The Age of Consequences – of lies, comforting myths and what is (still) to be done

“We” are in the early years of the age of consequences now. Other species have been living with the consequences of our depravity for hella long time.

Our own species has been pretty grotesque to its own members for millennia, with that getting dialled up to eleven after European “explorers” and adventurers took their guns, smallpox and crazy to the rest of the world.

And with the use of fossil fuels, we’ve built a time bomb and set it ticking. The ticking has been getting louder and louder and the time to “defuse” it shorter and shorter. The scientists and activists have shouted themselves blue and hoarse for a third of a century. Tick, tick, tick.

And this bomb is like landmines, I guess. It has an effect, even when it hasn’t exploded yet. The ticking makes it harder to think, harder to see a way beyond, to see a way through. Tick, tick, tick.

And it gets so hard that we regress. We do the things that used to work, or at least gave us comfort. Individual and collective tantrums, acting out, magical thinking.

Having a prolonged street party with fancy dress and calling it a rebellion, for example.

Two stories today bring me to this. First the latest CSIRO “state of the climate report.” Well, since 1987, with the birth of the “Greenhouse Project” CSIRO has been trying to warn the Australian public and policymakers. After initial success (1988-1990), reality (i.e. the fossil lobby) reasserted itself. Now we can look forward to all the things they said. Heatwaves, droughts, bushfires, mass extinctions. Baked in. Tick, tick, tick.

Second, the Anzac myth has consequences, as the feminists and ant-militarism activists have been saying for decades. These are mostly paid by innocent Afghanis (but, you know, they are not white and don’t speak English, so they are not really human, now are they?). The Australian Prime Minister is trying to soften people up for a report that comes out next week about war crimes. Even the redacted version is gonna be ghoulish. And he did precisely zero self-reflection about the cost of all the fucking mindless flag-waving and jingoism he and his mob have been doing for decades. All the dogwhistling and wedging. Because, you know, the victims aren’t white, don’t speak English….

The lies – of omission, of commission – that we tell ourselves, that we allow others to tell, when we stay silent out of fear, boredom, hopelessness, despair – have consequences. They make it easier for the next, bigger lie. And the one after that. And there are always more lies, waiting in the wings.

We speak a lot, on the “left” about the lies of our lords and masters, of their efforts at colonising everyone’s minds. We throw around words like post-colonial, intersectional.

We should, of course we should.

But, at least in the white “left” and soi-disant “non-hierarchical” circles that I move in, we don’t tell truths about our own failings and failures. We don’t interrogate the myths and the lies we have been telling ourselves. Those myths and lies have consequences too, and the really frustrating thing (for me, but I am bloody strange, I realise – and that isn’t a humblebrag) is that we might actually be able to DO something about our own tribe’s self-delusions and porky pies. It would cost, for sure – friends, speaking engagements, “etc”, but you could at least imagine truth (or truthiness) on the other side of that work, and, gasp, effective “activism.”

But the lies and myths are so comforting, and we’d rather gobble them lotuses (loti?) than invoke the Reality Principle.

We are going to bequeath mayhem, toxic sludge in the oceans, the land, the air and our minds. For this those who come after will curse us (because you know, we knew and we failed to act, we failed to act better, we adamantly refused to learn to do better). Could we not also bequeath them ways of being honest, ways of being mutually supportive, ways of working together that actually worked? That, to me, seems to be the only task worth undertaking, the question worth pursuing.

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