The morality of morale maintenance – of days off, nihilism, 4/1/23 and #oldfartclimateadvice

I

One of my go-to Nietzsche quotes is the one where he says “when you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss begins to look back into you”.  And for years I had a get out (a CVE, for the classic Doctor Who geeks) from this – I could be climate activist/abyss-starer at night and weekends, and Sanctioned Good Person (I had a job that was indisputably socially useful and rewarding) by day.

Now, well, now it’s just abyss staring all day long, and the morale-maintenance thing is even harder since we as a species are running every red light on survival lane.

So, how do you keep hope alive?

Simples. You don’t.

Hope is a crock. Hope is a (self) – indulgence.  What we need instead is courage (this observation is not mine, it’s Kate Marvel’s).

To keep “hoping” you have to be wilfully ignorant of physics, chemistry and political inertia. You have to be willing to suspend your critical faculties when some dreadful idiot, in legacy-mode, makes vague promises that she won’t have to fight for. You have to ignore that we have had 30 years of this crap, and it hasn’t worked.

tweet about give self day off

Taking fake victories at face value strengthens the fakers, reassures the waverers that they don’t need to get involved, and does nothing to build our own capacity to tell the truth and expose lies (I forget who, but somebody said that that was the responsibility of intellectuals, no?)

II

Because I spend too much time on Twitter, I this morning saw this claim

“Climate de-nihilism is the new climate denialism”

My reply:

Hmm. Not to centre me or anything, but… I often get accused of being nihilistic when I point out that current strategies/actions have failed in the past, & that we need to innovate. Fearful of 2nd half of that sentence, ppl ignore it, quote mine the 1st half to say “nihilist!”

Specifically I think back to an event a couple of weeks ago, when having pointed out that traditional methods had not worked in the past, I was accused of being negative, even when I had a very specific set of implementable proposals about how to do things differently.  But ones which would de-centre the bosses, and force them to stop turning potential involved-people into ego-fodder.

And I keep saying, we’re only doomed for sure if we don’t innovate. But for various reasons, people don’t want to innovate.  They want instead, it seems – or don’t have the courage to get out of – their smugosphere (it’s a great term, and the fact that people don’t like to be accused of being smug came as a shock to me: who knew?!)

There’s this post, about the fourth of January 2023, which I will re-write, re-polish, but it does for now.
Fwiw, my #oldfartclimateadvice – if you want a different outcome, you are going to have to behave differently (and be lucky). And that is going to require you to step a very long way outside your comfort zone, and keep stepping out of it. You will resist that, for a variety of reasons, not least the resentment that you don’t believe that you should have to, since you’re a Good Person.  Sure, but we live in an unjust world (as 4/5ths of the world’s population, and all the other species with the exception maybe of domestic cats and dogs would tell you for free).

Suck it up.

Have courage.

Not simples, but so what.

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The law of two feet: or “refusing to be #egofodder” #Manchester today

You have two feet. One is for learning, the other is for contributing. If you find yourself in a place where you are doing neither, it is your responsibility to respectfully use your two feet (or wheels) to go somewhere that you are.  If you don’t, chances are you’re gonna be ego-fodder.

Respectfully: So, no resentment-grenades tossed over your shoulder as you flounce out.

But then, as long as I don’t reveal the details of the event, I’m allowed to rant, right? Right?

Fuck me sideways, I have had enough of this shit.

No tea, no coffee, no lunch. No attempt to get us talking with other folks. No written programme with agenda timings.  Just bang, straight into some old white guy self-satisfiedly talking about other self-satisfied white guys. And it was gonna continue like this.

I’ve been around the block(heads) enough to know that while it is theoretically possible for an event to start badly and get better, we don’t live in that theoretical universe, and that if you throw good time after bad, you don’t get the sympathy from the Wife.

It’s a pity, because I suspect there were some interesting people there, but the cost of finding them was simply too high.

Whose fault is this?  It’s easy (and fun, and largely right) to blame individual academics, or individual activists who put on these events (I hesitate to use the term ‘design’, because no design effort appears to have been made.  But it’s also incomplete – they are simply monkey-see-monkey-do-ing.  They came up seeing these meetings, and think it’s the norm (it is, it’s just that it is a – deep breath – REALLY SHIT NORM.)

So, they’re complicit, but the simplicity of the complicity can defer action.

Will I reach out and tell them any of this?  I should, but I simply can’t be bothered.  And the big wheel will, regardless, keep on turning.

Another terrible poem: The simplicity of our complicity

The context of is this. I recently met someone who writes good poems (unlike me). And gets paid for doing so (ditto). And this person (age, gender etc will not be mentioned) swerved the suggestion to write on what is already the central issue, and will soon become the overwhelming issue, for our species (and indeed all the other species we “share” this planet with), because they aren’t a saint.  We set the zealot-hypocrite trap for ourselves, and waltz into it willingly. And it’s not fucking good enough.

