Sunday, April 15, 2012

We need to talk...

Anarchy A to Z:
a guide to understanding our history unfolding for the anesthetized and apathetic

K is for Killjoy.

   So far I’ve covered some pretty intense stuff. I’ve outlined the dominant cultural traits we experience on a daily basis without the background information and words to describe their ramifications. In doing so, I have tried to illuminate the origins of the greatest succession of crises to befall planet earth in its 4 billion year history. What about meteor strikes or ice ages? Aren’t these extinction events more significant? Not really. Past extinction events are natural phenomena. They intend to keep the cosmos humble, existing as it does in its orbiting routines, sans any exceptionalist dogma.

   Life and death is a cycle that spares no star. Thus, our own insignificance. Yet we live in an age—an extinction event slowly unfolding—where a single species has done the work of a 10km piece of stellar debris. We are losing biodiversity at a rate that exceeds adaptive mutation. We have changed the surface of the earth, removing mountain tops, dredging canals to link distinct bodies of water and building wave breaks and levees to alter the process of erosion and deposition. Geologists and anthropologists have suggested designating our current era the “Anthropocene.” This does, actually, speak to our significance. But we are cast in a dingy light.    

"The problems of mankind can be solved because we created them."
- Bright Eyes, Firewall

   Humans always create the collapse. Our institutions are monolithic invaders, wrapping their specialized tentacles around us to exact a perfectly destructive order. Our culture of consumerism replaces human relationships with empty emotional bonds with lifeless objects. We are a people of debt. This debt represents disconnection between natural accounting of creation and destruction; we continue to overdraft. Our ecology is in peril. We have been unable or unwilling to implicate ourselves in the ecosystems and climate crises. We see the nonhuman as other because we fear that which what we don’t understand. When we can’t clothes ourselves in the warmth of mystery, we cannot expect to explain our crises, let alone manage them. Instead, we divide ourselves into categories that are easy to understand, narratives of group psychology and group struggle. We cling to these groups because it confirms our biases; it is an act of identity self-preservation in an unexplainable and overwhelmingly dynamic age. We cope with spectacles, and since we can argue--perhaps without challenge--that our political system and throw-away consumer culture have devolved into the most unproductive spectacles, we have to be pragmatic in our approach to resolving our crises.  

   All of this seems pretty negative. And I admit it’s hard to frame such cold and uncomfortable facts in rosy terms. Our “history unfolding” will be the unwritten history of collapse. Our society, like dozens of human societies and animal species before, has grown too complex to survive rapid change. We can cling to emerging technologies, relishing in the vanity of our intelligence, or we can accept that human beings are not the end game of evolution. We are adaptive, and we have that to our advantage as animals whose civilization contracts around them. Yet, we need to remember that humans are merely blobs of energy that by chance alone developed the capacity to become self-aware and manipulate our environment on such a large scale. Even the brightest minds in our media and political spin rooms can’t morph that nightmare into a dream.
We need to proceed with resolute pragmatism. Pragmatism is, in a sense, the opposite of idealism. Idealism is optimism. Pragmatism is pessimism. I am a killjoy.

   Pessimism dissolves the illusions of spectacle. It renders irrelevant the fear of an unknown. “Fuck it” is the pessimist's verse. But this doesn’t make her a nihilist. It makes her better prepared to survive the collapse. The pessimist will have no qualms with the end of civilization. It’s pragmatic to accept reality and start thinking of how to make do, how to salvage the best parts of our culture. We need to think about what skills we need to survive. We need to rediscover the art of food production and preservation. We need to redevelop a spiritual relationship with the land and with each other.

   If a pessimist can share one sliver of hopeful ideal, may it be that our environmental crises do not prevent our adaptation to collapse. If they do, it would be ironically fitting to be the victims of our own genius, responsible for our own extinction. Our civilization is past its peak. So, we face a difficult choice. We can prepare for the collapse with pragmatism, accepting that we must abandon all vestiges of comfort. Or we can ignore the warning signs, desperately gripping the illusion of perpetual progress. Perhaps to aid the decision, we should consider that the longer we hold on to our dying civilization, the greater probability epic violence accompanies the transition.

   Resolving our crises is not about throwing money and mass support behind some futile solution on a drafter's table. Resolving our crises is about managing collapse in a way that preserves that which is worthwhile and fulfilling, while simultaneously undermining any attempt for our systems of injustice to be a thistle in next year's seed.

1 comment:

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