Malaise in the Face of Catastrophe

The imminent collapse of the Euro, persistently high unemployment, no signs of recovery – these are the headlines of our day. And yet no one seems to be able to muster the energy to care.

The chaos of the European bureaucracies seems a distant matter over which no one has any particular control.  Obama’s much-hyped jobs speech was met with bemused laughter by Republicans, skepticism by market analysts, and indifference by a public all too aware that Washington does not work for them (and in fact does not work at all). Even the vacuous narrative of Canadian exceptionalism promoted by Stephen Harper and his PMO hacks now appears sad and tattered.

I recently attended a stirring speech by prominent soil scientist Dr. Henry Janzen on how we need a shift in our way of thinking about ecology, agriculture, and our way of life.  Dr. Janzen’s speech ended with a call to renew our sense of hope and translate that hope into action.  After the vigorous applause had subsided, the evening turned not towards a march on City Hall, but rather to polite conversation and snacking on hors d’oeuvres.  I suppose that, as Krugman has said, that we need something to “keep [us] occupied while the world collapses.”  Never mind that we have already failed to prevent large-scale anthropogenic climate change, or that our economies are in a process of decline into a stagnation similar, yet even more unequal to that which Japan has suffered for decades.  This seems to be only response that the elites can muster – to turn a catastrophe into a dinner party.

I hope that this malaise among the world’s elites is not accompanied by a malaise amongst the people.  The people here and here certainly don’t seem to be overcome by apathy.


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