In a not-quite-recent discussion about macro scale structures (mostly corporations, governments, skewed economies, social / digital media spaces etc) and how they might be screwing things up, I realised that something had happened to my younger, idealistic self. There were several things trotted out during the conversation that I normally would’ve totally railed against. I don’t know where this idealistic “self” went, and I don’t know how my apathy reached such giddy heights.
I wondered if it was because I believed that the things that I previously thought were wrong were now somehow better understood and now believed to be less wrong or less problematic. But that wasn’t it. Nor was it that I’d made my peace with the world’s ills and the myriad ways in which good ideas tend to atrophy. No. my position was still fundamentally the same… I’d simply become less willing to do anything about my own position. My next question to myself was why that was, because – doesn’t it all have a whiff of… Oh I dunno, giving up? Had I become someone who would not stand up for their own value system any longer? The problems and inconsistencies of the world had maybe simply finally overwhelmed me.
Immediacy and relevance suddenly have rather high coefficients in whatever analyses drive my rationales about when to act. In short, I would be an extremely shitty activist, were I to suddenly adopt a cause of some sort.
I was prodded a little about this, by some interesting folks. And I was reminded that each person can (and basically should) do their little bit to make the world a better place. I don’t disagree; charity most certainly begins at home, and all of that. But how much should one take on? I don’t believe the big enviro- / political / socio- economical monsters, as scary and as real as they can be, are as in charge as everyone likes to make out they are… and that’s been kind of the hinge around which my worldview has been swinging of late.
Our reality isn’t some kind of food chain with a kick-ass predator who gets to stay at the top forever (okay… forever being the operative word). It will always seem this way, though, at local scales… but further out, we’re probably more like a self-cannibalizing swarm of interconnected, greedy systems. Everyone gets gobbled up one day. Everyone. Even the people who have all your data and the people who hoard all the oil and water and the people who get all the pageviews and the people who have all the money and the people who take away all your civil liberties and the people who have the biggest nukes.
But every once in a while we should remember that the really big, powerful entities are really just here to (unwittingly) build infrastructure for the next big thing, be it an idea, a nation, a product, a belief, a system, a machine, an economy… Its temporary overlords simply confuse themselves (and us) into the belief that they the thing under construction belongs to them, and that that they will own/control the infrastructure in question. And in our own delusion we fear them, these temporary hegemons.
Our fear/paranoia may well be the fuel which powers the whole cyclical dynamic: self-preservation, specialization, greed, power and imbalance, the inevitable crash/democraticisation (or if you like, the point at which Nature steps in and says ‘why thank you very much for building all this… I’ll just take over now, shall I?’). Maybe raging against the machine is a sort of control system / feedback loop for shaping outcomes… not changing them quantitatively in a grand sense, but maybe qualitatively: affecting the ways in which some kind of new potential manifests itself. In other words, while we shake our fists at temporary gods in order to effect righteous outcomes, what actually happens is that we merely choose the new set design, and trigger a set change in some giant play that we don’t even have the script/program for. We might be mere stage hands.
earth plus plastic
George Carlin really might be right: he half-jokes about ‘save the planet’ movements by suggesting that maybe we’re only here because the earth… Mother Nature herself, just wanted plastic. By now She’s gotten a fair amount of it, in the way of junked plastic bottles and flyaway plastic bags… so a “movement” to stop making and using so many plastic-y things seems like a good idea round about… oh, now, right? Yeah. Long after we’re dead and gone, Earth will still have her plastic. THINK ABOUT THAT, and what (metaphorically), it says about what Nature’s priorities are. We’re not necessarily it. We might be the extras in the play who aren’t satisfied with their bit parts: we want more lines, we want our character to have depth… we want to shape the story arc.
And so we raise our voices to rail against stupid plots and vouch for the story’s unsung heroes. We raise our fists in defiance when we don’t get the script changes we’re after.
Sometimes, I reckon the audience is the play, and something doth entertain itself. We know not what.