We hear about the death of Queen Elizabeth and view the pomp and circumstance. Given what we understand about the globalized military terror that was necessary to launch and maintain the British Empire — upon which, famously, “the sun never set” — all the ceremony and emotion wrapped around the death of the monarch can seem anachronistic or ignorant. And yet, the anachronisms within our culture that lie outside of the British monarchy are extreme and deadly in their own right.
The monarchies of Europe have become largely ceremonial, but much of the mentality that girded them lives on… and dangerously so. If the British Empire was fueled by a philosophy of conquer, extract and accumulate wealth — this then became the model the US adopted as *its credo for individuals to pursue.* Historian Morris Berman calls it the culture of the hustle. Andrew Carnegie, the Rockefellers, Jamie Diamond, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, the self-parodic Trumps, the Kardashians — they all live as royals. The difference is that they did not all reach such heights purely through hereditary bloodlines. Rather, the United States established an ethically inverted system of rewards: He who is the most greedy, vapidly materialistic and -crucially — *ruthless* is to be lavished with the greatest wealth, riches and privileges. (With the obvious caveat that being white, male and already from the upper classes provides extreme advantage).
Replacing hereditary royalty with those who gain it by being the most callous and narcissistic within a society has not worked out well for us or for any of the other millions of species and countless wondrous landscapes on the planet. As a culture, we are deeply anachronistic. We live one way, while the times require something radically different.
After enduring two barely survivable heat waves in May and June, a third of Pakistan now lies underwater. 30 MILLION people are displaced. There are hundreds of thousands of destroyed homes. Goodbye to bridges, roads, farms, livestock. All washed away, as the Indian Ocean heats up rapidly, provoking weather systems in the region of force and frequency perhaps not seen for millions of years — perhaps not for 350 million years, back when the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere last hovered at today’s levels of 420 ppm.
What is it that is required? As US Americans, the answer can often be literally in the ground beneath our feet. As Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick on a farm in western Massachusetts, while out tilling the fields, he often came upon arrowheads formed by the native inhabitants of the region. Ways of thinking and being that are required at this moment are often embodied in the original land-based cultures of this continent. We can listen to what the arrowheads buried in the soil tell us and remember ways of living in Europe and Asia and Africa that are not insane or we can meet the briny fate of Captain Ahab and the Pequod.