Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Friend Says We're Like The Dinosaurs

Paul Kingsnorth:

Is it possible to read the words of someone like Theodore Kaczynski and be convinced by the case he makes, even as you reject what he did with the knowledge? Is it possible to look at human cultural evolution as a series of progress traps, the latest of which you are caught in like a fly on a sundew, with no means of escape? Is it possible to observe the unfolding human attack on nature with horror, be determined to do whatever you can to stop it, and at the same time know that much of it cannot be stopped, whatever you do? Is it possible to see the future as dark and darkening further; to reject false hope and desperate pseudo-optimism without collapsing into despair? It’s going to have to be, because it’s where I am right now. But where do I go next? What do I do? Between Kaczynski and Kareiva, what can I find to alight on that will still hold my weight?

...If you don’t like any of this, but you know you can’t stop it, where does it leave you? The answer is that it leaves you with an obligation to be honest about where you are in history’s great cycle, and what you have the power to do and what you don’t. If you think you can magic us out of the progress trap with new ideas or new technologies, you are wasting your time. If you think that the usual “campaigning” behavior is going to work today where it didn’t work yesterday, you will be wasting your time. If you think the machine can be reformed, tamed, or defanged, you will be wasting your time. If you draw up a great big plan for a better world based on science and rational argument, you will be wasting your time. If you try to live in the past, you will be wasting your time. If you romanticize hunting and gathering or send bombs to computer store owners, you will be wasting your time.

And so I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time? And I arrive at five tentative answers:

You can check out his answers if you wish; I merely find it interesting that he tries to inhabit such a timeless "big picture" perspective while still using the temporal language of abstractions. He speaks of time like another famous symbolic abstraction, as if it's something to be invested wisely or "wasted", which makes me wonder if he hasn't quite fully accepted the logical conclusion of his convictions. Either cling to the false certainty of nihilism (another abstraction) and declare life itself to be a waste of time, or embody your principles right here and now and just live your life, come what may. Stop thinking of life as a linear progression toward a goal and just live.

3 comments:

Brian M said...

But isn't his point that it is impossible to live any principles, because there are no principles that will address the issues?

Brian M said...

Of course, I am assuming "principles" and an individual life are important.

The Vile Scribbler said...

That would be like saying it's impossible to live morally because we have no reason to think that morality has any eternal, objective significance. He wants guaranteed results before he decides which principles he should enact. Should I send mail bombs to corporate leaders, or should I just dutifully recycle my tin cans? Neither one is going to "save" the world or humanity, so what's the point of it all? People like that scare me, frankly.

The point is to just live the life you think is best. You can't get the entire world to peacefully follow you, and you don't have any way of knowing exactly which policies to enact to achieve a particular result (let alone being able to account for all the variables which could bring about unintended consequences). Just live your life. Human civilization will either adapt to survive or it won't. So it goes.