I’ve seen the nights, filled with bloodsport and pain,
And the bodies obtained, the bodies obtained.
Where will it end?
(Ian Curtis of Joy Division)
Sunday 30th January 2011, on the 66 bus to Barnsley and Barnsley Bus station.
Why do I get like this? Well, I certainly now feel estranged from those from the educated/upper working class slice of the populace who can just brush off witnessing this violence as “Chav mentality” as if they are another species (“the proles are not human beings” said Syme to Winston!” in George Orwell’s 1984 and this is how society now seems to view the “Chav”) the events stick with me because I know they are trends, not anomalies acted out by inherently bad people (the sad fact is that both my claim that a “grossly unfair society creates angry and confused people” and the reaction I usually get to my despair that “you can’t educate pork” work side by side with each to create, what appears to be, an impenetrable cycle of discrimination and violence).
What do I see then? I see a sick society run on the most gruesome inequalities; I see the a rise of the symptoms, here in the UK, that are all too familiar over in the most violent, ghetto-infested, unequal developed nation of them all: The United States Of America; I see the facts I read in the Spirit Level about how violence and social disorder are more common in more unequal societies, returning to front of my mind; I see these things getting worse, as the most right wing decisions made by a ruling government to-date are brought through – the most vicious attacks on state welfare to make way for a privatisation frenzy; I see everything that is troubling in our society becoming more-so.
Today I have put a good few hours into my new artworks before I set off for the bus; I was hoping for a quiet ride back. The bus back to the station from my studio was only a small bus, yet it was too large for a solitary staff member (a female bus driver) to be able to do anything about the people who I quickly became aware of who were sat at the back. It is bizarre, when you think about it, and could only be ‘pragmatic’ under capitalism, to reduce the number of staff members on a bus (buses used to also have ticket conductors) at the same time as general trust has decreased and violence has increased. And no other passenger dared say anything to these increasingly aggressive and abusive people, smoking at the back of the bus. And why should they? their already extortionate ticket prices are not worth the hassle of trying to believe in Dave Cameron’s ‘big society’ and entering a debate which will probably become a fight, which they’ll likely lose.
To be honest, I never saw their faces until the bus finally stopped as I didn’t want to turn my head and face getting involved, but their anger, which was either aimed at the seat one of them was kicking, or any potential protester over their behavior, was giving me the shakes. I’m quite a fragile person, but a raised voice is still not enough to spook me like I was. Do you want to know what spooked me? It was the confirmation, in my mind, that I was witnessing The Real of the policies made that until then still only appeared as far-away threats on newspapers and telescreens; that such aimless anger and frustration must surely be result of an imposition of systemic cruelties on people who, by and large, have not been reared to be able confront the source of pain; a realisation that for all the talk of the pain felt in our pockets little has been mentioned about the increasing pain of existing in a society where you don’t trust anyone and dare not intervene when you can see wrongdoing. With all the talk of “slitting his fucking throat” I felt that this was no longer the small town I am familiar with (which, for all its low-scale yobbery, and often oppressive homogeneity, is not a place familiar with much serious violent crime) and I felt like I was riding through a dangerous part of a city of great great divides such as New York.
I got off the bus, and walked into the station. Something was different though. I mean, it’s never the most uplifting of places – bus stations never are – but the disorder ongoing in the gangways somehow seemed greater, whilst the amount of staff around seemed smaller. I was only sat down for a couple of minutes before I saw two teenage girls beating the crap out of each other, whilst an ever-changing group of youths were either trying to break it up or encouraging it. Drunk or sober, what followed was bordering on a riot, which would not have looked out of place in a school-yard, but this was a town centre station in which bus drivers looked almost scared, as they tried to escape the arena as quickly as possible as they went to their office, and other passengers, like myself, looked on, probably thinking that they should have done something has one the girls found herself being kicked by others whilst on the floor, but also, like me, were probably too depressed and paranoid to get involved.
I felt sick, disgusted with everything, including myself, but what could I do? There’s only one thing that my mind can return to now, and forever as long as humanity has to continue to live under an order which exacerbates such degeneration – that thing is capitalism. And you could almost expect smiley faces appearing on the Nestle snacks in the dispensing machines, as the youths run (some screaming with joy and others with dread), as this would be a just expression for the disregard the non-human titans of this world (the corporations) show to the trail of degeneration they leave behind. Two staff eventually appeared – too little, too late. But, like the bus driver who said nothing to the aggressive passengers, who could expect anything more from these people who work for stripped down services, which have no option but to be understaffed, and have to put up with the inevitable resulting aggressive of a neglected generation, that is lied to about their neglect which diverts their anger to the wrong places?
