State of Western Civilization: Not Many Look Up


Don’t Look Up is the title of the hottest film released at the turn of the year. Almost everyone appreciates the brilliance of the script as well as the accurate reading of the situation in the modern world ang the condition of a Western civilization in the second decade of the 21st century.

Many compliment the idea behind the star-studded production, acting, and wit. Nobody serious, however, believes – and rightly so, – that such films change anything. Our civilization has entered the era of infantilism. May it not be the last age we witness.

I do not know if there is anyone who has not seen the movie, but for those who did not have the time to catch up on the most popular topic of conversation recently, I shall summarize its general assumptions, without revealing the ending.

Two scientists discover that in about six months a comet will strike the Earth and destroy all life. They are almost 100% sure that it will happen, so, in panic, they try to warn the humankind (the role of humanity is, of course, exemplified by the American society) of the imminent danger and find a way to destroy the cosmic planet-killer.

While in the previous catastrophe films, the world, after receiving this type of information, usually plunged into global chaos (riots, prayers, orgies, etc.), in this case the humankind reacts with disbelief, laughter, disregard, and all available mental and technological mechanisms of repression.

Politicians are trying to use the situation to their advantage, billionaires to make additional billions, the Internet stars to promote themselves even more, and the so-called ordinary people have at least some extra fun of it. Almost no one listens to the scientists’ arguments, and the media and entertainment industry are at best trying to make them into celebrities and thus increase viewership profits.

Even those who try to look up at the impending danger seem not fully aware of the seriousness of the situation, for example, still organizing a big concert, like the famous Life Aid for starving Ethiopia. The tools and ideas that worked well in the 20th century, however, seem to be totally incongruous with the new situation.

To sum up, the iceberg rushes at the speed of sound on the Titanic, which is immersed in silly fun, and its crew, led by the captain, are trying to find out how to make the suicide cruise even more attractive.

Needless to say, this is roughly what our current situation (in the sense of the entire humanity) looks like in the face of an imminent climate catastrophe. Scientists have been sounding the alarm for years, presenting hard data, irrefutable research results, drawing in dark colors the quite near future of our planet and begging for radical steps to be taken to mitigate the effects of a global catastrophe – without much success.

Apart from a few insignificant summits of world leaders and their empty promises, nothing in particular is happening. What is more, we are dealing with a recurring wave of populism. Few look up. Humanity has learned to use the repression mechanism and pretends that this whole outcry is just so-called media fact.

The real fact, the existing state of affairs, seems to be completely disappearing in the globalized culture of mass Internet access. I choose to believe there is not is a conceptual trick used by Jeanette Grace Susan, a film spokeswoman for the White House played by the great Lise Kudrow in another mocking film entitled Death to 2020 (the second part of the movie, Death to 2021, has just been released). The spokeswoman said that there was no such country as Ukraine, and when the journalist assured her that there certainly was, she simply replied that she preferred to believe that there was not. And that’s that.

I heard the same answer many years ago from my American colleague, when I was indignant at his downplaying or even denying the existence of the Holocaust. He just preferred to believe the Shoah didn’t happen and no evidence mattered. This is what it looks like and, unfortunately, nothing can be done about it anymore.

What is science, facts, experience, and knowledge of specialists against the faith of millions of people who are convinced that the coronavirus is a product of pharmaceutical companies created to increase the sale of drugs and vaccines? Hundreds of thousands of Americans believe that the strictly conspiratorial elite of shape-shifting lizards from outer space are seeking to take over the world.

In Europe, masts are being burned more and more often and telecommunications workers are being attacked by opponents of 5G technology, which – according to opponents – is to lead to depopulation. Thousands of Poles are convinced that they are the descendants of the ancient Lechites, who ruled half of Europe and fought victorious battles with the Roman Empire.

Recently, a new conspiracy theory has been gathering followers in the United States, arguing that real birds are completely extinct and have been replaced by drones tasked with spying on Americans. The more ridiculous the better.

You can choose what to believe in, you will always find politicians, opinion leaders, celebrities. and even pseudoscientists who will not only strengthen your beliefs, but also fuel them for the sake of their own popularity and profit.

The sine wave of successive cultural currents, which everyone remembers from high school, is scrubbing at the bottom, although it is not entirely obvious, because it may turn out that this is just the beginning of the congress. The Polish writer and journalist Krzysztof Varga wrote years ago that we are entering the era of infantilism and who knows whether the term he coined will be used by researchers analyzing the culture of the early 21st century.

And the people believe reverently: / Faith and love are more discerning / Than lenses or learning”, wrote Adam Mickiewicz in his great poem Romanticism.

This quote perfectly characterizes the reality that surrounds us, but the problem is that in the 19th century mankind was not threatened by a real catastrophe and one could believe in ghosts, nymphs, and demons with impunity. Today, this type of approach will certainly cost us dearly.

Interestingly, contemporary popular culture ceases even to place hope in a mythical hero, a savior who, in the face of danger – like Bruce Willis – will save the world from the inevitable destruction. A dozen or so years ago, such a solution to the plot in a catastrophe film seemed obvious, after all.

Today, the hero’s efforts seem futile and grotesque, and he is rightly blown away by the makers of Don’t Look Up. After all, as individuals, we can do almost nothing – even when we save energy, do not buy new clothes, avoid eating meat, or give up air travel. It is too late for all of this, and the main advantage of such an ecological lifestyle is silencing our conscience. At least that’s what the scientists who seem to be slowly losing hope say.

The revolution that will save the world will probably not come in time, because no one even knows what it should look  like. We’re starting to realize that we’re really screwed, even though we’re still intensely looking up. Maybe it’s actually better to look away

The article was originally published at:  

Written by:

Rafal Jaskowki – a Polish historian, political scientist, doctor of social sciences in the discipline of politics and administration. A former journalist of Dziennik Łódzki and spokesman for the Parliament of the Łódź Province. He specializes in the history of Polish political thought

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