The State of the World From Where I Sit

Everyone is evaluating the state of things these days, so here is my sorely incomplete evaluation of how the world stands.

Sex:

Rape is an act of violence, not sex. Heinous acts, savage violations, continue to occur in India, outraging not just Indians, but the world. Despicable prescribed rapes happen in the tribal Muslim world, along with other uncivilized practices that devalue and degrade women. Rape is approved of as military tactic by barbaric militants in Africa. At home, male Republicans continue to believe women are lesser beings, subject to male approval, and subject to noxious and unnecessary medical transgressions they themselves would not tolerate. But there are signs that rape is beginning to be seen worldwide for the violent and traumatic crime that it is.

Rape is an act of violence, not sex.

Much of the world still fails to understand that one’s sexuality cannot be chosen. Nobody can simply choose to be gay, any more than you can choose to be male or female. Nor can the factual and normal existence of homosexuality be denied just because you don’t approve. At 5% of the world population, there are some 350,000,000 homosexual people who live in every part of the world, one out of twenty people, a number greater than the entire US population. The sheer size of the population means that it cannot be denied. Each and every one of these people is the product of heterosexual union, not of homosexuality. Homosexuality exists in the animal world too, and goes as far back in human history as we can reach.

Russian president Vladimir Putin makes absurd and disturbing pronouncements that betray shocking ignorance and intolerance that is altogether too common. The mayor of Sochi, Russia where the upcoming Winter Olympiad will be held, says there are no gays in town. I’ve had foreign-born Chinese tell me there is no gay “problem” in China. Putin wants a “cure” for homosexuality, wants to punish homosexuals, and believes it is the same thing as pedophilia. A Hong Kong billionaire offers $140M to anyone who will marry his lesbian daughter and make her straight. New laws in Uganda are specifically designed to criminalize their own 5%. The Catholic church and the Islamic leadership are unyielding in the face of the realities of sexual variation, and continue to call for punishment of such people for being who they are.

The reason for this blindness is this, for many: According to these religious folk, everything that God made is perfect. They don’t like homosexuality, therefore it cannot be something God made, because it’s imperfect. Therefore it must exist because “normal” people somehow chose to be abnormal. If they are abnormal, we are free to abuse them.

Much of the world still fails to understand
that one’s sexuality cannot be chosen.

And yet, all these restrictive and punitive movements are on the wrong side of history, as increasing numbers of American states and other nations pass laws that recognize the truths of sexual variation, of the fact that the 5% are also people, and they did not choose to be who they are, anymore than the rest of us. Moreover, they must be allowed to love and marry whom they love.

Inequality:

A snarky right-wing prayer goes: Oh Lord, I have one goat and my neighbor has two. Please kill one of his goats. This is intended to tell us that the gross inequality we have today is proper, and anyone who disagrees is being illogical. Inequality is natural and acceptable, to a point, an argument I will return to in a future post. People need to be recognized and rewarded for good work, among other things. It’s the reason Communism simply doesn’t work.

The actual problem is that each of the 85 richest people on the planet has 41-million goats, not two. Those 85 have wealth equivalent to the bottom 50% of Earth’s population. In the US, wages of the un-rich have not even kept up with inflation, let alone the sharp rise in productivity we have had. All the money has gone to the richest 1%, particularly the richest 0.1%. Because the supply of money is finite, it has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the rest of us, particularly the poor.

Each of the 85 richest people on the planet
has the equivalent of 41-million goats, not two.

There isn’t the slightest chance the ultra-rich actually earned their money. Some concession can be made for billionaires who actually make something, but it seems that most of them today simply move large amounts of our money around, not always lawfully or morally, taking a percentage in the process. People who obtain great wealth are talented people, but much of their wealth is extracted from those less wealthy, particularly the poor. This new Gilded Age has come about because they have used their enormous wealth to influence or simply dictate legislature, shaping the laws and regulations to favor the increase of their own wealth, at the cost of the poor and middle class. Most of it I call corruption.

Our beloved democracy
has become a plutocracy.

With this kind of egregious inequality, especially in the US (Japanese CEOs earn 11X the income of their average workers; American CEOs earn 475X their average workers), one must question the purpose of government. Do we have a government devoted to all citizens, the demos? When poverty is rampant and the working poor cannot support themselves on full time wages, while the very rich control everything and have so much money that any more cannot possibly improve their lives, our beloved democracy has become a plutocracy. Plutocracy is not benevolent, and it certainly is not democracy.

Population:

The increase in world population is slowing. This is good, but will not save us. Even the present increase of about 1% per annum means that the population would double in 72 years—to 14 billion. We need not just a slowing, but a significant reduction in our numbers. Population is already four times greater than is sustainable, a situation that will be sharply worsened by climate change.

Fortunately, there are signs that we are beginning to understand the problem. For thousands of years, parents tried to have as many children as possible, because disease routinely killed a large percentage of the very young, rich and poor alike. But modern medicine has greatly improved child survival rates, and when poor populations benefit from better medical care and cleaner surroundings, their children survive, and they realize they don’t need a lot of children to ensure survival of a few. Education of girls has also changed the equation. Young women realize that when their babies survive, a smaller family means better life. This trend is happening wherever better child survival and female education are found.

Population is already four times
greater than is sustainable.
There are signs that we are
beginning to understand the problem.

In the advanced world the fertility rate is falling in general, sometimes to below the replacement rate of about 2.1 children per woman. In most nations, the influx of immigrants prevents an overall loss of population, but Japan gives us a unique natural experiment. In Japan, the native population is falling, and immigration is relatively rare, so the overall population is also falling. We will observe how Japan deals with the problems—such as unused housing and infrastructure—that will arise. If they fail, we are all doomed.

Climate change:

The downhill race to an uninhabitable planet is starting to accelerate noticeably now, like a competitor at the top of a ski jump, and it is beginning to affect corporate America in the only way they understand: erosion of profit. Coca Cola is one of the first to suddenly realize that climate change means climate change for the whole world, including them, and the prognosis is not good. It’s a revelation that has yet to occur to most of the rest of the capitalist world.

The downhill race to an uninhabitable planet
is starting to accelerate noticeably.

The entire southwestern part of the US is now feeling the effects of hotter and dryer climate, which has already caused permanent changes, and could turn into a full-fledged disaster. And where will the ten million citizens of Los Angeles go when they no longer have enough water?

Every succeeding report on climate change tells us that previous estimates were too conservative. Polar ice is melting faster than expected. Average temperatures are rising faster than expected. Atmospheric greenhouse gasses are more concentrated than expected. Glacial and mountain peak ice is melting faster than expected. Altogether, the decline of conditions is accelerating faster than scientists expected.

The response continues to be totally inadequate.

And yet the response, especially in the advanced industrial nations, particularly the US, continues to be totally inadequate. Greenhouse gasses continue to increase, and will do so until several decades after we radically reduce their production, by which time the planet’s temperature will be dangerously high—dangerous for us, that is. There remain significant numbers of Republicans who persevere in disbelieving not just the science, but, increasingly, the evidence of their own eyes: the planet is changing for the worse, and we are the cause. They, ignorance, and lack of political will, are leading us straight into hot water over our heads.

It’s an ideological position, one that runs counter to all the evidence. They will change their tune when it hits them in the pocketbook, or certainly when sea rise forces them to leave their home.

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