Distracted to Death
Radio crackled before dawn. Orders they’d been waiting for. Time to go, time to get that massive machine to motion, all the guns and the bullets, the bombs, grenades, the armoured vehicles and tanks. And all those young men in uniform, drawn from distant provinces and the poorest neighbourhoods of Moscow, all nerve and sinew, hoping to make mum proud. To find a way through this life. Some perhaps harbouring some misplaced sense of patriotism, long since betrayed by the old man back home, treating his countrymen as expendable pawns on a grand chessboard. A story as old as time.
Pack for the awful majesty of war. The body-bags and supplies of blood for the wounded. Don’t forget them. Next stop Kyiv.
Why this was happening virtually no-one knew or understood, maybe not even those who gave the orders. Humans have a way of finding themselves part of great endeavours that nobody wants, often to appease the egos of ageing sociopaths whose only thought is self. All those painful lessons of the previous century, for nought. The ‘endless cruelties visited’ on ‘scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner’ still thrive in this digital age of enlightenment. For all our joy, vision and infinite capacity to love, there is a dark heart to these hairless apes that seeks destruction and domination, and we possess a deadly combination of malice aforethought and the ability to prosecute it.
As the mass of men rose from their camp slumber and prepared to go to war, a world away another much weightier matter was at play. Unseen by all and unknown by most, the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica – as massive as the state of Florida – slowly began to slip its moorings. The ice shelf that held it back had weakened as the earth warmed, and when Thwaites was inevitably done and gone, cities as diverse as Miami, Venice and Bangkok would no longer exist, save for vainglorious tall buildings thrusting out of the ocean, like tombstones marking the end of an age. Tens, perhaps hundreds of millions would have sought higher ground amid chaos, fleeing the rising waters. A judgment coming to our civilisation on a biblical scale.
Our planet’s climate is changing much faster than we thought. Every dire prediction has proved optimistic, every barrier broken earlier than we thought. Mankind has, perhaps, ‘five years left to cry in’ before Thwaites floats free and things begin to truly go haywire. But we’re distracted by our avarice, the dancing lights, our phone screens and our astounding cognitive dissonance, which allows us to tolerate tearing down the Amazon – the world’s lungs – while ignoring catastrophe barely over the horizon. All the artists and voices calling for peace, change, love, progress, logic and compassion, hopelessly drowned out by the fearful, angry, scared, ambitious, and the rank stupid. Our leaders still play at war while the world ends around us. Fiddling while Rome burns. It’s almost funny.
The orders were clear. It was time to fight, to head west, to conquer others again. It was, they said, important.