Apocalypse September 2020

Sane in Insane Places

How to have a meaningful life in a world that is increasingly absurd? Step one: acknowledgement of a wounded present. It is okay to grieve. We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane. Anxiety and Weltschmerz get shared and memefied. Laugh at how your job is shit, not secure, your home is burning up, not sustainable, your youth is aimless, you’re uncomfortable in this world and you resent it but what you gonna do, change it? Or just endure it. Thinking too much, doing not enough. Impotent, rage. The disgust and the fatigue are normalised and they do at least form a shared experience.

I think that the greater part of the world is mistaken about many things. Surely one may be sane and yet think so, since the greater part of the world has often had to come round from its opinion (1). The regime and the resistance squabble it out each day on Twitter. Our lot against your lot. Are we then winning if it feels like the other side have lost? How can people see sense when they’re convinced they already are? Never has media been so transient; never have opinions been so fossilised. It’s barely discourse, and none of it is even real. Think of the world as it was: all the nature and all the human industry, and now the digital overlay. Now the digital overlay is as important as the world itself. The digital overlay in the power of a few dubious men, globally, unelected, unregulated, bigger than nation states, answering to no one. Mark Cuckerberg will destroy the whole world because girls wouldn’t date him at Harvard. Now they’re all gonna pay…

Deadly stuff. Trump knew. The public would have behaved differently if they had known, and trusted. Known there was a high death rate from something spread through the air as early as February (2). Proud Republicans could have led the charge saving American lives, rising to their patriotic duty with masks and social distancing, following the science, overcoming this threat and protecting and serving the community and the nation. But he didn’t want to create a panic (is he talking about the stock market?) What he didn’t want was to create unity. History could have been quite different… but could it? But will it? Having seen what was promised, at least America gets a second referendum.

History is done. Events roll around in cycles of learning and unlearning. In present caricatures of past leaders, past ideologies. We are not more brilliant or less ignorant than they were then, we just have more capacity in health and technology in applying ideas, ever building on past work. But what do we achieve? Nothing but the same. Non-binary gender was prevalent in Bronze-Age life, to be both woman and man at the same time. Then it took us 3000 years to forget and have to learn again. I imagine myself a wildman on the savannah. (Before we tarmacked it, systematically anti-terraforming the Earth.) I shouldn’t do that, should I? That isn’t the way I should be thinking? Now you can’t decide to leave; the other world does not exist. Another country, but the rat run is global, is omnipresent. You are not free not to work. You do not have the right not to be an economic unit. I start to think I’d find more career potential in the revolution. When all’s said and done, get back in the rat run — but what if I don’t want to be a rat?

— — — — —

(1) George Eliot

(2) Andy Slavitt

Apocalypse Monthly blog