The title is a play on the 1920s era absurdist catchphrase “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” which derives from who knows what, who cares, the 20s through the 50s were as close to an anoxic culture as human civilization could ever produce. Instead, this refers to the still heretical notion that individual humans are as gnats beneath the giant, mega-steamroller of the supersystem. Yes, we, as individuals, have no agency, despite what the religious and secular nostrums of the day may aver. The politics of our time are a dystopic disgrace, across all varieties of governmental organization, and we can do nothing but indulge in the self-gratification of making a single mark for this or that unreachable performer – since self-gratification is a necessary part of the human experience, though, voting has no downside. In this hyper-complex time, no vote is other than theater, and that one mark can be cancelled by the votes of tens of millions of knuckle-dragging simpletons obeying irrational endorsement of moron demagogues.
In the world of ideas, now chiefly operated by the corporate internet, lunacies based on the reptilian machinations of state-corporate megaliths crowd out the flowers of social truth and creative artistry. Education, now run according to the greater needs of those state-corporate and other enduring institutional behemoths, promotes the illusions of personal agency and meaningful destiny, filling up all those imprisoned hours of chair-bound servitude with preposterous siren songs of personal fortitude against the megamachine, when making a buck will override any and all youthful reveries towards prosocial employment. Books, podcasts, gaming, betting, sports, on-line dating, drug-taking, religious devotionalism, blogging, tourism, gun purchasing, consumerism in all of its forms – all pastimes dedicated to, based upon, propounded forward by, the false notions of individual control of social destiny.
What is left then, if there is no agency that history and culture insists we believe in? There will always be, in contradistinction, mental energy to our individual lives. Those neurons are always working there, in life, producing terrawatts of psychic complexity, fabulous dioramas, oceans of imagined hurt and waves of intense pleasure. And in Luis Marques’s magnificent Capitalism and Environmental Collapse, a 2020 update and reprint in translation of a 2015 work in Portuguese, the world has a magnificent and brilliant research manifestation of the human drive toward scientific understanding of the human predicament. Marques organizes his book with extraordinary care and relentless insight, collating expert testimony from disparate world sources to the ecological destruction wrought by our inherited fossil fuel age. Just as there will never be an ad for a degrowth product to disturb this year’s or any year’s run of pestilent, obtuse ads for LiMu or the godawful “Megaverse,” there will never be a scintilla of recognition for this masterwork of intense, collated prosecution of the fossil fuel age. Ever heard of ocean deoxygenation? Defaunation? Through acquaintanceship with these facts, the reader should place Marques’s book as a classic to sit alongside Chris Clugston’s Blip and William Catton’s Overshoot, among others, and it should be read with highlighter ready to truly acknowledge the dimensions of the ecological crimes wrought by both capitalist corporations and capitalist states, which of course denotes every “developed” and “developing” country of any stripe. If Marques is to cling to some inconceivable hopium of anti-capitalism emerging triumphant at the end, then we’ll deal with that when the times comes, but for now, the fight over the human predicament has a new champion.