Yesterday, was the day I gave up hope. That’s not entirely true. I gave up hope in July or so 2011. Yesterday (Feb 17, 2013) was when the fire of hopelessness stopped glowing, becoming nothing more than a chalk black piece of coal, white ash eddies floating about. How can hopelessness be conceived as a good thing? In the sense that it aids in abandoning old and failed worldviews, yes.
The event that served as the catalyst for this diminished composure contributed to the earlier elation. After reading an essay on the relationship between our collective sense of hope as cowardice in the face our inability to control our own destinies, I was inspired to sit-in at the White House. I was arrested for failure to disobey a lawful order, which means whatever those in a position of coercive power say, devoid of any moral evaluation. I like to use the religious term “baptism” because I truly felt reborn and repurposed, perhaps knighted in a new struggle against the dark.
As the following year came and went, Occupy sprouted and I was again hopeful, but not in the sense of naïve trepidation. I am not alone, I thought. Others see the truth that our economic system is literally killing us! Upon critical reflection that only participation can inform, I found the whole 99% mantra to be misguided. Certainly extreme economic inequality is a problem that has unknowable social costs, but what about those of us in the empire?
For the last several years I have been readying a well-thought critique of industrial civilization. The longer I ponder, the more I realize that my long-held hypothesis that our failure to be rooted—a direct consequence of our normative structures and our means of production—directly contributes to the radicalization of our daily lives. The more I learned about how truly dependent our entire existence is on fossil fuel energy, the more I realized there is no practical way to wean ourselves from them. Still, I came to the conclusion that no matter how bad shit gets, people will not give up notions of perpetual progress and growth that fuel the fire burning earth’s capacity to sustain human life and enough diversity to weather the certain cosmic perturbations that remind us from time to time that we are but a happenstance germ of space-time.
Yesterday was my fourth rally against the Keystone XL pipeline. Have we succeeded? Fuck no. Will we? No. And my outlook becomes grimmer daily. The sit-in, the end-of-action rally and a follow-up “hug the White House for moral support” event all had something in common that the most recent spectacle did not. The first three were small and personable (as intimate as possible with a few thousand people). At the end of each there was a wellspring of energy that maintained its pragmatic edge. Yesterday’s event lacked that allure. Instead, we had a climate rally packaged for consumption, just like everything else in our (mono)culture. There were big speaker towers, jumbotrons, someone running a smelly diesel generator to show clips of a documentary about the Randian big business lobby’s corruption of the Supreme Court (irony not lost). There were celebrities. YEA! We can’t fight anthrocidal foundational norms of progress, growth and anthroparchy without movie stars!
Most disturbingly, however, were the general heckles and the overwhelming sense of techno-narcissism; people have no interest in the actual science of energy that says we can’t run our system on renewables. When a First Nations chief from Alberta said that people cannot be second to economy, I heard boos. No fucking joke. And when I said, “oh, cool. I’d love a copy of the Socialist Worker” when a distributer passed, the people behind me laughed. No place for different ideas, I suppose.
If hope is cowardice, I’ll borrow a quote without attribution that goes something like: the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity. The mass consumer spectacle I saw yesterday confirmed my most recent foray into the literature, which is dark ecology, exit environmentalism or whatever else you want to call the counterrevolution against co-opted centrists. The entirety of the old environmentalism still reads the same bed time stories granting warm fuzzies about how great the future will be. It relies on the same narrative of evil men—the “boogeyman theory of bad things,” if you will—that support the ontology of rational choice. We aren’t rational beings. If we were, we would destroy civilization before civilization destroys us. Moreover, conceptualizing all our problems as legislative fixes, greedy bankers or corruptible politicians or Islamic extremists, or NWO conspiracies of ancient secret societies opens a scary door for two reasons. First, as JM Greer needed to remind me, fascism is a centrist and populist movement. Sure the whacky right in America looks fascist, and they are, but there is just as great a danger from the left. Second, it precludes any effort to see the root of our crises—which is the way in which we conduct our daily lives.
I conclude, then, that the climate movement is dead, even though it was only recently born. It is dead because what I saw yesterday showed that the best the country has to offer is not ready to cease its own contributions. I thought this acronym appropriate: B-MISL. Because like a ballistic missile ensuring a particular fate, the “Bourgeoisie for the Maintenance of an Imperial Standard of Living” ensures we will not turn the ideological corner intentionally. It will be thrust upon us. And there will be blood.