By Kai Huschke

Planetary collapse is a laughing matter. 

I say that for two reasons. One laughter is the best medicine. As further atmospheric, climatic, and ecological destabilizations continue to happen with greater frequency and impact, it is natural for anxiety, depression, anger, outrage, and despair to also occur with greater frequency and impact. But it is in these most trying moments (and let’s face it, this is THE most trying moment for humankind,) we need to find levity. We need to find pleasure in the small things. We need to laugh with greater frequency and impact. Actually, fuck levity, from time to time we just need to laugh until we pee our pants.

The second reason is that comedy, the kind performed by comedians, is truth-telling of a certain order. Comedians are like wise elders with abilities to broach difficult topics that other forms of communication just aren’t able to do. It is within comedy and the laughter thereby derived, that we can more clearly face the traumas of our everyday lives and that of the bigger world, and from that undertake the necessary learning and actions to change our individual and collective behavior. “Comedy is tragedy revisited”, was how comedian Phyllis Diller defined her craft. Tragically, the challenges facing Planet Earth today have no shortage of comedic material.  

But why is that? Well, a big reason is stuff. Yes, I said stuff. As comedian George Carlin pointed out we are addicted to stuff:

“Now I’ll put some stuff in here, put some stuff down there…here’s another place, some stuff here…I’ll put some stuff over there. You put your stuff over there, I’m putting my stuff over here. Here’s another place for some stuff. Hey, we got more places than we’ve got stuff. We’re gonna have to buy more stuff…That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff.” 

Carlin has a vast collection of genius comedy acts, but his one on stuff is so on point regarding the state of crisis we are in, and why, in large part, we are not responding in a manner that looks to be doing anything to pull our collective heads from our collective asses to keep ourselves and our many plant and animal relatives from impending extinction.

~ Continued below ~

My roots run deep past the bones that keep secrets of pleasures and pains.

My colors are painted by Nature herself. I do not hide them in shame.

Some come to me for shade or for comfort; others are weary from their pain.

Like a storm, I feel the rush of their minds; I offer them peace and rest.

All this I give and ask nothing in return but to grow and thrive and exist.

Some that have fallen hear when I call them and answer however they can.

Roots by Michelle Sanborn, CELDF

Inspired by a special tree that seemed to speak on behalf of her kindred as I sat beneath her.

When the light fades away and darkens the day. I offer my branches to the wind.

When light returns, new life begins and I stand to shelter yet again.

All this I give and ask nothing in return but to grow and thrive and exist.

Some that have fallen hear when I call them and answer however they can.

All this I give and ask nothing in return but to grow and thrive and exist.

Will you deny me this?

The problem is that we can’t seem to help ourselves. In fact, the mass orchestration of the system (call it whatever you want: capitalism, corporatism, consumerism, American Democracy)  is grounded in the notion that more and more stuff is what makes life valuable, and we believe it to be so. 

The system has worked hard to create obedience in a number of ways and to cover up and misdirect the true impacts of what our obsession with stuff has resulted in. The covering up is of course becoming more difficult as heat domes hit, wildfires rage, drought persists, tornados and hurricanes pummel communities with greater veracity, and so on. Yet the misdirection continues to keep our obedience to stuff as if the seeking out and possessing of stuff is akin to our biological need to breathe. 

One of the most sinister efforts going on today regarding stuff is the propaganda that says we can keep all our stuff so long as we stop making stuff with fossil fuels and use so-called green energy replacements to be the means for making more stuff (more on that to come). It was also Carlin who said, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” America, wake the fuck up! 

If we could actually break free of the hypnosis and see each other and life for what it really is we would come to understand that this quest for stuff is not an American Dream but really a Planetary Nightmare and that our lives would be much richer and the planet would be in balance, if we subscribed to the adage that ‘less is more’. 

I get it, we need things, but the truth is we don’t need stuff. We need things to procure, prepare, distribute, and consume food. We need things to procure, build, and maintain homes. We need things to clothe ourselves, provide education, to keep us from becoming sick, or treat us when we do fall ill. Of course, we need things to help nurture our families, and our communities, but what our system of politics and law has created, as far as values and then places the most protection on is a system largely made up of superfluous but highly dangerous stuff, the war machine included.

