Inertia

Think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the shit out of it all.” 

Julio Vincent Gambuto, Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting 

Would that it were true.

Would that we could “get rid of the bullshit” that has brought us to this point and “only bring back what works for us.”

Alas, it is beyond our poor power — as individuals, as communities — to get rid of the bullshit. We can’t even get ourselves off Facebook.

The inertial force is just too strong to overcome.

When Julio Vincent Gambuto’s essay circulated in April 2020, the coronavirus pandemic was a new phenomenon, one we had barely begun to consider in any but the most urgent sense: how do we protect ourselves, how can we keep our loved ones safe? Gambuto served up some welcome perspective, and in two more essays that followed, gave us the pep talk we probably needed when things were looking particularly dark.

But the solutions he offered were ultimately too personal, too individual. Too “Yes, we can.” They were written in that honeymoon period of solidarity, and didn’t reckon sufficiently with entrenched power, and the willingness of those who hold it to allow hundreds of thousands to die if it meant they could maintain that power.

It’s that power that assures the bullshit will always be with us. Pick any issue — social, ecological, economic — you’ll likely find it.

Here’s one. Back in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, President George H. W. Bush put the world on notice that “the American way of life is not up for negotiations. Period.”

Thirty years later, the devasting effects of climate change everywhere in evidence, entrenched power has not retreated from that position.

As soon as Joe Biden’s green promises collided with business as usual, they collapsed in a crumpled heap. Since he pledged to ban new drilling and fracking on federal lands, his administration has granted 2000 new permits. His national security adviser has demanded that OPEC+, the oil cartel, increase production, to reduce the cost of driving the monstrous cars that many Americans still buy. (…)

Unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, any commitment to stop climate breakdown is merely gestural. The atmosphere does not respond to gestures. It is unmoved by promises, unimpressed by words. It has no factions that can be set against each other, no voters who can be fobbed off and distracted.

George Monbiot, Dead Line

I dare say we will not be leaving the fossil fuels in the ground, no matter how much the ice melts and the west burns. C’est la vie.

The bullshit will go on. We all know this. I’m pretty sure Mr. Gambuto knows this now, even if he didn’t when he wrote that hopeful paragraph in his essay.

How do we know the bullshit will go on?

We know because none of the power structures that brought us to this place have been dismantled, or are under consideration to be dismantled, or are allowed to be under consideration for dismantling, by those who may be in a position to speed such action along.

We know because none of the necessary transformations to a simpler, more localized economy has begun, or is under consideration, or allowed to be under consideration, by those who might be in a position to speed such a transformation along.

And we know because none of the authoritarian trends worldwide have been forestalled, not even in the U.S., where a change of administration might have indicated we had stepped back from the abyss.

We have not stepped back.

Even with the withdrawal from its longest war, the U.S. continues to grow and maintain its forever-war machine, the ultimate public-private bullshit enterprise, whose all-seeing eye is scanning the globe in search of the next great investment opportunity. We did not build this machine to have it sit idle in the garage, after all.

So keep your eye on our relations with North Korea. Iran. Or some other up-and-coming threat to the American way of life.

Or, you know, don’t. Whatever happens will happen. Maybe go make yourself a cup of tea and find a good book to read. And hope the power grid holds through the coming storm.

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