I need to change things again. Wednesday Word is just not working for me. Or maybe it’s that it’s just work for me. Maybe. I do like the format, but it’s not doing what I’d like.
Furthermore, I’ve been having problems with Twitter, presumably because I use phrases like “climate justice” and “degrowth” and “reparations” more frequently than their advertisers would like. When the silence began last fall (after my account just vanished for several days), I thought it was that people were getting back to work and school and thus not on social media as much as they had been under lockdown. It was simply a case of people not reacting to yet another thing that didn’t mean anything to them as their lives sped up again. But I’ve talked to other people with my offending interests and, on their advice, started paying attention to certain markers (mysterious changes to the number of “followers” and “following”, never seeing posts from people you interact with frequently, seeing a huge increase in ads so that you are encouraged to give up and leave — or even better, go buy crap…). It’s almost certainly not just me. In any case, that side of the word prompt isn’t working at all. (And I went to all that trouble making a separate Twitter feed…)
Meanwhile, I think I’ve shed the virulent nasties that prompted me to create the word prompt. Haven’t got a death threat in months. (OK I only got one actual death threat… the rest leaned toward sexual abuse and various threats of assault upon me and my family.) I haven’t even had to deal with man-splaining all that much.
So I’m going back to the original Wednesday Discourse, but with less blathering and more questions. It will be a blend of prompt and short essay. I might include a word to meditate upon if there are any obvious themes for the week. (This, for me as much as for you all…)
For those who like the poetry, I will keep the Twitter thing going in a minimal way, and I’ll be posting the odd poem on this blog site on Sundays… which is when I tend to write poetry… for reasons I can’t explain. But I also have this somewhat robust collection growing on All Poetry. I put my oddball photography up there as well. And I host a monthly word prompt contest with the Wednesday words. So I’m not stopping that, just mixing things up.
If poetry is your thing, you might want to check out All Poetry even if you don’t read my work. You don’t have to be a contributor to read. And there are so many wonderful poets gathered there, classics as well as the contemporary writers. You’re sure to encounter something that makes your day a little more interesting. (Perhaps not brighter… these are poets, after all…) And if you want, it’s free to join in. The contests are great fun! Though kind of addictive, so watch that…
So… to business…
I think quite a lot about this really weird tendency to equate shrinking our negative impacts on this planet though degrowth and localizing and other “small is beautiful” strategies with deprivation and barbarism. This comes from people who would prefer to see a survivable future as much as from the neoliberals and their media cheerleaders. It’s like people think that by removing all the vast waste and causing the loss of a few grossly bloated fortunes, we’re also erasing everything that makes us humans. That we’re heading for the proverbial “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” cavemen days… which were not a thing… Yet the majority of the people on this planet live that way now. Worse than that. At least the cave folks presumably had a cave to live in…
Now, destabilizing Earth’s biophysical systems, eating away at all that humans need for life support, taking everything and churning out enormous volumes of toxic waste that will still be killing living beings millennia from now — that might tend to cause social disruption of a type that could be labeled barbarism. One might point to any number of news items each hour and conclude that we are already well into societal implosion. And what of those who are doing all this, who presumably want it to continue? Are they beacons of cultural light? What do they produce? What good will exist in the world because they lived? Absolutely freaking nothing. They are the barbarians, “bar, bar, bar-ing” out incoherent nonsense, spreading violence and disease and death, wantonly destroying everything, and spending all their billions to stare at their own navels. This is barbarism. Let it die already and let us get back to making beautiful life!
Nearly all of us will see a vast improvement in our quality of life when we stop poisoning the earth, when we reconnect with our neighbors, and when we get to focus on meeting our own needs rather than sending all our wages to pile up on those few bloated fortunes. At the very least we might be less depressed.
Have you noticed that the same people who tell us that our economic system is strong also regularly tell us that we need to do more to prop it up? They talk about the growing job market and affluence in the same breath as the need to impose austerity measures on society. They say that we’re going to suffer so much if we don’t labor long and hard to keep this monster alive, and then they spend a good deal of time explaining why various setbacks are only temporary, not at all a sign of breakdown, all part of a healthy system.
Mostly they tell us how much we will be giving up if we don’t give up our freedom and our lives to keep toiling away for this beast. Maybe that’s a cynical “we”, meaning “me and people like me, not you, but we’ll pretend that you’re included so that you do what we want”. But quite often I get the idea that people in Washington, in many executive offices around the country, and especially in the New York Times are frankly perplexed. They think that “we” is all of us, that everyone on this planet enjoys the same benefits of privileged life that they do. They seem genuinely confused by “labor shortages” and the problems with ending eviction moratoria and various emergency welfare payments. (Of course, they are writers… they could just be really good liars, “giving the truth scope” and all that.)