Simple math shows us that the Earth doesn’t have the inputs nor the carrying capacity to feed the endless production of more stuff and keep species like human beings as part of the planet.

To make all of the stuff that we are told we need, humans decided that heat and pressure are the best ways to make all that stuff. And the best way that humans have found to fuel the machinery of stuff is fossil fuels. It doesn’t matter the flavor, nor how you get it, nor how you deal with the waste products that come from using them, nor the additional non-renewable resources that either go into or are affected by the extraction, transportation, production, and consumption of fossil fuels, nor really the mountain of evidence that has demonstrated the way in which a fossil fuel existence is destabilizing the very means that make life possible on the planet. Climate chaos be damned, it’s full speed ahead in order to make more stuff. 

I don’t just mean how that fossil fuel folly is currently being performed, I also mean how they will need to use A LOT of fossil fuels to prop up the next fatal farce of the misnamed green energy variety. It doesn’t matter which rabbit hole you choose – wind, solar, electric, nuclear, hydrogen, biofuels, etc. – they all need fossil fuels and they all need heavy amounts of extraction, overconsumption, and destruction of ecosystems in order to come into existence.

The objective of the wealthy elite is for the system to make and consume more stuff, but now that stuff you don’t need is nicely candy-coated by alternatives to fossil fuels. However, the ultimate end is the same as fossil fuels – the destabilizing and destruction of the planet such that human survival is tenuous at best, let alone all the other species that rely on healthy land, sea, and air conditions and the life forces that exist that provide for life. Once again the math doesn’t pencil out. There is no solution to maintain the quantity of stuff we have become accustomed to having, period.

So far, and into the foreseeable future the American Dream has come with a nightmarish cost in this senseless quest for stuff. Genocide, ecocide, and continued violence and oppression to both people and ecosystems in the form of economic inequality, mass incarceration, treating nature as inanimate stuff, waging war, marginalizing the marginalized, feeding obsessive behavior, quelling critical thinking abilities. Our senses have been dulled without a doubt, but the big, the very big, question is whether they have been neutralized completely. 

Do we still have the capability to wake up from the American Nightmare and approach life differently? If we do, then the motto for our actions will need to be less is more

Reduce, reuse, and recycle is the parlance of good behavior shoved down the throats of individual people in this country, but somehow it doesn’t apply to corporate industries. The real truth regarding getting back to being in harmony with the planet, with ourselves, is that we need to shrink in order to expand. We need to value the basics over chasing the excessive. 

Those who don’t have much of any stuff at all are those who most likely need actual basic life things in order to be made whole. Those who have stuff need to let go and reestablish a connection to place in order to become whole. The move away from stuff, from hyper-consumption,

from chasing the next trend, for keeping up with the Joneses, isn’t merely an individual act but one that needs to be collective and large enough to both confront and dismantle the system of endless production of stuff. We need to stop, as Carlin put it, “people spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need.”

What we don’t need George Carlin to point out is that the wealthy business interests are running the show, making sure we buy more stuff with money we don’t have. They puppet us, they puppet the politicians, and they even puppet themselves if needed. It’s that powerful yet tiny population of decision-makers who are putting in all the chips, solely focused on gaining more power, more control, and more stuff. They don’t even consider helping the rest of us out or dealing with the realities of climate chaos. And to make sure they can keep their stuff, they feed all of us the notion that we too need more stuff and that someday we might also be rich and powerful as if this is a lauded marker of a life worth living.

The creators of this system have worked very hard through the education system, the workforce, and society at large to foster a culture of obedience. You can see (that is if you still have the capability to perceive and assess) how, over time and with pressure, critical thinkers are the most endangered of endangered species. The antidote to more stuff is more critical thinkers.  Critical thinkers are the single biggest threat to the makers of stuff. We see them being censored, chased out of organizations and education, and taken down from media platforms and this should scare us all.

Get out from under your pile of stuff. Wake up from the American Nightmare. Get it into your brain that there is no green energy bullet. There is no technological solution to the crisis. There is no future that allows a colonizing view of people and the planet and the addiction to stuff. If we continue to subscribe to the power of stuff and do what the wealthy elite want us to do, we will just be invoking greater tragedy, and though we can always find humor inside of that tragedy, it will be the planet who has the last laugh.

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