by Doug Fasching
This is not the essay that I was expecting to write, nor is it the one I wanted to. When you start a journey you have an expectation of where you will end up. In my life that has never been the case.
I first wrote an essay called Coping Skills, which was fairly well received and even commented on by the late Michael C. Ruppert whom I have held the greatest respect and admiration. When I think of Mr. Ruppert I am reminded of a song by Don McLean called “Vincent”. I think we all can identify with the passage in the song that talks about suffering for your sanity. Seeing the truth in a world of lies makes madmen out of the sane.
A Pact With The Devil
I had expected to write an essay that was going to set fire to whatever earlier credentials I may have earned. I was going to argue about how despite my experiences with the dark side of technological advancement, the only slim chance we have at survival is to fully embrace exponential technological development; essentially setting off a nuclear weapon over what is left of the natural world (a destroy in order to save scenario).
I thought I had constructed a well-reasoned “Pact with the Devil” argument. I rationalized our role in the destruction of the ecosystem with a “Shit Happens” and it’s not really our fault response. I viewed that we all have a Disney view of nature and that nature is really not our friend. I proposed the idea that humanity has increased in sophistication to the point that we either grow beyond the limits of nature or go extinct trying to de-evolve to a point where we can fit back within natural limits.
My grand point in the essay I was trying to write, was that with the exponential growth of technological complexity, we expand the boundaries of what is possible and that our older notions of natural limits no longer apply. Technology would be like inflating a life raft to save the drowning and that only the exceptionally foolish would refuse the opportunity to climb onto the raft.
I was halfway through writing that essay when I watched the presentation on “The Methane Monster” by Jennifer Hynes. Then (since I wasn’t already depressed enough) I watched “22 After” by Mark Thoma. Needless to say, I had a “Oh, I didn’t realize …” moment. I seem to have a lot of those these days.
Idiocy And Dreams Of Hopium
I would like to express my current and now (neck-deep) belief, that I am an idiot. I keep underestimating the gravity of the situation. My ego keeps trying to deceive me into believing it’s noon when it’s really 3 minutes to midnight.
Lets face it, Hopium is a hard addiction to kick; it sneaks back in when your guard is down. None of us really want the party to end. I think we all wish we could escape the reckoning that is coming. I lack the internal machinery to really process the end of life as we know it on this planet.
Who knows; maybe if we had more time, my earlier ideas may have had some possibility of working out. Looking back on it though, probably not. Despite all the great potential of our species, history seems to show that we are unable to escape our self-destructive tendencies. At least at any time scale that would have a chance to save us.
Perhaps we could have eventually turned our technology on ourselves and “Transcend” what currently passes for human nature. Probably not though. I don’t believe it is a genetic flaw that is dooming us; it looks more like a viral meme. Growth at all costs. Whatever we could create to replace humanity, the viral meme that ended us would however accidentally be coded into our creations.
In my defense, the tendency to want to believe that technology would save us is a reflection of the ideas that I have been exposed to throughout my life. 26 years ago I worked at a data center that contained a computer that cost 12 Million Dollars, filled a 3000 square foot room and employed 25 people to program, operate and maintain it. Today I have an IPhone in my pocket that is hundreds of times more powerful than that computer and cost me $550.00. You can see why I would have a tendency to believe in the “Magic” of technology.
Just as Michael Ruppert used Native American spiritual practices a balancing mechanism to deal with the soul-crushing information that he was forever researching and reporting on, I have used technology and technological transcendence as my balance. We might not be able to stop what is coming but maybe there was a way to delay the extinction of our species, or render it irrelevant.
My continued dabbling with a group called “The Zeitgeist Movement”, which originated from the creative works of Peter Joseph and derived from the earlier works of Jacques Fresco and Buckminster Fuller, has been my way of playing both sides of the game. Although the logic of TZM is compelling, there is no workable road map to execute the vision that they advocate. At this point it feels like wishing for it to rain unicorns. Hopium springs eternal.
