Triadic Sortition?

Random Thoughts on a Viable XR Citizens’ Assembly

DOLLAR SIGN (c)2019 by MR. FISH

DOLLAR SIGN (c)2019 by MR. FISH

Random selection won't do, at lest not initially. In all honesty, through no real fault of their own, the citizenry at large is too ill-informed and contentious on the reality of the Anthropocene Extinction (AX) to deal with the Extinction Rebellion’s Citizen Assembly (XR-CA) roles and responsibilities rationally and univocally in confronting and engaging the oligarchy and corporatocracy of the fascist capitalism that must be overcome if humanity is to survive. Sad, but true. If we survive, those delusions and divisions may be overcome over time, but not in time to deal with the ongoing AX event.

As Roger Hallam suggests, however, some form of sortition is most promising. But the initial selections cannot be random. The scientific community within the XR, combined with prominent XR advocates and speakers like Hallam himself, ought to be the first 'pool' of Assembly candidates from which to draw the dozen members of the Assembly. But that alone won't do -- there must be some way to engage vox populi directly, in real-time, with a dozen drawn by lot from those key XR communities.(1)

Perhaps the best way to do this, while protecting the identities and privacy of individual citizens, is to set up a channel/group in the deep web, where those conditions are currently state-of-the-(clandestine)-art. The dark web may even be needed as well, if civil disobedience -- as deliberate breaking of the law -- is to be discussed, acted upon, and carried out. Nonviolent dissident action need not go above the deep web to the surface web or below to the dark web. The surface web should be almost entirely set aside for CA purposes. It's a global circus and carnival, teeming with noise lacking meaningful signal 99.99 ...% of the time. At most, a live-streamed channel of all gatherings and meetings of the Citizen's Assembly with the representatives of the actual members of the ultra-elite oligarchy should be broadcast on a surface web youtube or other free public channel (administered by deep and dark web XR staff).

As a 21st century XR coordinator and career technocrat, this strikes me as a plausible way to put up a Citizen's Assembly in three layers of communication that might actually work: from vox populi deep and dark through an assembly of a dozen XR spokespersons to the power and wealth regime who got us into this global suicide pact and have kept us sleepwalking into catastrophe for at least 30 years.

Local XR chapters could assist the citizenry in adapting to the deep and dark web apps in a TOR browser. This is about as close to live-streaming democracy as we may hope to get on current public tech. Two tactical issues: (1) who are the root and other system techs running the deep and dark internet of things for the citizenry? And, (2) how are fascist capitalists to be involved? For (2), each should have a voice boiling down to a vote just like very other citizen. But no more, no less. For (1), I confess I'm not sure how that could be secured from any and all human corruption and malware injections. My technosterone levels were never that high as a technocrat, and it has been draining away lately. but If there are any TOR and deep and dark web gurus in the XR community, I would look to them for guidance in implementing this three-layered sortition model sooner than later.(2)

In closing, finally, this must also be said. While presumably entirely fictitious, consider the sort of rebellion seen in such tech-fantasy as the Mr. Robot miniseries. The idea of having a black-ops elite cadre of super-hackers turning the world of fascist capitalism inside-out and upside-down is intriguing. Should events and actions of such kind be in the XR’s battle plan and technology arsenal? It goes beyond ‘mere’ civil disobedience, yes, and cases such as Julian Assange’s and Edward Snowden’s are public examples of deterrents, showing just how severe the consequences of such actions are.

What does ‘civil disobedience’ even mean, legally speaking (e.g., under the PATRIOT ACT), when laws are broken without compunction or consequence or they are simply superseded or suspended by fascist capitalist exigency? If dark web XR activism could nonviolently bring the World Bank, SWIFT, the IBS, the IMF, the Federal Reserve, etc. to their knees just one day a month for only a few seconds, the vile maxim and vicious cycle of power and wealth would be broken. It would be up to the Citizen’s Assembly to determine just how long and how severe those take-downs would need to be to seize full control of that power and wealth. Or until the instant extinction event of global WMD warfare is triggered to neutralize that power grab with extreme prejudice.

