Dotard & Rocket Man
play nuclear war games
while Frankenstorms rage.
Bill Moyers, managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, recently sat down with 91-year-old Robert Jay Lifton, a renowned American psychiatrist and historian. They talked about his just published book, The Climate Swerve: Reflections of Mind, Hope, and Survival. Lifton borrowed the term “swerve” from Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt who used the term to describe a major historical change in human consciousness. Lifton has turned his attention to climate change, which, he says, “presents us with what may be the most demanding and unique psychological task ever required of humankind.”
I share with you some excerpts from Lifton’s responses to Moyers during the interview.
[T]he governing elite and even the common people have not responded adequately to either nuclear weapons or climate threat. See what’s happening with North Korea right now. So yes, it’s discouraging, but if we keep at it, maybe what we can achieve even in a bumbling way will prevent an ultimate catastrophe with both a nuclear and climate swerve.
With climate change there hasn’t yet been until possibly now, and maybe not even now, an equivalent of nuclear imagery. When you see imagery of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you really sense that the world could be ended — the imagery of extinction as I call it — by these weapons. They’re more than weapons; they’re instruments of genocide. We haven’t had equivalent climate images. But now the hurricanes, the devastation of islands that an hour before had been beautiful places of pleasure, wiped out and rendered uninhabitable — that’s a pretty staggering image.
I talk less and less about climate denial and more about climate rejection. And the reason why I make that distinction is that everybody now, including Pruitt and Trump, the most antagonistic people to climate truths, knows in some part of their minds that climate change threatens us, but they reject the threat because they can’t accept what it demands of us. It demands that government itself be active and connect with other governments, and this threatens their worldview and their identity.
I think the people who reject the facts of global warming in order to sustain a belief system that rejects it are a minority, and perhaps a minority that’s growing smaller as the mindset I’m describing in The Climate Swerve is growing… That’s the argument I’m making. I’m not envisioning some beautiful future of humankind behaving perfectly and wisely in this new mindset. I just think we have an increasing capacity to avert catastrophe and to take some life-enhancing steps that comes from the mindset.
I think [these hurricanes] are very significant psychologically as well as physically. What they psychologically tell us is that everybody’s vulnerable. Rich vacationers, retirees in Florida, along with ordinary people are just as vulnerable as people whose islands in the South Pacific might sink into the ocean. There is the fantasy that calamity will affect them but not us. That’s wrong, and the hurricanes make the truth more available to us. I think, again, the experience side of climate change right in their own backyards, in our own backyards, alters [the survival-of-the-fittest or wealthiest attitude].
Read the full interview at BillMoyers.com.