George Carlin on our failing species

In 2001, I was lucky to see George Carlin (1937-2008) live in Las Vegas, as he is (or was) one of the sharpest commentators on contemporary life. I recently watched the 2021 documentary about his life, American Dream, and came across the clip below, which captures his “trick” of staying sane in our current world.

In his 1997 book, Brain Droppings, he explained it as:

“I frankly don’t give a fuck how it all turns out in this country—or anywhere else, for that matter. I think the human game was up a long time ago (when the high priests and traders took over), and now we’re just playing out the string. And that is, of course, precisely what I find so amusing: the slow circling of the drain by a once promising species.”

I find this perspective to be quite healthy for me, mentally. Although I only recently decided that I was more of a pessimist than a realist, it’s been clear to me for some time now that humans are miraculous not for their achievements and good works (many of them in the “excludable goods” side of life) but merely for not destroying themselves so far. Unlike other species, we experience, tolerate and choose for war, genocide, inequality, corruption and other nasty ways of harming each other (in the “non-excludable goods” side of life), but it’s in our war on the environment where the wheels are truly coming off. I’ve written plenty about this, so I’ll leave it to Carlin to summarize.

(Note how many of the people listening to him continue to insist that he’s trying to “help” us with his comments. He’s not. He’s written our species off.)

Here’s a direct link if you want to download

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

2 thoughts on “George Carlin on our failing species”

  1. I really enjoyed that documentary. What a life.

    Hard to argue against, “the slow circling of the drain by a once promising species.”

    As a friend reminded me, we still have the capability to affect those in our circles, & to generally endeavor to ease the suffering of others. I think that (healthy) humans are wired to feel good (biochemical “rewards”, etc) when acting on these altruistic impulses. Which really makes altruism self-serving…. Which fact I personally like.

    So, we can acknowledge our likely demise & still enjoy the ride. A la George.

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