Anarchism in Interesting Times
“The motorways will all merge soon, Lottery winner buys the moon,”
He thought of cars, Blur, 1995
You’ve come to a full stop but you can’t get out of the car. You can’t turn around and go back the way you came either. You’re stuck. Over the course of the last decade you moved further and further away from where you work and where your social life happened. Now you’re at rest in a sea of motionless cars with a tarmacadam bed surrounded by green fields and trees that are visible but permanently out of reach. They aren’t even fields anymore; They’re drab reminders that you are stranded in the countryside. You can’t see the life in the trees, you just see your life setting like tarmac.
Behind you, in the distance are the things you love. Your home/kids/pets/passions/whatever are waiting for your return, which as it’s winter, will be in the darkness of night, an unimaginably long time from now, because in front of you lies your job and there’ll be eight hours of that before you have to make this journey back. Eight hours eh? Eight hours work, eight hours leisure, eight hours sleep; That was the slogan of the organised workers who won the eight hour work day a century ago. You wonder why they stopped there. They weren’t supposed to. It was supposed to be six, then four, then none. Now it’s eleven, twelve maybe, if you factor in your journey to and from. You’re going backwards while standing still. Where do you see yourself in five years time? Here probably.
The worst thing about all this is that you think it is normal. Where did all your dreams go? What even were your dreams? You can’t recall. All of your thoughts are cars standing motionless with the engine running in a thirty kilometer long tailback. The red Micra is your anxiety about the possibility of being late for work again; The blue Citroen Picasso is you wondering if you’ll be on time to pick up the kids later; The grey Toyota Corolla is the laundry you have to wash and dry if you’re going to have clean clothes for tomorrow; The aquamarine 99 Golf is your relationship with your significant other, it’s stood you in good stead all these years but you worry about the next NCT because of the mileage you’re racking up; The black BMW is your dream of winning the lotto and never having to make this journey again; The silver Audi is your desire to drop a nuke on this portion of motorway. Your dreams? We’re way past dreams here. This is official reality. This is your brain on capitalism.
Your dreams now amount to wishing you had an equally crappy job to the one you have now, but closer to home, or winning the lotto and buying the moon. You’d still work a bit though because you can’t imagine what you’d do if you didn’t spend some of your time stuck in traffic. What do you do with an empty stretch of road? You glance over at the lane for travelling in the opposite direction. The occasional car buzzes past. What a waste of space. This evening it will have a purpose. This evening it will be full of your anxieties. What if it wasn’t though?
What if this road had no cars on it? In official reality’s logic the problem here is the lack of cars on the road. The solution would revolve around finding a way to fill the road with cars. More jobs. More people commuting. More pointless hours of boredom racked up as you spew carbon into the atmosphere.
As I was writing this, someone I follow on twitter posted an excerpt from the Principia Discordia, from which I have taken the following paragraph:
With our concept-making apparatus called “the brain” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently.
In our reality, we look at the problem of increasing numbers of people commuting and pose the motorway as solution. The motorway fills up, we add more lanes. The motorway empties, we see it as a sign that things have taken a turn for the worst. An old lecturer of mine once posited that the health of an economy could be judged by the number of big cranes littered across the horizon. There was no further commentary on whether having a ‘healthy’ economy is healthy or not. It’s just assumed. The method of assumption is the same as the one that tells us that motorways are the answer to growing numbers of commuters rather than reducing the number of necessary hours in the workday progressively to zero, decentralising production, ending planned obsolescence and ceasing to produce for profit.
Instead of seeing the motorway filling with cars and thinking that we’re going to need a bigger motorway, if we by pass the “ideas about reality” that our cultures hand us down masked as apriori truth, we start to see the ground that our four wheels rest on as a multitude of possibilities; We realise that it probably won’t be a lottery winner that buys the moon, but Elon Musk, and it is our belief in an official reality that says spending hours travelling to and from work is normal that will allow him to do it. While we choke on the fumes of each other’s exhausts as the polar icecaps continue to melt and flood coastal areas and extreme weather conditions destroy towns and infrastructure, will we smile and nod in the knowledge that the economy is showing green shoots of recovery as we see the cranes going up on the horizon to rebuild? Or will we get out of our cars and off our busses and trains and look at the roads as an unnecessary source of pain? Everybody hurts, sometimes. But every day, twice a day? That sounds excessive.
Seeing official reality for what it is, a demiurgic illusion created by men of a certain class, first as utopian tragedy, then as dystopian farce, allows us to conceptualise other realities of our own making based on our own needs and desires. When the motorways empty and crack over time, when grass grows between the cracks and the only occupants of that space become wild animals and people engaged in leisurely pursuits, then the traffic lanes of our mind can too be freed up for rewilding. The wilderness is not an alien place, it is where we are from and where real green shoots burst forth from. Our hopes and dreams can flourish without the endless vista of tarmac and cars. The realities we conceptualise will be born out of seeing ourselves once again as part of nature, and acting as such, rather than as automatons programmed to maintain a star ship whose purpose and destination is unknown to us.
Speaking of other realities, here I am on twitter