Maybe we’re all losers; failures. A kid comes around and tells us the truth; tells us we’re stealing the future from her and her generation; tells us we’re the morons that have obliterated their hopes and dreams. Sometimes I think our history is just one long entropic nightmare; we’ve been sucking up energy from the earth for tens of thousands of years, and as we use up all that concentrated bit of sunlight we begin that long process of dissipation, entropic cascade into the debtors bank of non-return. History is just one long entropic bankruptcy in which humans have almost used up all the energy in the bank of earth’s resource department; and now the bill is coming due. But whose going to pay the bill? Can it be paid? Or will we come to the realization that our bankers want only one thing from us: our lives as a species. Death is the banker and he’s ready to call up the note on Life’s last dream…
We are facing an existential crisis… it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who — their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable.
—Greta Thunberg (11 September 2019)
To the Greta Thunberg’s of our World…
Recently I reread Andrey Platonov’s great work The Foundation Pit, and was reminded of his allegory of Russia; its past, and its future. At the end of it when his young protagonist dies, it’s as if the future of all things died with her. In his slight afterward he would say:
“Will our soviet socialist republic perish like Nastya or will she grow up into a whole human being, into a new historical society? This alarming feeling is what constituted the theme of the work, when the author was writing it. The author may have been mistaken to portray in the form of the little girl’s death the end of the socialist generation, but this mistake occurred only as a result of excessive alarm on behalf of something beloved, whose loss is tantamount to the destruction not only of all the past but also of the future.”
I would only add: Will the earth of our extinction event die with the Greta’s of the world? Or shall we confront this event?
In our own age it’s not only a nation, but the earth herself – and, by that, I mean the earth of our bioenvelope within which we and our non-human neighbors and fellow beings all inhabit; that fragile layer of atmosphere in which all life on planet earth – and, possibly, the only life in our galactic cluster, exists. Then I think of young women and men; of children being born even as I write these words, and wonder if like Platonov it is a mistake to portray a young woman, who for all we know is more than correct in her estimation of our dire situation; her mission to commit herself to the great task of forging a link to others of her generation toward a unity of action: – an impossible dream of changing people’s minds, of changing the world’s leaders minds, of changing the structure of harm and ruin that this late economic system of capitalism and modern instrumentalism has wrought upon the planet’s ecosystems; both technology and its ramifications in industry, and the plunder of the last sustainable resources on our planet, that have cost, and or costing us. Not only that, but we must ask: Is she right in that her generational world, our world of human and non-humans – this earth, might be part of the last generation of living things on planet earth?
Do you know? Are you willing to bet on it not being so? Or do you scoff and laugh and suggest in your comic denialism that cockroaches will still remain to inherit the earth? Or you such a blind bigot of apathy and derision to let all life tilt toward that annihilation and extinction for a mere comic book scenario of cynicism? Or are you willing to join her and commit to changing your behavior, and the behavior of both national and international regimes, toward decelerating this vast technological behemoth of planetary destruction before it is too late? Or, will you continue in your malaise; scoff such apocalyptic imaginaries, and sit back and do nothing; pretend that nothing is wrong with the world, that the world is not moving toward biotic self-destruction? Are you willing to let your children inherit such cynical and apathetic thoughts of their future? Or will you begin thinking again… allowing yourself to truly gaze upon the existential truth of this vast crisis of life and existence without blinkers, filters, or propaganda; look at the facts of our situation rather than turning away in blind denial? Will you begin to estimate the underlying truths of what is being said by Greta and those of her generation – of their right to a future worth living in? Or will you like so many… deny her of that future; pretend that nothing is wrong, the world will never end; that life will go on? Will you deny the truth staring you in the face?
What will you do?
