Utopian longings have probably been around as long as humanity. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. That is, until you actually go there and discover its a desert, a lifeless patch of inhuman wasteland that no one in their right mind would ever want to visit much less live there. When I read about Elon Musk, the exemplary icon of the “California Ideology,” whose most recent escapade is to pack settlers up in a series of SpaceWagons and hi-ho it to Mars I want to puke. Why? Who the hell really wants to move their family to a dustbowl? Really? A place that might take a few thousands years of terraforming to become habitable. Some of the great movies have us either in tears or laughter.
Lately its become an economic con-game for Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Sir Richard Branson; Dutch reality show and space mission Mars One; NASA; and the Chinese government are among the many groups competing to plant the first stake on Mars and open the door for human habitation. As Elon says: “I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary… in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen,” Musk said in a recent interview with the digital magazine Aeon.
Even Buzz Aldrin’s succumbed to this hot shot world of Mars stating in his new book Mission To Mars: “I think we’re talking ourselves into this gloomsday period. What we need is leadership willing to look out into the future… We should’ve asked China to be a portion of the space station. We should’ve worked out ways that we can … just give away the technology that we have that puts things up into space, with cooperation up above the atmosphere that’s needed to help each other…” (see interview).
Others like Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut have revealed ambitious plans for a series of underwater eco-villages. His Aequorea project imagines entirely self-sufficient, spiraling “oceanscrapers” reaching the sea floor. Each “oceanscraper” would be constructed using recycled plastics from the Great Pacific Garbage. Other off-shore strategies are in the works such as the Seasteading Institute.
Others like the strange Damanhur commune, an ecovillage, and spiritual community that was founded in 1975 by a man named Falco Tarassaco. It is situated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy about 30 miles north of the city of Turin, in the foothills of the Alps. Best known for its otherworldly underground tunnels that feature a cathedral dedicated to awakening the divine spark present in every human being, known as the Temples of Humankind. Called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” what makes these temples so extraordinary is that they were dug (almost) entirely by hand into the heart of the mountain in which they reside.
These days we here from the Left to Right the notion of Exit Strategies. On the Left this entails redrawing the map of global capitalism, discovering chinks in the armor of its economic supremacy. Discovering ways to circumvent its grip upon nations and peoples across the world, of escaping the clutches of its power and influence. Many people across the world are calling for secessionist movements. Roger Cohen tells us “people are bored and irked. They can’t get new jobs. They want new borders, especially as the likelihood of actually having to defend them in war has become infinitely remote. They want to be cyberglobal and hyper-local, citizens of the world with the passports of microstates. The desires seem to balance each other.” (Scottexalonia Rising) On the Left Matthew Cavedon tells us that Cohen has his argument backwards—secessionism is increasingly influential precisely because of modern interconnectedness not because it is a reactionary movement.
Nick Land from his vantage within the neoreaction has an interesting post on the topic of exit, and outlines a few preliminary thought-gatherings on the topic. For him Exit is a scale-free concept – a “take it or leave it” non-negotiable strategy, which above all recognizes the basic need “at whatever scale of expression, the concrete social implementation of freedom as an operational principle”. Second, it’s a philosophical stance: Exit is anti-dialectical. That is to say, it is the insistence of an option against argument, especially refusing the idea of necessary political discussion (a notion which, if accepted, guarantees progression to the left). Let’s spatialize our disagreement is an alternative to resolution in time. Conversations can be prisons. No one is owed a hearing. Third, Exit has a long heritage within the tradition of protest, that is – the Protestant religious and theosophical. Fourth, for Land and those on the Right Exit has an asymmetrical association with the Left: it is, for him anti-socialist, and he’ll point to the iconic Berlin Wall without further elaboration. (Of course one might point in the opposite direction to the Civil-War exist strategies of the Southern States in America as a counter: the South being agrarian and communal, exiting from the fat-cat capitalists and bankers that had such a grip upon their world. But then one would have to counter that as the winners surmise it was about racism and the dark aristocratic and elitist notions of white supremacy that were the South’s real reason for exit, etc.) Fifth, its optional, its not an argument “not an argument for flight, but a (non-dialectical) defense of the opportunity for flight”. Sixth, its an ‘alternative to voice’. As if scripted from Albert O. Hirschman’s (1970) Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States Land cryptically alludes to this book without explicitly mentioning its arguments:
Of course Hirschman’s book was about alternative ways of reacting to deterioration in business firms and, in general, to dissatisfaction with organizations: one, “exit,” is for the member to quit the organization or for the customer to switch to the competing product, and the other, “voice,” is for members or customers to agitate and exert influence for change “from within.” The efficiency of the competitive mechanism, with its total reliance on exit, is questioned for certain important situations. As exit often undercuts voice while being unable to counteract decline, loyalty is seen in the function of retarding exit and of permitting voice to play its proper role. The interplay of the three concepts turns out to illuminate a wide range of economic, social, and political phenomena. As the Hirschman states in the preface, “having found my own unifying way of looking at issues as diverse as competition and the two-party system, divorce and the American character, black power and the failure of ‘unhappy’ top officials to resign over Vietnam, I decided to let myself go a little.”