** CAVEAT: I'm brainstorming here. It's an out-of-the-box idea on how to envision Citizens' Assembly both operationally real and true to the XR declarations and demands at the same time, by leveraging resources that we have on hand already. I suspect the human problem is the more difficult ... my limited experience with the deep web, and I have none on the dark side (yet), seems to imply this may be a fairly straightforward model to implement on current tech. **

Notes

(1) A dozen is the right number. Like a jury, unanimity would be required. Like a hung jury, anything less than a unanimous verdict would rely on vox populi interaction to drive toward a unanimous verdict.

(2) Tactical question #(2) begs the question of what manner of containment should be imposed on the most egregious ecocidal capitalist and war criminals. I have some thoughts on this, but I would have to be talked down from my sadistic inclinations to share them. Despite being a Christian, mercy and grace for those vile sinners do not come easily to heart, soul, or mind for me. Dwayne Booth’s cartoon above, DOLLAR SIGN, seems to illustrate a fitting penance.

A Sorry Absurdity

The Inconvenience of Imminent Mass Extinction

THE NAKED TRUTH  ©2019 by MR. FISH (Dwayne Booth)

THE NAKED TRUTH ©2019 by MR. FISH (Dwayne Booth)

Well-meaning and highly intelligent people decry the inconvenience to personal daily routines and to commerce, transport, and other business-as-usual in general caused by Extinction Rebellion (XR). They weigh inconvenience against XR’s peaceful action to expose and overcome the  root causes of onrushing Anthropocene Extinction (AX). This is the result, as if disruptive inconvenience were insufferable abuse and by far the weightier matter of the two:

The Sorry Absurdity

The Sorry Absurdity

Such is the subliminal entrenchment of fascist capitalism in the buffered individual identities adrift in the immanent frame bubbles inflicted on the 99% as the insidious 1%’s permanent lie that is the social imaginary by which we live and die.(1)        

What the Extinction Rebellion presages and forestalls is global anarchy at war with an unbridled police state. Unless, of course, there is no imminent mass sixth Anthropocene Extinction (AX) at all and we’d all be doing just fine if XR would simply have their say and get out of the way. But the science is irrefutable: the Anthropocene sixth mass Extinction is already well under way and unfolding far more quickly than is openly admitted. How inconveniently disruptive will the global war be between nomadic terrorist anarchy and the barbaric brutality of an unfettered fascist police state? Will the distinction between enemy and victim have meaning at all?(2)

As the disruptive inconveniences of XR and other climate activism and civil disobedience intensify, perhaps discernment of the signs of the inevitable horrors of the decline and fall of human civilization in the wake of mass extinction will become widespread enough to make a difference that actually will make a difference in avoiding or at least mitigating those horrors.  

In a long condescending social media rant on this matter, a cherished friend, brilliant poet, and USAmerican expatriate in the UK, remarked:

The recent London marches have achieved little, really, and in fact have served to alienate the very people XR hoped to attract. To make a point about fossil fuels and cars, protesters effectively shut down central London, but then also blocked the local trains and tubes, which in themselves as mass transport should logically be seen as the sensible alternative to individual transport.

Another keen intellect and dear friend on the thread, also a USAmerican expatriate, to Canada, perhaps interjecting to referee or arbitrate, commented:  

… just reading that Parliament decreed a climate emergency today...however, it doesn’t set goals and is not legally binding. Have to admit that I never understood how super gluing oneself to a subway car or a govt building offers a solution to the issue. I do agree that disrupting public transportation can be counterproductive by causing major inconvenience to workers, citizens, patients, etc.    

Normally, even reflexively, I would have leapt into the fray and spewed out rant responses of my own – I’m far less aristocratic, sophisticated, and politically correct than my friends, apparently. But I decided instead to simply react with the familiar ‘sad’ emoji … (⌣́_⌣̀)

It was obvious my IQ wouldn’t matter. My EQ as conveyed in that trite emoji will most likely be misunderstood and irritating. But the truth is I am profoundly saddened at the futility of telling hard truths, however urgently terrible, to hardened heads and hearts, especially those of these dearest of friends. But more than that personal sorrow, I mourn for the horrific legacy for their children and grandchildren, and the absurdity of their willingness to foment and facilitate that horror upon them, because they wouldn’t be inconvenienced to prevent it.(3)

We rebels in the XR cause and movement must summon the will and courage to disengage the futility of rational argument and emotional appeal. Tragically, that leaves nothing but our story, our resolve, and simply showing up and standing firm against history’s tides to make the difference. We cannot allow the delusional shortsightedness of others to distract or deter us, or to impede our cause.  