Even if I presented you with all the facts that the sciences have gathered over the past century would you be one of those to scoff at such facts, deny their truth? What will I do? For me it’s finally time to take a stand, to realize my time is close to the end; and, yet, with what little time (at age 68) I have left I stand with Greta and her generation, those who will inherit the horror of my generations inaction; those who will face the existential terror and horrors to come, because we were too cowardly to face and deal with – sitting back in denial, apathy, and unbelief that what is transpiring – an extinction event beyond anything the earth has seen – is here, now, upon us. It’s time to act, to salvage as best we can what remains; time to act and be a voice, and a body in this time of decision; for it is up to us now, not some future time… but now, to act and do and be a solution rather than a perpetrator. Will you act and do something to change the world for Greta and her generation? Or will you sit back and let them inherit our ruins? Do I hold out much hope that you will? No. But then I don’t believe in hope. I believe in the courage of our hopelessness. Do you?
As a pessimist I don’t expect much anymore… I doubt very many will even read this post, much less comment of add their own thoughts one way or the other. Like Zizek I don’t depend on the Big Other anymore; even the thoughts of others… most people don’t want to commit to anything but their own vein existences. That’s to be expected in this cowardly generation we live in. Most turn a blind eye to almost everything. And when one young person arises in our midst and sticks up for her own and her generations lives and futures. Most sit back in utter silence and do nothing. Sad, but true. Our generations apathy is the cause of this shame. We are leaving the ruins of the future to Greta and her generation. In my own mind I can only offer what little I have and am; these mere fragments of thought and care… what else is there?
Yea, I don’t hold out much hope anymore. Sadly politics has become a self-defeating farce for the rich corporations who support both sides of the spectrum; seeking only a centrist muddle and solution of do nothing as usual. People assume something will be done when nothing will be. Defeatist? Yes. I’m guilty. The working class; the people, want win either way. And, sadly, the young like Greta and her generation will inherit only the dust… and ruins of the vast megamachine as it slowly grinds the earth into bones.
So in the end to I only offer the wisdom of dust? No. Because as in all things it doesn’t matter what I offer, or even think; what matters is what Greta and her own generation do… for in the end it is up to them to force this issue, to awaken themselves from the sickness of modernity and this vast wasteland, to heal the earth and bring a new order out of the chaos of this collapsing world of culture and economics. Only the young can do what we have not. If my hope is no more; the only thing that can be offered is
The Courage of Hopelessness
in the Face of this dark future…
there is nothing else!
Self-Deception as the Art of Prediction, Illusion, and Ideological Destruction
I provide three quotes below which summed up provide us a road map to why humans are so prone to error, bias, illusion, and self-deception. Over eons of evolutionary time we developed the need to predict the future, to anticipate ahead of time what may happen a few moments down the pipe: our lives depended on it. So we began projecting information, filling in the blank spaces of our inadequate knowledge with illusion based on past experience. Sometimes we got it right, sometimes not. But as we began developing closer ties to others, developing social systems, this once proud predictive tool became a tool for deceit, lying, and deception not only of ourselves but others so that we developed whole cultures out of a tissue of lies and myths to support systems of power, control, and oppression by the few over the many. And, yet, that very evolutionary selective process that once helped us survive in the wilderness, the natural world of danger and suffering, has now in our artificial world of technocivilization become a tool for self-destruction by way of deceit and self-deception on a global scale. We’ve built systems of self-deceptive ideological constructs out of world-wide mediatainment and the political and socio-cultural illusions that have produced Climate Change Denialism that is leading us into a dangerous territory of illusion and self-deceptive forms of deceit by beings whose only agenda is to sacrifice the majority of humans on the planet for the benefit of the few. Simply put we are living in a horror story in which reality is a complete and utter artificial lie propagated by systems of ideological propaganda that no longer appears as such.
E.H. Grumbrich in his classic work Art and Illusion describes our powers of anticipation, our ability to see ahead of things, to master the unknown by filling in the blanks, selecting the blind spots in our visual fields and placing imaginative leaps of information into the holes. He terms this projection after the early psychologies of the 20th Century. He’ll put it more simply as “Expectation creates Illusion.” And that is the condition of all Art.
