Electile dysfunction and the end of the world

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The good news this week was the result of the Spanish elections, the bad was the news of global boiling, the takeover of artificial intelligence and Putin’s continuous threats of nuclear war.

We had a good topic to talk about this week. The end of the world no less. We started well or badly, depending on your point of view. Seven days ago, we held general elections here in Spain, and many thought that the world was going to end with the coming to power, for the first time since Franco, of the extreme Right. But no. The Vox party was killing it in the polls, but when the moment of truth came it suffered an episode of electile dysfunction (OK, I confess, a phrase stolen from an American political blog). It lost 19 seats in the parliament and could not form part of a government with the more moderate People’s Party. Avoiding hell, Spain is now in purgatory, awaiting a “Frankenstein” coalition government, as some call it, or another election.

The day after the vote, Monday, I felt a spiritual emptiness. I found that I was missing the suspense of the final battle between good and evil. Hungry for the drug Armageddon, I turned to fantasy, to a movie about the “X-men” called Dark Phoenix, which I watched at home.

The plot is complicated. From what I understood, it was about a group of mutant superhero goodies fighting to the death against a group of mutant superhero baddies. The baddies were aliens whose planet had been scorched by an extreme case of global warming. Their plan was, I believe, to exterminate the human species and colonise the Earth.

Once again, the goodies won. Once again, the world was saved. But I didn’t have to wait long for the tasty feeling of impending apocalypse to come back. Two news items on Wednesday brought me back to being on edge.

It was as if the story of the “X-Men” had come true (without mutants, for the time being). I was informed that, on the one hand, we have been receiving extra-terrestrial visits for several decades and that, on the other, our planet has entered an era of “global boiling”.

According to what I read in the press, a former US intelligence officer, retired this year, swore under oath that his government has been keeping alien vehicles since the 1930s… and even “non-human biological remains.” The Pentagon denied everything, of course, but that was to be expected.

On the same day, the European Union warned of the dangers inherent in the heat wave that has been hitting a large part of the northern hemisphere during this month of July. Climate change is advancing with giant steps, which will lead us, according to the EU, into “uncharted territory”.

We are not just talking about Europe. The United States and China are also burning. The southern hemisphere – give it a few months and you will find out. As the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said after learning of the Copernican report, “short of a mini-Ice Age in the coming days, July 2023 will break records in all areas. The only surprise is the speed of change. Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming is over; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

If we add to all this, first, the fears that Artificial Intelligence will lead to the extinction of humanity and, second, that Vladimir Putin continues to threaten a nuclear war, what a panorama.

Fortunately, two of the world’s richest rich are already taking precautions, à la alien X-Men. The tycoon Elon Musk, who coincidentally just changed the name of his Twitter platform to ‘X’, has said that he intends to transfer a million human beings to Mars before the year 2050, using a thousand rockets that one of his companies proposes to build.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, has told us of his vision of placing millions upon millions of people in space modules that will orbit the earth for, in his words, centuries to come. Bezos, as is well known, is putting his fortune at the disposal of scientists who are working day and night so that their master can enjoy eternal life. And the rest of us too if we are lucky.

Well lucky, I don’t know. Depends. Another option, useful in the event that the Russians unleash nuclear war, was anticipated by another film, Dr Strangelove. The idea would be to move to an underground habitat and live like miners. The problem would be that the option would be open only to a select group of human beings and that, according to the proposal of the scientist Strangelove, there would have to be one man for every ten women, since the imperative would be to reproduce the species to the maximum in preparation for the happy day in which life could be recovered on the planetary surface.

We would have the same selection dilemma, and perhaps the same problem of gender discrimination, if the space dreams of Messrs Bezos and Musk were to come true. Not all will be chosen. Most will be cooked alive. That’s the forecast, because somewhere in our cerebral cortex we know that the end of the world is coming, and that we are living in a time that reminds us of the last years of the Roman Empire in its frivolity, idiocy and cruelty.

Instead of the emperors Caligula and Nero we have Putin and Trump. Trump, a climate change denier, plays the lyre á la Nero while the world burns. Putin, more sadistic than Caligula, pours petrol on the fire.

The astounding thing is that hundreds of millions applaud or, at the very least, defend the two most dangerous arsonists on Earth, mainly through the hellish Babel of social media. The others look the other way, with their lyres, or entertain themselves debating whether to alter the texts of the classics so as not to offend our fragile youth, wondering if a woman is a woman or something else, and so on. Meanwhile, extinction is in sight by boiling, robotic intelligence or nuclear war.

As for the aliens, if they did come by here, surely, they would have hit the accelerator at full speed and continued their journey.

This column appeared in Clarín, Argentina, 29 July 2023, and is translated by Kieran Tapsell.

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