We are fucked! We are so fucked!
— a doomer
It’s not that I am rooting for civ to survive. I believe and hope that this civilization is on its last legs. My unciv credentials remain unimpeachable. It’s the other stuff that bugs the hell out of me.
I am sick and tired of all the mantras of doom offered up in daily genuflections by “our kind” of people. Haven’t they noticed that the Spectacle promotes endlessly depressing messages, and has done so for ages? Custom dispiriting propaganda for different population targets! And we have helped it along through a regular menu of bleak scenarios, reassurances of very grim events looming just ahead, and perpetually hopeless computer simulations. You see, whatever we do — repeat after me — we.are.fucked.
Meh. It’s gotten boring, folks.
Isn’t it just a variation on the same millenarian bullcrap spouted by those crazy-eyed folks who assure us that the world will end next May 21st? Nobody knows the future. Nobody. Therefore we cannot know whether we are fucked or not. Ain’t that nice? Having those dismal tidings perpetually running through our heads gets in the way of sensing possibilities that have so far been missed. And guess what: the puppet-masters of the Spectacle want us to miss them!
So I am drawing a line. I will no longer repeat and pass on those tunes that flow out of the ol’ doomer hurdy-gurdy. I henceforth throw my lot in with those of us who are busy sensing transformative ways of proceeding, seeing new visions, finding and walking new paths. To think that we could know the future with the help of smart machines! What an exquisitely bizarre turn of the familiar hubris screw. Forget about those oh so slickly persuasive scenarios. Let us instead bet heavily that Gaia has something else in mind. Let us assume that the endless complexity that is the universe can morph into something unprecedented, swayed by the flapping of a butterfly’s shimmering wing or by a sudden wee burst of lovingkindness. The future I have in mind and heart begins in some tiny thing I do today that amplifies in completely unpredictable ways and tomorrow brings forth a … surprise.
I have been reading an ambitious, sprawling economic history of this civilization. Graeber’s ‘Debt: the first 5,000 years’ is a creative, eye opening work worth a series of winter evenings. I want to quote from its last chapter; to share some lines that hit me square in the solar plexus.
For most of the last several centuries, most people assumed that … the future was likely to be fundamentally different. Yet somehow, the anticipated revolutions never happened. The basic structure of financial capitalism remained in place. It is only now, at the very moment when it’s becoming increasingly clear that the current arrangements are not viable, that we suddenly have hit the wall in terms of our collective imagination.
There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet… Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.
Maintaining [the military] apparatus seems even more important, to exponents of the “free market,” even than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but what in fact happened was precisely the other way around. This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras, and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it’s yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down – along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.
In other words, there seems to have been a profound contradiction between the political imperative of establishing capitalism as the only possible way to manage anything, and capitalism’s own unacknowledged need to limit its future horizons lest speculation, predictably, goes haywire. Once it did, and the whole machine imploded, we were left in the strange situation of not being able to even imagine any other way that things might be arranged. About the only thing we can imagine is catastrophe.
The system wants it so that the only thing we can imagine is a catastrophe. People trapped and thrashing in the sticky web of perpetual doom will rather stay with the devil they know. And that serves the elites just fine. Fearing a popular alternative, they felt constrained in the Depression to make concessions, and to spread wealth around after the war. Once that alternative was discredited, they concluded that anything goes. And so “anything went.” And this same “anything” is still going down. But a new game is afoot. They’ll never realize it until it pokes them in the eye. We know the Spectacle is not real. It only exists because people keep watching it and dancing to its tunes.
Since doomerism has become part of the Spectacle, yet another way to keep people fearful and stuck, it no longer serves our interests. Dwelling on ghastly scenarios once had its charms; now it’s just another distraction. Let us imagine something that the puppet-masters hope we’ll fail to see in our mind’s eye — a world that works, a world where life thrives, a world where being human is an adventure — and give that world our undivided attention.