Faced by either individual extinction (death), or collective extinction (climate catastrophe), especially if self-propelled, humans find the idea of complete senselessness almost as terrifying as physical annihilation. In Shakespeare’s immortal lines, and through his tragic protagonist’s unavailing last-minute regret for what he has done out of pride, arrogance, and ambition, we hear the echo of humanity’s lament in the face of extinction, whether individual or collective.
Have we, in some elusive way, been using language as not expression but as count?… ? And fast?
“Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
Can a man die of oxygen deprivation if there’s a strong, heavy knee placed on his neck for 9 (oh, just give and take, the killings haven’t even slowed down yet, homeys) minutes? Or must we dig for alternative causes like all the ills that black folks have been heir to and victim-blamed for throughout these last great American centuries—drugs, poor self-care, poverty, despair, lack of faith in the SYSTEM and the MAN, systemic denigration [note the intended pun! The word means ‘to blacken’!] and devaluation—till we come up with something resembling business as usual.
I wandered, literally, up and down the bruited and brutal ‘Oregon Trail’ which so many nineteenth-century Americans eager (or greedy) for a ‘better life,’ for the ‘American Dream’ set out on, in unbelievably rickety wagons, with children, wives, cattle, guns, food, elders (most in small quantities, except sometimes children) for the Pacific West and Northwest.