Finally, phew! a police car siren becomes audible. But the police aren’t the solution! All they can do is punish those involved. But for every one they punish two more offenders will appear in their place, it’s like trying to stop a rising sea levels with a bucket. It’s quite funny that I’d feel relieved that the police had arrived to quash a neoliberal-caused disorder, seen as they have recently shown quite a lot of violence to anybody who publicly dared to voice opposition to this system.
In an ideal world – you know, in a proper democracy -the government, and opposing parties – as New Labour were anything but innocent bystanders to the neoliberal procession – should be forced to experience life at the bottom of a stripped-down state; they should have to reap the effects of their policies from the bottom as well as the top, but this has been said so many times that me adding to it possibly just helps bolsters it as a lefty cliche.
But what can be done? I was appalled by what I saw today, mainly because I know that this isn’t the end of it. Anyone who has paid attention, or even experienced the increasing amount of violence on the streets of the UK in the past 30 years should take note that this is only the beginning of the nation’s plunge into a Neoliberal Hell On Earth. And I’m too sensitive to endure it: I instinctively piece the incidents together rather than do what the people who fuck me over do and treat them as acts of randomness to be forgotten about by the time we get home and take off our boots. But it is likely that the windows in those homes will be behind iron bars in a decade’s time, at which point I doubt I would be able to say “I told you so” because recent events have proven that I am not equipped to go the duration in this world. My mad ranting at capitalism has always had the fears of my own well-being stocked up in it. I will find this Neoliberal Hell On Earth very hard to live through.
An image that will always stick with me is one which was on a video in an exhibition commemorating the holocaust, at the Imperial War Museum, London. In a well-meant diversion from the Jewish Holocaust, the video narrator spoke of all those other holocausts which have happened since then in the late 20th century, mainly in the poorer parts of the planet, which we hear significantly less about. The moment which gripped me was about how these awful events come to be, as it spoke out to the whole of the humanity for our parts played in them, describing how seemingly minor actions made by citizens in richer consumer societies have an affect on other areas of the world.
.The camera focused on people drinking take-away coffee from some cafe-chain. This struck me, as I have (certainly did so back then) a fetish for buying ‘Mochas’ from cafe chains such as Costa, Cafe Nero, and at that moment I certainly was looking forward to one. Never quite escaping the bleeding obvious in this globally divided planet of exhaustible resources, I spent hours trying to justify getting my chain cafe coffee fix. The likelihood that that one purchase would trigger some genocidal rampage is low, but this is irrelevant as I am playing the game: I am keeping the entity of capitalism in motion/in power (at which point it must be pointed out that, far from fighting against racism/bigotry, capitalism needs them to be there, unconsciously, playing a part in the psyche of all able consumers – if aware of capitalism’s destructiveness, the bulk of consumers need some unspoken sense of superiority to allow them to carry on doing what they know is potentially harming somebody else). True to form, the battle for attention between the guilty me and the hungry-for-more me, played itself out, right through the rest of London visit, until I was at a familiar lull from where I realise that I cannot obtain enjoyment, thus a life devoted to the making of my artwork is the only saviour. The image of the people drinking coffee, which followed on from images of the Killing Fields of Cambodia were the iconic images of all that day’s trekking.
.It’s easy to imagine a future moment when one no longer feels so discontent with themselves so that there remains the desire to be constantly consuming, but this moment never arrives. The propagandist infrastructure, that surrounds us, constantly refers to this period when all finally rests OK around our necks – a point when there is no demon and angel battle battering us from alternate shoulders – but of course it would refer to this stage; it keeps us hooked into the matrix; constantly jumping from one failed holiday from work-time to another (and just to point out, most holiday-speak in postmodern Britain refers to binge drinking sessions which nearly always end in farce). To add to this, personally, it is easy to imagine a future weaned off capitalism, growing my own ‘veg’, being less worried about “looking a mess”, yet as soon as I meet people and go places that are more down this alleyway I feel a desire to be heading towards the city lights, railway journeys and the clean shaved feel. I feel disgusted with myself about this. I am reminded about my own stupid capability of making myself feel alienated and detached from everything once I am next to it. I put my hat on, my long black coat, my rucksack, and play Metanomic by John Foxx on my music player (dark synth-pop from the early 1980s) and set off to walk the streets by myself, and I feel myself again.
