This morning I’ve been re-reading a Kurt Vonnegut book I first read a few years ago. I’m revisiting it, because lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that human beings ought to protect nature, while the most powerful politicians and corporate leaders in the world ravage and pollute the environment without conscience.
In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut mentions that many of the most powerful world political leaders today are psychopaths. Vonnegut writes, “these people were born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything,” and making the U. S. and the entire planet go haywire.
These psychopathic political leaders, says Vonnegut, “are presentable” and know their actions hurt others but just don’t care. Psychopaths have no empathy. He says, “what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country. . . . So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge.”
Vonnegut refers to something many awakened citizens have noticed, namely the fact that our conscience-less politicians and corporate leaders are gradually destroying the environment with industrial pollutants, fossil fuels, etc. He says, “we are killing this planet as a life-support system with the poisons from all the thermodynamic whoopee we’re making . . . and everybody knows it, and practically nobody cares. This is how crazy we are. I think the planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of us.”
What can the public do to help save the environment and the world from the conscience-free politicians and corporate leaders who now run everything? The average person who cares about these things tends to have the conscience that is missing in the people who are in charge. There was a time when caring citizens could make a difference by adding their voices to the public dialogue, whether via protests or making reasonable appeals, but today U. S. politicians are working to make protests illegal. Today’s powerful people don’t listen to rational alternative voices but just hurtle mindlessly toward their short-sighted profit-oriented goals.
It’s not that all of humanity is “bad” or without empathy. It’s that we’re faced with a reality wherein a small portion of humanity—the portion that has the power to destroy the environment for all the rest of us—has no normal human conscience and is actively causing harm to our oceans, land, air, and non-human animals (allowing cruel factory farming, rainforest destruction and even causing extinction for some species).
U. S. political movements have worked to an extent in the past, but today militarized police use brute force against environmental activists such as the Standing Rock water protectors. Still, the public shouldn’t give up. We need to work out new strategies to help awaken those few public figures who do have the capacity to care. If average people let psychopathic politicians decide the fate of the world without making even a peep, we probably deserve the inevitable outcome.
It would be good if we could move in a healthier direction. Vonnegut suggested as an epitaph for the planet: “The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.”
Carla Binion is an Intrepid Report contributing writer.