Ozymandias

A Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

This poem could pretty much be the “About” section of this blog. All empires crumble. All habitats that humans try to control become deserts in time. The difference this time, though, is that our empire is taking the whole world down with it as it slides into the abyss, meaning no creature with eyes to speak of will be around in the future to read the hubris etched into our monuments. The difference is complete topsoil loss. The difference is toxic waste poisoning the water for generations. The difference is the ease with which a nuclear winter can be triggered, even (or especially?) accidentally.

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice,” wrote Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire, continuing: “He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” But this time the collapse will not merely be history repeating itself. It will be history undoing itself. There will be no future culture to repeat the mistakes of ours, because our mistakes have brought us to the limits of Earth’s carrying capacity.

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