A reading list for those suffering from fatalism
- Why the reading list?
- The bibliography
Why the reading list?
My whole life, but especially since the election of Trump I have found myself periodically gripped by despair when it appears impossible to visualize much needed change in the world. Here are some examples:
- Twenty six and seven year old children were murdered at their elementary school by a gunman who should have had no access to firearms. The grip of the NRA on elected officials was so strong, no significant restrictions in firearms were passed as a result. If that can’t create change in policy, what will?
- White nationalist groups, open racism, and violence against minorities (Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, gays) have become normalized after the election of Donald Trump. America now has a bigger and more open problem with proud racists than it has had in decades. The remaining Republicans who haven’t fled the party are fine with the racism. In fact the cruelty is a beneficial feature of the policies. The cruelty is actually the point because it “triggers liberals”, as if that were a laudable policy goal.
- With only a few decades to avert the climate crisis, we have failed to spawn global coordinated action. Our planet has passed several tipping points that means the effects will not be reversible for thousands of years, if not longer. How can we ever hope to survive the next hundred years?
- Measles is back after nearly being eradicated. People who deny vaccines are scared but have been convinced that their fear is as valid as someone’s scientific expertise. And the idea that “everyone else should get vaccinated but not my family” is inherently selfish in a way that is deeply offensive.
Over and over again I wonder, is there any hope? Are we so stupid as a people that we’re going to kill ourselves? Given the fact that we need the cooperation of lots of people to address these issues, if we are advocates for change, is there any hope of us being able to change our future trajectory?
I noticed as I struggled with this question that certain things I read helped me feel like there’s hope, or helped light a way forward. And other things that I thought would be helpful were absolutely not. Below is a bibliography of everything I’ve read on the topic and what I thought would help.
“This is our story“, from Wait But Why? (Recommended): If you put a philosopher, a programmer (systems thinker) and a data nerd into a test tube and shook it, out would fall the writing of Wait But Why. They are currently in the middle of a long multi-part series to help explain how our civilization appears to be such a dysfunctional mess. While there’s no good answers in here as to how to fix it yet (and honestly, no easy answers exist), I’ve found the chapters released so far have allowed me to think about the problems we’re facing in a more manageable way without completely fatalistic attitudes.
“We’re doomed. Now what?”, Roy Scranton (Not recommended): I was excited to read this because it’s perfectly summed up what I was feeling when I realized the climate crisis was not mitigatable around year three of the Trump Administration. Unfortunately the book appears to spend 90% of it’s time reiterating the “We’re Doomed” sentiment. Apart from having that provide an enhanced sense of dread, I realized he’s wildly wrong. We’re doomed is a binary assessment and the state of the world is not like that. Scranton’s solution is to throw up his hands and adopt Buddhist non-attachment as a solution. Even for the climate crisis, there are things we can do to mitigate and withdrawing from the “Doomed” situation is just lazy.