Notes

(1) On buffered selves, immanent frames, and social imaginaries, see Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (2007); “Buffered and Porous Selves” (2008); and, Modern Social Imaginaries (2003). Generally, to correspond to individual identities as defined by the emotional and intellectual states of human being and presence, which are shaped by inter-relational sentient experience and ideological sapient connectedness. Put more simply but somewhat less profoundly, we are who we are (buffered selves) due to our thoughts and feelings (immanent frames) as determined by our experience and understanding of one another in the world of our society, culture, ethos, etc. (social imaginaries). Taylor’s concepts are invoked primarily to distinguish the thoroughly secular modern and contemporary identities, frames, and imaginaries in contrast to their precursors. Taylor generally sees Enlightenment modernity over the past four centuries as the momentum and inertia driving the changes.     

(2) Relevant sources are cited in these prior posts: “What Was Is No More: Rearview Signs of Bygone Extinction (draft in progress but published as-is);” “Anthropocene Extinction (AX)—The Grim Prognosis;”  “Carbonality: The Implosive Extinction of Humans as Carbon Cannibals;” ”XR: The One Event;” “Capitalist Fatuity: 21st Century Addiction to the Fix Being In;” “Where Have All the Humans Gone? Elitist Tyranny and the Mass Insanity of Modern Humanity.” New ones added here are, David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (Feb 2019); Jennifer Wider and Lucy Adams, Summary Of The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells: Life After Warming (Mar 2019); and, “’All this extreme weather pummeling the planet is our own doing’: Is climate change worse than we feared?” David Wallace-Wells interview by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke (19 Feb 2019), 23-minute video and brief synopsis.

(3) The social media post and thread have been deleted to conceal the identities of the two friends I’ve quoted here. They know who they are, as will some few who know the three of us. Should they choose to comment on this post or others on the blog, however, their anonymity won’t be further preserved on the blog.   

What Was Is No More

Rearview Signs of Bygone Extinction

The main story here is the elites have been robbing us for thirty years and now they’re going to kill us.

Roger Hallam, Extinction Rebellion (XR) Co-founder(1)

BLOODLINE  ©2019 by MR. FISH (Dwayne Booth)

BLOODLINE ©2019 by MR. FISH (Dwayne Booth)

Climate once was a natural thing, but it is no more. Two centuries and four cycles of cannibal capitalism masquerading as progress in the name of industrial revolution ended that. The baseline of what once was natural has shifted so far from its true nature in causal reality that reality today is entirely unnatural, and lethally so. Humanity suffused itself in fascism by rapacious oligarchic capitalism, turning nature itself (on Earth at least) so upside-down and inside-out that already our grandchildren may be the last truly human being and presence anywhere. Nature? It’s a bygone myth beyond human ken, thanks to four centuries of Enlightenment modernity that peaked in the fascist capitalism of the 20th-21st century. What we wrongly call ‘climate’ is an unnatural, synthetic, after-image artifact mirage of what once was but is no more.(2)  

Rational civilization never really existed, though human history was stuffed and mounted in mythological effigies of delusion as if it actually had. They lined the hallowed halls and walls of every cathedral and citadel of fascist capitalism, forming scatter-plot imagery of ordered death and destruction with civilization always at ground zero, forever in the crosshairs of human hubris, vanity, and greed. We doubleplusgood duckspoke of such panacea promises as ‘geoengineering’ and ‘genetic engineering’ as if the ideas were ours or new. Our premeditated plunder and malicious exploitation of Earth’s ecosphere and biosphere already ‘engineered’ humanity across the event horizon of our own extinction for sheer profit, with ecocide and genocide as automated manufacture and business as usual. Perhaps we were philosophical zombies all along, with Newspeak our mother tongue since Babel. In dissipating silhouette, dissolving into rearview dissonance, self-inflicted extinction oozing from the inside-out through every pore, we were walking dead long before we killed ourselves.(3)

Never love—always War! Not peace—only Profit! No truth—permanent Lie!

Homo sentiens? Homo sapiens? If ever we once were, we certainly are no more. A living species on Earth? Once we were, but soon we no more will be. The macabre poetic causal justice of it all is that we reaped exactly what we sowed. We turned natural world and human nature into suicidal oxymorons: whatever once was natural to humanity is no more and whatever nature the world once had is dead and gone. We were the artifacts and architects of ecocide and genocide, so it is perfectly just that we should be ordered out of existence by the natural laws of causality, exiled by nature itself from any presence in causal reality forever, for being what was but chose to be no more and trying to take everything with us into the oblivion of our hubris and rapacity.    