Andy Clark on the Predictive Mind:
“The mystery is, and remains, how mere matter manages to give rise to thinking, imagining, dreaming, and the whole smorgasbord of mentality, emotion, and intelligent action. Thinking matter, dreaming matter, conscious matter: that’s the thing that it’s hard to get your head—whatever it’s made of—around. But there is an emerging clue.”
“The clue can be summed up in a single word: prediction. To deal rapidly and fluently with an uncertain and noisy world, brains like ours have become masters of prediction—surfing the waves of noisy and ambiguous sensory stimulation by, in effect, trying to stay just ahead of them. A skilled surfer stays ‘in the pocket’: close to, yet just ahead of the place where the wave is breaking. This provides power and, when the wave breaks, it does not catch her. The brain’s task is not dissimilar. By constantly attempting to predict the incoming sensory signal we become able—in ways we shall soon explore in detail—to learn about the world around us and to engage that world in thought and action. Successful, world-engaging prediction is not easy. It depends crucially upon simultaneously estimating the state of the world and our own sensory uncertainty. But get that right, and active agents can both know and behaviourally engage their worlds, safely riding wave upon wave of sensory stimulation.”1
Robert Trivers in Deceit and Self-Deception will ask:
“Whence self-deception? Why do we possess marvelous sense organs to detect information only to distort it upon arrival? … Together our sensory systems are organized to give us a detailed and accurate view of reality, exactly as we would expect if truth about the outside world helps us to navigate it more effectively. But once this information arrives in our brains, it is often distorted and biased to our conscious minds. We deny the truth to ourselves. We project onto others traits that are in fact true of ourselves—and then attack them! We repress painful memories, create completely false ones, rationalize immoral behavior, act repeatedly to boost positive self-opinion, and show a suite of ego-defense mechanisms. Why?”
“The central claim of this book is that self-deception evolves in the service of deception—the better to fool others. Sometimes it also benefits deception by saving on cognitive load during the act, and at times it also provides an easy defense against accusations of deception (namely, I was unconscious of my actions). In the first case, the self-deceived fails to give off the cues that go with consciously mediated deception, thus escaping detection. In the second, the actual process of deception is rendered cognitively less expensive by keeping part of the truth in the unconscious. That is, the brain can act more efficiently when it is unaware of the ongoing contradiction. And in the third case, the deception, when detected, is more easily defended against—that is, rationalized— to others as being unconsciously propagated. In some cases, self-deception may give a direct personal advantage by at least temporarily elevating the organism into a more productive state, but most of the time such elevation occurs without self-deception.”2
1. Andy Clark. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind . Oxford University Press.
2. Trivers, Rober. Deceit and Self-Deception
The Sixth Extinction seems to be moving now in exponential catalytic mode as if the earth were speaking to us in an indifferent tongue telling us through natural signs that we are next… our problems is that only a few intelligent creatures are reading the signs, the vast majority are blinded by leaders and corporate malfeasance all the way to the top. Sadly when people finally see their cities sink, the air unbreathable, the crops fail, the rain stop, the ocean conveyor nil, the last cloud vanish in the bread belt, and the great storms unending across the impervious seas… those leaders and corporations will have built fortified cities and bunkers against the throngs who will finally be left in a world of absolute hell.
One Harvard professor reports that we have less than five years to turn things around. He tells us that people have the misapprehension that we can recover from this state just by reducing carbon emissions, Anderson said in an appearance at the University of Chicago. Recovery is all but impossible, he argued, without a World War II-style transformation of industry—an acceleration of the effort to halt carbon pollution and remove it from the atmosphere, and a new effort to reflect sunlight away from the earth’s poles.
“This has do be done within the next five years,” he states, emphatically.
