Monday, July 25, 2016

Do you have a fear for the future? What is it?

Sharing our fears with others

Edited by Morris Dean

We recently asked the members of the staff of Moristotle & Co. whether they had a fear for the future, and, if so, what was it? Today we are sharing the responses we received.
    But we are also asking readers the same questions. And we hope that you will take the time to tell us. We wonder, for example, to what extent your fears are like ours. Please let us know.

    If you don’t want to identify yourself, that’s fine – just choose the “Anonymous” option in the comment box. If you are okay with giving your name, please do. And you can also comment on our Facebook page [] – there’ll be an entry for this post there by mid-morning today.
    Thank you!

I assume that fear grounded on evidence is meant; i.e. something beyond mere chronophobia: persistent and irrational fear of the future, or the fear of passing time. (I confess to being somewhat intellectually confused by that definition, because there seems to be sufficient evidence to raise persistent fearful feelings about a variety of events that might occur in the future. And the current events that give rise to these fears seem to outnumber the ones that would induce a more Panglossian view of the future.)
    Having in mind these rather broad polarities, I nominate, today, my fear of the realization of the Republican party platform, adopted July 18, that calls coal “clean.” It further advocates opening up of vast tracts of federally protected public lands and waters to oil, gas, and coal exploitation. It rejects the Paris climate accord and Obama’s Clean Power Plan. To quote from an article appearing in today’s Fresno Bee, “In four pages devoted to energy and climate, the platform tosses aside an environmental regulatory structure built on congressional legislation and judicial rulings over more than four decades, dating back to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Richard Nixon.” It seeks to bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions. It would move responsibility for environmental regulation from “the federal bureaucracy” to the states. (Doncha know that Delaware could easily regulate carbon dioxide pollution coming from Pennsylvania?)

    I have heretofore confined my comments on Trump to observing that he greatly reminded me of old news clips of Benito Mussolini addressing the Italian people in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The tilt of his jaw and promises to make Italy “great again” are quite in line with Trump’s physical appearance and promises to make the United States great again. I will reply to Trump supporters who seem to believe that promise (whatever it means), “Yes, and he will make the trains run on time.” But when I say that they just stare at me blankly – obviously not knowing the context of the remark or even caring to inquire. I wonder if they think I have some unusual fixation on railroad punctuality? (The Fresno Bee article I quoted indicates that it was compiled from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.)
    And while I may mock Trump as “Il Duce,” the reality is that the collection of Tea Partiers, nativists, and their assorted bedfellows have finally found a figure around whom they can coalesce and enact an anti-environmental agenda that would wreck havoc in our own country and in the world.

The following is a fear for me personally, but it may be a good thing for the planet. The antibiotic/antimicrobial resistant bacteria that scientists have been warning us about for years (the superbugs) are finally here (thank you all you hand-sanitizer folks: you know who you are). We’ve had superbugs before – bacteria that don’t respond to the usual antibiotics – but now we’ve got bacteria that don’t respond to ANY antibiotics. My fear is that over the next ten to twenty years, these mutated bacteria will be everywhere, and the human race will once again be living in the eighteenth century (without, alas, Alexander Pope). The death rate and infant mortality will skyrocket: twenty to fifty percent of the human population will perish over a twenty-year period (again, this is my fear, not any scientific prediction). Mother Nature will have finally wreaked her revenge on the human race. The hopeful news is the survivors may think things out a little differently the next time around.

First of all, my biggest fear for the future is death. I think this statement will be true for everyone who deals with this matter. “We all owe God a death,” and given the ages of some of us, the debt is about to come due. One interesting article that I read was that Christians tried to prolong life more than non-Christians. I would have thought the opposite to be true.
    Second is the fear of disability. Death is inevitable. Disability is not. Worse than death is life when one, because of mental or physical problems, can no longer enjoy life. My mother, after a stroke, lived for three years as a shadow of her former self. Caesar was asked what was the best kind of death. He replied: “A sudden one.” He was dead right.
    Third is the fear for the future of one’s children and grandchildren. My view is that I have lived my life – although I am still trying to get some good licks in – but I am clearly in the last quarter. Not much good or bad will happen to me. I can remember seeing my grandmother a month before she died. She told me that she was scared of dying but most of all she was concerned about losing all of us and what would happen to us when she died.
    One thing that I do not fear is hell. I do not believe that a merciful God will condemn anyone to an eternity of torment. I believe that Christ promised eternal life to those who believed. That does not mean that the fate of those who did not believe would be eternal damnation. Rather, it would be what it would have been absent his sacrifice – i.e., oblivion. However, I recognize that there are passages in the gospels that talk about eternal torment for those who have done evil. I guess, in this respect, that at this point I am more concerned about what happens to me and less what happens to others.

