I’m having difficulty writing this morning, because I’ve been reading the news. The mid-term elections were yesterday, and the results are mostly reportable at this point. Rick Scott has been re-elected as Florida’s Governor. Amendment 2 failed to pass. The Republicans have taken control of the Senate and further control of the House... Honestly, in the past, I would have felt more strongly about some of the results from this election, but somehow, I only feel slightly more discouraged about our political realities than I did yesterday or the day before. I have been learning the American way too long now, which is to feel that it doesn’t make much of a difference. It is sad for me to say that, because I still bother to go to the voting booth and cast a ballot, and I even feel fairly fiercely that we can affect local politics and policy, but there is a numbing that has taken place over time, something that as a youth I clearly recognized in older folks but couldn’t at the time conceive of what it would take to arrive at such a place of neutrality and jadedness. In my own experience, it is made up of the gradual recognition of the constant beatdown that our idealism is subjected to, and never more so mercilessly than in the realm of politics it seems. If we pay attention to the news, it wrecks our sense of right and wrong. As people coming of age in this society, we are asked essentially to keep a candle burning in the cyclonic winds and torrential rains of story after story of hypocrisy, crookedness, and despair. Who has the strength of mind, the purity of heart, the plain stubbornness of spirit to endure such an endless siege on sanity or sense?
I like what Thomas Friedman had to say in his editorial this morning. He basically said that we just experienced an election of complete irrelevance to what is actually happening in the world. I tend to agree. This makes me both more sad and more hopeful simultaneously. In essence it signals that we are politically so far lost to corruption, greed, and partisanship that what actually matters is not even registering as real for our politicians. I think this is a reflection of our own tendencies at denial as well, but it is exaggerated in the spoofy, caricatured crassness of television and news. Friedman writes of the city of Sao Paolo, Brasil being in danger of running out of water this month: “South America’s biggest and wealthiest city may run out of water by mid-November if it doesn’t rain soon. São Paulo, a Brazilian megacity of 20 million people, is suffering its worst drought in at least 80 years, with key reservoirs that supply the city dried up after an unusually dry year.” He cites Jose Maria Cardoso da Silva, a Brazilian and senior advisor at Conservation International, who explains the apparent causes of this drought, relating it to an 80 percent deforestation of the entire Cantareira watershed that supplies the six artificial reservoirs that provide the city with water. Basically, in cutting down the forests and replacing them with farmfields, pastures and eucalyptus plantations, the absorption capacity of the entire watershed has been intensely compromised.
But Friedman’s point is that despite the clear and absolute importance of this issue to Sao Paolans and Brazilians, “this was barely an issue in Brazil’s election.” Here Friedman turns to Paul Gilding, an Australian environmentalist and author of “The Great Disruption,” who says this lack of serious consideration of this issue in Brazil “reinforces to me that we’re not going to respond to the big global issues until they hit the economy. It’s hard to imagine a stronger example than a city of 20 million people running out of water. Yet despite the clear threat, the main response is ‘we hope it rains.’ Why such denial? Because the implications of acceptance are so significant, and we know in our hearts there’s no going back once you end denial. It would demand that the country face up to the urgency of reversing rather than slowing deforestation and the need to prepare the country for the risks that a changing climate presents.”
As long as we keep our heads in the sand regarding the tenuousness of our place in the world around us, we can continue on a path where choosing between two untrustworthy men for our governor seems reasonable or unremarkable. When we want to actually shift the direction that we’re headed, when the world is no longer what we thought it was and we are fighting tooth and nail to keep the water running in our pipes, maybe then we’ll begin to acknowledge the frailty of ourselves and our home, and the amazing potential for creativity and adaptation that we as a species are capable of.