Some horror films, especially those with half a dozen sequels, are very melodramatic in style, presenting one or more people walking into a situation where the audience knows danger to lurk but the characters have no inkling of that danger, or haven’t admitted it. Scene by excruciating scene, the plot unfolds, the author having arranged matters so that the helpless characters cannot see ordinary safety unraveling all about.
Climate change is like that. It unfolds slowly, patiently, its plot never moving in a straight line, making sure that there’s every reason for most of the characters to to feel comfortable. As with a good melodrama, a few characters are aware of the problem and they struggle to warn the others, but always to no avail as a gruesome ending becomes increasingly inevitable.
The sick plot twist here is that we are the authors and we are the ones arranging for our own complacency, even in the face of the clues our fellow characters have discovered. It feels sometimes like the people who know what’s really going on are locked in a sound-proof plexiglass room, able to see out clearly, watching it unfold, but powerless to stop it or even to just get a message out.
Would that it were just a sci-fi or horror movie, or even a simple nightmare from which one could awaken.
Cancer is a subtle enemy. It presents itself in such small ways, almost imperceptibly. We may see signs, but hope we don’t. It creeps. Worst of all, it accelerates.
We want to control its rate, to force it to be linear, measured, paced. But try as we might, we cannot hold it still. It resists commands.
We seek to impose onto it, by force of will, by clutching at every definition and argument we can lay our fingers upon, that it must move, change, or grow only when we say.
We command of it a cartoon physics that says it will not bite us until we look, and then we steadfastly refuse to look.
As with all things Death, we are skilled at ways of looking away from it, hoping that if we don’t meet its direct gaze, it won’t come for us today. We hope it will simply walk past, taking no notice, our apparent indifference having saved us.
Climate change is like that, too.
These are just my subjective impressions.
Please comment accordingly.
(We'll do objectivity another day.)
Originally published November 8, 2010 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.
Tags (from Open Salon): acceleration, accelerates, creeping, creepy, death, denial, pace, cartoon physics, cancer, novel, mystery, escape, melodrama, warning, warn, cassandra, paradigm, sense, feeling, emotional, emotion, visualization, analogy, metaphor, global warming, climate change, politics