The unwillingness to make sacrifices is exactly what is at issue here.
In this new series I attempt to work through some problems associated with local politics and move towards a non-corporatist, communistic vision of patchwork that doesn’t rely on under-determined imaginings of how we might transition from existing systems to more regional and resource-based forms of social organization. The language is intentionally stripped down and thus I hope more accessible. These are just notes and sketches (for now), and may change substantially after posting. Feedback welcome.
Radical Municipalism & Translocal Futurity: Towards a Communalistic Patchwork
“Only a global confederation of rebel cities can lead us out of the death-spiral of neoliberalism towards a new rational society that delivers on the promise of humankind.” – Debbie Bookchin
“Lefebvre’s concept of heterotopia (radically different from that of Foucault) delineates liminal social spaces of possibility where “something different” is not only possible, but foundational for the defining of revolutionary trajectories. This “something different” does…
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I write a lot about consciousness, enlightenment and the potential humanity has to rise above its conditioned patterns, because if I only wrote about politics and media propaganda I’d be accomplishing nothing but helping the anti-establishment fringe feel good about itself while waiting for human extinction. I can’t do this thing honestly and sincerely without periodically pointing to the dangers on the horizon, and to what I perceive as the only off ramp in sight.
Human society is clearly at its most interesting point ever. Billions of human brains are now interconnected in real time by the internet, we’re realizing on mass scale that all the rules of society were invented by dead people long before any of us got here, and we’re seeing that we are free to re-write those rules in a way that benefits us. From popular grassroots examinations of socialist ideas, to cryptocurrencies and an evolving understanding of what money is, to redefining social institutions as ancient and ingrained as marriage and gender identity, more and more people are saying in effect, “Hmm, it looks like all those old thoughts we’ve been using to describe our reality are causing some problems. Let’s find new ones.” It could be described as a collective awakening to the fact that reality and our conceptual model for it are two very different things, and the model is as flexible as your ability to change your mind. We’ve never seen anything like this before as a species. We’ve literally never been here.
We are in uncharted, unprecedented territory. When you’re in uncharted, unprecedented territory, there’s no valid basis for ruling out any conceivable possibility. Stodgy intellectuals may say “Hurr, yes, this is very similar to the Bulgarian Wheat Rebellions of 1809, so this will likely turn out the same” or whatever, but they’re wrong, because it isn’t. The past can be a useful tool for predicting future outcomes, but in an entirely unprecedented situation, that is not the case. Anything is possible.
The VRU’s strategy is described as a “public health” approach to preventing violence. This refers to a whole school of thought that suggests that beyond the obvious health problems that result from violence – the psychological trauma and physical injuries – the violent behaviour itself is an epidemic that spreads from person to person.
One of the primary indicators that someone will carry out an act of violence is first being the victim of one. The idea that violence spreads between people, reproducing itself and shifting group norms, explains why one locality might see more stabbings or shootings than another area with many of the same social problems.
“Despite the fact that violence has always been present, the world does not have to accept it as an inevitable part of the human condition,” says the WHO guidance on violence prevention.
Writers have long faced the apocalypse. The Epic of Gilgamesh, written approximately four thousand years ago, imagines Earth flooded by angry gods. Flash forward a few centuries, and Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells bring us their own visions of the end of the world. In more recent years, novelists like Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and Octavia Butler have carried on the tradition. Each of these writers shares the idea that the end will come quickly, sparked by an event that tumbles the pillars of civilization like dominoes. It takes little to understand why visions of sudden apocalypse—as opposed to a long, drawn-out one—are popular: a quick and dirty end to everything absolves us from having had anything to do with it. If we never saw the apocalypse coming, how could it have been our fault?
T.S. Eliot offers a different outlook. In 1925, the poet wrote in “The Hollow Men” that the world will end “not with a bang but a whimper.” It’s this idea of a slow death in which everyone is culpable that captures most accurately Roy Scranton’s thoughts on the end of civilization as we know it. The author, an Army veteran who holds a PhD in English from Princeton University, has written much about two of humanity’s biggest existential threats: climate change and war. In 2015’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, Scranton combined memoir and science writing to express what it was like to return home from war-torn Iraq only to watch the world succumb to hazards even larger than Al Qaeda: hurricanes imperiling coastal cities; economic and political conflicts giving way to riots; plagues, droughts, and famine causing suffering in every corner of the planet. Global warming, writes Scranton, is at the heart of all of this, and we have long passed the point of being able to stop it. Two years later, he authored his debut novel, War Porn, which is told through the different perspectives of American and Iraqi soldiers and civilians and throws into question what it means to be ally or enemy, victor or victim.