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This Could Be the Last Good Day

I don’t have any tattoos, but I’m thinking of getting one that says, “Today could be the last good day.”

I’ve referred to the experience of writing a dystopian series (the Cytocorp Saga) during the height of the pandemic. It wasn’t difficult to imagine all the ways that society could fall apart during that time because I perceived that it was beginning to do just that.

I wish I could tell you that my perspective has shifted.

If one were to plot the long arc of human civilization on a graph, with time on the X axis and something impossibly reductive like “condition” on the Y, you would see a general upward trend but not a straight line. As technology, medicine, and intelligence have progressed, so has our civilization. For example, the advent of antibiotics made it so a gash in your leg didn’t mean losing it. That would be a sharp little spike in the graph. War, famine, the Black Plague and such would be troughs.

There’s ample evidence to suggest we have already entered another trough. And, like other troughs in our illustrious history, it may last decades or even centuries.

Science, for example, evolved out of the ostensibly obvious need to establish unassailable truths when possible and well-supported theories when not. The freedom to take something as factual allows for the exploration of unknowns, which is how knowledge advances. It’s the base of the pyramid. Perhaps you’ve noticed that science isn’t exactly ascendant at the moment, especially among the ruling class. In fact, outside of the sciences and the lives of ordinary people, I would argue that objective truth no longer matters in our society. And when truth no longer matters, nothing does.

In his 2009 book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, Charles Pierce established what he called the Three Great Premises:

The First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units.

The Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.

The Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

You don’t have to look very far to see how accurate these statements have become. Truth is out, and attention is in. Rather than solve actual problems, our most brilliant minds have built highly efficient and profitable confirmation bias machines. Disinformation and fakery has never been easier to sell. In his book, Pierce refers to “cracks,” an old-timey word for those tinfoil hat types who used to stand on the street corner and fulminate about radio waves or microchips while nobody paid them any mind. Now, those same people have podcasts or offices in the Capitol.

Climate scientists, by contrast, have been screaming for decades that we are cruising toward an environmental catastrophe that will render vast swathes of our planet unlivable. Now, they’re the cracks nobody listens to, and they might as well stop screaming because it’s almost certainly too late. Does anyone see unprecedented global cooperation in our future?

As we speak, history is being rewritten. Before long, the messy parts of our history, like slavery or the Holocaust, won’t serve as examples of what not to do anymore. At best, they’ll be stories that only old people know like Hansel and Gretel or World War 2. For example, how many of the politicians and pundits who refer to so-and-so as a fascist have been made to publicly articulate what that word even means?

Empires fall. Systems collapse. Foundations crumble. So it has always been, so it always will be. When it gets bad, it will stay bad for a very long time. But even if the whole thing doesn’t go to shit in the near future, something will. It could be our health or that of a loved one. All the “virtual” money we have could vanish in a blink. The power could go out and never come back on.

The point is, cherish today. Notice it. Appreciate the people in your life, past and present. The many conveniences you currently enjoy. Grass. Rivers. The sound of birds. Live it up. Because any day could be the last good day, and that day will arrive before any of us are ready to meet it.

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