Today after a day/night trip to help on an organic farm my sister is staying on, apart from a love for the English oak and enjoying finding things buried beneath the soil, I felt so much more myself as I returned to my big coat, rucksack-on-back, as I entered the concrete gridded postwar town of Stevenage. I felt weird to feel at one in a human way of living which I am all-too-aware is provoking a disastrous 21st century, but I did feel more like me; a socialist-orientated thinker who ironically feels more at home in his isolated urban meanderings, looking for hope in places that he all-but-knows he will never find it in.
It is a slow process in becoming who you want to be; you’ve spent you’re entire life spoon-fed media and ideas that make you lose your identity and make you lose a true sense of enjoyment; in a consumer society, where we are bombarded by images of enjoyment and fulfillment, one should take note that they are profoundly lacking. I have taken note, yet my cockles are still warmed by the prospect of a night-out piss-up which usually, although nice for the the fist 2/3 pints, turns into a regrettable experience. Although possibly more screwed up by it, these ‘occasions’ are what most of us earn our wages for and anticipate with glee. The holiday is perhaps the greatest example of this, and thankfully the piss-up seems to be the only one I am still wired-up in – precisely because the act of getting pissed is the act of forgetting both the state of humanity and that state of ones own life (although both come back to haunt you after 6 or 7 drinks).
To be honest I can’t even be arsed with holidays. Take away the one thing that usually exempts me from guilty feeling – producing works of art/rantings that work as a defiance against my 21st century despair and also divert me from the truth about my inability to enjoy the present – and I feel constantly shit about the fact that everybody but me appears to be having a good time, in an apparent enjoyment which just seems to pass me by.
I always get the lyrics from the final song (Fragile Happiness) on the Super Furry Animals’ 2001 album Rings Around The World (which, it has to be said, is perhaps one of the best albums for depicting the postmodern condition, and seemed to be released just in time before alternative music got incorporated into, and began to solely exist for TopShop fashion parades). The lyrics go like this:
“well go to Miami
Take old friends and family
we’ll stay out and party
does Will Smith lie?
does he ever cave in and cry?” (Fragile Happiness, from the album Rings Around The World, SFA, 2001)
You see, as much as I know that breaking free, living off-grid, without a need for shaving foam, and moisturiser is the right thing to do, its those who are miserably trapped within who I resonate with. I suppose an artist has to live within the mess to depicted it; I just wish I could be certain that this was the main reason why I stay within it and not mainly because I enjoy being led by its carrots on sticks. I’ve made many works depicting the sinking ship of humanity in the 21st century, and know that this is because I’ll definitely be on it.
.I really wish I wasn’t so paranoid around people, and not so negative as to be unable to be part of anything which equates to helping the environmental cause, but I’m not this person. Sadly I’ve built myself into a pessimist who seeks morbid fascination in concrete jungles and dystopian music – I do not like myself, so I suppose I find the places that suit me.
The iconic factor of my inescapable addiction to the process of humanity’s self-destruction is possibly that of being constantly attracted to women who consent to the shallowness of late capitalism, living behind a veneer of brand-new clothes, make-up, ‘top’ hair does, and big nights out, as opposed to a woman who would actually probably be right for me. I don’t like what’s good for me; I’m captivated by what I see as I lift up a fold on humanity’s death throw. I am a decent bloke trapped in a western pigdog – or maybe it’s the other way around?
When a piece of the landscape around where you live, or have lived in, is taken away it takes away a little part of you too. No-one takes much notice, few will voice their disapproval/dismay, but this is still what happens.
The small-minded viewpoint of the world still prevails. Yet it thinks it is the opposite: that man is better and above all that is around him; that he doesn’t even need it! So, when a field full of trees is obliterated in order to make way for an industrial park or a new ‘super’ school, small-minded pragmatism wins over an holistic pragmatism: we ignore that fact that this practice of destruction of one thing for the benefit of another is going on in every town in every developed/developing nation in the world, and we only focus on the benefits from a microscopic viewpoint – the benefits it will bring to our immediate area.
There will come a time when lots of us will awake, when it is too late, only to wander through the wreckage of the earth in despair. But when this time comes there will also be those who cling to the small mindedness and will blame everyone but themselves for causing the destruction. Will this human tragedy ever end?
