Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

The Comfortable Road to Ruin

We strive for comfort. It might be built into our DNA – something like an instinct for survival. We do what we can to increase our comfort levels, looking for the latest modern conveniences, the newest app to make our homes or appliances work better for us.

We devote a lot of effort into improving our habitats, our little cages, creating better hamster wheels on which to run. With the passage of every year, we find some cool new element that provides us with pleasure, more free time.

As our lives become more stressful, as the demands upon us grow more intense, we seek to ease our burdens where we can. That’s natural. But we need to acknowledge that there’s a price to be paid for doing so.

We fall into habits of consumerism and rigidity of thought. We think the things that make us happy and we buy the products that soothe our restless natures as we resist the ideas that challenge us and the delayed gratification that discomforts us.

Meanwhile serious issues loom.

But we don’t want to be bothered by them. We like doing things the way we’ve always done them. We like to go boating or for an afternoon drive. We like to upgrade our wardrobe or purchase the newest iPhone. What’s so bad about that?

On an individual scale, almost nothing. It makes nearly no difference. One person, more or less, thinking some entrenched thought or buying some product, matters not at all. One man thinking life used to be so much better in the 1960s in an America ruled by white Protestants (where minorities of all sorts were kept in the shadows) isn’t going to harm our society enough to cause concern. One million men wanting to revert to those days – that makes a difference.

Likewise, one new iPhone in the sea of technology is a drop in the proverbial bucket whereas a million new iPhones affect our environment much more drastically. So each of us individually pursuing comfort adds only a minute amount to the long-term instability of our Anthropocene era. Death by a thousand cuts.

It’s our collective pursuit of comfort that propels us toward the tar pits of history. We cannot all live the lifestyle the developed world enjoys today. Not even the developed world can continue to do so, not if we want to preserve the planet for future generations.

Nor can we continue to cling to ideas from the past, to notions that we should be able to do whatever we like because we’re not really harming anyone by our actions. Because we are. Only a tiny fraction, to be sure. But we’re definitely making things more difficult for the generations to come.

We’ll take and take until there’s nothing left. Then we’ll fight over the remnants. That will be a long time hence, probably well past my lifetime. But it will happen. All because we sought comfort in the present, because we couldn’t be bothered to sacrifice a little for the sake of our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

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