The disparagement of my work, hence of me, reaches a fervent pitch during a speaking tour. Although I love interacting with new people, any road trip brings me to the attention of deniers who react harshly. And not merely to the message, but of course to the messenger. It’s as if I’m inventing the information I cite.
A line from Farley Mowat comes to mind: “We’re under some gross misconception that we’re a good species, going somewhere important, and that at the last minute we’ll correct our errors and God will smile on us. It’s delusion.”
Trying to balance misinformed criticism with reality, I consider how to spend the days ahead. As post-tour thoughts race through my mind, I try to slow them down to examine and ponder them:
- Every day I seriously consider retiring from public service. No more public speaking (I love public speaking but it has some drawbacks as noted below). No more radio show. No more writing. Back to reading philosophy and fiction. Back to spending time with friends. Back to hiking in the nearby wilderness. Back to spending time doing what I love, as I suggest to others.
- I’m tired of people telling me how the world should be. There’s no should. There is only reality, and even reality borders on illusion. Promoting solutions based on what people ought to do, according to some abstract moral imperative, will not help. Never mind that each solution produces myriad additional problems. Just as behavioral changes are too little, too late, I’m unlikely to change what people say to and about me.
- I am said to be the leader of a death cult, a notion so absurd it’s hilarious. I’ve promoted anarchism for two decades. I am the leader of absolutely nothing. I point out the urgency of living and encourage others to live well and pursue what they love. These tidbits belie evidence of a leader, much less a death cult.
- People tell me, and others, that I tour to earn money. These people obviously haven’t ever gone on the road with me. I don’t extract monetary gain for speaking or writing. Rather, these activities cost me a lot of time and money, neither of which I have in great supply. My partner and I live well below the U.S. official poverty line. This is yet another strike against my being a death cult leader, as I’m pretty sure the typical cult has a financial incentive.
- I don’t fully understand why every day I receive hate mail. I’m a nice guy! Seemingly every day I am subjected to personal attacks. About once a week somebody tells me to commit suicide. All too frequently, I receive death threats. Libel and slander occur way too often, including by self-proclaimed journalists who know their conduct is unethical. In the part of my mind that longs for retribution, I’d sue one of the “journalists” to make a point — if only I had the time and money. These personal attacks have nothing to do with science. They make no sense to me. They are unfounded and irrational. But they happen to other messengers merely for speaking about gradual anthropogenic climate change, so I suppose it’s all to be expected from a scientifically illiterate society.
- Nearly always, attempts to assassinate my character emanate from relatively wealthy white men who worship this death culture. Threatening the privileged class to which I formerly belonged has consequences. Fear is rampant. Empathy is rare.
- The civilization these white men love is going away. Good riddance, I say, to the heat engine of civilization. Good riddance, too, to driving 150-200 species to extinction every day. Using civilization as the basis for solutions to the myriad predicaments rooted in civilization clearly makes no sense. I would argue further: It is insane. In response, I’m deemed insane. The words of Krishnamurti come to mind: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
- When I’m in the process of post-tour introspection, I no longer expect better from humans, even those I know well. I still love humanity. It’s the people I can hardly tolerate.
- It’s not just me under assault. As a minor public figure, I expect disparagement of me and my work. Unfortunately, the people with whom I associate — sometimes only briefly — who suffer the dual wraths of ignorance and stupidity. Although the attacks generally come from clueless trolls who do not reveal their identities, the abusers occasionally include people in positions of power. Consider this email message from an acquaintance I met briefly: “Hey, take a guess who was inquiring what was the nature of my consorting with a ‘Guy McPherson’ … ? Canadian borders agents. I think they zip drove extracted my laptop. At least that’s what it looked like from my window view inside there (sic) customs station.”
Why, indeed. I continue to ponder.
As I’ve pointed out in this space, I don’t know why some people pursue lives of service while others cannot imagine such an approach. I doubt there is a rational explanation beyond vague notions regarding the absence of free will.
I certainly have no excuse to pursue and present evidence, beyond my inability to escape the teacher within me. There are plenty of reasons to forgo these activities (and the profession of teaching is dead). And yet, here I am, against my better judgment and against the wishes of my critics. Apparently I’ve not avoided the ignorance and stupidity rampant in this culture.
My Kiwi friend Kevin recently described how, in a small sailboat with an upper limit of a handful of people on board, the givers and takers emerge quickly. Myriad behaviors that accumulate to irritating levels within a decade or so during periodic contact and numerous distractions become apparent within a week or so onboard. On a boat, shaking out the takers and leavers doesn’t require three months. I’ve come to conclude that every newly budding partnership would benefit from three months at sea — most partnerships would dissolve before they are formalized, because most people are incompatible.
It took me many years to realize that most people are incompatible. Had I secured this knowledge earlier in life, I probably still would be teaching. Had I realized most people are takers, I would still be drawing a paycheck. But the costs would be great.
The greatest cost of early understanding, with respect to the dark side of humans, would have been mediocrity. I could have remained ensconced within the belly of the omnicidal beast had I become a teacher of knowledge, but not understanding. I could’ve been teacher of facts, but not relevant behavior. I could have relayed information, but not discussed how to pursue a life of excellence based on the information. As it turns out, colleges and universities have plenty of mediocre teachers and administrators, as I’m sure most readers have noticed. I’d rather die a pauper than descend into the type of mediocrity that characterizes the culture in which I’m embedded. Barring late-age, adult adoption, I’m certain I will.
I like to believe I could return to academic life at the right institution in the right situation. I love to teach, but it is not what I do. It is what I am. I can kid myself into thinking I could teach anywhere, but I know better … I can’t just teach facts and spread (mis)information, as is the norm in educational institutions. Teaching involves helping students find knowledge and understanding. Teaching guides students to question everything and think for themselves and we all know that institutions of higher learning don’t strive for those standards.
I’m not sure I’ve accomplished much with my meandering thoughts, but it brings me full circle back to retirement. The easy life. A life of leisure, again. Even after many years of thought crystallized in these thousand words, I’m undecided.
Some things I do know, although they are easily forgotten. I’m extremely fortunate to be alive. I’m extremely fortunate to have people who love me in this one, small life. I’m extremely fortunate to have people who support me and join me on this journey I have chosen. I’m extremely fortunate to be living my life, and to be in a position to encourage others to pursue theirs.
It gets better, too: My life includes the occasional serving of ice cream to go along with the likes of Farley Mowat.