The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference is over. There is some good news from it and some not so good news. The good news is that the wealthy countries have agreed to give money to the developing countries to compensate them for all the environmental damage that has been inflicted on the latter by the former as a result of fossil fuel pollution. The bad news is that a lot of the wealthy countries are refusing to make the appropriate commitments to cut down on fossil fuel emissions in order to prevent an environmental disaster in the future. Which means that the world will be cooked both literally and figuratively.
The question arises as to why are the wealthy nations refusing to make the cuts, if the science is in to demonstrate that continuing along the same path of technological usage that we are presently traversing is an extremely dangerous course of action for the human race.
And if this is the case, they why are the wealthy nations going along as if nothing is wrong in the world? Is it simply so that the top executives of the large corporations in these nations can make a gazillion more dollars and don’t care about the damage that they cause? What about the argument that all the money in the world won’t save these executives from the dangers of climate change if left unchecked?
So, I think that there are two possible seemingly contradictory explanations for the self-destructive behavior of the wealthy nations. Both explanations are based on the growing numbness that particularly people in modern technological society are experiencing as modern technology becomes a more pervasive influence in everyday life. So even as people experience more and more of the tension-pocket overstimulating events that are signs of the growing dangers of climate change – the droughts, the wildfires, the mudslides, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, the melting of the polar ice – the dominant experience in their lives is still that of the experiential vacuum that surrounds them most of the time. We are in a transition period from a time when the dominant experience has been that of numbness and the experiential vacuum to a time when the explosive events of climate change will become more dominant.
And the leaders in modern technological society have two possible paths they can take. They can take the path of letting things go to the edge of the precipice in terms of climate change and use the friction being created in their lives to propel them out of their numbness in the process of finding solutions for all the problems being created by climate change. Or they can simply embrace this category of self-destruction, namely the explosive effects of climate change, as a means of fighting off what to them is a more painful form of self-destruction, namely the growing numbness from the experiential vacuum. For many people today, in all kinds of ways, they are embracing all kinds of explosive forms of self-destruction in order to fight off the experiential vacuum that infuses them with numbness. The abrasive pain they experience through explosive forms of self-destruction, at least temporarily, helps them to feel extremely alive, brings them to a vibrant level of consciousness, so that even if afterwards they die from their explosive experiences, they will have had a few short moments of feeling exquisitely conscious of themselves and of the world. Of course, the problem for those of us who don’t experience the strong sensations stemming from numbness so directly and so intensely is that quite often the people who submit to an intense self-destruction are spreading their self-destruction to those around them. I’m thinking here, for example, of the victims of the terrorists and the mass-murderers.
So, most of us are now the unwilling victims of two kinds of self-destructive processes generated by other people. There is the destruction generated by the unwanted waste product pollution of the large corporations who seem to be oblivious to the effects of what they are doing. And there is the destruction generated by the unusually numb individuals and even small groups, who fight off the numbness they are experiencing through the friction being created by hurting others. One form of hurt is handled indirectly through the large mediated experiences associated with climate change. The other is handled directly by unusually numb individuals and small groups who are dealing with the effects of climate change and experiential distortion their own way through the immediate experiences of direct aggression they inflict on others.
Obviously, there is little we can do as individuals to fight off the painful experiences generated by large mediated phenomena like climate change apart from social protest. As for destructive individuals, the best one can do is stay away from them when they can be identified. And when they can’t………
© 2022 Laurence Mesirow