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Planet of the Surreal: Turning 75 in the Age of Trump

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/19/planet-surreal-turning-75-age-trump


“So why, I continue to wonder, in such a moment of true crisis are we still largely living on such a demobilized world? Why is it increasingly a Trumpian planet of the surreal, not a planet of the all-too-real?”

I think the (most academic) explanation comes from Richard Hofstadter’s (1962) Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. It has been followed by other books and, of course, there is the 2007 movie Idiocracy. Profit-making enterprises have gone all out in the assault on critical thinking skills in order to sell more soap (at higher margins). With half of the duopoly fully whored out to corporations and the other half close behind, serious attention to serious matters gets externalized to the few of us that give a damn. By my nature I was an environmental advocate from childhood until the present. Naively I slaved away performing research and educating students in ways to ameliorate environmental damages. Never did I comprehend to completeness to which greed can cause so many in power to abdicate all ethical principles. I am glad I neither have progeny about whom to worry nor to whom to apologize. A sad statement indeed.


Early next week I’ll be starting my 73rd year on this “clay and granite planet,” and have never been more glad that I too remain childless. Far from sadness, I feel gratitude for the life I was given, and for the smart and loving people I’ve been privileged to meet. Abstaining from reproduction is my partial repayment to the Earth and its myriad wondrous creatures.


In the sixties there were about 3 billion people in the world. Today we are almost 8 billion. Is it surprising that all the good and bad has almost tripled?


I join with the two of you in what I regarded as the sad but necessary decision to not bring children into this world and a life spent in the arts, arts education and human rights. I continue to work on behalf of grand niece and nephews - now adults serving and wrestling with the institutions in this country.

I do think that we must realize that the delusional perspective of working for one’s own benefit as foisted by the west has hit the wall. To live, love and work to benefit general well being is and always has been, IMHO, the evolutionary creativity of humans - to be in sync with the planet in ways that have been denied, suppressed and punished for centuries.

Oddly enough, I regard our present with analogies of mycelium and giving birth. Mycelium interfaces like a brain between terrestrial genera in elegance of balance and communication, fruits and continues life. The pain of giving birth frequently causes well known forms of pain. I want to see Mom Earth and her birth canal remain healthy.


Also in my 70’s I too am totally flabbergasted by today’s apparent “alternate” Reality compared to that of the mid to late 20th Century. The profound sadness within links with fury, Kali sized. Consciousness is the pivot point, the fulcrum Clearly, the methodical strategizing, carefully -if not fine tuned -by
Corporate and obscenely-wealthy largely sociopathic so-called leaders to engineer the results we see at every level - psychological, sociological, educational, cultural, civic, religious, political- today was inspired by the howl sent up by the Powell Memorándum in the last Century. The totality they achieved is remarkable, certainly. The dog eat dog principle the brilliance of fine targeting coupled with sophisticated organizing and goal, execution unrestrained by any sense of morality, or ethics - and fueled by pure greed reflects the process leading to results that Jesus refused Satan in the Wilderness. So what can we learn from that mythic temptation drama that can arm us with the deep insight, revelations, and power in service to Life that is required of us to bring Balance, authenticity, right relation into the Being of the United States collective Soul? In instances of intrapsychic conflict, an attitude and or value long held must be relinquished in service of a deeper value —- or———the “something” long missing must be included, integrated. Any ideas?


I too chose not to have children taking seriously the projections of the 60’s and 70’s and thinking of the bigger picture. I’ve lived a life of service to life on earth and I pause at Toms’s last comment re a planet of the all too real. I suspect why many have their heads in the sand. What has developed is too real for them to deal with. If many of those concerns from 50 years ago would have been taken seriously, we would have a very different world. Now long past time to take this gorgeous globe seriously in a way that cherishes and honors all of life.


Best damn article about climate breakdown to everyone from a senior. As a disabled senior myself with grandchildren, I worry about the horrendous reality that all our children and grandchildren face. I do what I can to work with climate activists but at my age I can only educate and write for the most part. This article should be e-mailed to every complacent senior (especially those with a pension ) and retiree so as to remind them that they ain’t dead yet and they all saw the last of the best while it still existed and their progeny will not!

The activist generation quit and concentrated on self interest these decades later. Perhaps we failed to instill that element of self sacrifice (that we once had in the sixties) in our children or more likely we instilled in them an attitude of “if you do even a little then that’s a lot” concerning activism about anything. Maybe we didn’t want them to be out and out peaceniks or hippies like us. Maybe we wanted them to get rich and go to at least one march or protest but not to otherwise overdo it? Maybe many activists of mine and Tom’s generation just got lazy and communicated that to their children?

All I know is that my grandchildren’s (not my children’s that I can see) generation is rip-roaring, feet stompin’, in your face - ramping up to a new version of the Sixties activism for the Twenty-Twenties. The kids know that they have no choice even if the older generation has grown fatalistic or selfishly unconcerned! The won’t stop… they can’t! They simply can’t because it will just keep getting worse and worse.

