Recently I finished up John Michael Greer’s Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush: The Best of the Archdruid Report & The Long Descent and I’m currently embarking on Dark Age America. I wonder why oh why I may be doing such specific research? Anyway, I need to get back to blogging and Greer’s notion of the future is as good place as any.
What’s specific – at least to me – about what Greer conceives of as ‘the future’ is that it locks itself within some very wise and pessimistic restraints that disallow a lot of ideological hope and wishful thinking. For instance, in terms of reading Greer one goes on a strange ride of downs and downs, just when you think Greer may finally allow a form of optimistic futurism, innovation or ‘progress’ to perhaps have merit he quickly and succinctly buries it under a heap of clear logic and historical statistics. Or, “Oh you think that would work do you? Well here’s why it wont’ ad infinitum.
However, there’s another very specific idea that invades Greer’s work consistently. Often directly, but more often it sits quietly at the sidelines, smirking at its own reality. And this is Greer’s almost a priori notion that civilizations collapse, end, stop-being etc. With Greer the possibility for anything to end is always possible. This seems quite obvious, right? Well, not so. People hate to think that even their most luxurious comforts – ones that have always been around – would cease to be. So why would they even start to believe in a world where the basics will become a struggle?
There is only one certainty of civilizations and that is their eventual demise. You may be lucky enough to be sat at the peak – or middle-temporal-ground – of a 500-1000 year civilization, sitting generationally pretty atop mountains of resources, cultural capital, economic security, international communication, political unity etc. This can and may even be certain for you. However, for those who witness even the most minor fluctuations nearing the beginning or end of a civilization they understand they all that is was once not, that stability and security is built for arduous labor, time and intelligence. What one could perhaps coin as the ‘Greerian reality’ is not that the possibility for the end of your civilization exists, but this reality is one wherein you understand and accept this reality as always being present. Beyond this of course is all the ‘stuff’ that’s currently at our doorstep – and yes, I am planning a large post on this – but for instance: Peak oil, weather catastrophes, inflation, oil price surges, increased illness, lack of basic medication, lack of sanitary measures, minor heat fluctuations and their knock on effects, steady movement of arming belts, lesser crop yield etc. I mean, this list can go on, and it amazes me that not one of these things has had any serious effect – at least where I live. Yet, it seems that the Greerian reality is waiting behind everything, it is the chaos-effect shooting out from the effect of simply one of these catastrophes taking place.
Also specific to the Greerian reality is the fact that semantically collapse is quite commonly mistaken for an instantaneous event. This is quite simply wrong, in fact, it’s so wrong it exists solely in the realms of escapism and quasi-romanticism. No wonder the amount of post-apocalyptic media has increased in recent years, I mean what other generation(s) yearn for a reset button more than those who’ve been promised so much and allowed so little. Media such as Fallout, Mad Max, The 100, The Walking Dead etc aren’t truly horror, not really, for the simply fact that humans are still around and not only are they doing fine, they’re actually doing quite well and in someways progressing in healthier directions that their previous societies. And so at heart all these programs, games etc. is – at the very least – optimism, but also a perception of time in relation to collapse which is simply wrong. We think of ‘collapse’ as the collapse of a table or chair, a quick successive tumble of parts, yet once that which is collapsing grows in complexity (a civilization for instance) then the process of collapse becomes far, far longer. Emphasis on process here, the process of collapse will see chunks of civilization fly of and attempt to be replaced or repaired in relation to their previous standard, slowly but surely everything sort of disintegrates at such a rate that those living within it only notice the stark difference in conditions years later.
Levinas said that “humanity is limitrophe of nothingness.” A quote I adore. One could say that civilization is limitrophe of collapse, and the more complex that civilization ‘progresses’ to be the closer it moves towards the edge of the abyss. As well as this the more complex a civilization becomes the more collapse-edges it nears, different cliff’s edges for it to frolic next to for the sake of material gains. Imagine existing in a civilization that squanders resources, risks health, security and safety all for the sake of a dancing Father Christmas toy. When you’re debating eating the gnawed carcass of a rat for breakfast, or squeezing out mulch for a cup of water, remember the little hip thrusts the toy Santa Claus used to make.
For those that will – undoubtedly – state that I’m scare-mongering, you’re actually simply buying back into your own blind reality that’s un-accepting of the Greerian reality. So many climate change and ecologist enthusiasts are quick to deter ‘collapsists’ or those who believe in the end of civilization, there’s a distinct line from secular society to a complete denouncement of eschatology in its entire. Once you’re without God or Myth well what of importance can really come to an end, material and material perceptions of the world will be forever ongoing. Even the myth of progress is upheld via political means – if we’re not progressing economically, nationally or with respect to innovation, we just assimilate the idea of progression onto easily modifiable politics.