In a recent article on Nature “The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases released from tundra, warn Merritt R. Turetsky and colleagues. As the temperature of the ground rises above freezing, microorganisms break down organic matter in the soil. Greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Current models of greenhouse-gas release and climate assume that permafrost thaws gradually from the surface downwards. Deeper layers of organic matter are exposed over decades or even centuries, and some models are beginning to track these slow changes. But models are ignoring an even more troubling problem. Frozen soil doesn’t just lock up carbon — it physically holds the landscape together. Across the Arctic and Boreal regions, permafrost is collapsing suddenly as pockets of ice within it melt. Instead of a few centimetres of soil thawing each year, several metres of soil can become destabilized within days or weeks. The land can sink and be inundated by swelling lakes and wetlands.”
Geowatch reports that various blocking patterns in Greenland and the Artic due to mountains is helping this along as well: As said, as the Arctic warms up more rapidly than the rest of Earth, the speed at which jet streams circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere will weaken, making the jets meander more and creating patterns that can trap heat (or cold) for a number of days over a given area. Due to the height of its mountains, Greenland is particularly prone to be increasingly hit by heatwaves resulting from such blocking patterns. Warming changes the texture of snow and ice, making it more slushy and darker, which also makes that it absorbs more of the sunlight’s heat, further accelerating melting.
Economist Joseph Stieglitz reports that by the end of this century, some sectors of the US economy, including agriculture and energy, could lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year because of climate change, according to the latest report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Yet, Stieglitz, always the optimist, thinks we can legislate an end to it all with the Green New Deal. Being the pessimist I am the very notion that embarking on such a scheme without it being done in every nation around the planet seems utopian and less than adequate. It’s as if such economists were pipe dreamers full of hot air taking us for fools. All such a scheme would do in the short run would be to enforce more pressure on workers and expose them to even greater misery than they already are. The dreamer he is believes we can just tax corporations that inflict damage on our environment, and that this would encourage corporations to work hard to prevent it. Lies all the up and down, the U.S. government is supported by those corporations and isn’t about to begin biting the hand that feeds them and puts them in power. Wake up Stieglitz, what kind of idealist trash are you spouting? Whose paying your paychecks to write such horseshit as if the American public were that gullible.
Here’s a representative Progressive view on things from George Monbiot:
Progressive change requires mass mobilisation. But, by identifying and challenging power, by discovering its failings and proposing alternatives, by showing the world as it is rather than as the apparatus of justification would wish people to see it, we can, I believe, play a helpful part in this mobilisation, alongside politicians, protesters, social entrepreneurs, pressure groups and a host of other agents of change.1
Problem with such a project is that it’s too little, too late. Progressives like many utopianistic leftists believe people, the working people, will step up to the plate, join in and get ‘mobilized’, listen to their pundits and agitators, produce a viable protest movement etc. Hogwash! What has protest done for us of late? Look around you the world is just what it is, and we are neither victims nor perpetrators, rather we’re all fools in a ship of fools wandering blindly through our lives thinking that someone else will come along and fix things, that someone else will save us from ourselves, that a redeemer will appear out of the religious nowhere and bring us the good optimistic news of deliverance. Sorry to be the one to tell you: there is no good news ahead, it’s all bad weather and no matter what the fuck we do now it’s not going to make a fucking bit of difference.
No need to state what the pundits on the Right have to say, they don’t even believe in climate change, but instead make jokes and parodies, satiric jibes and the endless parade of black humor that they’ve been tuning up in recent years. Most global warming skeptics believe the models used to predict Earth’s future under global warming are unreliable. They feel that while the sun, clouds, gases, glaciers and oceans are responsible for weather, so, too, are other factors, including some we don’t currently understand. According to global warming skeptics, computer models are merely a guess at what will happen on Earth in the future — something climatologists don’t deny — and an arguably poor guess at that. After all, if we can’t accurately predict the weather a week from now, how can we predict the global climate in 100 years?
