT indicated that collapse would happen in the 2040s without major changes to our consumption habits and fossil fuels. They concluded that the 2100s would see a return to the early 1900s in terms of population and available resources.
A more recent study in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology confirmed everything in the original MIT report.
If anything, it's coming early.
A new piece in The Nation breaks the media taboo on all of this. Michael Klare says straight up, we're living through the first stages of collapse. He begins with a recap of Jared Diamond's epic book, Collapse.
We're living through the same abrupt climate shifts that ended previous civilizations. The elite are making all the same mistakes, refusing to adapt while leaving everyone to fend for themselves.
It's all happening now.
The head of the UN just told us that "climate breakdown has begun." As if on cue, three years of rain fell on Greece in 48 hours. It destroyed a quarter of their farmland. They have new lakes now.
The signs are everywhere.
There's antibiotic shortages. There's shortages of ADHD medication. There's cancer drug shortages. ERs are understaffed or closed all the time now. A new survey shows that 1 out of every 3 hospitals are rationing care. If anything, our health officials are making them more dangerous.
Check the president's Twitter feed.
There's no plan.
There's a feeling on the tip of everyone's tongue. I believe it's a sense that it's already too late to save this world.
We talk a lot about saving the world or preventing the collapse of civilization, but we don't talk about what it really means. We don't talk about which world or which civilization we're trying to save.
It can't be this one.
This civilization is gone. This world is gone. It already ended for millions of people. Some of us just haven't felt it yet. It was never an easy one for most of us. It was never fair, but there was a level of predictability. There was a level of comfort and convenience. That's gone now. Things aren't going to get better. They're not going to get back to the way they were.
Trying makes it worse.
This world always had to end. It was never going to last more than a generation. It couldn't. All the facts made that very clear from the start. The rich and the corrupt simply chose to ignore that. They lied.
That's not the worst part.
It's not the collapse.
It's not the death of our hopes and dreams. It's the fact that we're not allowed to grieve it and move on. Imagine trying to grieve the loss of a friend or a parent when half of everyone you know won't even admit they're dead. Imagine you're stuck in a real-life version of Weekend at Bernie's.
That's what we're doing.
It's the norms that force us to engage in acts of cultural necrophilia. It's having to pretend for our bosses, our coworkers, our friends, and our relatives. It's watching everyone we know screw a corpse.
Recently, I was catching up with a friend who lives in a big city. She's one of those people who's been trying to act normal. Toward the end of our conversation, she finally broke down. She admitted things weren't the same. People act different. They look different. They sound different.
I think it's because we all know, even if we won't admit it.
The world isn't ending.
It has ended.