You Say Metanoia, I Say Paranoia (Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!*)

(*…and here I go abusing another great song lyric for my own humorous-slash-nefarious purposes…sorry, Gershwin boys!)

Eschatology, doomsday, survivalism, hoarding, isolationism, and prepper lists. I’d say that Americans are world champions at fear-mongering and xenophobia, but if I take the slightest look at the news I can see countries and territories everywhere that are also writhing in terror and pain over not only who owns what but who can have access to it, ‘earned’ or not. The very concept of countries and territories, of course, derives from the native human us-vs-them identification/classification that lends itself so easily to the fright, anger, and defensiveness (or offensiveness) that never fades when it comes to insiders, outsiders, patriots, infidels, and our whole complicated scheme of morality and ethics, never mind of property and propriety. The online world is a reflection of the IRL one.

While my own experience of online life—and I thank you all profusely for this—is entirely positive, full of thoughtful, generous, and creative community regardless of our differing backgrounds and opinions and experiences, some of those kinds of differences are expressed at times with more than a little assumption that our natural finitude as humans is coming to a corporate conclusion in the near future. Not just those near futures that are already past, those implosion-and-armageddon predictions derived from interpretations of the Mayan calendar or spiritual texts or the signs in NASDAQ trends that have sailed away into the mists of history, leaving relatively small ripples in their wake, there are always financial, political, religious, social, or natural predictors and people who interpret them to mean that the End is [VERY] Near and only those who are well stocked with the prescribed stuff and attitudes will survive and prevail. I certainly can’t prove otherwise.

You can find online guidebooks and lists all over the place telling you precisely how you should think, act, and stock up your bunker in order to be among the safe, comfortable few who rise above the disaster, whatever each author assures you it is. What is strikingly absent in 99% of what I’ve seen and read in these benevolent directives that purport to teach you how to outsmart and outlast everyone else is humanity. When it does appear, usually in reference to buying or bartering, it’s often assumed that anyone else who survives the disaster is no more peaceable or non-threatening than the author of the present document, who often lists guns and ammunition among the first items to stock in quantity and only much later, if at all, includes things like rice and beans, a kit of medical emergency basics, or sewing supplies. I find it somewhere between mystifying and hilarious that many lists I see are full of things like power generators from people who purport to favor complete and off-grid self-sufficiency, and pitiful that highly processed fuels designed for machine use come to mind as people are compiling these lists far before they get around to mention of fishing gear, garden tools, cookware, or books, the latter of which are often specified only as the guidebooks that were written to prepare for previous world-ends that never happened.Digital illo from a photo: Metanoia or Paranoia?

All I can say in response to this sort of thing is, how sad. Wouldn’t my first and best hope be to find comrades and build communities of support? To rediscover the simplest and least dangerous tools, techniques, and materials for living that will secure us, feed us, clothe and shelter and comfort us? And especially, to find endless ways to make music together, ways to grow, strengthen, and enhance the ties that make us able to respect and care for one another, to find joy and hope and love, in whatever new version of reality we find ourselves occupying. Yes, that above all. It will seem idealistic and futile to those who are busy preparing themselves for all-out/all-in war and a last-one-standing universe, but that’s a world in which I do not choose to exist anyway, and if I am to continue, I will only thrive in a world where idealists still do live and love and the known best survival tools are information and communication, the best skills diplomacy, empathy, and compassion.

13 thoughts on “You Say Metanoia, I Say Paranoia (Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!*)

  1. Brilliant!! Simply brilliant!! One would think that would be the first order of the day. To build self sustaining, peaceful communities. Are we ever going to learn?

    • You said it. I just read an interesting article (can’t remember quite where, or I’d give you the link) on why even selfish and self-centered people can benefit from developing empathy. Thought-provoking, to say the least, as the author noted, and many have, lately, that observation and statistics suggest empathy is in steep decline in the last decade or so. Yikes. It’s at least reassuring to know that you share my sense of urgency about those rare characteristics needing to be grown and reinforced.

      • I would say that selfish people especially would benefit from developing a sense of empathy. Surely it’s lack of empathy that is the cause of many of our woes. In Europe it’s this inability to empathise that is making it so problematic to agree on how many Syrian refugees to accommodate, for example. Some empathy for their situation would surely turn that around.

        • Exactly. I have been seeing so many hateful comments in and on the news lately that, if people would reflect with even the slightest sense of what it might be to walk in the Other’s shoes for a day, might be reconsidered and (I’d hope!) even eliminated. We’re too insular as it is. I keep hoping, though….

    • I don’t even have to look it up. One of the very best—though hair-raising in its classic TZ way! My sister (the one who’s coming to New B with us in March) is just about the best-read person I’ve ever known, and she has a deep love-hate relationship with that episode, not surprisingly. Despite my dyslexic limitations as a reader, I do share her fondness/fear of the tale, enough so that I can see Burgess Meredith vividly in my mind, and that awful shot of the smashed lenses…. What a story. Makes me think I need to hunt up the original short story one of these days. Thanks for the reminder!

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