In my mind, I set up a kind of horse race. Collapse and NTHE being the odds favorite, while Technological Transcendence is the long shot. I have played that imaginary race in my head at least a thousand times. In my thinking, the smallest chance for success is still infinitely better than the absolute guarantee of failure. If we had an infinite amount of time (just like the infinite number of monkeys with typewriters) perhaps “Tech” would win, but as we all know now, we don’t have that kind of time.
Synchronicity And The Cold Slap Of Reality
My father who was 75 just died a few weeks ago (9/11/14 at 12:06 AM to be precise). As I write this I am reminded of similar patterns between his circumstances and the larger whole. I loved my father but anyone close to him felt that he had outlived his time.
In the last 15 years of his life he had a heart valve transplant (the 2nd one during his lifetime), Arterial bypass, Prostate removal, Several issues with blood-clots, Lymphatic cancer, a hemorrhage in his brain, Sleep apnea, Blackouts that eventually lead to a near-fatal car accident, Kidney disease, Cataracts, Borderline diabetes, Several trips to the ER for problems with his medications and finally a series of strokes that eventually ended him although it still took another 6 months for the final end. Although this list is long, I am told that these are all fairly common conditions for those “fortunate” enough to make it to their 70’s and 80’s.
When my dad was healthy he was a vibrant, active person. He rebuilt classic cars, Rode motorcycles from Alaska to Maine and everywhere in between. For fun he cut firewood and remodeled houses. Dad loved to travel and always wanted to see what was on the other side of the hill.
My father was a dreamer that loved to read and tell stories. He once said to me that he believed in Trolls that lived under bridges. Puzzled, I asked him why and he said “Because everyone has to believe in something, and I don’t want to live in a world where there isn’t a possibility for something magical and unexpected to happen”.
Dad wanted to go out like something from a John Wayne movie, fully aware, alive and in awe of the potential of the final ending. Dad had never been afraid of death, seeing it more as an opportunity to transition to a totally new experience.
Technology extended my father’s life but at one HELL of a cost, not just financial. Dad was not allowed to die all at once, but in bits and pieces. The last three years were especially bad. Everything hurt. Nothing worked right. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t walk but a little. Eventually he couldn’t even sit and read. In the last year he couldn’t even talk more that a few words at a time, it would exhaust him so much he would drift asleep from the effort.
Everything that was the man I knew died over four years ago. What was left was a frail, tiny bag of tormented bones that required 10 different drugs to cling to life. He couldn’t chew, couldn’t taste food and had to wear a diaper. A man who was once afraid of nothing became too terrified to sleep, afraid that he wouldn’t wake up again. They put him on anti-depressants so he would sleep a little. As best as I could tell, it made things worse.
Dad’s last few hours of life were especially painful to witness. He would appear to slowly drift off to sleep only at the last moment to jerk back awake panting, wide eyed with a confused and terrified look on his gaunt face; a rasping “death rattle” like a man half drowned. These “panic attacks” would last several minutes and the cycle would repeat.
We had no idea at the time, but afterward we surmised that the pacemaker that dad had installed some time ago kept “Jump Starting” him back into life. Dad got to die hundreds of times over and over, terrified, confused and exhausted. I have to thank the “Magic” of technology for making my dad’s final moments as horrific and painful as possible.
There is no one on this earth that I could hate enough make endure what my dad went through. If this is the “compassion” of medical science, then damn it to Hell, where it belongs.
I see more clearly now, the true nature of our technological innovation, warped by the profit motive and our collective desire to distract and deceive ourselves from unpleasant truths. We do not fix problems with our technology. At best we delay, stretch and distort problems with it. If only we had more time to “grow up” as a species, but time is almost up.
The Hubris Of Humanity
Over the next several days of waiting and shuttling back and forth from San Manuel to Tucson for paperwork and final preparations it crossed my mind that Dad’s former condition was mirrored in the surroundings.
