“The man who is a pessimist before forty-eight knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.” — Mark Twain (in 1902) <JS>
Some time ago I reached the conclusion that the type of writing I and tens of thousands (millions?) of others have done on not-mainstream websites has absolutely no effect on the course of human events, beyond being ephemeral entertainment for people brainy enough to enjoy reading on occasion, and tolerant of the amorphous “leftist” orientation. This is only a sliver of humanity.
In general, egotism and greed will always overwhelm socialism and egalitarianism.
Despite the minority of positive individuals one can find in every new generation, I think our species as a whole is incapable of advancing its thinking widely enough and quickly enough to fundamentally change individual and social behavior, regardless of the consequences and external circumstances. Humanity will cling to its authoritarianism, sexism, biases and prejudices (religions), and its greed (as corruption and capitalism) even to the point of extinction, rather than change.
Regardless of circumstances, there is always an excuse for continuing to “get what you want,” and to “not think.” There is no doubt in my mind that humanity will frack every puddle of buried hydrocarbon gas and sludge, scoop out or burn through every coal seam, and pump out every pool of oil, as soon as it can do so profitably. We will build the biggest cars and truck-cars people can afford, and roll over every piece of ground we can with them, burning up those mined hydrocarbons and spewing the carbonaceous wastes into the atmosphere.
Also, those hydrocarbon fuels will power many many military forces, regular and irregular, to grab control over land and people, and hold onto it. Positive individuals may lessen the suffering of the people they touch, or add uplifting elements to culture as great artists and musicians have always done, but these positive acts will only temporarily relieve the suffering or gloom of individuals fortunate enough to experience them, and none of this will alter the overall trend of the species.
People believe what they want to believe, and they would rather die and destroy the planet than think and act differently.
To me, the great shared tragedy of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden (and a number of others now in jail or otherwise hounded) is that their deeply humane sentiments and selfless and noble sacrifices are wasted on a feckless, lazy, willfully ignorant and self-absorbed people, the majority of whom are incapable of being appreciative. Wasted patriotism and wasted sacrifice, for a public most of whom have as little regard for maintaining constitutional rights and freedoms as does its political aristocracy. The anthem of that nation is:
“It don’t worry me. You may say that I ain’t free, but it don’t worry me.”
Excerpts from The Damned Human Race, Article V “The Lowest Animal” (1897?), which is included in the volume of sketches and short pieces by Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings, edited by Bernard DeVoto:
Hypocrisy, envy, malice, cruelty, vengefulness, seduction, rape, robbery, swindling, arson, bigamy, adultery, and the oppression and humiliation of the poor and the helpless in all ways have been and still are more or less common among both the civilized and uncivilized peoples of the earth.
For many centuries “the common brotherhood of man” has been urged — on Sundays — and “patriotism” on Sundays and weekdays both. Yet patriotism contemplates the opposite of a common brotherhood.
Women’s equality with men has never been conceded by any people, ancient or modern, civilized or savage.
Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity — these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself. He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion. Man is “The Animal that Laughs.” But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass. No — Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it — or has occasion to.
Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out, as the Hessians did in our Revolution, and as the boyish Prince Napoleon did in the Zulu war, and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.
Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country — takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.
Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.
<JS> Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race, edited and with an Introduction by Janet Smith (1962).