September 9, 2011

Don't Lose Control Over This.

Control. What a human character flaw. The need to exert one's will over another object or being. Where does this necessity come from?!  I am sure anthropologists and sociologists have studied this to great depth through the ages.   I would suggest that the root causes of this likely goes all the way back to insecurity. The fear of death even. For example, if a shelter could be built to protect from the rain and snow, then great. Build it. When your herd of goats is being poached by a lion, put up that fence. See? It all comes right back to the will to surviveNot everybody has this fight response. Some may just flee away from the bad situation, looking for a safer, more tolerable living standard elsewhere. These futile attempts are made in vain of course, and eventually something will catch up to you. Then that old adage You Can Run But You Can't Hide comes into play again. So fight. For your right. To survive.

But. Wouldn't it be nice if civilization could still be civil in an oh-so-wild world? This world where fighting tooth and nail is an invention grown out of necessity to even just survive. Fighting for resources is often just a big free-for-all, where the biggest knife that is used will end up with the biggest slice of the pie. A lot of people out there are under the impression that the world is only our play place and we have the right to plunder and pillage every last part of it to make our own individual lives more comfortable than could ever be imagined. Exploitation and the manipulation of variables are key concepts in engineering after all.

 But exploitation certainly extends beyond engineering and into everyday people's lives as well, with the decisions we make.  Simplest example: buying Fair Trade Coffee. A decision that has a pretty damn' far reaching effect on the lives of others. So really, the trick is to understand that exploitation is more closely related to power than control.  Attempts at maintaining control beyond all reasonable means is what happens when a person demands power. The demand for the cheapest damn' coffee possible, at any cost. It doesn't matter if the environment of the coffee plantation is being exploited, or the conditions of the farmers working there. I need my coffee. Control can only be a positive part of human behaviour when we are utilizing it within our own personal attempts of character development. This control could include things like building on the values of temperance, focus, commitment, and respect. The outward use of control, more often than not, goes against nature.  S' - S > 0 after all. 

Manufactured Landscapes by Burtynsky gives an excellent depiction of some of the ways that we are attempting to control the world. It presents examples of how our planet is losing its naturality from land, water, and even the atmosphere (not to mention the galaxy) through anthropogenic means.  We abuse and trash this planet incredibly hard at astounding rates and it is difficult to comprehend how irreversible a lot of this damage may be! Remediation. Reclamation. Restoration. Is anything really ever quite the same? How do you re-introduce populations of a species driven from a landscape that has been previously demolished beyond all recognition?   

Sprawl. Concrete jungles. Asphalt nations. Right-of-way requirements for car/truck-driven economies. Edmonton may not be LA, but when population densities are as low as what we have here, it's easy to understand how greed and "need" for space has spread us so geographically and metaphorically thin.  Progressive thinking towards a united community/city/country is hindered when all we focus on is how far away we can get away from each other.  China and India and Bangladesh should be so lucky.

We do our damndest at trying to control this wild, wild world.  I think Matthew Good puts it out there pretty clearly in his song:

"everything is alright/ everything is automatic/ everything is alright/ everything is skin deep"

Our attempts to simulate a Perfect Nature are never ending. Stains with "low" VOC content are made available in a million shades of brown so that our decks and fences resemble something more like wood. We tear up our soccer fields and football stadiums so that (ecofriendly?) plastic astroturf can be laid down for the new playing surface. We douse  scoops of "natural" (chemical) icemelt over our concrete sidewalks in the winter and we spray cans of pesticide, insecticide, herbicide, fungicide,  beeicide, germicide over anything that looks the least bit detrimental to our perfect plastic lives.

Hell, even beyond the environment, people are becoming more plasticized than ever before. And I don't just mean after they have died and donated their body to Gunther Von Hagen's creepy science freakshow. This shallowness is echoed in Matt Good's lyrics, in the way that we just seem to care about the easiest and most superficial ways of doing things that could ever be dreamed of!

A lot of us folks need companionship too in order to feel safe in this whacky world. And a lot of time the easiest way of commanding some degree of companionship is to... get a pet. Or mmmaybe even a Russian Bride. The need for security via completely controlling another beings is a sign of weakness and a cry for help. Beating these domesticated pets - wives? - into submission is the ultimate and absolute indication of weakness that simply cannot be tolerated on any level. Appreciation for the natural way of things is  what's necessary and that does not mean blackened eyes or let's just say... worse.

I think that unless we change the path we're on with respect to the need to control the world and people in our lives, we are truly heading for dark, dark places. Maybe the fact that cougars and bears and crocodiles are "acting up" in "civilized" areas of our sprawling urban developments has something to do with them trying to send a message to us humans that this kind of behaviour Just Won't Do. Or maybe I just came home from watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Random blobs of power expressed as that which we all disregard,
Ordered states of nature on a scale that no one thinks about.

Don't speak to me of anarchy or peace of calm revolt, man,
We're in a play of slow decay orchestrated by Boltzmann:

It's ENTROPY! It's not a human issue,
ENTROPY!  It's a matter of course.
ENTROPY: Energy at all levels.
ENTROPY: From it you cannot divorce.

 And your pathetic moans of suffrage tend to lose all significance!

Extinction, degradation:
The natural outcomes of our ordered lives.
Power, motivation:

Temporary fixtures for which we strive.

Something in our synapses assures us we're ok but in our dIsequilibrium we simply cannot stay,

A stolid proposition from a man unkempt as I,
My affectatious nature I can not rectify.

But we are out of equilibrium unnaturally.
A pang of conciousness at death - and then you will agree!

Bad Religion, 1990. 

chapter 61.

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