Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Don't Get It Twisted

There are ten years of posts I've accrued writing on this blog, and I don't recommend reading very many of them. I envy the photogenic who can document their youth with images, and look back ten, twenty, thirty years on and think "Damn, I looked sexy as hell." A record of words means that the past is mostly embarrassing. I don't know if I ever truly believed that 2012 would mean the end of the world but I remember in 2005 thinking things were getting worse and worse and feeling like seven years could wreak a lot of damage, especially assuming a point where damage done would begin to be exponential, and could not be recovered from. It still seems slightly insane that people are having children, but it is a belief in the future that got us this far.

To a certain extent our beliefs in the future are problematic and damaging. I had this essay I wanted to write that would be all about science fiction. I wanted to talk about how writing stories where humans go to war with aliens with advanced technology makes an incredibly wrong-headed assumption in thinking that a violent species could work together long enough to get itself off a planet and find our own. Whenever I think of people who view the notion of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe as relating in some way to technology I feel like a point has been missed. But here's the thing: I don't know what books are about that. I know they're the popular science-fiction narrative, but I feel like they're more popular with science people than fans of literature, and so they've bypassed my awareness completely. But it's being bought into by science people, the same science people I assume are the ones being hired by the military to design rocket ships, that I think creates the issue. I feel similarly about narratives that postulate all of our existence as a computer simulation, created at a point in infinity that is far in our past but most easily understood as being in our future. The assumption is that there is a future in the way we are now, and that we are not inherently self-destructive.

"Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" was the anthem that got Bill Clinton elected. In 1992 it was meant to appeal to baby boomers. Who could know that hipsters twenty years later would pretty much unanimously be on the Fleetwood Mac train but find that to be the song on Rumors most necessary to skip? Likewise a few years earlier, when Tipper Gore was profoundly disturbed by the Prince song "Darling Nikki," who could she know that the children she wanted to protect would grow up to vote and view her and her husband as schoolmarms and racists and reject Al Gore's presidential bid by voting for the more liberal Ralph Nader instead? Al Gore can brand himself an environmentalist, an issue that appeals to the young much more immediately than it does to the old, who seemingly can't see the destruction being wrought for the fact that it will only get much worse after they're dead, but now the youth have grown cynical too and can't imagine a future not destroyed and so do not try to stop the onslaught.

The perspective time affords in retrospect is pretty much unfathomable. Seven years seemed a huge amount of time looking forward to the future for me in 2005. It still does, looking into the future. But that's nine years in my past now, and does not seem like that unbridgeable of a distance. I have friends who had kids around that time who I wish I could see and talk to now.

The conclusion I wanted to get across to you now is the idea that viewing the future as being fucked is unproductive. I sincerely wish that politicians in office right now knew how widespread that belief was, and didn't then view that cynicism as a reason to not bother trying to court the youth, because they don't vote anyway. The ramifications of a population that does not believe in the future are massive. Every congressman whose sense of the future does not go further than the next election, and then shores that up with gerrymandering, is both a symptom of the problem and a cause of it at a larger and more systemic scale.

It's this notion of how ideas affect the spirit of the people, and the conscious decision to change your mind accordingly, that is sort of what the spirit of literature is all about. (And when I say literature in this instance I am including film, and really all narratives. But still making a distinction between this and games which seem too much like distractions to be too much concerned with what it means to live a life.)

I am going to go forward into the future with a belief only in the nature of time as a thing that keeps going, and a sense of human behavior at a fractal level, that while doing things decently might not really make the world any better, any destructive behavior makes it invariably worse somewhere outside your vision. For pretty much the entire life of this blog I've viewed writing as being sort of the only moral thing to do, the only world to engage in where I felt like doing it wasn't making things worse. I felt that learning to drive a car would kowtow to the oil industry's dominance, and that trying to get a MFA would support a system of academia built on debt. I've spent all these years believing I should probably stop eating so much meat, and learn to farm and garden. I still believe that but have not really changed my behavior. This isn't going to be a post where I announce at the end that this blog will no longer exist as I move into the woods. 

Time is going to keep moving forward and I am still going to be myself for the next foreseeable chunk of it. When I no longer exist in this human body, the world will keep spinning, and if there are humans in any large capacity, there will be, to a certain extent or another, people like me, but they will exist in a context I cannot imagine, and so how much their behavior will resemble my own is not up to me to judge. It seems likely there will still be bastards too, and to a certain extent my own spirit is defined in opposition to the existence of said bastards. I hope the current bastards keep their future bastard children in mind, but they won't. Is everything going to be fine? No, nothing has ever been fine.

In conclusion everything is inconclusive. Keep on rocking in the free world.