I went to participate in a protest Sunday outside the Marriott Hotel, where AIPAC was having their annual brunch. Most of the attendees ignored our “Good morning” at the entrance, and walked past us staring straight ahead. One AIPAC guy engaged several protesters in an argument, and he was having a great time getting 4 people screaming at him, each with their own agenda, which confirmed his conviction that we’re all a bunch of crazy cranks. I’m done with these protests. I’d rather be a crazy crank on my own.

 

I’ve been thinking lately that there are two separate issues which may have nothing in common, except that my thinking about them has followed a similar trajectory. Those issues are climate change, and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Up to about ten years ago, I was operating on the idea that we could do something about these issues. I believed that having a homeland for the Jews was a good idea, and I had the hope that it would still be possible to get to some kind of peaceful resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. On the climate, although it was too late to prevent climate change, I imagined that people could possibly come to their senses and do something to at least mitigate it, or to plan for coping with it and mitigate its effects on us. I mean, I didn’t think either of these scenarios was likely, but not impossible.

 

Around 10 years ago, I entered a pessimistic phase in relation to each of these separate issues, where I decided it was too late to do anything. On Israel/Palestine, it was too late for a two-state solution because Israel had already carved up Gaza and the West Bank into permanent disjoint apartheid cantons and a Palestinian “state” would merely be a formalization of the existing apartheid arrangement. In my mind, the best “solution” would be a single, secular state, which meant the end of a Jewish state. On global warming, we had not yet reached the tipping point where the climate has changed enough to disrupt human civilization, but it was no longer preventable no matter what we did. I won’t dwell on the arguments for these points of view, I’m just expressing here what my points of view were.

 

Now I’ve come to a third phase, which I regard as less pessimistic in its own way. To summarize this phase: How can it be too late if it was never not too late? This is not something to wring our hands over; this is how it is. We are a species of animal governed by certain biological qualities. We are capable of modifying the earth more than most other animals are, and this capability gives us the illusion that we are in control of our destiny. In reality, we are subject to the same forces of nature as other life forms.

 

Any life form will increase, in the absence of limiting factors such as predation and disease, until it overwhelms its food supply and then the population will decline or collapse. Populations fluctuate, and not smoothly but jaggedly. Homo sapiens has had the ingenuity to consistently increase the food supply and fight diseases for many centuries now, which leads him to believe that these fluctuations don’t apply to him.

 

For example, take deforestation. We all know that deforestation is a bad thing, but is it reversible on a global scale? In fact, it is increasing and will inevitably increase at an accelerating rate because we need more and more land to produce food for more people. In the “developed” nations of North America and northern Europe, this is disguised by the fact that forests have actually increased over the last century or two, because this is not where the poor people are. We’re not burning wood for fuel, and we’ve temporarily increased food production per acre by using fossil-based fertilizers and fossil-fueled machines. If a future civilization can exist on the earth we leave behind, and if they can reconstruct enough knowledge of us to figure out what happened to us, they will ask how we could have knowingly wiped out our own sources of sustenance. Analogously, we might ask how the Easter Islanders could have cut down all their trees and doomed themselves. They weren’t stupid, they just overwhelmed their resources and did what they had to in order to survive for as long as they could. Any one of us would kill the last chicken in the world if we had hungry children, even knowing that this would only postpone the inevitable.

 

As far as Israel/Palestine goes, it is possible to imagine a pluralistic secular state where Jews and Palestinians co-exist. My point is that it was never NOT too late for that. It was always contrary to human nature. We are capable of imagining things that won’t happen. Jews co-existed with non-Jews in the Islamic world for many centuries, unlike in the Christian world, where Jews were considered Christ-killers. Arabs and Persions were relatively tolerant of a small, non-threatening minority. But in Palestine, the Jews didn’t try to co-exist, they took over. There’s no going back.

 

To come back to my point, this is not something to wring our hands over. This is how it is. I would say that grief is an appropriate response, and for the time being I’ve come to acceptance, which is said to be a stage of grief. Acceptance is liberating.

Advertisements