Notes

(1) From “On Contact: Civil Disobedience to Stop Ecocide,” Chris Hedges interview with Roger Hallam (Part One), March 9, 2019, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=220tv9Jktmg. See also “On Contact: Extinction Rebellion,” Chris Hedges interview with Roger Hallam (Part Two), March 16, 2019, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfXqq888HPY.

(2) Stephen Pinker and Johan Norberg are silver-tongued promoters of the permanent lies of Enlightenment modernity and the scientismic pseudo-progress it spawned. Apologists for fascist capitalism, they and the like-minded others of blackened heart bask in aristocratic fantasy, denying the dying of the light that never was, fawning pawns of oligarch tyrants securely transcendent in sequestered star chambers of the corporatocracy they own and rule. George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, and most recently Sheldon Wolin, foresaw and foretold the death of semantics (in Orwell’s Newspeak), the fascist rise of scientismic capitalism (Lewis’ scientocracy), and the destruction of human dignity, liberty, and reason (Wolin’s inverted totalitarianism). See Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress; Norberg, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look forward to the Future; John G. West, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society; Orwell, 1984; Wolin, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.  

(3) The concept of “doubleplusgood duckspeaking” is from George Orwell’s Newspeak lexicon in his prescient novel, 1984. “The Principles of Newspeak” Appendix to the novel explains:

Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centers at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak, meaning “to quack like a duck.” Like various other words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment. (1984, p. 236)

he concept of a “philosophical (or ‘p-’) zombie’ is explained in Wikipedia contributors, "Philosophical zombie," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Philosophical_zombie&oldid=895282030 (accessed May 3, 2019). See also Robert Kirk, “Zombies,” March 16, 2015, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies. Kirk describes p-zombies as follows:

Zombies in philosophy are imaginary creatures designed to illuminate problems about consciousness and its relation to the physical world. Unlike the ones in films or witchcraft, they are exactly like us in all physical respects but without conscious experiences: by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie. Yet zombies behave just like us, and some even spend a lot of time discussing consciousness.

Where Have All the Humans Gone?

Elitist Tyranny and The Mass Insanity of Modern Humanity

Excerpt from my DMin dissertation, The End Signs! Are We Getting the Message?
(Portland Seminary, Semiotics and Future Studies program, Lead Mentor Leonard Sweet, February 2019). The full dissertation is available online at Researchgate.net.)

LIFE ON EARTH is facing mass extinction – and this time it is humans rather than asteroids threatening near total wipe out of the planet’s creatures.

LIFE ON EARTH is facing mass extinction – and this time it is humans rather than asteroids threatening near total wipe out of the planet’s creatures.

We have already entered the sixth mass extinction in history. This time, we are the architects of our own demise. If humankind survives at all, 50-90% of us are doomed, nonetheless, sooner than later. Here is who the other 10% are. Some of them—the scientismic aristocracy—will be exempt (note #1). The survival chances for the rest of us are around 1.5-2% (see note 1 below):

The Wealth, Power, Force, and Control Nexus of Inverted Totalitarianism

The Wealth, Power, Force, and Control Nexus of Inverted Totalitarianism

The tiny ruling elite cabal already have an exit strategy and survival plan. My guesstimate is that it may have been conceived and set in motion in the 1970s. More likely, perhaps, it became a matter of ‘oligarchy emergency’ only recently, sometime around the mid-1990s. In that case, the elite cabal of rulers had (by choice or by sloth or apathy) ignored the Club of Rome’s 1972 dire report, The Limits to Growth: A Report for The Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. That 1972 report concluded, “Left unchecked, economic and population growth would deplete the planet’s resources and cause economic collapse around 2070.” In October 2018 the journal Nature cited a new 2018 report to the Club of Rome which concluded, “More than four decades later, the (1972) report’s main conclusions are still valid.”(2)   

