January 24, 2024, 5:42 Jan

Two worlds

I started writing this and never got round to finishing it. I'll begin by explaining why I started and then justify my stopping.

My original intention was to describe two possible futures that were the antithesis of each other, one nasty, brutal, fascist, ... the other still pretty shit, but at least humanity was learning to live with the world (and itself) instead of against it. I linked this blog post in my PhD thesis, where I wrote the following:

Doomerism is not the only possible response, however. There is still so much that we can do, so much that we can still save. To borrow a slogan from climate activist groups: every fraction of a degree counts. The same goes for every species, every ecosystem, every human life.

And in the footnote:

I must admit that while I know this to be true, I have difficulty integrating this information. To help integrate it, I recently wrote down my vision of two starkly different future worlds. In the first, fascism rises again and ecological destruction takes on terrific dimensions. In the second, we still lose vast amounts of the natural world, but we develop more democratic, kind and caring ways of living. I believe that our space for action and hope lies in the difference between these two worlds.

Detailing these two worlds was a way for me to give substance to active hope, in the hope that this would clarify what I want to fight for, what I want to build.

However, I only write for this blog when I feel a strong impulse to. The initial impulse died away, and so that was one reason why this stands unfinished. The second reason is that the first world feels depressingly realistic to describe at this moment. I'm writing this on the eve of Belgian and European elections in which the far-right will make further headway, undoubtedly followed by "centrist" parties leaning more the right in the hope of getting votes (spoiler alert: this just gives more votes to far right parties). My point is, describing my waking nightmares is not fun. And they really are waking nightmares. I can walk alone around a city and get myself into a horrible spiral imagining what I will do in a fascist state, which one of my friends I will be able to count on, who would betray me... That sort of thing.

The natural response to this would be to focus on describing my utopia. Despite my recent reading of "The Dispossessed", I am not particularly inclined to do so right now. For now, here is what I've got.

I often think about collapse. Very often. Some might call me a miserable sod because when I'm in a bad mood (which is 95% of the time these days) I can think and talk of little else. Mostly I don't talk though. I just allow my eyes to glaze over and my mind to continue a decidedly less funny impression of Brian's mother in "Life of Brian". (Aside: I have no idea what scene I'm referring to here.).

I say I think about collapse but that's actually not true. My thoughts flirt with the idea, seldom brave enough to fully embrace and explore it. I want to address that here, by sketching out two possible worlds. The first could be summarised as violent, fascist, technologically assisted collective suicide. The second is a controlled transition to a more democratic, sobre and convivial lifestyle, where we pay gratitude for what we have and grieve all that we lost. The difference between the two is the scope, in my view at least, left for active hope. I'll finish

Some warnings before I begin. Firstly, this might be quite upsetting to read. Fair enough if you decide not to. Secondly, this is unabashedly written from my perspective as a privileged white dude in Belgium. I focus on what would go down here as that's what I most care about. Feel free to give me the benefit of the doubt by assuming that I am nonetheless aware of and do care about people outside of Belgium. Or don't, up to you. Finally, I made very little effort to plan what I wrote, as I often do. The writing style may not make this an easy or pleasant read and for that I offer my apologies. I hope you find it useful nonetheless.

World 1: the shit one

Part 1: the rise of fascism and doubling down on fossil fuel use

Environmental ambitions continue to lose against "real politik". The heartless cynicism of geopolitics dominates European policymaking more and more, as the continent fears losing power. It becomes harder and harder to mask the ruthlessness of these policies (supporting oppressive regimes to secure resources, ruthlessly killing and suppressing migrants trying to enter the EU, accelerating the obliteration of the natural world within and outside of Europe, etc). The propaganda game continues for a while longer though, mostly due to a lack of imagination. Politicians dish out new oil and gas licenses like disses in a grime track, while claiming that they're protecting the interests of an impoverished middle class (or similar bollocks).

The masquerade slowly starts to lose steam though. Primarily driven by fear and a desire to be honest with themselves, more people openly support fascism. The Geert de Wilders and Bart de Wevers of this world fuel ever more hatred. This hatred is directed towards anyone that isn't you, the listener, but particularly towards those who are not rich, white, male and straight. Hatred towards other Europeans starts to increase as well, as intra-European climate migration increases. It is not long before 'Mediterranean descent' is added to the list of undesirable traits and people spit at you if you speak Italian in the street.

Our addiction to fossil fuels, destructive agriculture and digital technology continues unabated, never satisfied. We keep climbing up an ever increasingly rickety ladder with no end in sight, blissfully ignoring the fall that inevitably awaits us.

Part 2: Gaia raises its ugly head and bites us in the arse, money becomes meaningless, marshal law becomes the norm

Of course, we still live in the world, despite our efforts to pretend otherwise. We still need to eat and drink and we still need a roof over our head to sleep.

Part 3: governments lose control, mass death accelerates, say hello again to city states

Part 4: honestly who cares, the best you can hope for is that you're dead by now

Nuff said.

World 2: the less shit but also infinitely better one

Part 1: the resurgence of democracy fuelled by citizens' assemblies

Part 2: tough but slow descent, truly systemic and spiritual shift (there's still mass death, sorry)

Part 3:

Next Post Previous Post