The simplicity of our complicity
Explicitly de-hooks us
The poet knows things are going from bad to verse
But stays averse to naming our curse
Asks us to swallow his wallow in the shallow end
(Of our bitter end)
Of our collective hypocrisy

The luxury of silence as the silence of extinction
Descends upon us
Some rebel yell
Some rebel squeak
Some go meek

Some go meek
We all go, of course, head first but eyes clamped shut
Our mouths self-sewn
Because we all have shown  what we are capable of.

The simplicity of this complicity
“I’m guilty as sin”
As if we didn’t know, as if we cared
The cloak of shame we hide in front of
Will not unhook us
We cannot unlook us.

We are worms on that hook
And if we live by our books
If our words give us our daily bread
If we are unacknowledged legislators
Refusing to call out the legislators
Refusing to call those who stuff the ballot boxes

Refusing to call on those with eyes and ears and hands to hear and see and do this  work
If we shirk
If we allow our complicity to be the simplicity of our
Muteness

Then are we poets, or are we lion in slumber?

Are we human?

Out out, damned spot we’re in. Of freaking, burning and compassion…

I get it and I don’t get it.  I get that parents of young children are reading the science (at last) and freaking the fuck out  (pardon my French). I would be too.  Except, in 2004 I went under the knife – no taddies in my baby batter thank you very much. And, as I said at the time and have said since

a) it wasn’t me being afraid of what my children would do to the planet (standard ginormous carbon footprint of your average Westerner), but of what the planet would do to my child

b) the second half of the 21st century is going to make the first half of the 20th look like a golden age of peace, love and understanding.  You really don’t need to be a McPhersonite to grok that.  It’s been obvious since the get go (1988-1992) that “we” as a species would not respond with the necessary smarts and hard work.  Too much (enacted) inertia, especially from the fossil fuel interests, their mates and enablers.

So I don’t get it. In my darker moods I imagine the world ten years from now when, as the rationing and the chaos properly kicks in, parents of kids are demanding that their (the parents) needs be put first as they’re having to cope with all sorts of horror, and oh, the pathos of having to tell Theo or Ophelia about the Awful Things That Are Happening and how The Government Should Have Done Something.

But of course, I do get it. I get the anger, the sense of doom, the self-loathing for not having just been more effective when something could have been done.

And then when I don’t get it again,  I think about how I still won’t be able to say “What did you expect, you stupid breeders?  Did someone force you to spawn? No, you did it despite what any sensible person knew was coming.  Why on this dying earth do you think that you deserve sympathy?”

Right now you can’t say that (and you can only write it on blogs nobody reads).  Right now, friends I massively respect, who have young kids, are burning themselves out because the alternative, of taking a few days/weeks out, which they “need,” would expose them again to the full existential dread, horror, guilt and self-reproach which they’ve been blotting out with activity (and activism).  So they don’t do what they need (in my opinion, and also their own, I think)  to do stay effective for the long haul.

As with everything to do with climate change, you can’t blame them, except when you can.  And all that is left, before the collapse, is compassion, I guess.

 

 

Of sadism, cats and enormous white male entitlement

Reader, I am ashamed to admit it, but I liked it when the vet stuck a thermometer up Humbug’s backside.  Humbug did not, and that’s where my enjoyment came from – childishly punishing the little stripey fucker (as he is  usually affectionately – known).

Off his food (seriously not like him), having clearly lost weight, and lethargic, I was worried about him.  A couple of days ago he’d vomitted… So this morning I phoned the vet to try to get a first-thing appointment. No dice – earliest would be 11.40, which would scupper signature-collecting on The Petition with a new volunteer.  Gritted teeth, said yes to that slot, aware that if I didn’t get the cat attention when he needed it, I’d end up spending at least six weeks in an Intensive Care Unit myself.

In the next two hours Humbug mostly sits in silence, clearly not enjoying himself.  But then, of course, when I go to get him, he’s managed to prise past the barricaded catflap, then clamber (Humbug clambers) over the back gate and so in the alleyway.  Captured, he loudly and repeatedly voices his displeasure as we got to the vet (thanks Phil).

Diagnosis – well, given no fever etc, probably just gastroenteritis. The magpie and the pigeon he murdered possibly not agreeing with him.  So, an anti-nausau injection, bland food sachets, and worming tablets. Talk about weight – loss, I’m suddenly sixty pounds lighter…

Bloody cat.

But of course, this “ill, but gets better when medical attention booked” schtick is one that parents of homo sapiens are all too familiar with. And it’s mostly women who do that caring role for the little blighters. And I have the cash, now, to pay for the little furry fucker (who is sleeping on the floor as I speak).

All this is true, but it’s a conscious effort to remember these multiple privileges, and that on balance I am in paradise. I seem to be one of those people who is too self-centred and entitled to internalise emotionally what I know intellectually, so have to constantly remind myself. I’m no better than a bloody cat….