You don’t need to be stupid, as we have come to know the meaning, to be small-minded in this human system. In fact it seems to help to be like this far too often to be merely an anomaly. This system we are reared to obey rewards a certain kind of intelligence: an intelligence which lets one act as if they are the only one on this planet – fuck the consequences of the actions.
These people rise to the top to make the decisions which we must all obey. Forced to do so, we follow their example of only caring for the immediate; living as if our house, our family, were the only things that mattered, as if it is nature itself that orders us to live this way. The only pragmatism we see is that for the benefit of our household, “It’s bad that ….so and so….has happened, but what can we do?”.
Those around me will cut down trees for pragmatic reasons which I too will benefit from: the sliver birch in our garden “will have to come down, it’s bringing up the paving stones and we can’t get into the shed” I also need to use this shed; I too can grasp the pragmatism. But I also look out from the bedroom window and see all the other households acting in a similar fashion with their gardens.
Then I think of the land outside the gardens: the nation’s woodlands which look increasingly threatened as the current government here in the UK plans to sell it off to the highest bidder; i.e. the biggest most destructive company.
Then I think of my own guerrilla plantation of saplings on a grassy verge near a motorway junction, which I have been slowly contributing to over the past 3 years: I feel guilt, because I am undoing myself being part of contingent which will benefit from the chopping down of another tree, in the garden of place where I reside. I feel bad: it’s cutting down will benefit, ever-so-slightly, my own life under this system.
But I also feel the sense of loss; loosing something which has been around for most of my life; something which was good without needing to justify its goodness, something which brought character without having to prove itself; something which makes a place nicer without costing any money, and something that lived a life which did no harm to anybody. All things do pass, there’s no getting around that fact, but that doesn’t give humanity the green light to get rid of it when it feel it is time.
Yet again I hear the reactions to my sadness: “It’s only one fucking tree for god’s sake!”. But this reaction is precisely the one which perpetuates the entire problem of our disregard for the natural environment, from which the sad fact that its absence makes human environment’s ever-more dull and depressing places plays only a minor part next to the fact our disregard is coming back to present the biggest challenge for survival humanity has possibility had since prehistoric times.
It’s going, going – almost gone: a time to turn around; a chance for a future worth living (and being that we are social beings, reciprocating hope and happiness, it is a fading of betterment for all).
We live in a time where, after generation of improvements to the standards of living, we know that those qualities which we have been reared to expect more of are only going to decrease. This wouldn’t be so bad if we were to be released from the total infiltration of consumerism into our lives, with a chance to form a more egalitarian community-based society, but we have missed too many chances to take this route, and we are now heading in such a wrong, denial-fueled, direction as we enter perhaps the ultimate privatisation frenzy – the only direction capitalism can now proceed in now it has taken over the globe. And there is now no hope of anything but a gradual deterioration of the qualities in life, as democracy and social welfare fall by the wayside.
No more space to dream of a better world to come as our forefathers did; and this system, fueled by envy and anxiety is making an otherwise preventable nightmare inevitable. No-one knows when this nightmare will enlarge to its unbearable state, all we know (yes, we all do really know) is that the nightmare has already begun. Whatever one may call it, does not change what it is: a fucking up of the globally interconnected natural environment system, by human actions, causing irreversible climate chaos, which may end up making the Earth Uninhabitable (see 6 degrees: life on a hotter planet- by Mark Lynas). It currently lingers like a terminal illness in the back of all of our minds; we know that one day it will catch up with us.
The current flooding in the southern hemisphere tells us much. First of all it shows us that not even the rich nations are safe; as we have seen with what has happened in Australia. Secondly, the way in which the events were covered very much revealed that these “worst disasters in living memory” will continue to happen. The Brazilian floods killed far more people than the Australian floods, yet news coverage about them was minute in comparison. The way in which the news is broadcast very much mirrors the inequality, unfairness and the sheer refusal to accept these problems in the first place which describe the human race’s existence on the planet in the early 21st century.
The way the news is delivered to us is the way we act: amnesia sufferers, forgetting the past news, thus unable to make connections in order to put plans together – all we do is panic in reaction to the immediacy of the event, and hope it will go away “bring us some small local incident to focus our attention’s on!” The news of an environmental disaster is delivered with barely any relation to other recent events, and barely any information as to why it happen/they are happening. It teaches us not to make connections; to treat all events as isolated anomalies. Thus, far from questioning the current actions of humans, it actually promotes the dominant idea of atomisation/that we are isolated individuals whose actions have no consequences, on which this consumptive system so ferociously feeds.
