Is this it?
“I have to admit my pessimism is provisional — all things turn out for the worst (until they don’t); it’s better not to have been born (until it isn’t)…” — Eugene Thacker, Infinite Resignation
There’s a disquiet that hangs heavy in the air:
Why are we here?
Why do we think we’re so damn important?
Why did we evolve to this point?
What if we weren’t here?
And yes, in case it’s not already obvious the ‘we’ is all of humanity both those extant (7.9 billion and growing) and those that came before (c.100 billion).
The easy answer, but one replete with a multitude of issues, is to procreate. The more nuanced answer might be to rise above our non-human ancestors and those among us to become enlightened and live in harmony with them.
The second part of that reply is surely what we’d all wish for — see in particular the work of Arthur Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann — rather than tearing the very fabric of the earth apart to the point where it will no longer support us or in a very different way.
Whilst I’m on the subject of enlightenment or self-realisation, when you talk to me or share online a world governed or infused with kindness, humility and love I’m left wondering “For who?”. Just the people in your circle of acquaintances, your work colleagues, your putative clients or (and I’m not being facetious) the whole world? I’d like to think the latter but let’s face it, we’ve had untold movements and Gurus down the ages (and I’ll leave out religion for now) who’ve bent people out of shape to a new regime or spiritual indoctrination without much (lasting) success. Indeed, I’ve been down that rabbit hole and have seen how perplexing it is to find inner peace. Let’s face it, and I hope this point isn’t too tendentious, the human psyche is simply too diverse and too eclectic to agree to be bound by one set of rules apropos enlightenment or self-realisation.
So does that mean we shouldn’t try?
Erm, yes actually.
I think we can safely say with the geopolitical situation as it is, with resource extraction continuing apace, climate change being greenwashed to the point of it becoming a non-sequitur and the mass movement of people/adaptation a very likely consequence of a warming planet, I think there’s going to be more strife and war up ahead than there is a holding of the hands in mutual harmony with ourselves, let alone our non-human cohort.
Again, does that mean the situation is utterly hopeless? My answer is an emphatic yes. Even if we could move the needle in the direction of a more egalitarian world, I still don’t believe we can change the course of humanity and, certainly, I don’t see us going out of our way to save what’s left of the planet, particularly if it puts us in harm’s way.
As a segue, you only need look at the shitstorm that’s kicking off in the United Kingdom over the lack of HGV drivers and the availability of petrol to realise where our priorities lie. It sure as hell isn’t thinking about the continuing harm we’re doing to Gaia by driving our cars, lorries and delivery vans.
OK, smart arse what’s your solution?
We all go extinct.
And before you think I’m advocating for some heinous, eugenics style programme (god forbid), I can tell you that that’s the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, all I’m trying to do is to prime a conversation that is much less pro-natalism (i.e. anthropocentric) and much more anti-procreation. I’ll admit this subject, now more commonly termed anti-natalism (AN), isn’t one I’d ever read about before I discovered an article by Benjamin Cain on Medium where he talks about Immendham on YouTube and his forthright AN/EFILism message. That then forced me to check out the channel and to read the work of David Benatar and others. What shocked me wasn’t the AN message — it comes in a variety of forms including EFILism and trans-humanism — but how many of the issues I’d previously investigated and explored could have been resolved absent humanity. As a very obvious example, take something like Buddhism which opines on suffering in all its various forms. Sure, it offers a path to liberation but surely the easy answer is for us not to come into existence? Likewise, my most recent hobbyhorse of climate change could be resolved (but not totally ameliorated given the long-lasting effects that we’ve set in train) if we went extinct.
I’ll be honest though, I’ve no expectation of anyone taking me or this message seriously but that’s only because natalism has been and will remain the dominant narrative across all of society. That’s not to say that there aren’t more people taking a long hard look in the mirror as to whether they want to bring new beings into existence, in the face of the dire consequences coming down the climate change track, but when you’ve got government pressure, financial incentives being wafted about and of course the nuclear family or whatever version is now in vogue being the moral order of the day, I don’t expect anyone to be the slightest bit interested in AN.
And that’s OK.
But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the idea. In fact, I’d say AN has been the biggest single revelation of my whole life and there’s so much that I’ve still to do and write about which will, I’m sure, keep me busy for, if not the rest of my life, certainly a very long time.