There is reason to believe that the breakdown of sanitary and ecosystems are linked to the entropy of global capitalism and its political systems, however class analysis seems to have become obsolete for quite some time. All over the world people rise up against (violent) racism and other forms of discrimination, similarly identity politics also occasionally reinforce the divides within and amongst populations, and «what is liquidated in the turn of understanding social cleavages exclusively through identity is the class antagonism which actually grounds the material interests which shape political life – the antagonism between wage labor, capital, and the professional managerial strata in between». The concept of Anthropocene offers an interesting conceptual framework, however when it comes to actual practices or policies to ensure survival, it merely leads to the paradox that one cannot escape the Anthropocene. Animal rights or a Parliament of Things are attempts to come to just and more equivalent relationships with all (living) creatures, and they are more than just mind frames, but what can be their influence when it comes to dealing with « times in which we are acutely exposed to death, individually and collectively », as the call for articles for this journal stated?
My point is: it is vain to talk about general collapse or effondrement or apocalypse if the foundation of your conceptions is dubious, and secondly, if you nevertheless want to start suggesting responses, you’d better propose approaches that fit situations and urgencies that already today need sustainable remedies.
The apocalypse as the cessation of time, the disappearance of time. My recording by Het Collectief on Fuga Libera is called « Quatuor pour la fin du Temps », but the one on Philips (Spain) is called « Cuarteto para el fin de los tiempos ». There is a semantic difference between the « end of time » and the « end of times ». But from a certain point of view both are completely correct. That is: one can think it, you can think – here and now – the concept of the end or the disappearance of time or of times. But you cannot imagine the end of time, because imagination presupposes some mode of presence, and thus time. So the question is: what do you have in mind, when it comes to collapse, apocalypse, the end of time? Messiaen aimed at creating a timeless continuum – immaterial, spiritual and catholic. But in the real world, where the apocalypse is still frontally contradicted by history, irreversible time remains the basis of everything that happens – at least in Western culture. Indeed, the thinking about a possible end of time presupposes a linear conception of time; if time were cyclic, there would be no end of time.
The fear for a threatening collapse of civilisation is nothing new in Western culture. From the first millennium, past the year 2000, there has been the continuously postponed apocalypse of Jehova’s Witnesses, the atomic bomb, the population bomb, Star Wars, the irresistible invasion of Europe and North America by all the deplorables of the planet and with it the loss of national identity … up to the threat of artificial intelligence and the possibility of transhumanism (of a technological post-humanity, the fusion of wo/man and machine) potentially leading to the end of humanity. (Of course I would not be that cynical as to state that much of the fear mongering about an apocalypse is enhanced by those who are thinking about commercializing solutions for the problems they are invoking.)
Fear is being instrumentalized as marketing tool and political tactic. Not just climate activists (all kinds of variations on the famous « I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day »), but also nationalists of all sorts promote fear where and whenever they can. Manifestly if one wants to grow and gain influence, one needs to become populist and stir up people’s darkest emotions. The most powerful emotion is fear. Create fear, express it, spread it. Never fails.
The future may be uncertain, but fear is a bad adviser, as the Dutch saying goes. Every problem and every metaphor suggest ways of dealing with them. …
These are quotations from ‘The Apocalypse will not happen’. I wrote this (rather long) essay on the concept of apocalypse and the fears it seems to invoke for Thomas Project n. 4 (2/2020), ‘a border journal for utopian thoughts’. The theme of this issue: Living the catastrophe of breathing, between utopia and dystopia / Vivere la catastrofe del respiro, tra utopia e distopia / Viver a catastrofe da respiração, entre utopia e dystopia.
The full text is available on ‘The Apocalypse will not happen’ or here: