by Alton C. Thompson
My recently-posted “What Would It Take?” essay lacks a statement of purpose. As I have reflected on why it lacks one, I have come to conclude that the essay was a product of my unconscious mind! In having that origin, I have also come to conclude that my unconscious mind had “informed” me that such a purpose statement would be unnecessary because the reader would be able to infer the essay’s purpose during the process of his or her reading of the essay:
- From the contents of the essay itself, in conjunction with
- The fact of its having been posted on a web site with an orientation to the probability of near-term extinction (NTE) for our species.
However, in reading the comments (77 at the time of this writing) on the essay, I sensed that virtually no one—of those who had commented on the essay, at least—“got” my purpose in writing the essay. Realization of that “fact” took me aback, and made me wonder why it might be so.
In reflecting on the matter over a couple of days, it finally “dawned” on me that when I wrote the essay, I had lacked a conscious purpose! I had written the essay without a clear, explicit purpose in mind! Shame on me! Me bad!
In coming to recognize that fact, I realized that it had been presumptuous of me (my unconscious mind, actually!) to expect any reader to be able to infer my purpose, given the likelihood that the essay contained too few “clues” in it to enable a reader to discern its purpose! Put another way, I came to realize that my initial reaction to the comments had been of a “blame the reader” (a variation on the theme of “blame the victim”) nature, whereas I should have been blaming myself for readers not “getting” my purpose in writing the essay!
In reaching that conclusion, my initial negative reaction to the comments changed to one of a more neutral nature.
Once I reached the conclusion that I had written the essay without a clear — and fully conscious — purpose in mind, it occurred to me that it was incumbent upon me to try to “figure out” what my purpose must have been—and to then report that purpose in a separate essay (the current one).
After thinking about the matter for a few days, I have been able to discover what, I believe now, my purpose was in writing the essay, and below I state the thinking that, I now think, may have been behind the essay — thinking of which I lacked conscious awareness when I wrote the essay.
I need to add here that my cogitation regarding the essay’s purpose not only resulted in my arriving at conclusions as to the essay’s (likely) purpose, but recognition, on my part, that what had motivated this search process was the comments made on my essay. Initially I had reacted negatively to those comments, but in my eventually coming to realize that they motivated me to discover why I had written the essay—a purpose that I am glad that I discovered! — I now perceive those comments in a very positive light. Which explains the title that I chose for this essay — “Thanks for the Comments!” And please excuse me for my initial “blame the reader” reaction to the comments! I make no claims to be perfect!
In offering a presentation here of the likely purpose that was behind the writing of “What Would It Take?,” I believe that a useful starting point here is to recognize that Guy’s “Climate-change summary and update” (updated most recently on July 20—yesterday!) gives reasons for anticipating the imminent demise of our species based on recent scientific research.
What seems to have occurred in my unconscious mind was a recognition of the desirability (why I will comment on shortly) of having more than one basis for anticipating our near-term extinction. It seems to have occurred to my unconscious mind that another “building block” in an argument in support of our “uncertain” future would be a set of (as I had stated in my earlier essay) “characteristics that would need to prevail in our and other societies for there to be an absence of the threats currently facing us humans.”
In the earlier essay I listed eight (8) characteristics, and stated that I associated those characteristics with the Plains Indians (prior to their virtual elimination by “us” whites). I may or may not have been correct in making such an attribution; but the principal point that I had wished to make (I believe now) in listing the eight characteristics was not so much to associate them with a group of Indians per se but, rather, to assert that if all, or most, societies had most, if not all, of those characteristics, the humans in them would likely not face the threats to our continued existence as humans that we humans now face.
What my unconscious was trying to “tell” me (I now believe) is that it would be of value to reinforce the scientific evidence that Guy had provided in his “Climate-change summary and update” essay with another set of reasons to believe in NTE.
This conclusion suggest two questions:
- Why think of my “list of eight” as constituting “reasons”?
- Why believe it desirable to reinforce the scientific evidence provided by Guy?
I would now answer the first question by stating baldly that my “list of eight” does not actually constitute a set of “reasons.” Rather, the statements in that list are best thought of as part of an argument — one which I will be stating shortly.
As to the second question, the first point that I would make is that I now believe that Guy himself believes — at an unconscious level, at least! — in the importance of reinforcement. Guy’s forthcoming book — Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind — can, I believe, be thought of as an (unconscious) attempt to reinforce the argument made in his “Climate-change summary and update” essay. Granted that both focus (I assume this regarding the forthcoming book) on scientific evidence in support of Guy’s thesis, but the book, in using an interview format, can be thought of as an additional “building block” in an argument in support of his NTE thesis—one that will serve to reinforce his thesis.
Why is it of importance to have three such “building blocks” (i.e., his two, and mine — with the possibility that others will provide still more)? In addressing this question, let me begin by stating the argument that I now believe is implicit in my “What Would It Take?”:
- Let’s assume that the societal characteristics that I listed (which I had attributed — rightly or not — to the Plains Indians) were among — mostly if not entirely — the characteristics that—if possessed by most, if not all societies — were necessary to prevent, from arising, the dangerous situation we humans are now in.
- Given those assumptions, it’s clear that our society (and most other “developed” ones today as well) lacks those characteristics.
- It should be obvious that—given our “Neanderthal” “leaders—our and other societies will not acquire many — if any — of those characteristics any time soon.
- Therefore, it follows logically (does it not?) that we are doomed.
Now if one adds to my point one (!) the evidence provided by Guy in his “Climate-change summary and update,” along with the evidence — provided in a different format — likely to be presented in his forthcoming Extinction Dialogs book, one will have a number of reasons to accept the thesis that our species is doomed.
Why is that of importance? In having a number of reasons for accepting this thesis one has no excuse for not accepting it. Therefore, one is obligated to accept it!
Now if one is obligated to accept the thesis, and then does accept it, this will necessarily cause one to re-orient one’s life.
How one does so will vary from person to person, of those who come to accept Guy’s thesis. Some will argue (on a solid basis!) that we cannot know the future with certainty, and therefore one should engage in pre-adaptive efforts — given the possibility that some parts of the world may remain habitable by humans (an argument made by Geoffrey Chia). (Also see my “It’s Later Than You Think” for my thoughts on possible survival.)
Others will accept Guy’s conclusion that we are doomed, and therefore also accept his conclusion that our only choice now is to accept that fact, and then begin re-orienting or lives. Guy’s conclusion is that one should henceforth resolve to try always to interact with others in a loving manner — a conclusion with which it is difficult to disagree (although it’s certainly possible that some would have other ideas).
It’s probably a good thing that at least some in our midst are fully aware of our precarious situation at present, but also have enough optimism to see a basis for hope — and who then act on that perception. For is it not in the realm of possibility that some brilliant ideas will arise with some that, in being somehow implemented, enable our “salvation”? (By “somehow,” I am most certainly not referring to actions authorized and implemented by our supposed “leaders”!)
Again, let me express my heartfelt thanks to those who have written comments on my “What Would It Take?” essay. I could not have written the current essay without their comments!
McPherson was interviewed for Sex and Politics Radio on 20 June 2014. The interview is described and embedded here. Interview begins at about the six-minute mark.