San Manuel Arizona is a dying copper mining town of 4,375 souls, an “Economic Sacrifice Zone” as Chris Hedges would put in. A town built in the desert that should never have existed, built and discarded for economic exploitation, like most of the towns in the area (Mammoth, Globe, Superior, etc., etc. ). What is left is an unsustainable infrastructure sitting on poisoned land from mine tailings and refinery waste.
San Manuel is the poster child for unsustainable with everything being trucked in to support it. The money that maintains it is Social Security, Welfare, Medicare and Food Assistance with a smattering of various state and federal assistance programs.
There are nearly no jobs to speak of. The only grocery, bar and liquor store went bust years ago. On the edge of a town surrounded by desert is a golf course that has been closed for over four years, yet they still water and minimally maintain it.
The water supply I was surprised to discover comes from CAP (Central Arizona Project) which pipes in water from Parker AZ over 336 miles away. As if to emphasize the perversity and hubris of human endeavor, I have had to continually drive past the failed and forgotten Biosphere 2 project, a monument to mankind’s failure to understand and fully appreciate its own relationship with nature.
It may be my current dark mood but San Manuel is a mirror of the larger world to me. The dead, destitute and dying, huddled together on the edge of oblivion waiting for the end. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Dad finally expired after his long struggle; one moment he was a live human and the next he was cooling meat. No wise parting words, no angels, no great insights, no soulful background music. We waited 3 hours in dad’s modest living room seated around the body, telling stories and waiting for the funeral home to come collect the body. At no point did I feel that dad was gone, there was nowhere to go. He was right there in front of me, like a machine that had been turned off after use.
I struggle every day to accept what I cannot change. I try to face each day with as much grace and good humor as I can muster. I am more patient and generous with my attention than I was. I smile and laugh but I am somber inside. My eyes betray some darkness. I am aimless. Nothing seems urgent. Most activities feel like unnecessary distractions. I feel the urge to travel and see things, but I can’t think of anywhere I wish to go.
I suppose that most people feel that I am mourning the loss of my father but that is not the case. Dad’s passing was an overdue blessing. What could have been a much earlier but infinitely better and natural passing on was turned into a tortured and unpleasant overstay that destroyed every shred of dignity and whatever peace and contentment should have existed for him. “In the end what you don’t surrender. Well the world just strips away”.
The somberness in my soul is about me contemplating my own end. Do I have the courage to face it with grace or will fear ultimately win out? Just like with the larger world of humans will I make a bargain with the Devil of technology and civilization to overstay my time and ruin my last shred of dignity? Will I be too deliberately distracted with trivial events that I miss watching the final sunset? Do I have the strength of character to bear witness to all I know and love die and fade away? Has that decision already been made and I have yet to realize?
Dad always told me that experiences were more valuable than possessions because memories were the only things that could not be taken from you. I suppose that makes sense if there is some part of us that is eternal. It implies that there is somewhere that we go afterwards but I have nowhere to go.
All I know is I am here and that all I have is now. That will have to be enough. Perhaps “now” is the only thing that ever had any meaning at all. “Be Here Now”. I will spend whatever time there is trying to be Aware, Awake and Present. What else is there left to us but to bear witness to our end, to share a last sad smile and watch the final sunset.
Doug Fasching is a 48-year-old IT professional living in Los Angeles with regular commutes to Tucson. He is a failed entrepreneur, failed doomsday prepper, failed sailing enthusiast, failed Zeitgeist Movement promoter, and so on. When not working on dysfunctional computer equipment, Doug spends his time voraciously consuming any and all information about technology, environment, economics, the human condition and anything that may doom (lots and lots) or save (almost nothing) Homo sapiens and their supporting environment.
Life Motto: “Don’t Die Stupid!” Yes, it has a double meaning.
Many thanks to Dr. Guy McPherson whose wit, compassion and good humor help take some of the sting away from the dire conditions in which we find ourselves.
29 September 2014, “World Development” course, California State University-East Bay, Hayward, California, classroom appearance embedded below in four parts