Fun Social Nihilism has never solicited, nor accepted any grant money. This is not true for scyther Paul Kingsnorth, who in Orion Magazine has penned a godawful excretion of diddly-musings about the word “sacred” and how his kids’ treehouse construction gave him religion. Oh, and it is sponsored by the Kalliopeia Foundation, a cult dedicated to “spiritual” something or other which demands that the word “sacred” be overused by its grantees as if it represents the Holy Grail of intonations. Kingsnorth’s piffle is too boring to cite, but then prostitution is generally like that – a mutually unsatisfying exchange of needs, each more base than the other. We are admonished by whore and john to sit in trees and contemplate “sacred,” and that should make us all “optimistic” and forge a new religion or whatnot. Thanks.
Humans have no right to the empty word “sacred.” What’s “sacred” about a species locked into all manner of destruction? Are you seriously touting “sacred” in the Sixth Great Extinction.? Are you going to enraptured by the awesome gift of nature with Pruitt and Bannon in charge of killing the planet? You think there’s some sort of “divine” essence in seeing a species hurtle itself into ocean acidification, water shortage, topsoil erosion, and Hummers ruling the deathways?
This kind of blatant greenwash hucksterism is one kind of enraging immorality, but to return to an authentic hero, Barry Commoner’s words in The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology are actually worthy of extended contemplation.
What is real in our lives and, in contrast to the reasonable logic of ecology, chaotic and intractable, is the apparently hopeless inertia of the economic and political system; its fantastic agility in sliding away from the basic issues which logic reveals, the selfish maneuvering of those in power, and their willingness to use, often unwittingly and sometimes cynically, even environmental deterioration as a step toward more political power; the frustration of the individual citizen confronted by this power and evasion, the confusion we all feel in seeking a way out of the environmental morass.
This was written, with such clarity and concise style, in 1972. Those words could not be more apropos today, and they will prove to be even more so as the years progress. Yet, for all of his brilliance, Commoner forecast a “a collective social action” that would tackle this set of problems, and that did not occur, could not occur, and cannot occur. Commoner laid out all of the traps that we faced then and face now, but he could not bring his acumen to bear on the futility of imagining a collective withdrawal from the social reality of supersystemic calamity.
Who was going to safeguard the earth from the ravages of the profit motive? Who was going to unroll the asphalted highways? Who was going to unfurl the bankers’ fingers from the grips of fossil fuel megaprofits? What mechanism, what set of possible, latent indications was there, anywhere, in any system, that would stop the continued, amplifying exploitation and extraction of fossil fuels for a a fossil-fuel based supersystem for a fossil-fuel based species? No one has proposed even the merest hint of that mechanism, on even the smallest social scale. There’s no Green Police anywhere, just the ragged, laggardly remnants of New-Dealish governmental/juridicial “regulators” who, when not being fully in the pockets of their adversaries, have not been able to stop Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Mad Ave, Big Anything, and look even more furtive and hunted now that the regime of Reprehensible Morons if fully back in charge of the death machine.
Only the words of a social nihilist would have been prophetic then, and only a social nihilist has the claim of accuracy now. As much as Barry Commoner deserves a monument on every street corner to his blazing and forthright humanistic intelligence, he was as wrong as the dunderhead admonishing the world to sit in tree and let the Jesus freaks be in charge.
The problem with establishing social nihilism as the default mode of intellectual expression is that scientists, even ones as accomplished as Commoner, have been off by several decades in their predictions of doom. No, they will not prove to have been far off, not in geologic time scales, but the US rivers and and lakes have not completely deoxygenated yet, contra Commoner, and the sky is still blue in places, if you ignore the whipsawing weather. The worst is guaranteed to come by the nature of our existential predicaments, but where or when the collapse really starts in not yet a viable premonition.