Those of you who know what the title means will probably have already guessed what I’m about to say. Actually, anyone who’s ever read this blog will know what I’m about to say. FUBAR is a term that originated from a military acronym meaning “Fouled up beyond all recognition,” or more commonly, “Fucked up beyond all recognition.”
It’s a notion I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, the idea of something being ruined to a point of no return, a stage at which nothing short of an utterly miraculous intervention can possibly help. It’s easy for this to fall into the trap of just being endlessly pessimistic, but I’ll try and avoid it as much as I can (which is to say not very hard at all), but what I really want to talk about is just how close to a FUBAR situation we really are, or rather how close to one I think we are. Arguments as ever supported by copious amounts of opinionated gibberish, a couple of articles I hastily googled, and probably a few references to films and TV and music.
So let’s look at the big hitters, the global fuck ups that could unfold. I’m not talking asteroids here (Fun fact: chances of Earth being hit are less than 0.01% in the next 100 years according to NASA), but rather manmade events and long term impact on the environment.
It’s no revelation that since we started walking on two legs all those millennia ago we have been pretty much endlessly scouring the Earth for every last resource we can find. We started with water, and wood for fires, crops and animals for food, ores for metal, coal for fuel, oil, natural gas, precious metals from deep underground, diamonds for our jewellery and silicon for our microchips, the list of things we mine from the ground and cut from above it is nigh on endless. But the issue is deeper than mere environmentalism, because ultimately what we’re dealing with is the survival and expansion of humanity, and the quandary of existing in the first place. Note however that this isn’t the same as existentialism, which deals with the idea that we are individuals and not collectives, but rather seems to lean closer to nihilism and its talk of a life without meaning or purpose.
But stepping out of the philosophical fog for a moment, let’s just consider some cold hard facts. According to various sources we extract 55 billion tonnes of material from the Earth each year, almost 10 tonnes per person (and an obvious imbalance towards richer, Western countries). In order to deal with the amount of resources we consume and the waste we produce, we would actually need 1.6 Earths to be sustainable, and this is estimated to rise to 2 Earths by the 2030s, in line with both population trends and an ever increasing need for materials in a world that is advancing.
This is problem number one, because how can we ensure our advancement and survival if we don’t make use of the resources we have to secure the future? But at the same time, how can we secure a plentiful future when we need to use up our finite resources now in order to ever get there? We have to make do with what we have but at the same time what we have is never going to be enough.
As anyone who knows me knows, I’m a sci fi lover. I love all things future, space, crazy tech, aliens, the whole shebang. What I love the most though is the worlds that these books and films present, from the gleaming spires of Coruscant in Star Wars and Nos Astra in Mass Effect, to the dark urban sprawls of Bladerunner and Judge Dredd, and a whole manner of snow, desert, jungle a myriad other planets in between. But it’s the first one that always captures me, the idea of a pristine clean future, where everything is silent and somehow floats. Yet I always find myself questioning, “How are they powering all this?” or “Where did all that metal come from?” Buildings and tech don’t just spring out from the ground, they have to be put together, and the means to do that has to exist.
So what does this mean? It probably means that barring some sort of gift bearing alien race making contact, that future is highly unlikely to ever happen here on Earth, which is a mildly depressing thought but nothing too major so long as we’re still around and kicking as a species. So let’s press on to option number two.
War. (Huh, good god y’all), what is it good for? Arguments against war are just like arguments against the use of natural resources, they tend to be polemic, idealistic, and generally spouted by 14 year olds who just discovered Vox and think they’re sooooo in touch with the news.
War is a complex thing, not just a bunch of men running around shooting and stabbing each other. War ties into our primal instincts of survival, or making sure your tribe has food and that the other can’t steal from you, it’s a protection of territory and more importantly the people within that territory, and as has happened throughout history, war can be waged to push or prevent an ideology. If a country was a house and your family were its people, you would make sure that something was in place to stop others from harming them. Why would they want to? Because people are shitty, get used to it.
