Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Monday, March 25, 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Queer Ecology 200

Two hundred citations for "Queer Ecology" today! Very very happy about that. The essay was in jeopardy at first, because the editor of the journal got freaked out, having invited me to put some more detail on an argument I'd made in Ecology without Nature. Her husband was a geneticist and she unfortunately ran the arguments past him--just because you do science doesn't mean you have a right to talk about reality (haha); and I was employing Joan Roughgarden's work (amazing person, have you met her? was awesome when I finally did).

You can download it here.

The editor was a specialist neither in ecological humanities nor in queer theory, and suffered from an anxiety disorder. Towards the end of a half hour phone call about the essay, she was talking about pulling it, and getting very anxious. So I said "Please, please just give me a week and I'll fix it for you." I was pretty upset because I was really, really into the topic and had poured everything into writing the essay, as it was for a big venue.

I won't tell you what I did (tricks of the trade) but it was incredibly minimal. When you're working for an editor, try to do the minimum effort required, for the sake of your poor ego. It was nothing to do with the content, but to do with how I conveyed it. One week later she wrote back, "I don't know what you did but it's amazing...so much better..." It was exactly the same argument. Again, I just changed how I put it across.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Why Oh Why Oh Why

Irritating Professor Morton, who always strives, whether deliberately or not, to say the wrong thing in public, has been wondering why he doesn't like very much the "Shock Horror: Response to Environmental Disaster Whatever-that-is Is Racist and Treats Economic Classes Differently" type of headline/tweet/opinion.

I have realized why: the statement perfectly reproduces the ideology that there's this thing called Nature, outside of social space, while on a superficial level claiming not to or even seeming to do the opposite.

I mean, we don't go around saying "Shock Horror: War Whatever-it-is Treats People Differently Depending on Race, Class and Gender" do we? It shouldn't be shocking that since wars happen in social space, and since social space is patriarchal, racist and involving of intense class hierarchies, wars tend to discriminate. Because the way supermarkets are built tends to discriminate. Because standardized testing tends to discriminate.

The shock horror phenomenology of environmental racism reporting is really really not good, because it's a symptom of and reproducer of the idea that there's this thing that happens to social space, it's called the environment or Nature, and this thing is outside of social space. It should be beyond obvious that since hurricanes happen to social space, and since social space is racist and patriarchal etc, what hurricanes do and how humans respond to them will be racist and patriarchal etc. Being shocked is an incredibly uncool symptom of the racism and patriarchy that in fact created the difference between human and nonhuman in the first place (and defined social space as human), way back in 10 000 BC or whatever.

You think, somehow, that magically people and institutions will drop the racism and behave differently when there's a hurricane? We are all about to get regular data on how that isn't ever true as long as racism persists. Why express surprise when it happens? There must be a speed bump in the discourse right there. We should get to the point where the obvious tautology makes us hesitate, instead of going "OMG! Nasty Thing Happens to Person Living in Nasty Social Conditions!"

Still don't get it? So my mum couldn't afford a car when I was little. I had to take the train to school. When the school grounds flooded because the Thames Barrier wasn't yet complete, I was fucked. It shoudn't have been surprising, and it wasn't. Do you see what happens when you say "Wow! Economically Fucked Person Is also Ecologically Fucked. Who Knew?!"

And there's this extra layer of magical thinking that I detect. Like the response to whatever is supposed to transcend or even get rid of social problems. It expresses while distorting and suppressing a truth: responses to stuff that happens should not be racist. The weird ideological magic bit is the idea that somehow the response to a hurricane will be "different" and will make everything nice. That's why this green new deal thing is interesting. Someone is realizing that making everything nice socially is exactly responding well to an environmental crisis. And I would add, since social space includes hedgehogs and cats and stomach bacteria, and hurricanes for that matter, social space was never entirely human, and the reproduction of the meme that it is entirely human, implicit in the shocking headline, is absolutely caught up in racism.

That's why there's an upside-down truth in the right wing fear that ecological language is intrinsically left wing, and that this is a way to smuggle in the "agenda" through the back door aka the one that connects the house to "Nature." Correct. And distorted. At the same time. We are trying to ram socialism down your throat, quite desperately in fact, and the only problem is the idea that there's a "stealth" or "back door" thing going on here. Unfortunately some of the left rhetoric retweets this language of stealth and all that. Getting into solar power would indeed be a way to achieve greater social justice. Just be up front guys.