Others don’t believe we’re experiencing a global warming trend at all. The annual temperature between 1998 and 2007 actually decreased, despite the 4 percent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during that same period. They also point out that, while the Northern Hemisphere has warmed, the Southern Hemisphere has actually cooled. “Global warming was supposed to actually be global, not hemispheric,” says skeptic — and Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project.
So go on keep reading all these change artists and con men of the utopian set, the elite pundits with all the answers. Hey, it’s your life you can do with it what you like, right? No. If you think you’re really in charge of your life, that you have the freedom to do what and when you like, then either you’re already and Oligarch, plutocrat, rich mother-fucker, or you’re like me a poor bastard living off the pipe-dreams of yesteryear thinking people really give a shit. Keep on believing fools… am I cynical? am I pessimistic? You bet I am! I don’t believe the lies anymore, its been a scam of quite a while now and the show is almost over. Nothing I do or say is going to change that now. Nor you.
Of course no one wants to here such a bleak forecast. People aren’t stupid, they don’t have to read such crap from me or anyone else. But turning a blind eye, putting your head in the progressive or conservative sand want help you either. You’re fucked no matter whose side you decide to put your blood, sweat, and tears into. Makes no difference. So go on, be my guest…
For the better part of 60+ years I’ve listened to pundits about climate change, global warming and all the pros and cons, and now that it actually beginning to affect us both economically, politically, medically, and mentally among other things we are still listening to the same messages over and over as if the outcome would be different now, that people would wake up and do something to change the world, as if the world needed changing. Ha! It’s us, we’re the fools, the culprits, the instigators of our own demise and we still want to play the blame game, accuse someone else for our own inability to do anything, anything at all. So we will continue into the next few decades protesting, listening to our pundits of the Left and Right voice our opinions, our options, our fantasies as if it would make a bit of difference. All the while we just go through the same paces of our lives expecting it all to turn out for the best, that someone down the pipe will figure it all out and fix things. Lovely little optimists we are, right? No. It’s just another bullshit lie we hide the truth in so we don’t have to do a thing but turn a blind eye and walk away from our own guilt and responsibility.
The future looks bleak indeed. With the mass migrations of humans out of the hot-zones of equatorial countries that will in the coming decades and centuries become uninhabitable we will see war, famine, disease and all the other apocalyptic horses riding the earth with extreme prejudice. For the truth is the universe doesn’t give a fuck what we think, what we do, how we do it, we are already doomed by our inaction across the whole of the planet. If this seems deterministic to the hilt just stay tuned to the coming decades. This isn’t a prophecy rather it is an end game to the human species whose stupidity and gullibility has allowed the leaders of the world owned and operated by the major corporations and mulit-conglomerates, banking systems, and false sciences to assure mass extinction on the horizon.
Here’s Zizek: “The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that “thought is the courage of hopelessness” ─ an insight that is especially pertinent for our historical moment, when even the most pessimistic diagnosis as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice; it functions as a fetish that prevents us thinking through to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlights of another train approaching us from the opposite direction.”
Instead of pretending with ourselves that humanity within the next five years is going to wake up miraculously and change things, let’s begin with the truth, be honest with ourselves: humanity has known of climate change for decades and has done nothing more than make useless non-binding agreements and treaties to do nothing but think about it – or the non-thinking that the U.N. and its minion leaders are always good at. So instead let’s consider the fact that humanity will do as they’ve done in the past: nothing. What do we do from that news? That’s the actual courage of hopelessness…
With that in mind, what do we do next? Do nothing, turn a blind eye? Or… ?
- Monbiot, George. How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature . Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
Don’t take this wrong, but will at the end of this week all this ‘direct action’ change the world, or only bolster the positive feedback between a few humans across the planet that we at least tried to do something (“Look at us, we tried to wake you up! etc.”)? What I fear is that the truth is that nothing will be done to stem the tide, that in the end it will be like those Burning Man festivals that mark a high point in peoples nostalgia for something indefinable, but once the party is over all that is left in its wake is just a wasteland of deserted dunes where the trash-bins of history keep nothing but the silence…
Maybe I am too pessimistic, but having lived through such things before and listened to climate activism for sixty years I tend to think we are doomed to lethargy and decay, that humans want other humans to do something rather than be bothered to do it themselves. People will buy into something for a few days, weeks, months but in the end will go back to their failed lives like the passive and disturbed creatures they are… at least till the next best thing once again lights them up. But as we both know this is just a game of narcissistic lament rather than a sustained revolution against the order of stupidity on our planet.
