Whose Future?

What a filthy week it has been:

The bodies of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria in the Rio Grande, who fled the savage violence in their homeland, caused in no small part by the United States’ long and terrible interference there, only to die at the unforgiving “Trump Wall” of white nativist America.

Yet another rape allegation against Donald Trump, whose history and words all point to a virulent misogyny. The epitome of rape culture’s expression of power, Trump’s ideology is that of the rapist.

The fascist triumph over democracy in Oregon may well be be a forecast of our future. Democrats from DC to the states are utterly unable to respond the viciousness of today’s Republican Party. The party’s poll-leader, Joe Biden, actually waxes nostalgic about working to extend suburban apartheid with Big Jim Eastland and to criminalize blackness the Southern Way with Strom Thurmond, on the theory, evidently, that this will attract the vote of white male reactionary pigs away from Trump.

Oh, and we have a new phrase, climate apartheid, for the wildly differential levels of suffering to come.

And the Supreme Court’s Republicans claim they can’t intercede on gerrymandering, a prime way to maintain the minority GOP’s power, but are eagerly awaiting to intercede in women’s wombs.

But actually, I have something entirely different in mind today. This review of Nathaniel Rich’s book by Michelle Nijhuis ends… most intriguingly. She quotes the philosopher Samuel Scheffler, who in Death and the Afterlife is concerned with the “collective afterlife” — the assumption that humanity will endure long after our individual selves are fertilizer. And that this collective is more important to us than we generally assume.

Scheffler: “My argument has been that personal survival already does matter to us less than we tend to suppose, and that the survival of humanity matters to us more. In saying this, I am not underestimating our powerful impulses to personal survival or the deep terror that many people feel when contemplating their own deaths. Nor am I denying the importance of self-interested motivations in ordinary human behavior. My point is that despite the power of these attitudes, there is a very specific sense in which our own survival is less important to us than the survival of the human race. The prospect of the imminent disappearance of the race poses a far greater threat to our ability to treat other things as mattering to us and, in so doing, it poses a far greater threat to our continued ability to lead value-laden lives.”

What do you think about this notion? Everyone living now will be dead someday, but most of us don’t find this knowledge tragic, we don’t give up in a blue funk. This is, after all, life. But it presupposes that others will follow all of us. This assumption, and its disruption, is something entirely different. Nijhuis wonders if this this will make us think differently of radical climate disruption.

I haven’t read Scheffler’s book yet; here is a worthy review of it.

Personally, I would prefer the word “species” to the word “race.” Racists argue that humans, when they grant human status to other “races” at all, are a hierarchy with them at the top. They also, in case you haven’t noticed, are obsessed with the notion that the “white race” (which isn’t really a thing) is being replaced. This unscientific claptrap was moronic a century ago when American Museum of Natural History doyen Madison Grant published his proto-Nazi The Passing of the Great Race, and now it it is beyond hackneyed except that there are people out there who profess to believe it.

I also don’t think humanity will be wiped off the face of the earth soon, even in the face of the radical transformations of global warming. There will be untold suffering, yes, and a great upheavals, true. The species is heading for quite a bottleneck in the hot box of the new Age of Heat, but doubtless some will get through. Climate apartheid and other three points above, magnified exponentially, seem rather more likely our foreseeable future. I personally am glad I don’t have children to feed to the Climate Leviathan or Behemoth.

This said, what do you say to Scheffler’s thesis? Do we care more for the future of the species than for ourselves? And what of the other species we’ve made ourselves responsible for?Better humans: AOC and Greta T.

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