Sorry, no fears. At the age of 30 in 1970, I asked the doctor who had just diagnosed my diabetes type-1 ailment, “How many years do I have left? Do I have another thirty years?”
    I wanted to know because I wanted to be able to care for my wife. I thought, if he said no, I would have to tell her that we should get a divorce so she could marry a healthy somebody else who could support her.
    However, the doctor said, “I can’t tell you. It’s all up to you how you control your blood sugar.”
    When I tried to broach the subject with my wife, she brushed it aside.
    Now it is 46 years later, 16 more good years given to me by God than I had thought I could possibly attain.
    What’s there to worry about?

As much as I’ve scolded others for being “chicken littles” about the current state of affairs, I find myself troubled. Commentators on the left and right have been remarking on the fragility of this republic. They’re warning that, as sturdy as our institutions have proved themselves to be, one nutjob could bring it all crashing down. And I don’t have a second passport.

I don't really have a fear of anything future, but I do have concerns. For example, if everything is “going south,” what’s to stop me falling over my southern bits?
    If my eyesight continues to get worse with age, then how will I know I look okay, which is a concern, as I am quite vain.
    If my hearing deteriorates, then I’m concerned that my neighbors will be enjoying my TV programs as much as I am, since the volume will be up so high!
    If my memory gets worse, then how will I do the everyday tasks I need to maintain a full and fun life?
    I don’t fear the future, I welcome it, but my main concern is I might not realize it is the future and miss out on even more fun!
    But all in all, I say “Bring it on!”

My fear more than anything else is probably that the folks in charge of our nation going forward don’t know how to deal with the real issues, or are not willing to recognize the real issues in the first place.
    Reality has become totally fogged in. There is no understanding of reality by far too large a percentage of citizens. You hear teenagers and young adults say stupid things like, “I didn’t know a bullet would hurt.”
    Look at this new Pokemon cell-phone game, for crying out loud, that is causing stampedes. How has an imaginary digital game become more important than rational behavior? I can’t help but feel it’s a lack of effective education over the last many years. “Keep Johnny in the same grade as his friends, please, even though he can’t read or write and is dumb as a rock.”
    I made the comment “dumb as a rock” mostly for effect. I actually believe anyone can be taught, but a teacher must find the way or method or mode by which individuals learn. Our system makes little effort to do that. The emphasis is to slot everyone into one groove. In my mind, that’s a fundamentally flawed method.
    Society seems to have lost the ability to differentiate reality from fantasy. I still think this is a product of our educational system. But how do we change that? How also do we teach common sense? I have no idea! But a solid, effective education would surely play a big part.

I woke up this morning thinking of innocent elephants having their faces hacked off for the ivory of their tusks. To me personally, the something-akin-to-personhood of an elephant (and of individual animals generally) is so self-evident and wonderful, I am filled with loathing that any human can fail to love and respect an elephant, and I fear that elephants and many other noble species are doomed.

I have an overall feeling of doom, like being in the back of a bus full of drunks and trying to tell them they need to do something about the driver because he is drunk also. I remember having the same feeling after the Chicago riots surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention – a feeling of total helplessness.

My biggest fear for the future is the overwhelming issue of world human population, and the many problems that will emerge if its alarming growth rate continues.

    Another fear I have is the loss of personal privacy. This is related to my third fear: increased use of social media and the seemingly corresponding decline in face-to-face communication, particularly among millennials and youth. All the social media make it harder to maintain privacy, and I fear that one day everything may “burst,” whatever that means!

I am worried about population growth and the depletion of natural resources. I have been aware of these issues since high school. They were well known and widely discussed in the 70’s, then the subject went out of fashion. Guess what? The issues have not gone away while we’ve frittered away our time talking about terrorists and Trump.  We were, once again, sold a fraud by those who would find it unprofitable if many of us worried about these matters. This time it was “cornucopian economics,” which argues that where there is a demand, the magic hand of economics can be counted on to produce a supply: hence natural resources are effectively unlimited. These are largely the same people who so successfully have sold the climate-denialist fraud; e.g. the Heartland Institute, bankrolled by the same billionaires.
    The result of this neglect is that it seems inevitable that our civilization will eventually collapse from resource shortages and environmental degradation. The survivors will have to make do in a far poorer and uglier world than we inherited. And since the easily exploited non-renewable resources will have been used up, starting a new civilization will probably not be possible. The good news is that life on Earth will eventually rebuild. It will come back differently (e.g., there won’t be elephants) but it will doubtless be as glorious as what we are now despoiling. The bad news is that it will take tens of millions of years, and the human race will probably not survive to see it. For human purposes, we are wrecking the planet permanently and beyond repair.

