If you’re already feeling down, please avoid this post. I’ve no wish to infect you with more burdens. But, unusually, I need to let others know how the state of the world affects me, and, therefore, billions of other caring individuals. I’m not alone.
In the UK, the recent appalling case of Sarah Everard, kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a figure of authority and trust, a serving police officer, has brought to a head many of the terrible things that occur daily in our world.
Yesterday, I was ready to promote my new novel ‘An Excess Of…’ but became overwhelmed by feelings of despair and futility. I knew such negative feelings would pass. I’ve a truly supportive wife, and we get through bad times together, but I was drained of all energy, literally overwhelmed by an emotional response to the current situation in a way I’ve rarely experienced.
I’ll list the most pressing causes of my despair, though many of you will be aware of the issues.
1. The climate crisis: a fast-developing critical situation that many ordinary people are trying to mitigate, while political and commercial leaders speak volumes of platitudes but take no meaningful action, as if they believe their positions of privilege will spare them the inevitable coming disaster. They will, as usual, realise too late their inaction has cost lives in untold numbers.
2. The idiocy of Capitalism: a system highjacked by the already wealthy to ensure they stay that way regardless of the lethal effects of their greed on the less privileged, the planet, and many species of innocent life forms. That we continue, for example, to ship everyday goods halfway around the world simply to make a profit is just one of many damaging consequences of a global financial system that serves only the venality of a few individuals and continues to punish the poor for being victims of a system from which escape is impossible.
3. The misogynist foolishness of most religions: philosophies designed to reduce the status of half our species because of their gender. The ‘Eve’ story, a wicked construct that demonises all women and underlays many laws, customs, and traditions that reinforce the utter injustice of blaming women for something over which they never had control. Myths and legends sold as truths, when analysis of their wicked texts make it clear they’re excuses devised by inadequate male leaders who wished to have power over any woman who fell under their field of influence. That so many women continue to follow faiths designed to punish them for being women is a tragedy, and the result of centuries of indoctrination.
4. The lunacy of short-term political systems: most governments are designed as systems that create conflict among those chosen to represent and those represented. They are falsely ‘threatened’ with removal from office every few years if they fail to satisfy enough of the voting population. But many voters are ignorant, deliberately ill-educated, or indifferent and the results of most elections are, at best, a lottery. At a time when stability in government is more vital than ever, we need systems of rolling governments elected by true proportionate representation by electors compelled by law to vote.
5. The venality of national leaders: political leaders have devised systems that allow them to indulge in corrupt practices, dictate what the mass-media tells the populace, employ platitudes in place of action and truth, and escape the consequences of utter incompetence.
6. The appalling divisiveness of competition: competition, a development of capitalism, now pervades society to such an extent that it’s taken as ‘normal’. But humanity evolved more through cooperation than it ever did via internal conflict and competition. Without cooperation we’d have gone the way of other ‘savage’ species, and failed to develop a social structure that allowed imagination, creativity, curiosity, and investigation to serve us with the means to survive in a world full of dangers. Competition is now at the forefront of almost every aspect of society, from politics to entertainment, sport to commerce, ideology to education, and, of course, it is the cause of war. It’s also the basis of most racism and nationalism; concepts without any real meaning in a world growing smaller with every technical advance (though I use the word ‘advance’ with some serious concerns about the reality of much technological change).
7. The pernicious addiction of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, seem to have been designed to rob us of the power to consider an item and take time to compose a rational response. They’ve made themselves essential aspects of modern life, but are they positive additions to how we spend each day?
8. The constant demand of the mobile phone: the time when being away from the workplace meant you were effectively out of contact is long gone. The acceptance of intrusion from employers into personal lives has become another ‘normal’, but at what cost to privacy, intimacy, mental health and spiritual relief from the everyday pressures of employment? To be constantly at the beck and call of anyone who wishes to contact you is hardly an advance, is it? The positive move toward aid in a dire situation has been drowned by constant unwanted and often fatuous or utterly pointless messaging. How much damage is done to the psyche, how much harm to peace of mind?
9. The unforgivable waste of fashion and the latest model: there used to be seasons for clothing fashions, and they were harmful enough. But now we have changes on an almost daily basis. Many folk are fooled, misdirected, or bullied into following the latest trend, regardless of how little it suits them or how it will harm both their income and the planet.Must-have items frequently only differ from previous models in a cosmetic sense, or ways that serve no useful purpose, other changes actually reverse previous advances, all made in the name of ‘having the latest’. We live on a planet of finite size, bearing finite resources, yet so many rare or diminishing materials are used as though supplies were inexhaustible. What will happen when some currently ‘essential’ minerals and resources have been consumed? Technical solutions rely on supplies of new, innovative products to bring them to reality. But we’ve yet to reach the stage where we can develop new substances on a scale necessary to feed our greed for the ‘new’. Repair was always an option for most useful items that now apparently must be replaced.
10. The dreadful tradition of big families: in many undeveloped countries, a large family was an essential means to survival, with children working on the farm to keep mouths fed. Proper distribution would’ve ended such reliance decades ago had it been considered. As I write this the population is tallied at 7,897,092,493, rising by the second. We’ve ‘defeated’ many natural causes of death among our population, kept alive infants who wouldn’t have survived in the natural world, actively boosted population numbers so religious groups can grow larger than their competitors or warring nations can defeat enemies by sheer force of numbers. But this is a finite world and the resources needed to feed and water the human population are currently stretched to their limit. By the end of this decade, it’s expected as many as 3 billion people will be without adequate access to water. What will be the result of such a shortage of this essential substance? In the short time it’s taken me to write these few words, the population tally has risen to 7,897,093,179. And, as I post this, the number has risen to 7,897,282,257. Does that scare you? It does me.
Here, I’ve only touched on these matters, as a proper discourse requires a book; long, considered, well-researched and properly written. Fiction has always been my medium to pass on my concerns, using stories to take readers to new ideas, issues, potential problems, and their solutions, via romance, adventure, mystery, and humour. My new book ‘An Excess Of…’ deals with some of the above topics while relating the adventures of a small group of disparate people forcibly isolated on a desert island after their transport fails. It’s essentially a tale; the underlying messages are just that, underlying. The players have varying beliefs, hopes, concerns and traditions. Whether they can cooperate enough to survive in an environment both hostile and unfamiliar is the question asked by the novel. If you read it, you’ll find out.