The Roots of Rage

Utopia or Dystopia has an interesting piece on Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger.

Hit the nail on the head: “… gives an outsized place to intellectuals and the ideas that inspire them, people and their works like Mishra and his books, and as consequence fail to bring to light the material forces that are such idea’s true source.” In some retrospective futurial work a hundred or two hundred years from now the neo-historian of that era will see in our time the enactment of a transitional phase shift for planetary life in total as plant, mineral, and animal kingdoms coalesce and diverge, bifurcate into multiplicities and other forms. As machinic civilization arises and the Age of Man is completed and the devolutionary consequences of the Anthropocene play out.

Either intelligence and creativity will emerge and reconstruct the world toward more order and negentropic states or there will be a great dying off of organic life on the planet due to many causes: climacteric catastrophe; overpopulation brining famine, pestilence, infestation; global civil war; and resource depletion, etc. Either way as in all things the weak and innocent (read: stupid and uniformed, poor and excluded) will be the first to fall, while the rest will war among themselves in every tightening threads of death and destruction. Elsewise we will actually learn to cooperate and tame our dark and bitter raging drives for power, sex, and survival and create a wholesome and caring society based on the acknowledgement of our fragility and unknowing.

Some believe that matter and energy will ultimately be converted into each other in peaceful ways rather than through destructive and planet killing forms (nuclear war). The notion that matter is itself part of an invisible nexus of energetic and unconscious intelligence, a transcendental unconscious that empowers all things from thermospasm to the Great Wall of Light that houses millions of galactic clusters. Spinonza’s God or Nature? Truth or lie? Will we break through or break down? Will we learn to live together in harmony and peace or will we end in one long protracted war to the death? No one can answer such things. We hope, we despair… neither is of use.

Religion was born of our irrational need to know and have an answer to the ultimate dilemmas of our ignorance in the face of an inscrutable universe. Philosophy was born of those who needed reasons for this inscrutability, an answer that could satisfy the logic and reason of men rather than the blind faith of religion. Neither have ever answered these questions, only give us more questions. The universe may be incomplete, a botched experiment, one of a multiplicity of experiments in a bubble multiverse without end or design or purpose. No one knows… and, yet it is this very unknowning that drives us forward, challenges us, goads us to know to live to become… those who rage are those who have given up the ghost, given up the quest to know, who have given over to hate and bitterness, seeking to blame others for not knowing the answers of their irrational hearts. They would rather kill off every other living creature than accept the responsibility for their own miserable failure to continue the quest…

So many speak of an ‘economy of caring’ rather than the current ‘economy of hording’ (accumulation) these days, an economy that takes into account the quality rather than quantity of life. The older forms of potlatch systems at least understood the need for expenditure of excess, the utter destruction of what had been accumulated as a gesture of trust and acknowledgement that we are all in the end born equal and without power or dominion. Sacrifice was always an acknowledgement that we are beholden to the impersonal and indifferent sources of power and energy that sustain us through the natural cycles of our lives on this planet. We’ve done away with that bloody institution, but have opted for continuous sacrifice in war instead. War is the bloody continuation of a great potlatch supper without end. That in the end the earth itself is the source of our power, and the sun is the creative engine of our destiny and lives on this planet. If we unbalance the cycles that have stabilized organic life for millions of years there will be no return, no rebirth of plant, animal, or mineral worlds; no movement or becoming or processual change. It will all end. We have yet to accept such consequences as real.

Utopia or Dystopia

Perhaps the main problem with the case made by Pankaj Mishra in his Age of Anger is that it gives an outsized place to intellectuals and the ideas that inspire them, people and their works like Mishra and his books, and as consequence fail to bring to light the material forces that are such idea’s true source.

It’s one thing to be aware that today’s neo-liberalism, and the current populist revolt against them have roots stretching back to the Enlightenment and Rousseau’s revolt against it and to be made aware that there’s a contradiction at the heart of the Enlightenment project that has yet to be resolved. It’s quite another thing to puzzle out why even a likely doomed revolt against this project is taking place right now as opposed to a decade or even decades ago. To do that one needs to turn to insights from sociology and political…

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