The primary historical force on Earth for the past five centuries has been the development and exploitation of capitalism as the fuel and engine of economic growth. The prime directive now as always has been concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a ruling elite. As far as capitalism is concerned, the very idea of actually imposing the sorts of checks and balances on economic growth (i.e., capitalism) the Club of Rome may have had in mind is heresy, punishable by termination with extreme prejudice. The “vile maxim” identified by Adam Smith in 1776 and its wealth <> power “vicious cycle” corollary are the sole ethical principles of capitalism.  In that noxious pair of principles, the iniquitous tyranny of the 1% elite is grounded, rooted, nurtured, secured, sustained, and extended in perpetuity. They are the raison ďêtre (reason for existence) and the élan vital (life force) of the oligarchy at the head and heart of inverted totalitarianism in the 21st century. Its headquarters, command center, and hegemony are USAmerican to the core and its span of control is global.(3)

The benighted rapacity and stupidity of the ruling elite have driven humanity and Earth to the brink of existential doom, to the event horizon of our extinction as a living species. Evidence is already overwhelming and still mounting that we may have already run out of time. We are now far more likely than disappear as a form of earthly life than we are to survive. Many authoritative perspectives already confirm this reality. Here are a few: (4)

U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), Fourth National Climate Assessment, reporting to US President Donald Trump (POTUS45) in 2018: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.”  

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon speaking to the 2011 World Economic Forum (WEF): “For most of the last century, economic growth was fueled by what seemed to be a certain truth: the abundance of natural resources. We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. Those days are gone…Over time, that model is a recipe for national disaster. It is a global suicide pact.”

2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Global Risk Report: “climate change is the biggest threat to the planet,” naming “extreme weather, natural disasters, man-made environmental disasters, loss of biodiversity, and failure to adapt to climate change as the chief perils to society …. it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe” (emphasis added).

John Mecklin, Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “Extraordinarily fast-paced advance across the full breadth of the world’s scientific and technological enterprise creates a new threat matrix where dangerous technologies may collide—with catastrophic results.”

The cover image for the November 2018 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists vividly portrays the brink-of-doom event-horizon-of-extinction we’ve reached, or perhaps already crossed over:

The Existential Threat Nexus Confronting Humanity

The Existential Threat Nexus Confronting Humanity

The Bulletin also maintains the ‘doomsday clock’ which is reset every January as an indicator of just how close we are to annihilation (‘midnight’ on the clock). As this chart shows, we entered the lowest point in the 1947-2018 history of the clock’s settings since the peak of the Cold War in 1953:

2018-2019 Doomsday Clocks and Graph Chart.jpg

The January 2018 2-minute setting was extended into 2019 by the Bulletin on January  24, 2019. The President and CEO of the Bulletin organization, Rachel Bronson, PhD, cautioned that, “there should be no comfort taken from the fact that the clock did not move forward over the past year.” Brown explained that the threat is at least as dire if not moreso, as indicated in her remarks about the “new abnormal:”(5)

As the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board prepared for its first set of Doomsday Clock discussions this fall (in 2018), it began referring to the current world security situation as a “new abnormal.” This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.

One week after the January 24 Bulletin announcement for 2019, on February 1, our POTUS45 (Trump) ended USAmerican participation in the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, one of the last nuclear arms control treaties with Russia dating back to the Cold-War Reagan era. Russia responded on February 2 by also backing out of the treaty. A new nuclear arms race was already under way and is now accelerating more swiftly with China entering the fray, having never participated in the treaty. The US Marine veteran intelligence officer who “was hand-picked to serve with the On Site Inspection Agency, responsible for carrying out the provisions of the INF Treaty,” Scott Ritter, proposes a more realistic 1-minute setting:

William Perry, former secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, helped unveil the 2019 iteration of the Doomsday Clock. In his remarks, he highlighted President Donald Trump’s declaration to withdraw from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as an indication of the collapsing relationship between the U.S. and Russia. “When you withdraw from treaties, you are losing this important vehicle of dialogue,” Perry observed. “My own judgment is, relative to a year ago, we are slightly worse off.”

I agree with Perry—the world is worse off today than it was a year ago. I disagree, however, with his use of the word “slightly” to describe the situation we face, and I dissent from the Bulletin’s decision to stay the hands of the Doomsday Clock. Humanity is sleepwalking toward global annihilation (emphasis added), furthered by a collective amnesia about the threat posed by nuclear weapons, especially in an environment void of meaningful arms control.(6)

William Perry’s remarks at the unveiling of the 2019 doomsday clock setting are reported in the January 24, 2019 edition of The Guardian. At that unveiling event, former governor of California Jerry Brown, new Executive Chairman of the Bulletin, commented:

We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead, enjoying the fine food and music …. It’s late and it’s getting later. We have to wake people up. And that’s what I intend to do!