To add to this, news items are arranged and prioritised in a way that perpetuates the inequalities and the western world’s belief, which is still imperial in its outlook, that it is more worthy than the people who inhabit the developing world. Thus, it is the images of the blond-haired Australian bothers, who were swept to their deaths (which is still obviously tragic), that we are greeted with as we turn on the TV/ pick up the newspaper as opposed to the countless bodies being pulled from the wreckage left behind by the flash floods in Brazil (of course, there is alternative media out there, which do the opposite of this, but they are harder to find that an independent, non-chain cafe in the heart of a UK city centre).
Without diverting any further in being a, so called, “do-gooder”, what this much more than hints at but blatantly reveals is an infrastructure which is inadequate in the face of looming climate catastrophes; a media system that is actually a booster to the human tendency of denial about climate change, by perpetuating an idea of atomization; of unrelated events which, if we switch to our local news stations, are no longer happening; a developed western world which is eternally safe. For all of us who don’t buy it, these are bleak times.
But the denial only works on the surface level. Deep down I think that all of us are affected by the prospect of an already shattered future. But for those who cannot help but dwell on it, the main feeling generated by news on floods, earthquakes, plus the prospect of a dying democracy, is a horizon laden with despair, which only looks like it will intensify and spread to other walks of life as time goes on – hope of anything but this just looks daft.
Thus the hopelessness and the conjuring up of a past, ever-more desirable as the future looks ever-more bleak, spreads into every walk of life, especially when familiarity with places leans to a reminder of rosier times spent in them/ times when I was more blissfully naive of an unbearable future, and time went just that little bit slower so that I didn’t feel like it was running out.
Some years back I took a slight comfort in the fact that most around me saw my concern in the idea of a coming environmental apocalypse as an absurdity. This calmed my fear, and actually reimbursed a blissful naivety in me, from where the future was “going to be OK in the end” As misguided as this was, it helped.
People around me don’t think like that anymore. Last night my friend cut a conversation short on the issues by saying “let’s not talk about this man, it really brings me down” – a confirmation that other people are seeing what I see, and are fearful and despairing about it like I am. Thus, my ‘worst nightmare’ is no longer something that only affects me, it is really happening. A fitting description of this feeling is of one finding that they are at the bottom of the barrel of hope-resource.
We were in our local town centre, having a few drinks; the arena in which all desires,urges, dramas and stories in the post-modern world play themselves out (at least here in the UK), either in hedonist nihilism or fatalist nihilism, as the night swings from a pursuit of something more to an urge to forget. The Friday/Saturday night view on town centre becomes an early scene from the death of civilisation.
This night, I had too much climate change on my mind for the night to be anything but a topping up on alcoholic in an attempt to forget – and the majority of the nights have the same kind of the feel to them since I reached my late mid-to-late 20’s and began to feel alienated from the predominantly under 24 crowd. I know the bars in this town too well; I remember when hedonist nihilism was still sometimes achievable within these places. I can’t escape from the feelings that things are only going to get worse; everything I see seems to point to this. Should I attempt to address the issue more so, and risk damaging my social ties further-more, as people turn away not wishing to hear it? Well, it’s unavoidable – all conversational alleyways which don’t lead to the past must lead to the future and this is all I see in the future. This year I have decided to put all my energy into my artwork (and sideline endeavors such as writing pieces like this) as I do not have a personality equipped with the goods to be an activist, group member, protester and so forth. I sometimes fear that my art is just one big procrastination, putting everything into the work instead of facing it in the reality, but it’s the only way I’ve found. But I know that my art will never change anything, but at this moment I’m have been weakened into a belief that change just isn’t going happen – not fast enough, and not big enough.
Having been given Mark Thomas’ funny and lighthearted, but simultaneously serious book ‘The Peoples Manifesto’ (a book comprised from proposals, given from members of the audience during a nationwide tour of the same name, which would be brought about in a REAL democracy, ranging from funny to deadly necessary ) I started to think of my own. I wanted to join in with the debate, but sadly it ended in 2009. With nowhere else to shove them, here are a couple of my own, which I’d really love to see become reality. It’s fun, and just because it appears to have officially ended now, I really felt like joining in.