Lastly, Land takes off the mask of humility and let’s the stops out, stating that the final strategy for the neoreaction is Exit as the primary Social Darwinian weapon. Need we go into the implications here? I think we know where he’s heading and its not a pretty place.
On the Left we could point to the recent Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities as examples of groups that have had enough of nations and larger globalist interventions. Or the Quebec sovereignty movement. Even the Inuit Autonomist movements: Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, and Inuvik Region. Europe has their own listing of various groups seeking to exit the EU and even their own nations. Of course Autonomism emerged in Italy in the 1960s from workerist (operaismo) communism. Later, post-Marxist and anarchist tendencies became significant after influence from the Situationists, the failure of Italian far-left movements in the 1970s, and the emergence of a number of important theorists including Antonio Negri, who had contributed to the 1969 founding of Potere Operaio, as well as Mario Tronti, Paolo Virno and Franco “Bifo” Berardi.
Such movies as Elysium brought to the forefront and in stark relief the globalist strategy of Exit for the plutocrats: the noveau riche live in a space paradise, a torvus assemblage, a park-like, mansion-filled, lap-of-luxury and splendor. It’s the ultimate gated community, a cartoon land where paradise is a suite with a pool and view of the moon off starboard side of a revolving disc (torus). While the rest of the world below this spinning gem lives in rat-infested garbage cities, working in radioactive dumps, under the careful eye of drones and bandit-assassins. Max De Costa played by Matt Damon works in one of these sub-par facilities and is forced to grind out a mere existence under the supervision of petty overseers, etc. He’s accidently irradiated by an extreme dose when his boss threatens him with job loss if he doesn’t meet his quota. No need to go into details, needlessly he risks his life and is trapped in this cesspool of radiation. He spends the rest of the movie becoming a cyborg machine, running around trying to find a way to escape earth and reach Elysium where he’s discovered they have medical facilities that will cure him. I’ll not spoil you with the ending. It’s a typical clichéd movie from Hollywood, yet it has a sort of leftward appeal like many recent films. Problem is that its based on a flawed hero who for the most part cares only about himself. That is until the end… and, as said, I’ll not spoil you further.
What bothers me about many of these types of film is that they don’t offer any real solutions. What they offer is just the usual escapist fantasies couched in futuristic settings, embellished with the basic ideological extremes of conspiracy theory rather than the actual truth of our real world situation. Such comic book portrayals with their noirish heroes fighting against all odds, flawed and cynical, yet showing a little compassion for those poor and excluded. A sort of titular nod for effect rather than an actual crack in the Symbolic Order’s armor. Just like we saw in the Matrix films it’s more about enacting mythic fantasy of savior myths and singular and determined heroes that might save the world than about any form of true collective action against the threat of our very existence. No. These films are about economics, about making as much money as possible for the studios rather than about getting some profound message out there.
A hot topic over the past few years has been YA Dystopian books. The ever-growing list of works has become a deluge from thin romance driven novels with a little flare of the sad and angry rather than the old Orwellian nightmare worlds of yore. With the Hunger Games movies released successively over the past few years one gets the feeling its our teenagers that will save us from ourselves. Wonderful. One can even follow one’s latest fare on sites like Rotten Tomatoes with the tomatometer. As well in our fragmented world of the decentered internet one discovers a 1001 variations of the critical eye covering each movie, book, or talk show to the point of exhaustion. Sadly one loses site of what dystopian literature once stood for and why there were few and far between in this field. The bare worlds of dystopia brought us darkness and a critical gaze onto the inhumanity of men against their own atrocious existence. Today such fare is glamorized, Hollywoodized and made both palatable and fun, full of intensity and action oriented plots driven by sex and death. Gone is the stupidity and inhumanity, corruption and degradation. For that you’ll need to return to the older forms science fiction, horror, and dystopian literature.
But in such fantasy days as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Disneyland spinoffs with their optimistic futures full of excitement and galactic combat, good guys and bad guys in white and black
hats – I meant, costumes, garb, whatever you want to call these fantasy uniforms one has a hard time accepting that these fun filled futures are real. Instead one just escapes into the fantasy knowing its there to take your mind of the world outside where your real life is probably hanging by a thread from total collapse. I’d like to put a nice spin on it, but it just doesn’t seem possible. When we’re faced with such real dystopian futures as global conflict, climate-change, sixth-extinctions, asteroids, super-volcanoes, and a multitude of other real-world scenarios of catastrophism and doomsday its more comfortable to live the fantasy for a few hours than to live one’s life. Sad, but true.