My house is on fire


My house is on fire. It took me a while to realize it and I’m still not doing much about it, but there are good reasons for that.

  1. For one, my house is really too big for me. All the water pipes, the heating systems, the gas and electricity lines… they’re all over the place, pretty extensive, and their sources are far away. My walk-in fridge, for instance, is supplied by a massive network of trucks and middlemen over two-thousand miles in diameter. Also, when I built my house, during the fat and innocent years, I didn’t think them through, so they’re cheap, wasteful, vulnerable. One center or line goes down and I get burned. All that is true but that’s how it is.
  2. And, though I feel the consequence, the cause – the fire – is too far away, out of my reach. I can’t do much about it. Others are working on it. My getting all worked up over it doesn’t help.
  3. But I do act! See, this fire burns in little pockets everywhere. I spend some of my time and energy putting out some of these little fires – the ones that touch me the most. Where I can’t reach I pay money to help someone else do it. Whenever I put out a little fire, I rejoice, because in my little-fire-perspective I am absolutely victorious. Yes, my joy is momentary, because three fires sprang up while I was tending to one. But then I get to work on another one.
  4. The fire, as a whole, burns quite slowly. Thank goodness this allows me to relax a little. It’s not that urgent, we have time to fix this.
  5. About those occasional sudden flare-ups due to high winds. They’re scary, especially when those closer to me are affected. I recognize myself in them, only it was them who got burned, not me, so that’s where the comparison ends. When I do get affected, I help, of course, and am greatly relieved when it’s put out, which it usually is. I am really too exhausted after that to accept that I didn’t put out the general fire, that I can’t put down the wind. Why rain on the parade?
  6. You know, you can’t expect me to worry about this all the time. There are so many people in the house and they too are working on putting out the fires. Maybe they don’t know about the general situation yet, but soon they will get the big picture, and then they’ll really get to work. Then we’ll beat it! I’ll have to wait for them.
  7. It’s true that there are too many people living in my house. I don’t know how that happened, or how it came to be that decision-making goes to the one who bought the loudest, most expensive mic and I realize that that’s the one who has the most to gain by doing nothing. I can’t shout louder than them. As for everyone else, they’re all over the place with their priorities and strategies. Whom to follow?
  8. Let’s face it, the situation is awfully complex, as complex as the weather! You can’t with 99% certainty predict the weather. Or 90%. Not even 70%. Or even 65%, which is only 5% less than the impossible 70%, and in the context of this massively complex system, 5% is nothing. But then you can’t even have 60%, or 55% certainty.  Science just isn’t there yet. We need to wait till Science can give us models that give us at least 40% certainty. 50%, at least. Better make it 60%, because so much seems to be riding on it.
  9. But so science is now pretty certain (not absolutely certain) that I am the cause of the fire. My “lifestyle” is what feeds it. Believe me, it’s an unintentional consequence. It’s not my intention to set my house on fire. So I’m not really responsible for that consequence.
  10. Also, my lifestyle is embedded in my culture, and it’s not called “the dominant culture” for no reason. If I don’t live this lifestyle my friends and neighbors will reject me. As an outcast, I’ll be entirely powerless. Why give away what little influence I have?
  11. As I said, I am only one of all the people living in the house. If I stop, the others won’t. It won’t make a difference. So why should I stop? Why should I sacrifice while everyone else keeps on partying?
  12. Enough about me; back to my house. If you’re suggesting that I could at least rebuild it and make it more resilient, then I hate to say it but it’s too late, I’ve no more money, it’s all sunk into the old infrastructure and I’m ruining myself as it is, trying to shore that up.
  13. But alright, let’s say that I am the master of the house, and I say, rebuild, sacrifice, save the house! It wouldn’t be democratic. To compromise on our democracy is worse than letting the house burn. And if we go back to the Dark Ages, what would there be left to live for?
  14. Look here, what I really hope for? Technology will save us! If we can use our technology to set fire to our mighty house, then we can use it to save us. It doesn’t exist yet? True, but look at all of us, good-willed, clever, well-informed, civic-minded people. We’re a global community, a tribe, if you will, spread far and wide but real tight and caring. And we’re putting our heads together, sharing our collective genius to save this thing. Together we’ll find a way. Maybe it won’t be me, but some genius among us. It’s only a matter of time.

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