Heir apparent to Sheldon Wolin’s prophetic political mantle, Chris Hedges is among the most astute observers of 21st century reality. New York Times foreign correspondent Pulitzer-winner, Harvard seminary MDiv graduate, ardent activist and strident speaker decrying the infamy of the ruling elite and the damnable tyranny they impose, Hedges pulls no punches in setting reality squarely before us:

Paul Tillich wrote that all institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic. Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that no institution could ever achieve the morality of the individual. Institutions, he warned, to extend their lives when confronted with collapse, will swiftly betray the stances that ostensibly define them. Only individual men and women have the strength to hold fast to virtue when faced with the threat of death. And decaying institutions, including the church, when consumed by fear, swiftly push those endowed with this moral courage and radicalism from their ranks, rendering themselves obsolete.

The wisdom of Tillich and Niebuhr has been borne out in the precipitous decline of the liberal church and the seminaries and divinity schools that train religious scholars and clergy.(7)

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I do know that the corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires that we follow those possessed by sublime madness, that we become stone catchers and find in acts of rebellion the sparks of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside the possibility of success. We must grasp the harshness of reality at the same time we refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. People of all creeds and people of no creeds must take an absurd leap of faith to believe, despite all the empirical evidence around us, that the good draws to it the good. The fight for life goes somewhere—the Buddhists call it karma—and in these acts we make possible a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us.(8)

Assume the worst: it is too late to reverse this freefall into the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history—this time caused by humankind and fatal to most if not all species of life, including our own. We then have very few choices and none of them will matter at the end of the day:

  • Denial: completely ignore and write off all the voices prophesying this imminent doom (including mine) and go on about life as if everything is fine—or it will all at least somehow turn out that way. This is one cadence in the death march we’re already on.

  • Futility #1: accept this doom as inevitable and just mark time until it’s over for all of us, eating, drinking, and being miserably or merrily delusional anyway. This is just another cadence in the same death march.

  • Futility #2: adopt Hedges’ perspective—fight the elitist fascist tyranny despite having no hope or chance of actually winning, simply because it is elitist fascist tyranny. This is the only way to break ranks from the death march and take a stand.

Futility #2 is exactly the sort of groundswell bootstrap activism Hedges calls us to embrace and become. One excellent first step is to join the Extinction Rebellion. I hope to see your name on their roster along with mine. (9)

Notes

(1)   The opening image under the title is from Stuart Winter, “Sixth MASS EXTINCTION Warning: HUMANS Threatening Near Total Wipe Out of Earth's Creatures,” Express (online), July 11, 2017, https://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/827266/Mass-extinction-events-Earth-sixth-human-population-endangered-species. The image below it is my visual interpretation of inverted totalitarianism as identified in Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, 2nd ed. (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017) and Chris Hedges, “The Deadly Rule of the Oligarchs,” Truthdig, February 11, 2018, https://www.truthdig.com/articles/deadly-rule-oligarchs/. Statistical groupings approximate the 1%-to-99% division that emerged from the Occupy Wall Street Movement and an article on the emergence of aristocracy in the 21st century. Cf. Noam Chomsky, Occupy, 2nd ed., Occupied Media Pamphlet Series (Westfield, NJ: Zuccotti Park Press, 2013); Todd Gitlin, Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (New York: Itbooks, 2012), Kindle; Matthew Stewart, “The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy,” The Atlantic, June 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/;

(2)   Donella H. Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report for The Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, 1st ed. (New York: Universe Books, 1972); Quirin Schiermeier, "Gloomy 1970s Predictions About Earth’s Fate Still Hold True," Nature, 18 October, 2018, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07117-2.

(3)   Noam Chomsky, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2017); Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2016); Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault On Democracy (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2006);  Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, 2nd ed. (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017); Sheldon S. Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought, with a New Foreword by Wendy Brown (1960, reprint, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016); Chris Hedges, “Apocalyptic Capitalism,” Truthdig, December 7, 2015, https://www.truthdig.com/articles/apocalyptic-capitalism/; Chris Hedges, “The Deadly Rule of the Oligarchs,” Truthdig, February 11, 2018, https://www.truthdig.com/articles/deadly-rule-oligarchs/.