What pisses me off the most is when people act as if war is something new, again these people tend to be the ones raised on social media news, when in reality it’s pretty much the only constant that all humans from all parts of the globe in all of history share. It’s all well and good for people now to say that bombing IS in Syria is wrong, but would they have said the same in the 1940s if the target was Germany? Would they have objected to a fighting force when Mongols were sweeping through Asia in the 13th Century? Do people who claim war is just fought by rich Western countries (of which there are a lot) not know or simply don’t care about the dozens of conflicts, many with higher death tolls, that have occurred across the globe since forever?
War is as much a part of civilisation as communication or agriculture, it’s a cornerstone, to say otherwise would be naive and/or bullshit, and war is also another very real avenue through which we could reach a FUBAR stage. Think about it, and let’s compare a historical example and a current one. On the historical side we have the Nazis, an ideologically driven group intent on conquering large swathes of the world and instituting their way of life. Today we have ISIS, an ideologically driven group intent on conquering large swathes of the world and instituting their way of life.
People these days are glad that brave men and women fought against the Nazis to stop their spread, be that on the frontline or by bombing raids from the skies. People these days are pissed that brave men and women are going to be bombing ISIS from the skies, with the possibility that ground forces may have to step in.
This is what people mean when they say hindsight is 20/20, looking back on WWII now the general consensus is that though bad decisions were made, it was a necessary conflict. What will people say in 50 0r even 100 years when they look back at us now? Will they praise our leaders for their action or their restraint? Will they view ISIS or even the next threat as fundamentally evil or try and rationalise their actions? But it won’t even matter, because they’ll probably all be dead because of FUBAR option number three, the nuclear option.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, frightens me more than the thought of a nuclear war. To go back to our good old friend sci fi, it’s formed the backbone of worlds and stories like Judge Dredd, Tarkovsky’s Stalker, the Fallout games, Mad Max, 1984, and my personal favourite, Dr.Strangelove and its brilliantly dark discussions of nuclear war.
It’s a reality that’s horrible to comprehend, a reality that only the Japanese have sadly had to live through, and one that cast a long shadow over the world during the Cold War. Out of 196 countries in the world (195 depending on your thoughts on Taiwan), only 9 have nuclear weapons. Doesn’t sound like much, but between them they’re estimated to have 10,300 nuclear warheads, 4,000 of which are currently active. Sure, it’s a drop from the 68,000 active warheads that existed at the height of the Cold War, but in the eyes of many it’s still 10,300 too many. However, and as we always do here at the Angry Indian, we must consider both sides of the argument.
There’s the idea of deterrence, an issue that came up recently in the Trident debate. Some argue that a deterrent is unnecessary as the prospect of nuclear war is so remote, and that resources could be better spent elsewhere. Others argue that a deterrent is more vital than ever given the rise of militants, increasingly frosty relations with certain countries, and a wee nutter called Kim who hangs out in Pyongyang.
There’s obviously a debate over the ethics of using a nuclear weapon, at what point is razing a city or army base to the ground the only solution to a problem? Well it’s obvious, it’s when the enemy has the capacity to fuck you up right back. But then there’s arguments about pre-emptive strikes, about targeting military sites, about civilian casualties, about the fallout and its long term effects, the impact on the climate etc. etc.
I know it sounds silly and a little far fetched to some, but I’m firmly of the belief that someday soon somebody is going to turn to the nuclear option again, and when that happens I’ll try to squeeze in a quick “I told you so” before we’re all incinerated into nothingness.
There are of course plenty more ways in which things could go FUBAR. We could meet with a contagious virus we can’t stop, we could run out of food Interstellar stylee, we could stop making babies Children of Men stylee, we could create super intelligent apes/robots/AI/dogs who overthrow our society because they deem us unfit to exist cooperatively. Who knows where the end of the world is coming from? I’d personally like for it to come from beyond the stars, Independence Day stylee, a good ol’ shootout with some multi armed hyperdrive toting hive mind who fuck us up with their super huge photon cannons of doom and it’s all like pew pew pew and people are like “Ahhhhh” and the ship’s like whoosh and then everything goes kaboom blam zap skadoosh and and also Will Smith is there and then the President goes “Rah rah, today is our Independence Day!”and everyone cheers because we’re going to win but then Jeff Goldblum doesn’t save the day through a random alien USB port and instead we all just die.
Or something like that.
“Why do we argue? Life’s so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing.”
Alan Moore, Watchmen
xoxo, The Angsty Indian