See what I mean? Stop it with the headlines. We should KNOW in our bones that social space is racist and that (as my logic implies) defeating racism is exactly the same thing as responding well to an environmental crisis. And, furthermore and more to the point, vice versa.

The extra awfulness is how very very often this shock-horror phenomenology is repeated. It's the go-to way to do this kind of thing. Which means that the way we talk about hurricanes in the press is also racist. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Time Time Time

...so I wrote the libretto for Jennifer Walshe's amazing opera Time Time Time, and we had the world premiere this weekend at the Muzikegebouw in Amsterdam, as part of the incredible Sonic Acts festival, which over the years has been like family to me, starting with their fearless exploration of my concept of dark ecology, when I'd hardly written a thing about it (at least, not the book itself): three years of exploration in Arctic Russia, conferences, concerts, symposia, you name it.

We are doing more performances in Bergen (next week--Borealis festival), Berlin (Maerzmusik festival), London and other places this year. I'm on stage. We decided that it would be better than having me as a kind of verbal puppet master behind the scenes. It's like, there's no such thing as a naked thought in the void according to OOO, every thought has as it were a kind of thoughtfeel. So there I was, playing the thought instrument, as it were.

Jennifer is also the composer of Everything Is Important, a piece about hyperobjects that she wrote for the Arditti String Quartet in 2016.

Time Time Time has extinction, global warming, black holes, dinosaurs, neoliberalism, grief and Monet...fun for all the apocalyptic family...

Here are some photos. I'm never going to forget the 700 people cheering and I've just made friends with the kindest most creative people--it's so nice to be in a music team again.





Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hyperobjects in the New York Times

I thought the author had read it, because of how he sounded on the radio. He said we've been framing global warming as rising sea levels and of course, it's everywhere because we are inside of it. Then my friend Jeremy Braddock of Cornell told me about this editorial:

We build our view of the universe outward from our own experience, a reflexive tendency that surely shapes our ability to comprehend genuinely existential threats to the species. We have a tendency to wait for others to act, rather than acting ourselves; a preference for the present situation; a disinclination to change things; and an excess of confidence that we can change things easily, should we need to, no matter the scale. We can’t see anything but through cataracts of self-deception.

The sum total of these biases is what makes climate change something the ecological theorist Timothy Morton calls a “hyperobject” — a conceptual fact so large and complex that it can never be properly comprehended.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

For What It's Worth

7000+ citations now. 52 texts have at least 10 citations and 26 have 26. 80% of my citations are from my books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Night of Philosophy this Saturday with me and Laurie Anderson

Here's an interview I gave about it today. It's in Houston from 7pm to 1am, loads of amazing people!


Monday, January 14, 2019

TIME TIME TIME

Is the title of the opera I've been writing with Jennifer Walshe and we're real close to the premieres here, in Bergen (at the amazing Borealis festival), Amsterdam (hi Sonic Acts! I will never ever forget the Dark Ecology tours) and Berlin (Maerzmusik). I'm stunned by what I'm hearing from Jennifer...

Friday, December 14, 2018

OMG I Know What Brexit Is

...it's the real end of World War 2. We started it with those reparations. Then we lost all our money and America stepped up. Then we gave up the empire. Now the UK is giving up itself. From a world historical point of view, it's awesome. It's the collapse of a world power under the weight of its racism.

Discuss.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I'm Writing the Libretto for an Opera about Time by Jennifer Walshe

It's an honor and it's a lovely stretch.

We will perform it in spring 2019 in Bergen, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Graham Harman on Hyperobjects

Graham has always always been about thirty seconds way by text for clarification and explanation of many a Deep Thing in the eight years we've been pals. It's just a happy coincidence that "strange stranger" in The Ecological Thought corresponds exactly to an OOO object, and that I started thinking about hyperobjects two years before I read Tool-Being. I had a cholesterol problem at the time and was going to the gym a lot, where I read it. Philosophy, gymnasium.

Here's this great essay he's just published on the hyperbjects idea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Scottish Opera wouldn't let me publish this Program Note

...because it was "too controversial" (what) so I'm reproducing it here. If you happen to be seeing them soon I guess it might help. 