What we need is a harsh and bleak accident (Virilio) to disturb our sleep, to awaken us permanently from our lethargic nightmare. We live in denial of reality, drifting in the illusions of all our sundry cognitive biases. Even if we feel that nudge in the carcass of our thought that speaks to us of death we will cover it over in some urgent scheme of radical denial. We cannot bare to much truth, we would rather accept our lies, our fictions. Striping our minds of the deliriums of our desires we slip into the cage of indefinable nostalgia for the pristine, the pure. In the end it is like the universe itself a decaying and fragmented display of a mindless process that for all its grandeur will end in nothingness, its fractured lights all going out one by one till all that is left is an eternal darkness and cold infinity of zero.
Merely by existing, people and their dependent animals are responsible for more than ten times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the airline travel in the world.
We do not seem to have the slightest understanding of the seriousness of our plight. Instead, before our thoughts were diverted by the global financial collapse, we seemed lost in an endless round of celebration and congratulation. It was good to recognize the huge efforts of the IPCC with the Nobel Peace Prize and to have a brave ten thousand people make the long journey to Bali as a salutation, but because they failed to see the Earth as alive and responsive they ignored at our peril the extent of its disapproval of all we do. As we hold our meetings and talk of stewardship, Gaia still moves step by step toward the hot state, one that will allow her to continue as the regulator, but where few of us will be alive to meet and talk. Perhaps we were celebrating because the once rather worrying voice of the IPCC now spoke comfortably of consensus and endorsed those mysterious concepts of sustainability and energy that renewed itself. We even thought that this way somehow we could save the planet and grow richer as well, a more pleasing outcome than the uncomfortable truth.
Just think, as I write this in 2008, more than one thousand of the world’s best climate scientists have worked for seventeen years to forecast future climates and have failed to predict the climate of today. I have little confidence in the smooth, rising curve of temperature that modelers predict for the next ninety years. The Earth’s history and simple climate models based on the notion of a live and responsive Earth suggest that sudden change and surprise are more likely. My pessimism is shared by other scientists and openly by the distinguished climate scientist James Hansen, who finds as I do that the evidence now coming from the Earth, together with the knowledge of its history, is gravely disturbing. Most of all I am pessimistic because business and governments both appear to be accepting uncritically a belief that climate change is easily and profitably reversible.
– James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning
One should keep one’s head down and not revel in life: our time is better and more serious than blissful enjoyment. Anyone who revels in it will certainly be caught and perish…
………..– Andrey Platonov, On the First Socialist Tragedy
McKenzie Wark in his latest work Molecular Red: A Theory for the Anthropocene tells us that the Anthropocene is a “catalog of the reasons why the ever-expanding commodifcation of everything is on a collision course with planetary limits”.1 Of all the authors he explicates it is Andrey Platonov as Wark reminds us who has a masterful intuition of what the Anthropocene future is going to be like. (Wark, p. 31) He’ll provide a short story of Platonov’s On the First Socialist Tragedy (translated by Tony Wood) as an opening toward a series of meditations of the impact of humans in the era of the Anthropocene. The Guardian talking of Robert Chandler’s translation of The Foundation Pit would say of Platonov that Stalin called him scum. Sholokov, Gorky, Pasternak, and Bulgakov all thought he was the bee’s knees. But when Andrey Platonov died in poverty, misery and obscurity in 1951, no one would have predicted that within half a century he would be a contender for the title as Russia’s greatest 20th-century prose stylist.