God bless them all!


I’m close to that age and share many of Engelhardt’s thoughts. I, too, was active in the protests of the 60s and 70s, not only against the Viet Nam war, but also on behalf of the environment. I did have children, though at one time I swore I wouldn’t. No regrets there, though. Maybe it’s the mother in me, but also my optimism that with hard work, surely we could make progress and change the world. The fact that it’s gotten far worse than I could have imagined, despite my meager efforts is truly gut-wrenching. I will go to my grave knowing that at least I tried, though that’s small comfort and worst of all, I’m now being forced to contemplate the very demise of our species.

At one time, I assumed that Ma Nature would surely cull the human herd in various ways, but leave enough of us to continue the species. I know have to turn to the fossil record and consider that with any great climate change, there are mass extinctions with the vast majority of species not making the cut. Nature is the great experimenter, after all, and human intelligence is but one experiment. We’re infants as far as species lifespans go and now it looks like we may be a very short-lived experiment. We have evolved exponentially in terms of our technology, but our psyche remains stubbornly rooted in the stone age. That is truly an Rx for extinction.


I’m a fellow geezer,* with one daughter and one grandchild — about whose future I worry a great deal but feel helpless to help.

Apparently religious “fact” has at last been revealed as fiction, and Science Fiction is now fact.  It’s about time, but probably WAY too late:

How about we just face up to reality and call it “Climate CHAOS”?


*  I’m 77½.  For those of us over 75, like those under 5, those halves are important!


No kids here. Best move me and my wife ever made.

Shit is going off the rails and the ship is now too big to turn around.


Ah-Yup.  All of humanity — perhaps 99% of all life on Mother Earth — is in about the same state now as the small fraction of us who were aboard the Titanic about an hour after she struck the iceberg.  And the reaction is about the same:  “Rearrange the Deck Chairs and Strike Up the Band.”


Heh Tom Englehardt - glad to see your post here !

It would be a normal mistake in this age, The Early Anthropocene, to think Greta Thundberg and her followers and allies are ‘kids’ or ‘children’.

Only this dystopian civilization would consider a sixteen year old a child.

She is a young woman, very very smart, and in addition has a way with words, of getting right to the heart of the matter in as few words as possible.

And I believe we will mobilize at scale sufficient for the task.

This climate change and extinction event is way more complicated to understand and feel in the gut than say the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

You are 75 - Michael Collins is 88 or 89, Yeager and Max Ward are in their late 90’s.

So lets cut out the I’m old crap.

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Looks like I chimed in late on this geezer thread.

My first wife hit the road the year we were working on a family, got the “seven year itch” and found someone other than yours truly to scratch it.

Back then, I wasn’t particularly crazy about bringing a child into the world.

I guess it wasn’t in the cards for the two of us.

Look at this world we now live in.

Surreal just doesn’t describe the pickle the human race is currently in.

I’m old fashioned folks. I pray every day for all of us to be delivered from this hell on Earth that we ourselves have enabled.

Destiny will be our deliverer.


I really enjoyed the article and comments. A generous offering of experience and thought.


YES, #1 Admit that a coup d’etat occurred in 1963 effectively ending any semblance of democracy. #2 Expose the false flag of 911 thereby discrediting the despicable war of terror by the USA. Allow a free press to exist in opposition to the controlled narrative force fed to the public via the MSM. We know who controls the banks, the media and the congress. Expose them.

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I am sad to not have children, having wanted one or two but it was not to be. Sometimes I get angry when I see those families with many children in them because of a command in their holy book to have many children. There are so many things in those books that they ignore, and in this crowded world it is unfair that they should choose that statement to take out of context and doggedly apply literally, leaving it to the responsible to have the smaller families needed to keep the population in check and possibly reduce it. Note that people who have no children or who have one child risk having an old age in which there is no one to support them. Maybe the children of those special entitled people who have large families should be required to spend their working lives looking after those elderly who are without children to look after them.

An unarguable mess, and only getting worse faster. And the ‘kids’ (used affectionately) can see a little more clearly, having been less enculturated to overlook it all.

The Manhattan Project and Moon Shot were remarkable accomplishments, downstream results aside. But they were relatively small and encapsulated, compared to deconstructing an operating global paradigm that almost everyone is now involved in. The need is great and ever more obvious, the situation dire and potentially terminal, and the time is now. But so far, nothing is being done that matches the scale of the predicament, and, realistically speaking, it may already be too late. If we manage to scape by on this one, it will be some sort of miracle.


The current crop of politicians, taken as a group, are a near total failure for the people. It’s been a long time coming. Maybe we’ve collectively gone insane… Some people are so deluded that they think we have a democracy, for God’s sake!


My dad told me the U.S. was becoming a Korpocracy — and that was nearly fifty years ago . . .

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