I’ve got to tell you, the pervading uncertainty of the way we’re cashing all tomorrow’s chips has me banging the walls for some sort of escape hatch from the ongoing fire sale of our future. The sense that we’re colliding with unnegotiable limits to our collective resources rides roughshod alongside an awareness of the continual degeneration of our institutions into monetisation and politicisation – this seriously noodles with my already stretched credulity. Of course, I’ve learn to put on the filters when wading through the mainstream tide of doom and gloom but it seems we’ve lit so many fuses that all we can now do is pray we don’t succumb to the fireworks. No wonder I’m drawn to simpler ways of doing things.
In a recent podcast, writer John Michael Greer quotes the philosopher Giambattista Vico and his concept of the ‘barbarism of reflection’. I mention it here because it sums up the kind of strangling apathy I feel from the daily infomercial / propaganda overload we’re all subject to these days. Here’s how it works. Vico theorised that when a culture, be it a religion, society or movement, is on the ascent its citizenry need simple images to galvanise and inspire. This could be a crucifix (remember how powerful a symbol of Roman oppression that would have been to occupied people), a swastika, face; anything that neatly encapsulates a prevailing ideology. Conversely, societies on the slope into decline tend to specialise increasingly in abstraction – there is no longer a centrally motivating icon from which the majority can obtain inspiration from, or give support to. The profusion of elaborate philosophies from all sectors of the civilisation, from academia to government, becomes too intangible to inspire, let alone believe. At this point dissolution accelerates; when people don’t know what to believe they tend to no longer care. On the other hand there may be a resurgence of interest in older symbols, which for the growing hordes of disaffected and dispossessed hold increasing resonance.
Maybe this is why I don’t believe a single word any politico, journo or so and so utters from the TV box yawning in the corner of the room? Indeed, they all have me running for the woods with their lingo.
Gros probléme non?
Trouble is, although complacency is a cozy way to avoid the offending miasma of modern culture, it’s hard to think of a worse time to indulge in this self-centeredness. There’s so many ways that we, nature and society are being manipulated, sold off and exploited that the only suitable response is surely to jam your senses wide? To take up against it? We have to be vigilant and we have to be vocal. We have to use our imaginations. You’ve got a roof over your head, electricity, access to vast resources of information, food in your stomach? Sorry to be a bore, but that makes you the chosen one as far as positive action goes.
Come on, you might tell yourself otherwise but you’ve surely gleaned a little of what’s going on? Price of a litre of petrol higher than it was a few years ago? Politicians seem universally corrupt? Weather seem a little screwy? Can’t get on the property ladder? Well, you may not choose to acknowledge their fully reality but if heard about any of these you already know about resource depletion, corporatism, climate change and the economic disparity indicative of decline. Welcome to the world as you have made it.
Yep, that’s right – every day we make the world exactly as it is through the actions we take. There is no question that we collectively have an impact on the environment, our society and each other. The only question is what kind of impact you want it to be. You can be sure, blindly stumbling through it, willingly or otherwise, will only guarantee further chaos.
Anything you can do now to recognise the situation and to take some sort of steps in the opposite direction has to be better than nothing? It all comes down to choice – and at least you’re lucky enough to have one.