So OK, they may or may not have an agenda or a brain or whatever. We don’t really need to listen to them… but the thing that truly perplexes me is that people within the various degrowth-centered movements don’t loudly call them on it. Ever. This is such low hanging fruit. Just throw up pictures of Mumbai or Afghanistan or, heck, Detroit. Why doesn’t this happen? Why aren’t we trolling these people with preposterous claims and heckling them right out of the social influencer sphere every time they publish this nonsense? Why are we letting them control the narrative when they clearly don’t have a firm grasp on reality?!?
And so here are my questions for the week. What will you, personally, be happy to lose when this whole edifice comes crashing down? And what might you, personally, regret losing? I’m not talking about potential “things out there” that you yourself have little hope of ever experiencing, but real concrete conditions in your life that will change when the center can no longer hold. Be honest with yourself. Be honest about the true consequences of shedding the bulk of our economic systems. And then… how will you, personally, work to preserve what you’d like to see preserved? What will you do to make the next system one that benefits an actually inclusive “we”?
©Elizabeth Anker 2022
So this is the part where you can respond. The rules of engagement: No rudeness. Absolutely nothing foul. Also nothing personal. If you want to talk direct to me, there is the contact page linked on every post. Send me email. I like it. Minus death threats, that is…
You can also take these ideas “home with you” and mull them over. Journalize about them. Meditate. Talk with your family and friends — and co-workers! These are questions that we all need to answer for ourselves, so that we have something bright and solid to hang on to as we slide into the murk.
Might as well get started.
5 thoughts on “The Times They Are a’Changin’ (again)”
Heh, bananas as a treat would be ok, but I love them so much. They are perfect bike food, easily digestible and they come in their own biodegradable wrapper 🙂
Good to know you are growing rice in Vermont. Wild rice is technically not rice, but it is very delicious. In MN it can only be wild harvested by indigenous people, which is only right, and not grown in artificial farms. There used to be lots of rice lakes, one within walking distance of my house, but white colonialism and all. Perhaps in the future as things collapse, the rice will come back to the lake. That would be fantastic.
You are right, we get to be in the ones in the in between time. The bad thing is how hard it is going to be. The good thing is that we will get to contribute to possibly making something really amazing.
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I will miss reliable electricity and reading in bed at night. I will miss chocolate and coffee and bananas. I will miss turning on a tap for water, and hot showers. I will miss convenient gadgets like my Japanese rice cooker that makes perfect rice every single time. I will possibly miss rice. I will miss the internet and fast, easy communication with people all around the world. I have a dear friend who lives in the Netherlands and we used to mail letters through the post but since the pandemic our letters ceased to be delivered (I tested again in December and she still hasn’t gotten the card I sent) so we have been emailing letters. I will be grief stricken if we are no longer able to communicate.
I won’t miss working for wages, cars, movies, Facebook, the buy buy buy throwaway consumer society, GDP, airplanes, capitalism.
I am collecting potentially useful reference books, learning skills, trying to connect with neighbors and community (very hard since so many are focused on the status quo and work, work, work), sharing knowledge and skills as best I can, getting better at seed saving, working on physical strength and endurance, and trying to learn to be ok with uncertainty.
Perhaps when we do not have delivery services swamped by goods, then communications will again be important. But yes, it will be hard not to be able to chat with my sisters, nieces and nephews at the push of a button any time I feel like it.
As to rice, we’re growing it in Vermont. I’m sure it can be grown in Minnesota. And there is that wonderful wild rice that is, in my experience, much more forgiving of cooking style. I’m fairly certain there won’t be hot showers, but we’ve had hot baths for millennia, and there are medieval abbeys that had fantastic plumbing, including shower stalls. So maybe that won’t go away entirely, though you and I are likely to see that miserable in between period when the current infrastructure gives out and replacements are not available yet… But tea, coffee, chocolate, even bananas… You can almost grow coffee in Tennessee already, though frosts will not allow for berries. Chocolate and camellias readily grow in greenhouses. Bananas might be about the only thing what’s left of Florida will be capable of producing, though shipping them will be rare. They will be special treats… maybe as they should be. (This is not as true of the small things that don’t need refrigeration.) I think if we start planting now, by the time these trees are mature, it’s likely the climate will have changed enough for them to be productive. Think of it as an opportunity. 🙂
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Retirement is a product of fossil fuel and will disappear with it. It is just a period of excess consumption. My grand parents in India worked almost to the end of their lives and I (73) am still working as a bench chemist.
As Energyskeptic Alice Friedemann has emphasized several times, we should find a way to preserve our language and knowledge. As was done in South India, palm leaves with engraving pen will do without energy input.
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Nobody in my generation or that of my sons has any expectation of retiring. In fact, my dad still works at 80, but I have mixed feelings on that. His retirement project is to drive a bus.
And yes, I agree with Alice. As a former bookstore owner, I had a leg up on that one. When I closed the store, I kept a core of inventory and built a private library of what I think will be helpful to those who come later. One of my dreams is to see small centers of learning and knowledge preservation built everywhere, like abbeys or monasteries but without the religious focus. More a craft focus. So maybe a combination guild hall & library. And if those exist in 15-20 years, that’s going to be my retirement project!