Two simple questions, zero bloody ideas. wtaf we’re toast

Asides from other frustrations (“250, 150, 100, 65 and oblivious” is all I will say right now) there are a couple of deeper ones. Or rather, one beast, two heads: what is the actual point of academics and think-tankers?  Seriously?  What is the point of them, for progressive social movements?

Yesterday I asked a simple question to a group of academics who’d participated in what sounds like a very worthy project.  The question was “how can academics be good allies to activists, and how would they know if they were succeeding?”  From the blank and confused looks I got from the panel, I could see that this was a question that literally none of them had EVER asked themselves.  WTAF.

So back came “well, I come from an activist background, so….”  and “oh, through my teaching.”

Tonight I asked “what do ‘we’ need to do diff.er.ent.ly?” to a waffle merchant who had treated us all as ego-fodder for 25 minutes (he’d been asked to speak for 15, but did rather like the sound of his own voice.

Again, no serious answer beyond the standard platitudes of ‘intergenerational learning, and ‘build movements’. For this I came out on a rainy night? Srsly?

Again, WTAF.  Why do we pay these people? Why do we pay them any attention? If they’re not able or willing to reflect on history, to be brave and say what they think needs to be DONE DIFFERENTLY, then why do we let them steal time and space at our meetings? Are we so cravenly in need of the affirmation of someone working for some dreary parasitic outfit that we suspend our critical faculties?  Yes. Yes we are.

Here endeth today’s blog post rant….

Wait, what’s that you say?

“What are MY answers, Mr pseudo-intellectual less interesting than a goldfish?” you say?

Well, I’m glad you asked (though I still think you need serious help, but Dunning-Kruger will prevent you).

So, here’s a bunch of things academics could do.

  • Study the rich and what they are doing (while refusing to study the poor)
  • Communicate your findings to relevant groups in relevant ways (youtubes, Conversation articles/blogs, workshops)
  • Never ever speak for longer than you were supposed to at an event
  • Never ever hid behind your “Doctor”/Professor status, if you have it.
  • Ask social movement organisations what research they need doing. and then do it. With them. That is teach them the skills so you become less important as time goes on (it’s also more sustainable that way)
  • Loot the Ivory Tower – there are good ideas, stuck behind jargon walls and paywalls. Translate these and help other people learn to translate, while never needing translating yourself.
  • Tell the truth and expose lies (I nicked that one from Uncle Noam)
  • Provide historical and cultural CONTEXT.
  • Explain useful ideas, academic concepts that can help activists situate themselves and their struggles (Spatial Fix, Sustainability Fix, Movement Cycles, Repertoires, Biographical Availability etc etc etc)
  • Obvs be reflexive about your position in the academy/society, but don’t rend your clothes and beat your breast about it looking for affirmation or forgiveness. It’s tedious and embarrassing.

How will you know if you’re doing a good job?

  • You’ll get attacked by the rich people who are threatened by your work.  They’ll call you a  “so-called academic” for example.

 

As for what we need to do differently. Well, this

  • Let’s hold better meetings where people in love with the sound of their own fucking voices don’t talk for 66 per cent longer than they were supposed to. Let’s laugh/clap those empty vessels off the stage when their time is up
  • Let’s have organisations where people can be involved in meaningful, rewarding and recognised ways WITHOUT HAVING TO COME TO MEETINGS.  Most people hate meetings, won’t come to them
  • Let’s make sure that the urgently needed skills are not only possessed by a small group of people who can, in effect, whether accidentally or on purpose, hold a group hostage because only they can…  (run website, facilitate, negotiate with the police, do media interviews etc)
  • Let’s understand that we are looking at a ten year sprint, and that will inevitably be a relay race (the subject of another blog post).
  • Let’s actively seek out people who were involved in previous struggles on the same subject and find out what advice they have to offer. That does NOT mean take the advice- the person might be wrong, the circumstances may have changed etc, but the act of LISTENING will help, no?

Ah, fu k it, none of this will happen, and we’re all(1) going to die pitiful unnecessary but richly deserved deaths. Rather soon.

Footnote

  1. By “all” I mean the privileged people who did sweet fuck all about the problems. Obviously the young, the dirt poor, the oppressed and all the other species do not deserve the pitiful and painful deaths they are already beginning to experience, thanks to the failures of social movement organisations these last (checks notes) fifty years.

 

PS To the woman who told me to get over myself. Thanks (sincerely). You were absolutely right!!!!

Pseud’s Corner entry…. omfg

So, since the last blog post I’ve become Dr Marc.

So it goes.

In more entertaining news, this

“Tikku is a safe-house for neo-archaic biourbanism,” says the literature, “a contemporary cave for a modern urban nomad. It will offer privacy, safety and comfort. All the rest of the functions can be found in the surrounding city.

“Tikku is a needle of urban acupuncture, conquering the no-man’s land from the cars and tuning the city towards the organic. Many Tikkus can grow side-by-side like mushrooms and they can fuse into larger organisms.”

Reader, am not making this up.

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