Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ennui enemy?

We all know that in the future the economy will have to shrink one way or another. Climate Change will result in far less globalisation as CO2 emissions have to drop in the face of mounting climate disaster; goods will have to be produced and sold more locally as diminishing fossil fuels put the squeeze on transport costs, wider resource depletion and poverty will also slow the economy. The world is going to become a harder place for most.

Has this outlook been addressed? I don’t think it has. I reckon it’s at the core of the old Climate Change deniers’ and - now - Peak Oil ostriches’ problem. They simply can’t envisage a world without incessant, redistributive growth. These people are scared. They’ve been sold the idea of progress, the future one of constantly increasing standards (if not quality) of living, a world of peace and prosperity and logic. They forget that it’s all built on one thing - fossil fuels. The very thing that is making the climate hazardous yet also the one thing that we know will run out - and sooner rather than later. That prosperity is an illusion, it is so underpinned by oil and coal that it is as fragile as a butterfly’s wings in a tornado. So the only option for many is to deny, or to retreat into a fantasy world fed by celebrity magazines and Lord of the Rings. To keep on as they have been, and to pretend it’s all just rubbish. Blissfull ...

But if you look certain elements of ‘progress’ have already faltered under the disguise of economics. The Moon landings were probably the highlight of scientific progress, but no-one’s walked on the Moon for over thirty years now. Concorde and trans-Atlantic supersonic travel were once state-of-the-art, no-one travels at supersonic speed now apart from a few military types. And fifty years ago you could catch a train from just about any village in Britain, now for many it’s just a memory. The roads are collapsing. Village services are falling apart - pubs, post offices and shops. Where’s the progress?

But ‘progress’ is built into everything. ‘Nostalgia’ is its darker flip side, there’s no escaping it. A future without ‘progress’ will seem a dark place indeed to those of us that have fallen for the illusion hook line and sinker. Ennui will creep in, a distancing from reality. Conspiracy theories and such like will abound, communities will close in on themselves. Opinions will become polarised, charity will begin - and stop - at home. Militarism will enter civilian consciousness, we’ll stop caring. And gradually everything will unravel ...

Except of course for those of us that are prepared, for those of us that have always understood that ‘progress’ is an illusion itself. That the things that surround us, the science and mystical appliances, the routing of spirituality by non’religions’ like christianity, the hard core of stupid, inventive, rich celebrity scum that so many ache to ape, these things stand in the way of true progress. Progress is an individual thing, not stuff. Sometimes things reach their peak and will never be improved - classical music, sharks, steam locomotives. Our lives (all of them) are learning processes, or will become more so once there’s less static (ambition, wealth, things, leaders) about.

The perfect day isn’t a hard commute on the train to a boring job, with colleagues breathing down your neck, breathing in fumes and pollen, another trip back home on a packed train, strained conversation with the family, an hour or two of Big Brother and a restless night’s sleep.
It’s a half day chopping wood on a cold misty morning, an hour or so picking and cooking food, and a evening of conversation and play with the family. It’s about views and landscapes and stone and wood and water and fresh food and real conversation about real things. And all of that will still be there, long after 'progress' has been consigned to the dustbin of history, or progress as you ennui-lovers like to think of it. Bring it on ....

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