An old cowboy song, tribute to the end of cowboy-culture, but a metaphor for the end of civilization as well. Best enjoyed with acoustic guitar.
#14 on my hit-parade
I keep a kind of personal hit-parade of reasons why, in my more pessimistic moments, I get the feeling that we humans are just another failed species. But we are different than the ancient dinosaurs in at least two regards: first, we have the most advanced brain on this side of the food-chain and, second we haven’t the excuse of a meteor strike being responsible for our demise.
So we just keep puttering along, inventing plastic and farmed salmon.
Which is a long road to Monsanto’s Roundup®
Monsanto was the meteor in this case and Roundup® is the years-long darkness that followed. There’re two tenses in that sentence, ‘was’ for Monsanto and ‘is’ for Roundup®.
The reason for that is Monsanto is over and gone, while it’s Roundup® death-child continues—adopted by Bayer. Yep, that same outfit that made (and still makes) the aspirin your mom gave you when you had a fever.
There’s an interesting story behind our big brain
You see, we’ve known about how evil Roundup® was for the environment since it was invented nearly fifty years ago. It was a weed-killer. But it was so widely used in agriculture—and therefore so insanely profitable—that Monsanto couldn’t give it up and farmers couldn’t break the habit.
Does that seem like a mirror held up to Nixon’s War on Drugs, followed by America’s cocaine habit and Pablo Escobar? Only Monsanto didn’t go to jail.
Maybe not, but far more people died
And our big brain kept the killing going with both weeds and people.
You see, in Darwinian terms, there’s the acclimate-or-die theory that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Darwin is internationally renowned and accepted.
But in Jim Freeman’s theory (as yet unpublished), humans followed that same natural selection until they arrived at big brains. Then they pretty much said fuck the world, poured a martini and went to the movies.
So our big brains know that Roundup® is (and has been) killing the food-chain that sustains humanity, just as we have known since the industrial revolution that fossil-fuels foul the air we breathe, making cities pretty much unlivable and poisoning the groundwater we drink.
We also know for certain that lack of education causes poverty, lead-poisoning makes people stupid, the military-industrial guys are stealing all our money and racial justice is not up there on this week’s marquee at your favorite movie theater.
And yet we keep on doing that stuff
Because it feels good not to have to hoe the weeds. And we males of the species get an erection driving a huge turbo-charged diesel SUV four blocks to the grocery store—and erections are now a pharmaceutical possibility at any time of day or night thanks to our big brains.
Lead-poisoning through the air and water and food we ate made us stupid. Therefore, poverty, shitty schools, racist cops killing the poor for a broken tail-light and politicians feeding us conspiracy-theory poppycock became just the way it is today.
It didn’t begin with Monsanto
That’s right, it didn’t.
It crept in like a black cat in the night and it all began with things getting easier. Farmers once had to go out and hoe the fucking weeds. And then the weeds fucking grew back, because that’s what weeds do and the wife and kids had to get all dirty, helping to hoe.
It wasn’t easy. But we weren’t stupid in those days, just too tired to do each other much harm. Then our big brains invented tractors and cultivators and it got easier. Boy, was that a mistake.
To keep from getting bored, Monsanto went to war
Monnsanto manufactured napalm and it was a hit in Vietnam, where 38,000 tons a year were dropped between 1963 and 1973. That’s over a ton for every man, woman and child in the United States, but don’t thank us, it’s on the house (literally and figuratively).
And then sometime in the seventies, when no one back home except Jane Fonda was paying much attention, Monsanto invented Agent Orange. It meant to kill the entire jungles of Vietnam (along with thousands of American and Vietnamese soldiers as collateral damage).
That was because it made the war easier if there was no place to hide.
It didn’t begin with Monsanto, it began with easier
But along with easier and Agent Orange, came chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, soft tissue sarcomas and Ischemic heart disease.
Easier always has a price but, no matter the price, the big-brain loves easier.
Wars bring breakthroughs in medicine and technology
Vietnam was no exception, but Roundup® had its price and didn’t come cheap. It cost us eighteen years, $850 billion, 58,000 names on the Memorial Wall, 304,000 wounded along with amputations or crippling wounds that were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans were severely disabled.
But it was easier than peace, until it got less easy and we got out, leaving anyone who ever worked with us behind. Occasionally we have a big brain failure. As Donald Rumsfeld says, “shit happens.”
If we fail as a species, Jim Freeman’s theory will have proven out. But then, that theory was, admittedly, developed in a pessimistic moment and tomorrow I will be an optimist again. So…
Image Credit: Agweek