The Flying Column #18 – Easter Special

By Connor Kelly

Mandatory Easter Joke

‘this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.”’

Stormont is a genetically modified chicken. All the eggs it lays are toxic. Some of them are green, some orange, some are a mixture, a strange shade of brown that emits an odour akin to sulphurous shite. Nevertheless, we need the eggs – or that’s what we’re told. In the Northern Irish election campaign all the major parties may as well be running under the slogan, “Eggs for all.” Arlene Foster, the great mother hen, and Martin McGuiness, the prize cock, remind us perpetually of how much we need them. Little bundles of sectarian joy. What they offer is more of the same, a stalemate ad infinitum, all in the name of peace. Meanwhile in the South of Ireland the pretence of eggs is abandoned altogether, as the major parties resort to mere shitting on our heads in order to drown out the din of disconcert from below. That wasn’t very funny, was it? I’m not in a funny mood.

 

In the name of God and of the dead generations…

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Connolly is turning in his grave…etc…

 

Things That Are Important

Of course there are things that are important. The commemoration of the Eater Rising and its relevance for today is important. The disability cuts are important. The junior doctor’s strike is important. The budget is important. Gideon Oliver Osborne is impotent. And then of course there’s the ongoing saga of the US election – arguably the most important thing of all – the great gladiatorial contest between the Donald and the Duck – like the X Factor, for psychopaths. The Northern Ireland election, though arguably less important in geo-political (or any) terms, is no doubt highly important to some readers of this magazine. Then there’s Brussels. So many important things! Rushing across social-media, bouncing from one hash tag to the next, each outrage a life of death struggle for the very survival of all that as well in the world. “Push the arguments comrade!” So, in usual contrarian fashion, I’m going to write about something blandly unimportant; the ongoing destruction of the planet.

 

Rising Damp

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Dr James Hansen says, “Continued high fossil fuel emissions this century are predicted to yield … nonlinearly growing sea level rise, reaching several meters over a timescale of 50–150 years.” This report from a highly esteemed climate scientist was all but ignored by the world’s press. Surely the decimation of the world’s coastal cities in as little as 50 years is newsworthy, isn’t it? But that’s ok, we can just move the bulk of the world’s population inland a little. I hear the people in London and Shanghai were getting a little bored with the view anyway.

Meanwhile Oklahoma and Kansas are on fire where, “400,000 acres, or about 600 square miles, had burned along a 40 mile swath stretching through Kansas and Oklahoma by early afternoon Thursday.” We’re not in Kansas anymore. 2015-16 didn’t see a winter. It was raining in the Artic during its months of darkness – sea ice is approaching an all-time low, and may be gone by September. We celebrate this lovely Easter weather as the advent of Spring, ignoring the fact that it actually started in December (interestingly, the blackbirds here in Liverpool started tweeting in the dead of night a week and a half before Christmas – unheard of). The rate of global warming is unprecedented, outstripping many extinction events in the deep geological past. National geographic (though now not wholly reliable, being owned by climate change denier Rupert Murdoch) states that, People are sending carbon into the atmosphere ten times faster than during the hottest period in the past 66 million years.”

After the Paris Climate Agreement essentially bound us to increasing fossil fuel emissions, almost certainly leading to “dangerous and unprecedented” climate change, the forecast is not a cheerful one, concerning the end of civilisation, and possibly the extinction of humanity.

 

Pronoia

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“But we’ll be ok! It can’t all go up in smoke, can it? The Doctor will save us!” Humanity’s greatest folly is not, as we might be led to believe, the creation of Come Dine With Me, or a pre-disposition towards various infectious diseases like fascism, but a general belief in eternal progress. It’s a sort of pre-Copernican exceptionalism adapted for modernity. The endless ascent of mankind! The inevitability of technological salvation!

There is a meme trending on Facebook, I’ve seen it several times. It says:

“Pronoia: The opposite of paranoia; the belief that the universe is conspiring in your favour.”

So many people are posting this unironically, extolling its virtues – even though it is so clearly delusional (fitting, quite precisely, the diagnostic criteria for a grandiose delusion.)

But perhaps “pronoia” sums up our current predicament. A totally unfounded belief that that the universe is working for us, with us. It is as destructive, perhaps even moreso, than paranoia. I’m not denying that bourgeois modernity has improved some things. Certainly, things have gotten “better.” People are living longer, overall. Literacy rates are up. You can grow cannabis indoors. But this “progress” also includes the atomic bomb, the holocaust, ISIS and Donald Trump.

The reality is, in terms of the universe, indeed, in terms of the geological history of the Earth itself, we are utterly insignificant. There is no cosmic almighty that has our interests at heart. There is no historical mechanism that will automatically usher in an age of wealth and plenty. Neither is there any Gaia. The Earth cares nothing for balance, it cares nothing for us. We live in a state of chaos, on a habitable lump of rock orbiting a totally insignificant star among billions of others. In the here and now, there is only us. What we do know is that our actions in the here and now can have demonstrable impacts in the near future, say, whether the world burns completely or only partially. And so it is up to us to alter the course of history – aint no guardian angel gonna do it for us. I am reminded of that Australian presenter, and arch example of macho-hubris Steve Irwin. He was forever poking crocodiles and snakes and all kinds of dangerous beasts with sticks, then laughing maniacally into the camera. He got away with it for years. But eventually, in the ocean deep, he was poked back, by a stingray, hundreds of times, till he was dead. This is kind of how I feel about the Earth. If we keep poking it, it will annihilate us.

 

Positive Message at the End 🙂 🙂 Yay!

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There is often an editorial slant, even on the left, towards a “positive” conclusion to dire ecological forecasts. You should end your piece with, “But if we all come together and just do these things, we can really make a change.” It’s a sort of Trotskyist transcendentalism, a Messianic materialism, or a Marxist mindfulness. And it’s as useless as it is absurd. Why should a portrait of the situation as it stands – even if it is bleak – necessitate a cheery call to arms at the end? There is nothing cheery about the ecological catastrophe – as there isn’t much cheery about the Holocaust, or nuclear war.

So I don’t have a positive ending. You’re not getting one. My only message is this; if we ignore the unfolding ecological catastrophe, there won’t be an Ireland, or indeed a world to fight for. Happy Easter everyone.

 

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