Cold Eye for the Little Guy

Of all the places I could choose to write this, A Cold Eye is plainly the one.

I’m reading this morning about California’s new “apocalyptic” climate change assessment. As temperatures continue to rise, heat smothers cities, wildfires devour the countryside, and rising sea levels and storms consume the coast, no one will escape—everyone has to breathe smoke-laden air, for one—but the burden, especially of heat waves, will fall most heavily on “the state’s most vulnerable residents”: the elderly, the poor, the more than 100,000 homeless.


It struck me that as we as a species struggle to cope with a burgeoning population and a deteriorating environment, one of the “solutions” we will find can already be seen in the making: human life will become cheap again.

Of course, it already is, probably always was, but we protest this strenuously. We still cling to the originally religious, then democratic, principle that every human life, every soul, has absolute value and deserves to be fostered and sheltered, not neglected, exploited, and abused. The struggle to hang on to this principle, however, becomes increasingly exhausting as the flood tide of humans and of human suffering, waste, and malfeasance rises to our nostrils. We mourn, we deplore, we protest and donate, but there is the sense that at some point we will let go and let our humanism drown.

You can see it on the Right, in the tendency to blame the poor and ill for their “bad choices.” (And this is not always entirely wrong.) You can see it on the Left, in the extension of compassion to other species at the expense of that for humans, who have forfeited it by the sins of our species. (Nor is this entirely wrong.) Compassion goes to the innocent, the sinless—on the Right, to fetuses who haven’t had the chance to make any bad choices yet; on the Left, to animals and plants (and colonized, indigenous or displaced minorities), the purportedly noble, unfallen victims of our rapacity. On both sides, our small store of compassion also goes out to “our kind, the good people.”

After all, you can’t care for everybody.

But the abstract notion that there is anything sacred and savable in principle about any human being just by virtue of being human—without being saved by Jesus Christ, without losing weight, without kicking heroin, without raking in billions for your IPO—that’s already gone.

If it ever really existed.

What’s important about this shift is that it opens the door to unbridled exploitation of and indifference to other humans. Not giving a shit may even be a factor in fitness, an advantage in the struggle to survive.




9 thoughts on “Cold Eye for the Little Guy

  1. amba12 says:

    I’m thinking, further, that giving humans individually or as a species endless indulgence, excuses, second chances, divine forgiveness or its secular simulacrum, unqualified self-esteem, really doesn’t work very well. Maybe there SHOULD be a litmus test for deserving respect, including self-respect. But what? Be a patriot, a gun owner, a multimillionaire entrepreneur, or be a woke nonbinary vegan? Who decides what a good person is?

  2. kngfish says:

    “And If California slides into the ocean,
    Like the mystics and statistics say it will,
    I predict this hotel will be standing,
    Until I pay my bill.

    Don’t the sun look angry through the trees?
    Don’t the trees look like crucified thieves?
    Doesn’t it feel like desperadoes under the eaves?
    Heaven help the one who leaves”

    — Warren Zevon, 1977

  3. kngfish says:

    Couple more fav Warren lyrics:

    “You’re supposed to sit on your ass and nod at stupid things,
    Man, that’s hard to do.
    But if you don’t they’ll screw you.
    And if you do they’ll screw you too
    And I’m standing in the middle of the diamond all alone,
    I’ll always play to win when it comes to skin and bone”
    — his song “Bill Lee”

    “The Eternal Thompson Gunner
    Still wandering in the night,
    Now it’s 10 years later,
    But he still keeps up the fight.
    In Ireland,
    In Lebanon,
    In Palestine and Berkeley,
    Patti Hearst,
    Heard the burst,
    of Roland’s Thompson Gun……and bought it”

    — “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner”

  4. kngfish says:

    This is a note for you Amba…. I didn’t mean to divert your interesting post here in the comments, But I do love Warren Zevon a lot, and except for one song (‘Werewolves of London”) he’s forgotten. His music is out of favor, his style and songwriting are considered antique. I have at least a dozen more lyric examples that I love, but I don’t want to clutter up this post with them. If your interested, let me know.

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