Of Faith, Folk & Perspective:
An Essay with a Volta
There’s a lot of despair lately. The folk — as a genetically identifiable people — is endangered. Our folkways are all but lost. Our attempts to reconnect are perceived as racist, xenophobic, and worse. Our sacred symbols have been flagged as hate icons. Our native lands are no longer recognizable as such. The calls to the Islamic faithful ring out over the graves of our ancestors, while here in the outposts where I am located, the grocery aisles have discarded liverwurst and pumpernickel in favor of Vietnamese salad wraps.
We, as a folk, are subjected to modern life in all its negative lessenings. Our contemporary lives are set in the midst of too much of everything — too many people bringing too much over-fishing, over-farming, over-polluting, over-encroaching, over-marketing, over-extending . . . over-crowding . . . Hyperinflation, food shortages, gas shortages, urban areas where even the police do not enter without back up, shored up next to mass media images and sounds coming at us in a never ending stream from billboards, magazines, shopping carts, the sides of buses, the sides of buildings, clothing, televisions, computers, radios, headphones, cell phones . . . jangling, rapping, throbbing, blaring in obnoxious colors with obnoxious messages designed to sell us or tell us the next thing we need to buy or need to know. Very very little of it is life enhancing. Very very little is designed to be.
Our histories, our classics, our ways of thought, our heroes, our foods, our outlooks, our values, our art, our own places in this world . . . all are threatened. Without a past, does a people have a future? The way it feels, our future is nothing now but an ugly empty march into uglier meaninglessness . . . and then extermination–if not as a whole species, then most probably as a folk.
Sometimes it feels bleak.
But — is it really bleak, or does it merely feel bleak? I pose this question in all sincerity because somewhere, deep inside me, I suspect this: we are being made to feel it’s all over but the crying (which we are doing right now and will in itself be done shortly) . . . because if we feel it long enough, we’ll believe it. And when we believe it . . . we’ll have it.
I will not believe that we as a folk, as a people, as a race are close to the brink — at least not more than we ever have been. (I’m talking ever: black plague, pole shifts, witch hunts, you name it). I grew up in the ’70s. I grew up soaking in a fetid deluge of end times . . . the end of the rivers (remember the water conservation movement?), the end of the eagles (remember the DDT articles in the papers?), the end of tuna fish sandwiches (I think they are still talking about that one), the end of big trees, family farms, the ozone, the rain forests, the whales, the oceans, pandas, polar bears, elephants, white people, poor children in Third World countries. . . .
I also grew up – at the same time and at the same level of saturation—amidst all sorts of other things that were going to either bring about world peace (have a Coke and a smile) or world damnation (acid rain): McDonald’s, carbon 14 dating, feminism, trips to the moon (rumors that there were no trips to the moon), partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, fluoride, radiation, high fructose corn syrup, global warming, plastic everything . . . and don’t forget the bees. I am talking about both the African Killer Bees that were going to sting us all to death, and the hive collapses of the honey bees that were going to starve us all to death with lack of pollination . . .
Nothing happened like they said it would. There are still pandas. There are still poor children in Third World countries. No one is particularly radiated. No one is stung to death. All those kids who ate all those bowls of sugar cereal right through the ’70s and ’80s are now my age and still (for the most part) alive and kicking. With, presumably, their teeth (that were going to rot out of their heads). There are still white people. There are still rivers. There are still millions of Asians making plastic crap in badly ventilated factories and eating poorly regulated foods who are not diminishing in number like they ought to be if plastic, bad air, bad food, and panda endangerment did the things to us like they said they would.
I used to worry about so many things. Fears would loom large, then get pushed back into less intense lumination (as opposed to illumination) by newer looming fears. Mad cow disease was replaced by e-coli. Carjacking was replaced by wilding was replaced by flash mobs. The loss of the ozone was replaced by loss of homelands was replaced by loss of entire civilization. Y2K was replaced by 2012. Black power by La Raza by Imam Centers . . . all coming to grab me and kill me and replace my race. Soon.
I don’t buy any of it anymore. I don’t. It’s been half a century of various looming fears coming into my consciousness and wandering about in the foreground and then in the background of my head . . . and, so far, I’m not seeing what they told me to be very very scared of.
I’m seeing something else though. What I’m seeing is a pattern. A pattern of over-whelmingness. If you have a generation growing up learning about how very limited their future is, because of how gravely ill their world is, you will get a generation that is not going to be that interested in long range plans . . . for anything. Why bother to save our folk if we are going to die of dirty water? Why bother to save the waterways if we are doomed to radiation sickness? Why bother with anything, really, it’s all going downhill and we are the last of it all. No more trees, no more bees, no more us.
Well, we were the last until that damn Generation Y came along. Then Generation Z. I think we’ve gone back around to Generation A now . . .
And still here we are. Are there fewer of us? Are there more of us? I don’t know if that matters, because the thing is — we are still here. Along with the tuna. And the pandas. Pandas who drink water.
Shouldn’t it all be gone by now? I mean, really think about it — who, reading this, hasn’t spent his or her life under the impression that the rain forests are horribly threatened and are being knocked down as we read? Five acres every minute, wasn’t it? I don’t know about your calculations, but . . . I grew up thinking that we had a certain sized planet that didn’t grow. For there to be still more rain forest left, after 30 years of hearing about how it is being razed, we would have to have access to more rainforests . . . or more land. Or both. I don’t know, maybe we do. Maybe, though, just maybe, those rainforests weren’t getting hit as badly as they were being made out to be. Maybe I didn’t have to forgo the Brazil nuts throughout the ’80s.
Don’t get me started on the tuna sandwiches I missed.
In the light of all this, I refuse to be disheartened anymore. I refuse to live under the ever-present threat of mass extinction of who I am, whether it is my folk or my planet going belly up under me. I refuse to continue to participate in squandering the forces of energies that can be spent on higher things than listening to teeth gnashing about the news that comes out of agenda-filled multi-cultural mass media world news headquarters. You can if you want to — and I suppose some of you will — but finally, after a life time full of pointless fears, vague uneases, and worries about so many things that I couldn’t do anything about anyway, I’m done.
I don’t think it’s as bad as they want us to think it is. I don’t think it ever was. I don’t think it ever quite will be. Difficult sometimes? Sure. Troublesome? Of course. Do we need to protect our borders, avoid rabid dogs, and wash produce before we eat it? Yes. Bleak and hopeless and worsening every day with nothing but planetary (maybe even universal) doom and massive human termination — most particularly for us — ahead . . . ? No, not at all.
“Volta” is a term used in formal poetry. It refers to the place in a sonnet where a sudden change of direction occurs.