“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peregrinations of the Beautiful Soul

All too often the siren song of the beautiful soul these days comes in the form of a call to act, NOW! In this sense it appears to be its opposite. Let me give you a brief example from a Twitter exchange I just had:

“Michael Moore is self-serving because his movies have not created real, substantial social change. The point is to CHANGE things, NOW.”

I'm sure Stalin said quite similar things.

It sounds awfully like the Nature injunction:

“The point is to stop thinking, stop reflecting, go OUT and ACT.”

That's why I get a little queasy when I read Brassier's translation of Meillassoux: “the great outdoors.”

The cynical ideological distance typical of modernity is maintained by these injunctions to act, which induce the guilt that cripples genuine action—which of course includes reflection and art.


DublinSoil said...

Yes...good stuff. Seems to me that in my line of work, restoration ecology, conservation management etc, this translates into an attitude of rolling up your sleeves and getting things done, often without evaluation, often with little empirical foundation. And when it doesn't work, right now, one bows one head and either says we have to redouble our efforts, or even better one confides that it is a 500 year plan, absolving oneself of responsibility. But of course the important thing, one way or t'other, is to act NOW.

Henry Warwick said...

OK. I'll take the opposite tack, just for shits and giggles.

Per Jensen:
Imagine space aliens land and they have VASTLY superior technology to our own. And with this technology, they set about destroying the biosphere in a fairly rapid way. Some people go along with it, figuring - "Hey - even at this rapid rate, by the time the planet's toast, I'll be dead", others figure "we have time over the next generation or so to come up with a plan to work around these colonising aliens - we'll put a plan together, but first, let's deliberate the scope of the problem and develop committees to deal with proposals for scoping issues so we can develop a negotiation for a program plan proposal..." and then there are those who say "YOU IDIOTS! We're being INVADED by aliens who are DESTROYING the planet!!! FIGHT THEM BACK NOW!!!" and their plans are to resist, even if they sacrifice their lives, to destroying the alien invaders.

Now: Industrialism is that invader.

What are you going to do about it?
Work the system, deliberate, or blow up a dam?

While I do understand your angle on it, I don't see it as much a problem of the "beautiful soul syndrome" as much as it is a prioritisation question. A beautiful soul could just as easily be in any of those camps - the beautiful soul who is more than happy to level the planet but puts out their recycling every week,the beautiful soul who is earnestly working to "save the world" but wants it to be done "right", and the beautiful soul who thinks we should blow up thhe dams and factories and all be chasing buffalo and living in tipis, because it's better.