All celebrity Chef Know-it-all’s should have to take part in a 1 year reality TV show where they have to work 9-5 for minimum wage, and live on a council estate, then see what food they choose to eat and what lifestyle they choose to live at the end of each day.
Obviously this is slightly floored, as the very fact that they know it’d only be a year and so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – and the fact that if they knew it was being televised they could use it for self-promotion – means that they could possibly achieve a patronising, self glorifying point-proving exercise about why we are ‘so bad for shopping at the local Tesco, buying processed comfort foods, or ordering takeaways, etc’ but it’s worth a try. Anyway I think it may also prove a better point: that it’s so bloody hard to improve your lifestyle, eating healthy organic food, cooking well-prepared meals, drinking sensibly, etc when life is somewhat less promising and somewhat more grueling.
Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall (although his investigative documentary about fish farming has raised my opinions of him ever-so-slightly) Should be transported from River Cottage to Riverside Industrial Estate, Middlesbrough, where we’ll get him a potentially soul-destroying factory job and a flat in town, and then we’ll see how well he keeps up his idyllic lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in this lifestyle at all; it is a better way, it’s just that in the present time it’s impossible for most people, and lambasting the poor for not living healthier, better lives is the wrong way to challenge our current problems regarding health and the environment.
People who play their music out load in public spaces (mainly done on buses and trains) should be forced to become make-shift DJ’s, having to play to the tastes and requests of the other people who are subjected to their noise, even if they request total silence.
Pedestrians live through a sea of noise in this mental modern world; whether its the constant swoosh of cars flying by, the stupidly repetitive and anal tannoy announcements, or just the plain old overheard gossip, which you never really wanted to hear in the first place. Thus, they should not also have to be subjected to the music played by those who, either through some misguided attempt at attention-seeking/territory-stamping, or just the misguided idea that people will naturally enjoy what they enjoy, seem to see no wrong in letting their own sounds invade other peoples’ spaces.
Thus, since using portable music players is no longer a private experience but a public one, all those present should be entitled, by law, to have a say in what’s played, if anything at all. I’d love to see a gang of bad-mannered young people go to back of a bus, turn on their music, only to have to ask what the rest of the passengers would prefer to hear. Seen as the bus contains a large contingent of over 65’s, the vote is for classical FM, which is sure to bring embarrassment to the owners’ of the player, and make them aware of how intrusive unwanted and unnecessary sounds can be. To be honest I’d choose silence myself; which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be listening to any music on the bus, just that I’d choose to listen to it privately rather than feeling an urge to blurt my tastes into everyone else ears – I’d only be upset if they didn’t like it.
Margaret Thatcher should be made to witness a communist revolution here in the UK, even if it is a mock-revolution (she’s lost her marbles too much to tell otherwise), just so she gets to see all her ‘good’ work gone to ruin before she dies.
OK, as much as I desire to see an end to capitalism, the likelihood of this occurring before the last days of Margaret Thatcher is about as likely as herself becoming a communist before she dies – it won’t happen. So that means we would have to stage a mock one, which would mean that this policy would have to be enacted before the rules of The Peoples Manifesto are actually established.
So, basically, we would have to kidnap her whilst she’s asleep, then take her to a mock-house which resembles her own, where she will wake up to fabricated television and newspapers announcing the revolution and the end to capitalism. Whilst it is totally wrong to manipulate the confusions of the elderly, Margaret Thatcher can be exempted from this precisely due to the perpetuation of mass pain and suffering she has created ever since she took this nation into a fucking ugly direction in the 1980’s. The pain and suffering she has caused will make this mock-revolution a worthwhile retribution – she shouldn’t be allowed to leave this planet without somehow paying for what she has done.
The look on her face when she wakes up to find out that Britain is now an island of communism could be an iconic image for a new era!
The general picture of technology is wrong, that’s for sure. Thus we think of any idea of a future which diverts from the current ever-expanding concrete, smoky megalopolis as a step backwards to some kind of pre-1800 rustic mire of dirty bodies and bland lives. Technology is natural! Any technological advances are a basic outcome of any human collective. The human brain is technology (in an evolutionary, not intelligent design sense that is). Thus it’s instinct is to make better use of things in the immediate environment to better its chances.
However, although during the last 200 years the never-see-before rapid advances in technology have happened simultaneously as the rapid urbanisation of the human race, as they moved to the ever-growing concrete landscapes, it is not technology itself which has deigned this type of world; it is an outcome which is particular to the system we have chosen. We have built the wrong world!
