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?
Eberhardt Press is community print shop and small press in Portland, Oregon, founded in 2004. Named in honor of anarchist writer and adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt, the shop provides design and printing services to zine publishers, worker co-ops, musicians, artists, small publishers, anarchist organizers, non-profit organizations, activist groups, local independent businesses and lots of other folks. For the last ten years they have printed Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, often donating some of their labor and adding enhancements like color for free. Now they are being evicted, and need our help to successfully relocate and continue producing.
Rapid policy changes, funding shifts and cuts, spikes in hate crimes, inflammatory rhetoric, corrupt democratic processes, and international etiquette blunders characterize the current political situation in the United States. Since the new regime assumed power, the immediate dangers to people of color, immigrants, queer folks, and the poor have escalated. We respond with the urgency of firefighters, racing from hot spot to hot spot, putting out flames where they threaten to consume our communities. We remain on constant high alert to respond to the next hate crime, the next anti-immigrant raid, the next attack on the planet.
(Roger Peet, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative)
In these moments of urgency, it can feel as if we will never be able to do enough—as if our long-term campaigns are too slow to develop, our reach too short. How do we respond? Does this cycle require us to drop everything in order to react? Must we abandon our own more proactive, visionary agendas, our long-term strategic thinking, our imagining and pre-figuring of alternatives to the existing society? Let us remember that none of this appeared just this year, out of nowhere. Capitalism, war, racism, fascism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other forces of oppression have long been shaping the terrain in which we fight. If we neglect our own aspirations, then we’ve already lost.