In some traditions, despair is a sin, so I’ve been trying to figure out where mine comes from.
A great deal of it, of course, comes from my own circumstances, but these are themselves metonymous to me of the larger circumstances of humanity in some ways—of the stench of fait accomplis everywhere around us.
My own circumstances don’t really warrant much of a discussion and everyone who knows me well knows them anyway. Meanwhile, talking about the larger circumstances of humanity is largely beyond me these days; my communicative faculties and thinking faculties have left me as I age and fall away in time and distance from pursuits that actually required sustained and nuanced thinking of any kind.
But I do want to complain, to lament, for just a bit.
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As a matter of historical contingency, the greater part of the world and its population is and are today riven into two distinct tendencies. If we anthropomorphize each of these, they are both hopelessly naive and have been captured by a kind of weak-kneed denial in the face of the human condition. Probably both have been softened by the advances that humanity made since the Enlightenment, and as a result, neither is capable of setting jaw and pulling triggers, either at the level of consciousness or at the level of action.
There are not enough battle scars on faces; there is not enough real trauma in the history to grant perspective about what amounts to endless stores of pettiness.
Both sides are working as hard as they can to destroy humanity, quite literally—to wipe us from the face of the earth in the space of just a generation or two. I won’t bother to go into all of the mechanisms by which this can occur—climate change, nuclear proliferation, superpathogens, etc. And I won’t bother to stand against the accusation that I’m Chicken Little and the sky is falling, same as it always was, same as people “like me” always were, etc.
I’ll just get on with it by saying that on one side, an infantile, sentimentalist tendency mistakes “nurturing” for “survival” and essentializes everything about humanity, our ecosystem, and the geosystem in precisely backward ways. They see dignitity and the importance of the inividual where none exists. They mistake the natural for the social and the social for the natural, at every level and scale and in every nuance, seeking to rectify through tears and indignation that which can only be rectified instrumentally and through instrumentality that which can only be rectified with empathy. These are the left, and they will cry maudlin tears that no-one hears as the forces of physics cop to their demands and destroys us.
The other side misconstrues anthropology and greatly misunderstands the scale, importance, and survival prospects of the lone individual. They see power and the efficacy of the individual where none exists. They mistake the individual for the collective and the collective for the individual, at every level and scale and in every nuance, seeking to rectify through lone initiative that which can only be rectified collectively and through social action that which can only be rectified through the personal vision-quest. These are the right, and having called the out a bold challenge to the forces of physics, they will stand proudly armed with their little pistol and shoot at the forces of unleashed armageddon with a box full of small game ammo.
— § —
In short, humanity is not meant to survive, nor is it likely capable of surviving, not just in the long term, but—in would increasingly seem—in the short term, and not only is there no way around this, but in fact, the silly little individuals of this species will stand around squabbling like rats in a cage as the laboratory burns down.
What is needed most right now is probably a totalitarian regime of incredible technocratic efficiency to save us. This as opposed to the totalitarian regime of incredible emotional catharsis that appears to be making a play to come to fruition in the general collective right now.
The last great hope is probably China. But given human nature, the flaws of the Chinese regime, and the state of things already, China is probably about as far away from being able to lead us to survival as the average bourgeois spinning class attendee is from being able to design a nuclear reactor.
We suck. And rather than doing anything about it, we are either clawing for “luxury goods” of dubious value or histrionically trying to cry our way to the negation of masculinity, somehow imagining that thermodynamics cares and that this will save us.
Abrahamic theism and ancestor worship have been replaced by a worship of our own weak productive apparatus (Right) or our own cognitive epiphenomena (Left), but misplaced religion is misplaced religion all the same, and the new ones are likely even less functional than the old ones.
— § —
In short… Social justice is stupid. Economics is stupid. Feminism is stupid. Belief in the power of markets is stupid. “Consciousness” in the political sense is stupid. Classical liberalism is stupid. “Freedom” is stupid. Virtually every value embraced on either side of the political aisle across the bulk of the world right now is… stupid.
Whichever side wins, we are fucked, because every value system on offer right now is stupid and fails to confront the realities of the natural world as they actually are, mainly because we’ve become too comfortable to be willing to—or capable of—looking death, collective or individual, in the face and making the hard choices that it compels us to make.
— § —
Everyone will be shocked when they finally realize that the 1950s immediately prior to the clarity of the spirit of nuclear catastrophe probably is and was as good as it gets, or will ever get, for humanity before its destruction.
As the saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone, and (given my previous statement about the metonymous relationship between my life and the life of the species as I experience it right now), I am feeling this quote at multiple levels of scale and analysis.
And the despair causes me, beset by all of the same weaknesses as everyone else, to want to just throw my hands up, concede, and drink myself into a stupor at the party.
— § —
The signs are all around us. We are heading into dark, dark times. Everyone will insist that they are not responsible; it is their opposition who is responsible.
Everyone is responsible. Everyone is wrong.