The majority of environmentalists know this also (although they still rightfully try to educate about the needless overuse of technology, as a consumerist-based society causes a needless exhaustion of resources – needless except as a, so far, unrivaled method of control for the ruling class to pacify the masses) yet the prevailing outside appearance of environmentalism is of smelly “hippies” who’d rather live in mud huts miles away from civilisation.
Although I feel that Slavoj Žižek may having wrongly presumed that most environmentalists want rid of our highly technologicalised world (although, never daring to question the reasoning of someone with a far greater intellect to my own, Žižek’s point here might not be to awaken environmentalists from a dreamy nostalgia of a past humanity at one with nature, but to try to re-educate the masses on their perception of what it might mean to be an environmentalist), he is right when he says we should live ever-more in technology instead of retreating from it, as we look for a solution to looming climatic catastrophe. By this he doesn’t mean that we should spend ever-more time resuming current trends such as socialising via social networking sites, buying more and more prepackaged goods, as these are technological advances specific to late capitalism and Žižek argues in favour of communism. He means that technology will be vital for survival; a planet of 7 billion humans retreats from it at its peril.
Nevertheless, those who put their entire faith behind technology without challenging power (a point well made by writer and activist George Monbiot on televised channel 4 debate on climate change) promote an equally dangerous idea as those who want to humanity to turn its back on the technological advances it has made. If power is not challenged – and not just challenged but eradicated in its current form, given the vampire-like capability of capitalism to suck the strength from any hopes and progressive movements and turn them into its own – then the technological advances capable of saving us from the deadly threats to all of us, waiting in the 21st century, will not be equally spread in anyway whatsoever, and the current methods of control which are so utterly destructive will simply continue to exhaust and crumble the planet.
The philosophy of Europe/The West of yesteryear has been imperially spread to build the wrong world. It must be the wrong one seen as, what seems to be the majority of us from the industrialised nations are attempting to immerse ourselves in the practices of other philosophies in attempts to cleanse ourselves of the stress and fear that living under the current system entails.
The popularity of Zen and Yoga is perhaps the best example of this, but even the infamous GAP year, mainly undertaken by middle-class young adults, references a discontent with this system, even as many generate a false positivism which attempts to convey that this isn’t the case; experiencing ‘different cultures’ and ‘different ways of living’, no matter to what extent they are now merely facades/veneers under which the western philosophy now prevails, before ‘settling down’ into the repetitive ‘grind-down’ of urban/suburban living. But this is usually the resort of a middle-class ‘smiley/happy’ clan who pretend to be living differently/experiencing what makes ‘life worth living’ whilst resuming a lifestyle which is the opposite of this. The rest of us just blast our bodies with alcohol or other intoxicating substances to make the western way of living a little more bearable.
It is true that a common complaint is that “technology is wearing us down”. But it is the way in which technology is delivered to us that wears us down. All the technology around us is shaped and moulded by late capitalism, from the news we receive to the cheaply produced mp3 player we throw away after 6 months because the buttons no longer work. Modern communication is blended with commercialisation – a theme greatly touched on by the anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters, which has greatly informed me over the past 3 years. There was a time not too long ago when it was very obvious that technology was making our lives better and taking humanity to further stages of advancement. This is not obvious any longer; expeditions to the moon now seem to have just been a competition between the capitalist west and the Soviet Union to see who was the best, like two school kids who somehow managed to get hold of half the world. The Capitalist west won, and whether it was fairly or unfairly achieved is irrelevant, because version 2.0 of the system has convinced the world that there is no alternative to it. This model of capitalism – Neoliberalism – is based on global free trade, a commercialisation which leaves nothing out, not public services, not information, not communication, nothing is safe from the market. Some people – people who must be so insensitive to what’s happening around them, they must have skin tougher than a Komodo Dragon’s – may have no objections to this. But I look around and I see a mess.
Thus, under this system, even if solutions to the energy crisis are discovered etc, technology will only serve to hasten the destruction that this system – often described as a dead entity which feeds off the living and gives nothing back to it in return – has be reaping on the planet with increasing rapidity for the past 250 years. Capitalism has to die, it’s gone on too long and its killing us and the planet (and god knows how many times I have written this before, but it’s worth saying over and over again). Technology would not die from the result of an emancipation form the power of the capitalism, perhaps it may actually go back to helping us out again