Discourse is dying. Perhaps that is too dire a summation, but in my travels and encounters I find people to be far less interested in true discourse – defined here as the amicable transactions of information, the information taking the form of opinions based on facts. This saddens me to no end, because we need discourse. We need discussion of ideas.
We are choosing paths as humanity, paths along our timeline and each choice we as a whole make brings us closer to our ultimate end. I can write with confidence that as you read this, we are the strongest humanity has ever been. Carl Sagan once said that “the sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day travel to the stars.” We are so close.
We. Are. So. Close.
A recent xkcd strip underscores this point entirely. As we look back across our history as controllers of our planet, there is no other time we stand so truly capable of leaving our home and venturing the furthest any of us ever have. People have walked on the moon. We fly. Right now, millions of people are capable of instantly talking to another person as far away as a person could possibly get. There has never been a point in history where humanity has had more hope for the future.
At the same time, humanity creeps further to its own extinction. Taking away the disastrous methods Mother Nature holds for our destruction, we stand most ready to cause our own demise. With space objects travelling toward us carrying destructive force, the weather constantly destroying our coastal cities, and the earth itself shaking our towers to bits, we have looked at each other and said “it’s not enough.”
We have said “let us find new ways to destroy each other. Disease, famine, natural disaster is not enough” and so we craft weapons and search out reasons to hate. And destroy. And with global warming reaching its tipping point, and our incredible love of weapons, and our factions bickering, mankind stands closer to destruction than ever.
And so I cry foul at our failure of discourse, our failure to look at the facts and true definitions and see what truly threatens our way of life. We bicker about place settings and health care when at any second we could be obliterated.
That is depressing.
We are species so adept with our big brains that we have reached a point I would argue no other species truly has: we control our own extinction. Yes, this could be considered true. It is not a fact, no, for there are far too many “what ifs,” but it is something to believe in. We can observe our planetary threats and think our way out of them and protect ourselves.
The path to protection lay within all of humanity. Each of us needs to look at our world and our resources and the path we are on and realize something: It is time to grow up. This world we live in has given us the tools and gadgetry of countless science fiction novels and films and the medical science for us to live a long life and enjoy it and too many of us treat these things as children would. We dispose of things, we waste, and that is not okay. Not anymore.
We need to grow up. We need to take responsibility for the problems we ourselves have caused. It isn’t fun – but when you grow up, you realize you have to do a lot of things that aren’t fun.
I speak for myself and I speak mainly to America, my homeland. Our country sits very close to our precipice, possibly falling into financial ruin. The plain fact is that we have lived life too long as Americans letting our country run around the world like a teenager with an express card. We have to do better. We can, too.
And it starts with discourse, I think. The resurgence of calm discussion. People need to be willing to not only accept dissenting opinions, but to change their own. It’s a flawed premise, to be sure, because people are not always willing to accept facts as facts. People like to hold onto their beliefs whether in tooth fairies or politicians or automobile makers. People are flawed and they make mistakes – but it is in our best interest to forgive those mistakes when the people making them accept responsibility and do what needs to be done to make things right again.
It is done through responsibility, open-minds, and so many other things I cannot even begin to describe them all. But as I go through life, I am certainly willing to try.