Are We Going to Hell in a Handbasket?

Are We Going to Hell in a Handbasket?

Is it just me, or is the world going to hell in a handbasket? Shall we count the ways.

There seems to be a tropical tempest forming in the Atlantic every other day now, threatening to become a major hurricane. Connecticut has dodged a direct hit so far, but the storm season has a month to go. New York and parts of New England haven’t been so lucky.

Invasive smoke from wildfires a continent away often leads the local TV weather reports. Small world, indeed.

We just dodged a government shutdown, for a month and a half anyway (whoopie). Now here’s something you may not know about what would have happened—and still may happen—if the do-nothing know-nothing Republicans in the U.S. Congress had “succeeded:” Our brave men and women in the military, among other essential workers such as air traffic controllers and border guards, would have been tasked with keeping us safe without recompense while the closure lasted, but the flighty right-wing dipsticks on Capitol Hill would go on happily cashing their paychecks. Most pull down $174,000 a year, and several even more. The average military salary ranges from $24,000 to $108,000. Does that seem right to you?

From invasive ideologies, let’s turn to invasive diseases. West Nile virus, first reported in Connecticut in 1999, has become an annual scourge, joining eastern equine encephalitis and other recent afflictions courtesy of mosquitoes. Some of those pesky carriers, with dengue fever and malaria in tow, are heading north toward us with the warming climate. Dengue fever?

Lyme Disease was identified in Connecticut in the mid-1970s, and now there are more than half a dozen other malevolent ticks bearing various ailments lurking in our fields and forests. The Lone Star Tick first appeared in the state in 2017. It doesn’t spread Lyme (yea!), preferring to infect us (boo) with ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Bourbon virus disease and tularemia.” I prefer the 90-proof affliction. Other newly invasive ticks are spreading Powassan encephalitis and killing moose in northern New England.

We have a retro land war raging in Europe, with World War I trenches and mine fields and artillery and atrocities galore. And you thought the cold war ended in 1989 when the Berlin Wall toppled. Our previous president is on record calling Vladimir Putin a “genius” for starting this war. There isn’t a handbasket big enough to hold that morally corrupt idiotic nonsense. Imagine what he’ll do if he wins in 2024.

During the recent pandemic many Americans suffered financially: but not the mega-rich. The nation’s 614 billionaires grew their net worth by a collective $931 billion from March to November 2020. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos got richer and used some of that swag to fight employees trying to unionize his warehouses. Increasing housing and health care costs, which don’t faze the all-set set, are eroding whatever modest income increases average American workers can liposuction off the fat cats.

Misinformation is at an all-time high, and Artificial Intelligence will likely nurture that in the years to come. Meanwhile, unregulated social media continues to enable bad actors and malevolent information while the government sits back and just lets it happen. Radio and television were, and still are to some extent, regulated, but today Elon and the Murdochs roll happily along pitting Americans against one another as part of their business model.

Of course, the world has almost always been going to hell in a handbasket. Some 600,000 Americans died during the Civil War, killing one another. And in 1942, the world was in a very dark place indeed, with most of Europe firmly in the grip of Nazi Germany, and militaristic Japan gobbling up Asia. Things can get better, and they have from time to time—before they get worse again.

But what is different now is that while we squabble and make myopic choices about our future, as we have in the past, the world is increasingly less forgiving. This month there will be eight billion of us inhabiting the planet, crowding out other species, and that number is expected to climb to ten billion (10,000,000,000) by 2085. Meanwhile, we are trying to live more responsibly and spew fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Some of us are trying anyway, but are we trying hard enough?

I believe most of us see this as an existential effort: as in, what kind of world are we leaving to our children and grandchildren. But remarkably, one of the two major parties believes that climate change is either an outright left-wing hoax or simply nothing much to worry about. “Burn, Baby, Burn” (those fossil fuels) should be the GOP campaign slogan.

If the party of Lincoln (who must be rolling over in his grave) gets its way, the trip to hell will become much shorter.