Survival has never been easy for animal life on planet earth. What with plate tectonics, the fluctuating toxicity of the atmosphere, the vast size and depth of the oceans, the fight for possession of land area, overall survival and any measure of comfort has been monumental. Human beings coming together in groups, and then fighting the threats presented by harsh life on the planetary surface, have resulted in the phenomenal strongholds humanity possesses today. Having become the most dominant species this planet, and in fact the entire solar system has ever known, has been expensive in terms of lives, time and substance. Those times when mankind has banded together, even in small diverse groups, have been limited, because survival of the fittest means surviving at the expense of your own kind, as well as surviving outside threats.

Why don’t humans bind together against all the planet has to throw at them, as evidenced by what happened following Katrina, Houston and now down in Puerto Rico?  If you have ever observed lobsters in a fine restaurant you will find that they are kept in a shallow tank without a lid on the tank, yet you don’t see the lobsters climbing out of the tank and running lose in the restaurant…why not?  The reason why is that when one lobster tries to crawl out of the tank, the other lobsters will grab and pull that lobster right back into the tank with them.  One can’t escape because the others consistently pull each other back in. The competition is too great to allow one individual to pull ahead of the others, or for the group to give of itself to share with others who may not be worthy the sharing.

Twenty years ago, I invented the 8th Fleet. It was to be an American fleet, just like our other naval fleets, with a nuclear carrier, nuclear subs and nuclear support ships. With one big exception. There would be no weapons. The fleet would be launched with crew of thousands of aid workers, engineering corps, doctors, nurses and just about anybody else who would volunteer. The fleet would be sent to disaster sites to plug in. The nuclear engines could provide emergency power for the disaster area. The ships would arrive loaded with water and food. The helicopters could transport thousands of people night and day. The catapults would launch passenger filled planes to other destinations. The eighth fleet would have been dispatched to the first and second big tsunamis. It would have gone offshore for Katrina in New Orleans and Houston, and would be en-route to Puerto Rico right now. This single fleet would accomplish more for American interests than all the other seven combined. I got laughed, literally, out of the CIA and the Pentagon and especially the Navy when I submitted my paper. What is wrong with this idea, even right now? Am I that crazy?

No, I’m not that crazy, but the reality of social performance bears little resemblance to social presentation, news and storytelling about it. Humans talk a good fight, but avoid fighting at almost all costs. The same is true for diving in after disasters, particularly when today’s society has become so distant that it uses electronic media and tools to stand in for personal involvement. What gets lost in this new high-tech world is what used to be called social warmth. The warmth had a binding effect on the part of the person helping and the person being helped, but today those binding forces grow ever more absent. It becomes easier and easier to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and discuss how people in trouble only have themselves to blame, and believe that laziness is the reason they cannot help themselves out of the trouble they are in, and dependency on the largesse of others after natural disasters such as hurricanes and relatively minor tsunamis is simply more evidence of weakness.

Will it take one of these near extinction events to bring back the kind of behavior that will allow us all to work together, to once more advance a civilization that, thirty years ago or so, went right off the rails of? Going back to regularly reading the Declaration of Independence and the New Testament might help, but it is probably going to take more than that. At what point do we, as a people, become so distant from one another that we actually begin to look forward to some vastly punishing catastrophe?

Let us all pray that that is not going to be required. Artificial Intelligence is discussed at all levels of computer operations. But is it not already here? Is it not endemic to the interior mindset of the very humans seeking to create it in machine form? How can the country’s, and even the world’s, current conditions not be judged in terms of this new electronics induced artificial intelligence? How else to explain the lack of overwhelming response to the people suffering and dying from the recent disasters befalling our coastal regions? If we are to proceed forward as the earth’s most dominant species, then we are going to have to beat back the world to do it. The world out there is not the one portrayed on the news, or anything like the one resembling the phenomenal world we’ve constructed to shelter the United States. Humanity must survive, and to do that it must thrive. The earth needs no such attention to any pursuit. It abides. It is there. It was there long before we came along, and will be there long after we are gone.

We are not stewards of this planet, not yet. To become that we must exercise more control of ourselves, and set aside this individual selfishness that’s taken over our every move. Help your neighbor, but first meet your neighbor, and not online. Or if your neighbor doesn’t need it, reach out to those who do. It’s the process, not the need, that creates the warmth you have been noticing you don’t have anymore. Go out there. Beat back the world.

~~James Strauss

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