(4)   D. R. Reidmiller et al., eds., The Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States (Washington, DC: U. S. Global Change Research Program, 2018), https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/; Associated Press, “Ban Ki-moon: World's Economic Model Is ‘Environmental Suicide’,” Guardian, January 28, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jan/28/ban-ki-moon-economic-model-environment; Anne C. Mulkern, “Climate Forecast: World Is 'Sleepwalking into Catastrophe',” Scientific American, January 17, 2019, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-forecast-world-is-sleepwalking-into-catastrophe/; World Economic Forum (WEF), "The Global Risks Report 2019" Geneva, CH: World Economic Forum, 2019, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risks_Report_2019.pdf; John Mecklin, “Introduction: The New Threat Matrix,” in “Existential Nexus: The Intersection of Technological Threats,” ed. Gayle Spinazze, special issue, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 74, no. 6 (November 1, 2018), 367, https://thebulletin.org/2018/11/introduction-the-new-threat-matrix/.

(5) Rachel Bronson, “Statement from the President and CEO,” in “A New Abnormal: It Is Still 2 Minutes to Midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/#from-the-president.

(6)   David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, "U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With Russia", New York Times, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/us/politics/trump-inf-nuclear-treaty.html; Vladimir Soldatkin, "Russia Suspends Nuclear Arms Treaty After U.S. Says To Pull Out", Reuters, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-nuclear/russia-suspends-nuclear-arms-treaty-after-u-s-says-to-pull-out-idUSKCN1PR06T; Rachel Bronson, “2019 Doomsday Clock Statement,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, https://cdn.thebulletin.org/sites/default/files/2018%20Doomsday%20Clock%20Statement.pdf; Scott Ritter, “One Minute to Midnight,” Truthdig, February 12, 2019, https://www.truthdig.com/articles/one-minute-to-midnight/;  Scott Ritter, “Scott Ritter (Bio)”, Truthdig, accessed February 16, 2019, https://www.truthdig.com/author/scott_ritter/#author-bio.

(7)   Chris Hedges, “The Suicide of the Liberal Church,” Truthdig, January 25, 2016, https://www.
truthdig.com/articles/the-suicide-of-the-liberal-church/
; Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: a Study in Ethics and Politics, Arkosh Politics (1932, reprint, Arkosh Publishing, 2017), loc. 3718, Kindle;

(8)   Chris Hedges, Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (New York: Nation Books, 2015), 226. See also Chris Hedges, “Why Mass Incarceration Defines Us as a Society,” Smithsonian Magazine, December 2012, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/why-mass-incarceration-defines-us-as-a-society-135793245/#.UKwDspaG6uk.twitter. “Stone catcher” is an oblique reference to John 8:3-8, esp. v. 7, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Hedges describes Bryan Stevenson as an “African American lawyer who has spent his life fighting for prisoners on death row.” An elderly black woman once identified Stevenson as a “stone catcher” in this sense. On return from attending an execution at an Alabama prison, Stevenson remarked to Hedges:

There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher …. But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith …. But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.

Hedges’ reference to “sublime madness” is from this passage in Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: a Study in Ethics and Politics, Arkosh Politics (1932; repr.: Arkosh Publishing, 2017), loc. 3718, Kindle:

We cannot build our individual ladders to heaven and leave the total human enterprise unredeemed of its excesses and corruptions.

In the task of that redemption the most effective agents will be men who have substituted some new illusions for the abandoned ones. The most important of these illusions is that the collective life of mankind can achieve perfect justice. It is a very valuable illusion for the moment; for justice cannot be approximated if the hope of its perfect realization does not generate a sublime madness in the soul. Nothing but such madness will do battle with malignant power and "spiritual wickedness in high places." The illusion is dangerous because it encourages terrible fanaticisms. It must therefore be brought under the control of reason. One can only hope that reason will not destroy it before its work is done.

(9) Chris Hedges interviews Extinction Rebellion cofounder Roger Hallam in two episodes of his “On Contact” show: On Contact: Civil Disobedience to Stop Ecocide - YouTube (Episode 1) and On Contact: Extinction Rebellion - YouTube (Episode 2). The Extinction Rebellion overview document is also online, together with numerous other informative and compelling materials, e.g., On Contact: Climate emergency with Dahr Jamail.