“I am a sick man… I am a wicked man.” So opens Dostoyevsky’s small literary offering, Notes From Underground. It is, in significant respects, a profound critique of modern rationality, our perverse preoccupation with self-interest, and the crisis currently facing our global community.
In a world that is already bracing for cataclysmic failure, the political and military elites of the most advanced nations on earth are making a mad – that is to say, a sick and wicked – dash to the finish line. As world economies teeter on collapse, and more primitive polities fall prey to greedy and over-reaching imperial aggressors, the Western hegemony drives full speed ahead, hastening planetary failure through global looting and pillaging of any and all appropriately objectified ‘resources’– natural or human. It is a game of capture the flag like none the world has ever seen before.
In the face of stark climatic disruption, urban-industrial-induced global warming, and run away resource depletion, the captains of Western industry and political economy are competing for the final bits of increasingly rare, but once plentiful earthly treasures. The visceral reactions of mother earth, along with the cries of indigenous populations, be damned! And commercializing our circumstance only exacerbates the real problem when, for example, the climate news blog ThinkProgress awards cover of the year to Bloomberg Businessweek for its Monday morning quarterbacking diagnosis that “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” We all then dutifully salute, applaud, and go on our merry way living the high life. It is the same strategy exercised by all the new green companies now peopling our airwaves, including those clean-coal and other energy strategies touting safe ways of extending the parade.
Let super storms wash away the continental shorelines, let tidal waves engulf our cities as well as the placid island holdouts, let fault lines cringe and crack against our drilling and horizontal fracking, let the indigenous and the poor vanish into the black-hole of rapacious commerce; as long as we civilized ones get our stuff! Let the glaciers melt, the oceans rise, homes disappear, and fires rage – so long as we have our way! There seems to be nothing to deflect us from the current path of planetary annihilation. In a world now peopled with purely profane ‘objects’ for manipulation and control, nothing sacred remains to be cherished except acquisitiveness. All is expendable in the incessant drive for progress and prosperity in the refined atmosphere of the elite first world.
Yet, this project of constant advancement and the unrestrained expansion of our Western hegemony has become a farce – a fantastical caricature of itself. The clowns in business suits have taken control of the bus and are driving it straight into oblivion with all of us onboard. Why, even the latest “terrorist” plots are seeming rather farcical, like cartoon characters cobbled together by the hands of our own militaristic propaganda machine. Even an old and pathetic Osama, gunned down by a crew of professional military SEALS, was memorialized in a fantastic story told by one of the fools, and then sold as a book for self-enriching profit while the going was good. But what good does such a spectacle achieve? Of course we had to do it, because the only just alternative was unacceptable – get out of the Middle East. So, we kill, and we stay, and we kill some more so we can keep up our lifestyle with more oil, markets and commercial successes. A chicken in every pot has now become a McDonalds, a Subway, or a Cinnabon shop in every city and village across the globe, and armed drones to protect their profit margins and labor costs.
Meanwhile, the mass of the industrialized West stands idly by, even cheering the militarists on, as the aggressive and apparently psychotic Israeli’s decimate the more traditional populations of Palestine, unwittingly accepting as purely objectified ‘collateral damage’ the lives of innocents. Yet, we continue to justify our own acts of aggression and death-dealing among the innocents in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere, while severely chastising the similar fate of innocents in Syria. Will the hypocrisy of this empire never cease? Our policies would be comical if they were not so very tragic. Somebody should consider placing Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama together in a rubber-padded cell to contemplate the depth of their own depravity and inhumanity. Why not try members of the Israeli government for crimes against humanity… along with Obama, Clinton, Petraeus, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and the rest of the cadre? And we have not even touched on the crimes of the corporate elite, the 0.1%
The dissimulation, the sickness, indeed, the wickedness of this charade – this race to the bottom – is as frightening as it is demonic; destructive to the earth and its diverse inhabitants, including ourselves. OK! So, we are lost in this labyrinth, my friends. And what are we to do? As Derrick Jensen once pronounced: taking shorter showers is not the solution. Nor is implementation of new salvific technologies. This will only serve to extend the reign of terror loosed by our Western curriculum. As long as the politics of salvation, the myth of infinite progress, and a futuristic vision of global expansion continue to permeate our souls, the endgame is already lost amidst the propaganda and the promises.
The only “hope” is to hope-against-hope that the intellectual scaffolding and epistemological underpinning of the system will implode from greed-laden-overload and overly enlightened self-interest. I understand that my position may seem irrational, indeed inhuman from a certain majority perspective, but majority rule is not equivalent to egalitarian democracy. The irrationality and inhumanity of the system itself dictates that reason may only be the crutch enabling us to forge ahead blindly and happily into the future. On this view, un-reason may be a fundamental requirement to correcting our fatal and fateful course. But, of this, I am uncertain. Why? Because it is a fundamentally irrational position. And I, too, am Homo sapiens sapiens, a twice wise and hyper-rational animal.
I am a sick man… I am a wicked man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased. However, I don’t know beans about my disease, and I am not sure what is bothering me. I don’t treat it and never have, though I respect medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, let’s say sufficiently so to respect medicine. (I am educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am.) No, I refuse to treat it out of spite. You probably will not understand that. Well, but I understand it. Of course I can’t explain to you just whom I am annoying in this case by my spite. I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “get even” with the doctors by not consulting them. I know better than anyone that I thereby injure only myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t treat it, its is out of spite. My liver is bad, well then — let it get even worse! Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground