Some Canada Day Misanthropy

I’m writing this column on the afternoon of Canada Day, a once laid-back holiday that we are now encouraged to see as, like so much else in our world, divisive and tainted by the darkness of colonial history.  Also at this time, right wing populism is gaining ground in Canada, both provincially and federally.  As well, the far right is on the brink of taking control in France—an ominous sign for the future of Europe.  Everywhere, human rights are being systematically eroded.  Overall, I would say these are fine days for being a misanthropist.  I mean, have there ever been so many utterly compelling reasons to despise and distrust humanity?  Fascism on the rise, environmental instability, income disparity, atrocities piled upon atrocities, endless iterations of greed, intolerance, ignorance, hate, corruption, and fear.

It’s also just a couple of days after the American horror story that was the first presidential debate.  Fortunately, on debate night, I was able to take the edge off my angst with a spliff and a mug of piping hot Ovaltine.  Still, it was quite an experience watching those two old men spout their individualized styles of gibberish at each other.  In fairness, it’s a state that one of them has developed only recently, whereas the other, the orange-hued oaf with the fast patter and the tiny hands, has been spouting nonsense ever since he could speak.  If nothing else, that event helped put everyone’s mind at rest.  We now know for sure that, come the end of November, the richest and arguably most powerful nation in the world will be presided over either by an octogenarian who needs to be in a care home before he winds up at the shopping mall wearing only his bedroom slippers, or by a ruthless grifter who is an ambulatory distillation of every toxic personality trait.  This is not a good look for mankind.

Nobody hopes I am wrong more than me, but I’m afraid the end times might just be upon us.  I think I can hear the galloping hooves of the four riders approaching.  But, never mind.  We’ve had a moment or two, us homo sapiens, which is more than you can say for all the infinite number of species that were never lucky enough to have developed from some random combination of elements.  Perhaps in the distant future a silver saucer filled with alien anthropologists will descend through the heavy metal clouds of our atmosphere, and they will attempt to piece together what happened to our star-crossed species.  As they move about the irradiated ruins of our drowned metropolises, maybe they will come across a few remnants—a charred Renaissance painting, a waterlogged folio of Shakespeare’s sonnets, an abandoned observatory, a silver saxophone—that seem to speak to some of the moments in which humanity showed flashes of its extraordinary potential.

Of course, these would have to be balanced against all the emptied missile silos, prison camps, mass graves, dead forests, poisoned rivers and oceans, and evidence of mass species extinctions they will also have inevitably discovered.  I imagine these extra-planetary observers will exchange wry looks, shrug their shoulders, give a slight shake of their two-or-three heads, and think warm thoughts about the purple mountains and crystal-clear waters of their own sweet and distant home world.

Or, with any luck, they will discover a whole new and vastly superior form of life has taken control of our great blue marble.  Some variety of sentient, tap-dancing orchid, perhaps.  Or immense dragonfly-like creatures flitting between the trees of lush green forests.  These two highly advanced forms of life, the silver saucer explorers and the dragonfly people, will stare into each others’ glittering, exophthalmic eyes, and a beautiful friendship will be born.

Plus, like I say, I may be way off base with all this neg-head bullshit anyway.  I am, if anything, a little too pessimistic.  I know that to be true, because I’ve been called on it from time to time.  I have even been labeled a “gloomy little bugger” (although it should be said that my third-grade teacher, Mrs.  U., was never my biggest fan, and I had always suspected her of being a closet drinker).

Perhaps, at the end of the day, I should just lighten up.  Maybe our collective future will be much more Star Trek than Furiosa.  Perhaps, next Canada Day, I will be able to look back at this one and think how wrong I was to believe that things would only get worse.  Trump will have lost the election and be behind bars.  Biden, upon the advice of his personal physician, will have handed the reins of power over to the first female POTUS.  Right wing populism will have died on the vine, politicians will start caring about the environment and putting decency above self-interest, the wealthy will have started paying their fair share of taxes, and the Middle East will be at peace.

At long last, we will boldly go into the future our children deserve.  I will surely drink to that.