My greatest fear for the future is increasing ignorance. It seems to me that the majority of people are not interested in anything different from what is needed for their daily life, and when you do not have enough knowledge you cannot make an informed choice. What is more, ignorant people are not interested in other people's lives or what happens around them in the world. They are easily manipulated to fall into the traps of unscrupulous people. Sadly, I do not see any hope for the next generations, since most of them play computer games or surf Facebook most of the time and do not put any efforts into learning something valuable. I hope that makes sense.

My current near-future fear is my flight to England, to attend a professional development seminar, leaving in just two hours. Then come all the fears of finding the right buses, taxis, etc. This will be my first international trip alone. Wish me Godspeed!

In the upcoming presidential election, voters will have the deciding say on the question whether Donald Trump’s ways make him a winner. Ironically, it is possible that a majority of voters will have been persuaded to say “yes” by the fact that he is not in prison for any of his many frauds, and he has, after all, won the Republican Party’s nomination. I fear the possibility that voters might validate Trump by electing him winner.

I’m not nearly as afraid of illegal immigrants or Muslims or the so-called Islamic State, or even of dying, as I am of the possibility that Donald Trump might be elected President. I wish I were more confident that Hillary Clinton will win in a landslide sufficient for Democrats to at least regain a majority in the Senate.

Um, as a practiced worrier...the list is long. Nation, earthquakes, personal health, loved ones’ health, having to deal with loved ones’ health or decline (nothing going on...just expecting the worst).
    I kinda give up on the nation and the world, as I am not capable of making people really listen to me and I am not Elie Wiesel and he did not – no one could – change enough things.
    Bottom line: the species is not capable of evolving. So we remain selfish, venal, murderous, impervious to animal or small child pain (how!!! in god’s name, how is that possible?). And yet, loving and trying to be better, and...there are too many of us...oh, and I can’t find the perfect dress for my 50th high school reunion.

Copyright © 2016 by Morris Dean


  1. My vote goes to the Flight to England.

    1. Ha, yeah, well, if it were up to a vote. Clear & present danger, something we're more or less biologically attuned to feel some fear about, as opposed to long-term consequences for which we bear an infinitesimal personal responsibility and have zero power to do anything about.
          Personally, I enjoyed Penelope's humorous response.
          But I did feel proud that I, too, had been concerned about human population growth since the 1960's...Wait! Did I say proud? What have I to feel proud about? Sure, I gave a presentation on the topic in about 1968 to a university women's association chapter meeting that Bill & Marylin Silveira invited me to speak at, but what else have I done? Well, I had only two children, which is the max that Paul Ehrlich recommended (for "zero population growth").
          Anyway, this was a great column to assemble, and I look forward to the deluge of comments that we are hoping for.

    2. Oops, did I say "Penelope's"? Now everyone is wondering which one is that?

    3. Chuck, in thinking more about fears associated with traveling, I was remembering our trip to Paris in April. In particular, I was remembering being "fatalistic" about the possibility of the plane's crashing or of our dying in another terrorist attack. If it happened, it happened, but the statistics were vastly against it. (A niece told me that she would never go on the trip we were taking, she was so afraid of terrorists....)

    4. I actually believe in statistics. So I'm a LOT more worried on a freeway than in an airplane.

  2. This was really good. Many fears are shared---hope seems to be missing. I also find little hope today. Maybe the American people will surprise me.

    1. To be fair, I didn't ask anyone to share their hopes. Still, I know what you mean.
          I, too, pin my hopes on a huge majority of American voters....
          But so too was David Cameron pinning his hopes on UK voters' rejecting Brexit....

    2. Maybe we could do a follow-up column on "What are your realistic hopes for the future"....

  3. Our friend Sharon Stoner commented on Facebook: "Losing who I am! Don't want to end up like my mother. Her life forgotten."
        Indeed, that could be so many people's fear.

  4. As I re-read what staff members said they fear (and I had read them several times already in preparing the column for publication), I was struck by how few of the things mentioned elicit a feeling of fear in me. Even terrible prospects (like superbugs, depletion of resources, and loss of cities on seacoasts - which no one mentioned, unless it has simply slipped my mind) don't provoke fear, but more of a sadness and a sense of loss.
        I wonder whether others have the same experience. Maybe the staff members have who said "Sorry, no fears" and "no fears for the future, but I do have concerns"? Maybe many of the "fears" identified would be more accurately labeled as "concerns"?

    1. Well, yes. I normally don't spend much time actively fearing. So for present purposes, read "concern about threatening trends", or even "grieving for inevitable losses".