Earlier this week, my acupuncturist asked if I could ever imagine living in a pain free world, without the chronic head or back aches that brought me to her in the first place. A conversation on the doomsday mentality followed. I discussed how I could never disillusion myself into thinking I could one day have a pain-free life, but rather I do what I felt most people do, live with a mindset that accepts things they way they are, and then responds in kind. Why, and how could we live with fruitless hope?
The conversation made me think about how our society has trained itself to create a market around the doomsday mentality. I feel like I less frequently read about inventions for a world of equality than I do about inventions in response to fear.
Several months after Hurricane Sandy, after the articles on recovery efforts and rising insurance costs, there were the articles on building new resilient cities — floating schools, and planning for the sinking of coastlines throughout the next century. After the BP oil spill there were articles on a world without seafood, and this past week, an article on an art exhibit entitled ‘Ghostfood,’ made my skin crawl, as it proposed the provision of oxygen tubes, allowing people to experience the taste of chocolate, since one day it is forecast that all chocolate will be gone.
I’m torn by these premonitions. While preparing for the generations to come is a responsibility of our time and a socially responsible application of our acquired knowledge, I wonder how much of this projection of a destitute and deprived future is taking us away from our ability to revel in the present and solve the problems at hand. Is it possible to enjoy where we are right now, and what we do right now, tearing ourselves away from the future mentality of destruction without being seemingly irresponsible? Fighting against segregation and immediate issues such as the 1% vs 99% is one thing, as it affects our ability to respond and evolve, but is there more detriment to a productive emotional state if we insist on focusing on the coast-less chocolate-less, water world of our future?
If sending people into space for $250,000 should take precedent over ensuring the children in the Delta (or Baltimore City, for that matter), are educated. If we should be growing petri-dish-produced hamburger instead of taking a more active response to the poachers poisoning watering holes in Africa. If we’re living in a world where we do nothing but proselytize the proposed resolution to destruction, are we overlooking our ability to prevent, or heartily postpone this destruction in the first place?
Focusing more on the now, having contests deisgning higher seawalls or hurricane proof homes should take precedence over what the world wiould be like without fat belly tuna. Teaching urban farming may be a better option than theorizing on which place is going to be the new New York City when the current one has gone the route of Atlantis.
Imagine the difference if we could see the change created by our actions, if the knowledge we had was applied in a way that helped people more immediately, allowing us to believe the world would get better. If we could see the ramifications of our actions in our own lifetimes, instead of the solutions that exist hundreds of years away. What if people saw good and felt change, would that shift the way we care about the places we live and the world around us? I argue that it would. Running community meetings where people can see change does worlds more than the mentality of residents in the communities repeatedly positioned as guinea pigs, studied by a semester-long workshop of college students and presented with a report that then sits on the shelf. Seeing change may allow us to change our mindsets; allowing us to picture a pain free world because we see change for the good, instead of the repeated and infinite promise that generations from now, people will thank us.