Sometime last week I got wrapped up in other creative projects and responsibilities. For the first time in three years, I paid passing attention to the news. It was a weird window into how “normal” people’s brains operate.
I have to admit, it felt nice.
Of course, there’s a big difference between pretending everything’s normal and simply accepting that things can’t get too much worse. A lot of doomers have simply realized that they don’t need real-time updates on problems they already understand in terms of their scope and gravity. I especially haven’t cared about UFOs and space balloons, although I find it ironic that the folks who lecture us on fearmongering are exactly the ones so worked up about that. Personally, I hope aliens show up. We deserve whatever they want to do to us.
This wound up turning into one of the most ironic weeks of all time to take a staycation from doom. Finally, after ignoring avian flu for a year, the mainstream media decided to jump all over it.
The World Health Organization admitted that a human bird flu pandemic is basically inevitable and that we should begin preparing for it. (Read between the lines.) Almost on cue, the government responded by… not responding. They seem to be planning the exact same way that Naomi Klein spelled out in The Shock Doctrine. They’re going to wait until outbreaks start before rolling out vaccines. If it weren’t clear, our leaders have absolutely no intention of trying to prevent human spillover. They’ll offer a minimally viable response while handing the keys over to corporations, who will use it as an opportunity for profit.
A train carrying a bunch of toxic chemicals derailed in Ohio. The containment turned into a second disaster as an inversion layer trapped all those chemicals under the atmosphere. Instead of heading up and away, it’s now spreading over a large part of the country. There’s reports of animals dying 100 miles away. Journalists are getting arrested for trying to cover this one, so you know it’s got to be bad. I seem to remember railroad workers striking for better working and safety conditions, among other things. This is what happens when we allow the rich to do whatever they want. You get toxic plumes in your backyard.
The other day, my spouse and I were actually talking about the perception among our friends and relatives that we’re overreacting to problems. The very next day our daughter started showing mild symptoms that could be early allergies or a cold. That pretty much answers the question. No, we didn’t overreact. Between the masks and air purifiers, we did absolutely everything we should’ve, and it still might not have been quite enough. That’s the lesson.
Here’s what else I learned:
Sure, you can’t spend every hour of the day scrolling on your phone and talking about doom. I don’t think anyone has ever said you should. It’s healthy to take a break. It’s good to have hobbies and interests, as long as they’re not actively contributing to the collapse of civilization. There’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty if you want to stay home on a Thursday night and play video games or read a novel instead of trying to save the world. We don’t need martyrs.
We need entitled, lazy yoga moms and golf dads to get off their ass and do something. We need them to stop consuming so much. We need everyone to make what are ultimately modest changes to their lives. Unfortunately, a lot of them are currently debating whether or not to start chicken coops in their backyards, which is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
Most of the solutions to our problems are stupidly simple. They’re not hard to implement. For people like us, the stress and anxiety we deal with doesn’t stem from the problems themselves. It stems from the exhausting and tedious work of trying to get everyone around us to listen.
That’s what you might need a break from…
Taking a break from doom doesn’t mean you ignore it, or that you engage in the same wishful thinking as the ones who’ve dropped their masks and now spend their time gaslighting everyone else. It just means that you take time to focus inward when you need to, and do things that make you happy.
We might be witnessing the beginning of civilization’s collapse, but humans still need to feel positive emotions. In fact, it’s more important than ever that you find some kind of purpose in your life, whatever it is.
You know what makes doomers happier than anything?
We love being left alone.
Here’s the strangest lesson of all: The things we’ve previously considered implausible or remote are happening now. Taking a break from the doom has given me a refreshed perspective on how bizarre it is. No, it’s not normal for us to be preparing for bird flu. It’s not normal for toxic plumes to be spreading over the nation’s breadbasket in ways that will probably impact us for decades.
Yes, you really should probably invest in gas masks for your family now. How weird is it to say that out loud? How weird is it to say that, knowing that the reason isn’t a supervolcano or some conspiracy theory. It’s just a bunch of greedy billionaires, who have lost every ounce of concern for their fellow humans.
It’s like Hannah Arendt said, true evil isn’t Lex Luther super villains. It’s just people being petty, greedy, hateful, violent, and easily manipulated.
It’s the most mundane thing ever.
Station 11 on HBO is great. Basically is follows a few folks shortly before and decades after a virus with a 99.99 mortality rate ravages the planet... go.
I’m also going to just leave this here, from MTG one of the Covid minimalists, ripping into military reps after the balloon incidents over the last week, “You sat by and allowed this Chinese spy balloon that could have contained a bioweapon, like COVID, it could have contained a nuclear bomb an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, or hypersonic missiles...”
The irony is palpable.
I just spent time with a couple from Utah who were staying with us. I asked them what their plans were in the next few years for the Great Salt Lake drying up.
They had no idea what I was talking about.
Who can blame them? The news almost never mentions the very solid science showing the lake has less than 5 years left before it is completely dry.
I was about to go into the whole thing with them but instead I just let it go…
“Make sure you look into it, especially if you’re ever thinking of buying a house in Utah.” was all I said. And then we talked about how they were getting on with our dog Timothy.
Another great piece Jessica.
We have to take care of ourselves.