The world is on fire.
It has been, for quite some time. If you’ve done any organizing, you’ve felt it—that sense of racing about, extinguishing this flare up or that, spending precious energy and resources surviving the immediate emergency and hoping the future will somehow save itself. If you’ve watched the news, you’ve felt it—disbelief combined with the raw hilarity of the media circus; just when it seems things couldn’t get worse, or more frightening, or more absurd, they do. If you’ve ever worked three jobs to keep your family afloat, you’ve felt it. If you’ve listened to climate scientists, or survived a hurricane, or watched helplessly as an unseasonable forest fire tore through a landscape you loved, you’ve felt it—the rising certainty that we have waited too long, that global temperatures are edging toward tipping points from which we will never return. We are burning.
Western culture has been historically preoccupied with apocalypse, from Judeo-Christian threats of the End Times to doomsday cults. Every generation has imagined themselves living at the edge of history. The anticipation and dread permeate aspects of our puritanical, militaristic, consumeristic culture, yet they offer little in the way of seeing beyond times of crisis. In fact, it seems ever clearer that capitalism thrives on crisis—that capitalism is crisis. At this point, could we tell the difference between the “the end is near” and “the end is here?”
What if the apocalypse has already arrived, having crept up incrementally while we were waiting for a big announcement? What if this is what it looks like to be in the thick of things, the “interesting times” of the proverbial curse? Why are we not in the streets, then, in our thousands and our millions? Why haven’t we taken over our workplaces and neighborhoods and said, Enough! Are we simply resigned, cynical, nihilistic? Overwhelmed and preoccupied with financial survival? Distracted? Do we even think things can ever radically change for the better, much less in time?