Phoenix Falling

Joaquin Phoenix is a sanctimonious ingrate.

“We’re talking,” said Joaquin Phoenix as he accepted his Best Actor award for “Joker,” “about the fight against the belief, one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity. I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”

We may be talking, but not coherently.

What’s with the conflation of nations, beliefs, races, genders and species, aside from the fact they’re all nouns? And, I’m not sure where “impunity” figures into it.

For simplicity, let’s just examine “species.” For millions of years every species has been ready to kill every other species. We’re the only species to have done anything about that, and not just for our own. In fact, we’re the only species who can muster any angst about other species.

You can argue that we can do a better job (as we continually have) of maintaining a pleasant and safe environment – but we can do that precisely because we’ve exploited the natural world. We have not done so with impunity. We have suffered immensely.

Mr. Phoenix’ disdain for humanity is exceeded only by the natural world’s indifference to humanity. His worldview might profit from reviewing the history of, oh, subsistence farming – an occupation to which the envirostatists and eliminationists would have us return. Call it equality of outcome for all species.

Contra Mr. Phoenix, we should celebrate our success in moderating the natural world. That’s actually what the Oscars are about. His very profession is unimaginable without the wealth we wrested from nature. He wouldn’t be collecting an award for his existentially trivial efforts in the universe he proposes. He’d have been eaten, died of malaria, or starved to death.

The universe is apathetic toward us, but we are still close enough to its center to electronically transmit, into the comfortable homes of millions of people with nothing better to do; a ceremony staged by an industry that wouldn’t exist without the immense labor and intelligence of millions of human creators and consumers. A ceremony, moreover, to hand out trinkets celebrating expertise in make-believe; in a bright, climate controlled theater filled with healthy, wealthy humans; in a city unimaginable a century ago; in a world where environmental improvements go hand in hand with accumulation of wealth; and where poverty and hunger are well on the way to elimination.

Mr. Phoenix stood on the shoulders of billions of human creators in order to tell us we aren’t doing it perfectly. Have him get back to me when he’s got coronaviruses singing Kumbaya.