Opera in the Anthropocene
Timothy Morton

Everywhere on earth—everywhere—there is a growing layer of human-made materials. Everything else depends upon this fact—that humans have become a geophysical force on a planetary scale. That is all and only what the scientific term Anthropocene means. It doesn’t mean humans are the best. It doesn’t mean humans won. If anything, it’s a symptom of humans losing it in all kinds of ways, including just trashing stuff and ignoring it. 

When you scale up to Earth magnitude, there most definitely is a ‘we’: the human species, humankind. That’s true even if humans find that hard to accept, for all the right reasons: the last time European and American humans said things like ‘humankind’ what they meant was white people and what they mostly called it was Man. Paging feminism, will feminism please come to all ecological writing. 

When you scale up to the time of “civilization” (it’s not just a Western thing, it happened all over at about the same time, 12 500 years ago), you see humankind doing something weird. You see humankind responding to the global warming of that moment by setting in motion social and agricultural and architectural (and so on) programs, recipes for making stuff happen—algorithms if you want to speak computer—and these programs resulted in…much, much worse global warming. That’s the one sentence sick joke version of what just happened: ‘just’ on a geological timescale, that is. In order to avoid global warming, we created worse global warming. Our lunch ran away to somewhere cooler, so we settled down, made cities and created the hierarchies that still plague us: patriarchy, racism, class division and speciesism—some lifeforms are ‘cattle’ (where we get the word capital from) and cattle are part of ‘our’ world, others are beasts and part of ‘nature’. Try to ignore the cats, they seem to slip around the boundary. 

And the net effect of all this, which was done in the name of increasing happiness, is global warming, or to give it its really truly scary name, mass extinction. 

You do something that makes you happy on at least one scale. You start your car. It gets you to the cinema. You did nothing wrong. You’re not guilty. Your carbon emissions were statistically meaningless at Earth magnitude. But billions of those car startings, along with other things, are exactly what is causing global warming. Realizing you are part of humankind means realizing you are part of a strange whole that doesn’t swallow you entirely like Pac Man. It’s good to know this. It means this level of awareness will help to combat the structures such as patriarchy that keep the programs running. It means realizing you’re not guilty. You are responsible. If you can understand something you are responsible for it. You don’t even have to prove you did it. You don’t have to prove you pushed that child into the street in order to save him from an oncoming bus. In fact, that might be a deadly waste of time. 

If you have five hours I can prove this to you logically, by the way, no really, I can. 

Ecological awareness is realizing that things happen on more than one scale at once. There is at least one scale on which an action fails or malfunctions or sucks in some way, whether it was done by a single human or by billions of them or by trillions of bacteria. You can’t save everything all at once. But knowing this keeps you safe from being a know-it-all cynic, who in this age of ecological emergency, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot with tar in it. 

The word opera means actions in Latin. Opera as an art form is voluminous, multidimensional, expansive. What could be a better format in which to start proclaiming our responsibility (not guilt), the fact that as humankind, we’ve got this? We’d better have got this. Dolphins don’t have fingers to operate the keyboards that turn off the oil pipes. 

This Is the Greatest

Sometimes I get letters from high school students and teachers, and this is one I got yesterday:

I'm a high school special education teacher at [omitted] and I'm looking to get more materials for my classroom. I'm contacting you because our special education classroom, which serves 9th through 12th grade students with IEP's, is in need of texts that are relevant to their lives and in this case their experiences with nonhuman animals.

We believe that texts centering social justice could help establish a classroom with a well rounded library with texts that will surely enable critical thought around topics that directly effect students' lives. More specifically, students are interested in the book "Humankind".

If a donation of this text would be feasible, please respond to this email and I'd be happy to discuss this further with you.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Survival

These aren't perfect either (Liz Fraser, even when singing articulate words, is wonderfully opaque). But they're so much better than the awful automated transcriptions you find online: It's a travesty of justice!

There are many many reasons why I regard Fraser as the most amazing singer of my lifetime. She's also a mega survivor. I always offer her music to my students in practically all my classes. She's particularly good when you teach French feminist philosophy. This is from the album Four Calendar Cafe. 

Know Who You Are at Every Age
Elizabeth Fraser

Senses are afflicted too
Discreet disordered observe such feel such
You hide in such neglect disguise your pain
I’m not real imagine I, I won’t heal unless I cry
I can’t grieve so I won’t grow I won’t heal till I let it go

I’m not realer by denying
I won’t heal unless I cry
I can’t grieve so I won’t grow
I won’t heal till I let it go

Cry cry cry till you know why I lost my self-identify