Lee Marvin, the volcano and climate catastrophe The ironic smile – or am I just striking a pose? (Spoiler – yes)

The latest IPCC report (working group 3 – the “what to do” one) has sunk without trace – too much else going on, it’s an old story, there’s no new news. Here’s the front page of the Grauniad website this morning-

And this, after one of their journos, Fiona Harvey, had worried publicly that the report would sink without trace.

On top of the institutional reasons (journalism, politics, social media having waxed our attention spans) there’s a solid psychological basis to this deliberate looking away.

Two of the most obvious ones are

a) It is too late to do anything meaningful about the issue (it may have been in the late 80s – certainly some folks thought so; we’ll never know). We’re going to be very very lucky to get away with a global average of 2.5 degrees above preindustrial. The sea-level rises, the disruption to the ecosystems we rely on, all of it – as I have said so often, till I’ve even bored myself, the second half of the twenty-first century is going to make the first half of the twentieth look like a golden age of peace, love and understanding.

b) lotta people feeling guilty for not having done enough (or in most cases anything) – despite having freedom of speech, information and assembly that would have staggered the people who fought for those- before it was “too late.”

To manage that dread (“anxiety” doesn’t do justice to the feeling, nor even “fear”) and that guilt, the easiest thing to do is just keep looking away. In fact, you don’t even have to do anything active to look away, because the society and its information systems, its reward systems are all set up for you not having to take any evasive action.

Where the hell does Lee Marvin come into this?

Lee Marvin was one of the real “tough guys.” He had been a US Marine in the Pacific Theatre. That was some seriously gnarly shit. Then he was a movie star, playing tough guys.

And here’s an anecdote about him, in later life, by the film director John Boorman.

I remember one incident which occurred while we were scouting for locations for Hell In The Pacific in Maui. We went up in a light aircraft and flew down inside the crater of a mile-wide volcano – myself in the front with the pilot, Lee in the back. The engine failed, and we started to glide down with the pilot desperately trying to get the plane restarted. I turned around and looked at Lee and there was this amazing look of tranquillity on his face, tinted with an ironic smile. It was the strangest thing to see, as if he’d already been beyond the death experience and therefore he could welcome it.

Is that who I am trying to be, as I look on in a/be-musement as the species looks away, as the light plane of civilisation heads into the volcano? Maybe, but it’s a con, a pose – I don’t have Marvin’s history. When the time comes, I suspect I will be more this guy (trigger warning, gallows humour about cancer).

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