First of all, I was recently shocked reading that we could be screwed with a major climate report outlining a planetary crisis by 2040. To add insult to injury, we have supposed leaders of the free world who still call climate change a debatable issue.
Shortly after, while watching the news of several pipe bombs being sent to major Democrat party personalities, including two past US Presidents, I also saw Matthew McConaughey voicing his new 2018 Lincoln Navigator TV Commercial, 'Uncharted Waters.”
How’s that for a segue?
Anyway, in the newest of McConaughey’s ongoing Lincoln commercials, the Oscar-winning Hollywood actor once again ponders life’s unanswerable questions, while promoting the brand.
Certainly, for a very handsome fee.
His stream of consciousness, that was once so cleverly parodied by fellow actor Jim Carrey, nevertheless got me thinking about the time I interviewed McConaughey about his performance in HBO’s outstanding True Detective series and about his career upswing.
Conseqently, I predicted to him that he was going to win the Academy Award for his work on the Dallas Buyers Club feature. My Oscar prediction proved correct. McConaughey was getting hot.
Credits Picture: HBO
As a result, it was no surprise that the Texas-raised actor would rock his next project. In that memorable debut season of True Detective, McConaughey plays smart but totally jaded detective, Rust Cohle, who is prone to stream of consciousness philosophizing. In one of his unforgettable moments, while driving with fellow cop Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), he wonders about the future of humanity:
“I'd consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I'm what's called a pessimist... I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself — we are creatures that should not exist by natural law... We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, that accretion of sensory experience and feelings, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody's nobody... I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction — one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”
So, one more time: “Stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction...”
Talk about your existential nightmare. But Detective Cohle’s fictional but prosaic philosophizing perhaps foreshadows what’s happening every day in our lives.
Come on, admit it. Don’t you sometimes feel that just like other Earthly species before — nudge, nudge...the dinosaurs — we humans may be marked for extinction. That our time is maybe up.
Political polarization, from the UK and Brexit to the US and the Midterm elections, has angrily swept into our families and friendships and now into our workplace. Journalists are murdered and dismembered for speaking their minds. Children are molested and abused by institutions that should be protecting them. Seems like divisiveness and rancor seem to rule. And there are those who take advantage of it, to further their own self interests, unfortunately.
Similarly, killer storms, tsunamis and horrendous forest fires now batter the Americas all the way to the Far East on a continual basis. And, that UN report paints a terrifyingly, bleak scenario. As a result, avoiding irreversible climate damage requires quickly transforming the world economies.
Hello, like, yesterday.
But then this Montreal-born, nerdy and grey-haired Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker continues to preach that he sees our human glass as more than half full.
Most noteworthy, in Pinker’s 2011 book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” he presented reams of data, supporting his contention that human life is actually becoming better, generally. And, not worse as many of us sense.
In contrast, his book suggested that we are globally safer, and live healthier, longer, less violent, more prosperous, better educated, more tolerant and fulfilling lives.
Furthermore, his new book, “Enlightenment Now,” which was released earlier this year, further builds on his supposition. It offers a
“rousing defense of the four big ideas named in the subtitle: progress, reason, science and humanism.”
Overall, when you look at his facts, comparisons and measurements, you could be persuaded that he makes a good case. Worldwide, there obviously has been an increase in life expectancy. In contrast, there’s been a decline in mortal diseases like smallpox. Pinker makes mention that seeing the word “was” in describing the dangers of this once-dreaded infectious disease gives him no end of satisfaction.
And, he goes on that, overall, there’s better education and more access to information — yeah, the Internet. Finally, there’s greater recognition of human rights like female and LGBTQ equality.
But then the name Donald Trump oozes up, bringing back those pessimistic dark clouds.
Most noteworthy, Pinker says one of the newest factors since 2011 is the ongoing rise of “authoritarian populism” worldwide, as personified in the form of Donald Trump, the smirking, new “king of chaos.”
He of such incendiary quotes, as: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here”; “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.”; “You can do anything.…Grab them by the p—sy”; and, most recently, “I am a Nationalist.”
Pinker says the overall progress of humankind is now being threatened if people like Trump get their way. Why? He suggests that Trumpism could push the world backward in almost every area of life. Especially, if it attempts to undo the international structures that have made human progress possible: peace and trade agreements, health care, climate change accords and the general understanding that nuclear weapons should never be used. Pinker is “particularly sharp on the dangers of ignoring or overriding the systems that make nuclear war unlikely.’
Most noteworthy, Pinker lays into leftist intellectuals, as well as the populist rightists. He’s an equal opportunity critic about those who may stop our human progress.
Now, today, more pipe bombs were sent to liberal-thinking targets here in America. As a result, even fictional Det. Cohle might despair that he was right about humans walking hand in hand into extinction.
However, something out of left field just cheered me up. I just watched the ending of a new Doctor Who episode on BBC America (Season 11, Episode 3). It was simply called “Rosa” in honor of the human rights activist Rosa Parks. You know, she of that famous bus incident in then racially segregated Montgomery, Alabama. Parks rejected the bus driver’s order to relinquish her seat in the "colored section" to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled.
Anyway, the Doctor (now played by series newcomer Jodie Whittaker) and her three friends make sure that Rosa Parks’ timeline is not interrupted, And, Rosa’s powerful, civil disobedience scene is underscored by the rousing song “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
Seems like Yorkshire native Whittaker has been talking up Doctor Who as a show about “inclusivity.”
Well, the combination of the “Rosa” episode with Vinette Robinson playing the heroic woman. Along with the replaying of its powerful, culture-changing moment in history, and Day’s inspiring song brought this journalist to tears. Joyful tears.
Maybe, we can still appeal to the better angels of our nature. Or, maybe not!
The third season of True Detective drops on HBO, January 13, 2019.
Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.