Power

(Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant take on The Loneliness of Donald Trump inspired my own bit of myth making.)

And so it came to pass that citizens were crying for change in a changing world. A certain breed of wise men and women–scientists, or experts about the natural and physical world–had been warning that the world was warming. Temperatures are climbing, the wise ones said. Ice is melting. Great creatures are stranded on disappearing ice floes at the ends of the earth. Glaciers are shrinking in the mountains. Rivers are drying in their beds and birds shifting in their migrations.

The same wise men and women claimed that humanity had the power to slow down the warming and ultimately stop it. This was good news to most of the citizens. Earth hadn’t been struck by a meteor, as had happened to the long-reigning great lizards at the end of the Cretaceous. The globe wasn’t enveloped in volcanic ash, as the fossil record showed had happened in world events in eras gone by. So far, humankind had been lucky indeed.

No, the change in atmosphere that was warming the world had come from human customs and traditions established in a time of less knowledge.

The wise ones gathered more, new knowledge; they said that citizens were powering their lives with the wrong fuels. Gas, coal, oil–all had been fine for a while but now were spoiling the nest. Every civilization has to rethink its path from time to time, the wise ones claimed. Look what happened when Rome didn’t heed their sages. Bread and circuses sunk them. Look at Pompeii. The volcano made good on its threats. We thrive when we learn to take the hints, according to the wise ones.

More and more citizens wanted to change the old customs and traditions. Fewer and fewer doubted the work of the wise ones. Great thinkers had led the world toward elegant ideas before: music, language, gravity, calculus, wine. Why not now?

There are simple answers to the fuel question, said the wise ones. The birds ride the winds without destroying them. Planets have shined with borrowed light for millions of years. Fish have lived in and harnessed the power of water for millennia. Earth has abundant natural power that we can tap without strangling it.

Among those who doubted, though, were a few powerful men in the richest nation on Earth. These men, the one percent, held the fate of the ninety-nine percent in their hands. As goes the United States when it comes to fuel, the other nations knew, so goes the state of the globe. These men (and a few rogue women) turned away from saving the world for their children, and their children’s children.

These men and rogue women were tied to the old ways and those that had made them rich. They didn’t have the wisdom to see that the new ways are richer still. These one percenters had wealth enough for one thousand lifetimes, but they still held to something that was not only dying but that was killing them, too.

So the citizens who wanted change stayed strong and persisted. They heeded the wise ones. They remembered the words of one of their best from days long past, a scientist of anthropology (the study of humankind). She said, “Never doubt that a small, thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If change wouldn’t come from the most powerful men in the richest nation on Earth, then perhaps from the work of others, united. Because change, like committed citizens, comes in all shapes and sizes.

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