What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s the worst that could happen?

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That’s just the kind of question Frank Furedi tells us we’re asking too much but not asking well-enough.  It seems we have gotten scared witless by the specters of global warming and jihadism–so much so that we cannot focus on much more widely significant problems like the potential for a global recession, which would affect millions of people, or our plague of urban violence, lousy schools, and abandoned kids, which affects a whole region, or even just the problem of potholes or snow removal or any other demands of communal life.  Furedi writes at Spiked:

One consequence of Western societies’ obsessive preoccupation with the apocalypse-to-come is that less and less creative energy is devoted to confronting the all too important problems that exist in the here and now.

And all this worst-case-scenarios-thinking is leveraged by officer seekers in a politics of fear. 

Public figures appear to have lost the capacity to reassure or lead people. Instead, they frequently opt for evoking frightening futuristic scenarios where the line between fiction and reality become unclear. In every respect, the sensibility that underpins public debate today can be described as a ‘crisis of nerve’.  

Furedi gets to the essence of the problem when he notes:

This crisis over the future coexists with a powerful sense of disorientation about the status and worth of the human species itself. Increasingly, humanity is represented as the biggest problem on the planet, rather than as the harbinger of a better future.

Thinking that humanity is the worst that could happen (i.e., forgetting what it means to be human) really is the worst that could happen!  Furedi is right when he warns: 

Worst-case thinking, the principal legacy of 2007, will most likely thrive in the years ahead. That is unless we can rediscover a sense of purpose in what it means to be human.

This forgetting can take the form of using, say, eco-piety, as an excuse for not dealing with the harsh, concrete problems of life that actually have one’s name on them and about which we might actually do something constructive, but which lack the Hollywood-style apocalyptic pizzazz.  And a good number of those problems are (uh-oh, here it comes…) moral problems which require we deal with ourselves and not just with everything “out there,” so to speak.

 What’s this?  Sermonizing?  Don’t take it from me…take it from Brendan O’Neill, whose recent complaint at Spiked features this lead-in:

I am avowedly atheist. But listening to [an ecumenical array of] bishops’ drab, eco-pious Christmas sermons, I couldn’t help thinking: ‘Bring back God!’

His problem, being an atheist notwithstanding, is that Christians (in this case) have taken all the seriousness out of the argument with atheists of man and his nature.  I.e., as evidenced by their prominent leaders, Christians have lost the idea of what it means to be human!

Christians and atheists may have spent much of the past 200 years at each other’s throats, but they inhabited the same moral plane. Theirs was literally a struggle for the soul of humanity. Today, by contrast, Christian leaders have abandoned questions of morality and free will. They now view people as little more than waste managers, ‘caretakers’, eco-binmen, whose job is to sweep up after themselves and keep the planet in good nick. Instead of remaking the world in anybody’s image – whether it be God’s, man’s, Buddha’s or L Ron Hubbard’s – man must simply adapt to his surroundings like an amoeba; indeed, he must minimise as much as possible his impact on the planet. Old Christians taught us that ‘the Kingdom of God is within you’ (4), which was their flawed way of saying that man is a sovereign being, free and morally responsible. Today Christians say: ‘You are merely guests in the Warehouse of Resources. So be quiet, don’t get any ideas above your station, and please shut the door when you leave.’

For O’Neill, today’s “New Atheists” are no better:

If yesterday’s Christians and atheists inhabited the same moral plane, fighting tooth and nail over the purpose of mankind, today’s eco-Christians and New Atheists inhabit the same amoral plane, bickering with each other but also frequently agreeing that man is a bit of a shit. 

O’Neill is dead on except that being a “bit of shit” is actually too high a view of man for eco-Christians and New Atheists, as we now know that poop is necessary for life.  We are supposed to be not even that good!

Clearly, we’re losing the thread….