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By James Kleinfeld
Going into this new calendar year, it is an important opportunity to take stock of the state of health of our society; to take some moments out from our hectic schedules, sit down, and try to retrace our steps, to work out where we’ve come from, see clearly where we are at, and maybe appreciate what might be expected. I’m not talking about the innumerable quantities of retrospectives and look-aheads you have likely seen in recent weeks: this is a deep assessment of the existential issues at stake in this day.
We are living through a civilisation crisis, a gaping fault-line cut into our landscape. The root of this problem is ideological. It speaks of our inability to cast aside these burdensome narratives we tell about ourselves. Like we have been living one great, big lie: the lie of an objectified world-view, negating our roles as historical players; the lie of a humanity subjugated by an economy outside of our control; the lie of infinite economic growth on a desperately finite planet.
The evidence is as ubiquitous as the very late Capitalism under which we operate. What are the consequences of a fundamentally irrational belief in the peaceful coexistence of massive amounts of dormant capital and labour alongside multitudes of people who lack the bare necessities? The aspirational promise of a decent quality of life has been stolen from our generation; throughout the world, homes go without people and people, without homes. Whilst millions suffer from malnutrition, to eat from a buffet is barbaric.
The ecological fall-out is all around us, will be with us for the foreseeable future, and most likely, will out-live us all. We seem to have utterly inured ourselves to the painful reality of living on planet Earth, slowly withering away like autumnal foliage. How much longer can we go on selling off our earth’s natural inheritance to the highest bidder and calling it income?
Life in this society of spectacles rots the fragile core of our humanity like the decaying face of our planet. The spectacle is “the impoverishment, servitude and negation of real life.” Our lives are lived in the eternal pursuit of pseudo-fulfilment under the cult of instant gratification. The scourge of screen-addiction saps away our attention span. We replace the immediacy of proximity for the hyper-connectivity of technology, sorting through a permanent flow of information, instant updates, News forever in renewal; to chew up and regurgitate and rinse and repeat the time-line of Life.
The soft touch of social relations has been sanitised. Awkwardly necessary social interaction has been replaced with mediatised social relations, hordes of ‘About Me’s twitting on each others’ walls. We are fast loosing the ability to engage with one another without the need for a corporate middle-man, communicating like lonely crowds. Even our words have been #privatised.
With rising sea-levels, growing inequality and alienation; depression is the default disposition. But this is a perfectly rational response to an irrational world. This isn’t just a ‘double-dip recession’, this is an eco-psycho-financial crisis. What can we do about it all? We could simply try to ignore all the screaming inconsistencies and accept the status quo, we might hope that this dying paradigm still has enough breath in it for us to make our millions and get the fuck out.
We might, however, discover another way of being…
We can break the chains of economic servitude which tie us down into unfulfilled lives chasing devalued wealth, fleeting experiences and permanent mediocrity. Revolutions are tantamount to distilled, collective moments of epiphany. Before we go about setting up post-Capitalist institutions, we really need revolutions in human nature, such that would allow concepts such as universal justice and fulfilment to flourish.
Instead of waiting idly for revolution to fall from the sky, we should ask ourselves how we can spur on such epiphanies. Well, to each their own way. Such shifts start in the here and now, these transformations are only possible within ourselves, asserting ourselves once more as integral actors in the drama of life.
It starts with a rejection and an affirmation. Through the rejection of our current modes and standards of living, we come to affirm what we most desire in life, the richness of our social environment.
In other words: go outside, take a walk, stop consuming so conspicuously, smash the screen-dependency, study degrowth theory and take meaningful political action, meditate, wander in nature’s awe, hitch-hike around the world, live without dead time.
Stay loose, play jazz, keep the faith.