Everything that has a beginning has an end

social criticism

The Layers of Dead

(Anselm Kiefer)

Charlotte Du Cann, writing for The Dark Mountain blog, attempts to put the recent events of 2016 into a wider and deeper perspective. Here is a short excerpt. The entire post can be found here.

 

“In 2016 a lot of those ’90s words like transformation and chaos became a way to look at the string of political events that had crashed the world views of the privileged. The shadow had reeled into the open. Nigredo is the first stage of alchemy, bringing to light the dark materia that needs to be transformed. The nigredo is a scary moment. You have to know how to negotiate it. When the hidden rage of millions is unleashed – generations of people humiliated, derided, told they are worthless and have no future – you have to hold fast to your humanity. Here be dragons. You can’t be righteous and float above this scary territory, because that fury is in you and me. No-one in the system escapes its hostility. You can refuse to carry the shadow of your culture, only if you have dealt with it yourself, only if you are not still blaming mummy and daddy and your first boyfriend and that prick in HR who doesn’t recognise your true value. Only the system wins in the system.

Nigredo is all about the reveal. When the US election result is announced it feels less scary than 2008 when everyone was whooping with joy and hope about the future. Trump entered stage right, the pantomime villain, the bad cop, to loud hisses from the gallery, but the exiting good cop with his suave saviour style had been less easy to discern. However, as the Glasshouse reminds us, all cops are cops when it comes to ‘full spectrum dominance’. The Empire is the Empire whatever country you now live in. We are all Romans and all slaves.

This alchemical moment has nothing to do with social justice, or environmentalism or any of the grassrootsy stuff I have found myself advocating during last decade. There are initiatives and networks around the world focusing on these worthy things, but none of this transforms anything if we are the same people inside, if we haven’t dealt with our stuff – as we used to say in the ’90s –  if we haven’t uncivilised ourselves, made contact with the layers of dead under our feet, in the sky, in the rivers. If we haven’t stood with the Lakota, or with the yew trees, with the rainbow serpent, with the glacier, with the tawny owl. If we haven’t found a way to dismantle the belief systems that keep us trapped in the cycles of history, if we haven’t dealt with our insatiable desire for power and attention and found ways to live more lightly on the planet, we are not going to make it through this stage.”


The Powerlessness of Self Expression – One aspect of Hypernormalization

 

WE LIVE IN A STRANGE WORLD

OF DREAMS WIRES AND LIES

IT WAS BUILT TO PROTECT US

AND KEEP EVERYTHING STABLE

BUT NOW WE DO NOT KNOW

WHAT IS TRUE OR WHAT IS FALSE

WE HAVE BECOME LOST IN A FAKE WORLD

AND CANNOT SEE THE REALITY OUTSIDE

(HyperNormalisation)

 

Adam Curtis has released a new documentary, HyperNormalisation. This is how he describes its basic premise –

We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.

This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.

 

In an interview promoting the release of his new film, he discusses how the idea of ‘self expression’ especially radical self expression feeds into the illusion of bringing about change while in fact it only perpetuates the status quo as it becomes an empty symbolic perhaps beautiful yet powerless gesture to bring about change.

 

“I think one of the most fascinating giant shifts that’s happened in recent history started in the late 1960’s and really took off in the 70’s which was the rise of a sort of powerful individualism, a feeling throughout western society… that I as an individual [am] the most important thing and what I feel, what I want is the most truthful authentic and right thing. And the idea that you should be told what to do by politicians, by those in power over you is wrong. Its inauthentic … [and] that you should be true to yourself.

That became a very powerful thing … It was good in many ways. It liberated people and stopped us from being told what to do by corrupt elites … But it had a very strange effect on politics … If you’ve got a society of millions of individuals who all have their own desires, their own truth, their own idea of what is true then it is very difficult to craft a collective movement together … If you then get individualism rising up what you don’t want to do is give yourself up to [a commitment of] years, to a movement that you subsume yourself into. You want to express yourself. And why I think Patti Smith is interesting is that she is one of the first people you see making a shift from the idea that radicalism is giving yourself up to a group and becoming a part of something bigger to an idea that no, to be radical is to be a self expressive individual and the way to do it is through art. And what you can use art for is as an imaginative expression of your radicalism …

[The question is] How much power [do] you have as a radical expressive artist?

What was happening was that modern consumer capitalism was looking at this ‘me’ generation and these individuals and going, ‘We can help you express yourself’ and suddenly instead of giving you the same car, the same coat, the same clothes, you can have a whole range of different ones so that you can all be self expressive in your different ways. And there is an argument that … modern consumerism was rescued by the ‘me’ generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of different people who wanted to express themselves in different ways. Which means that the idea of self expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism … So then if you have a radical art which is based on the idea of self expression … then however radical your message is and however powerful what you are saying is, the fact that you are doing it through self expression means that actually what you are doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism because it depends on the whole idea of you as a self expressive individual.”

According to Curtis, radical gestures are just that – gestures, and are absorbed into the dominant culture and are even, along with some movements, manipulated and in some cases created by powerful behind the scene forces so that the question of what is true or false has no clear answer. This is one of the dilemmas of living in a Hypernormal world. That we are being manipulated and are buying into the manipulation ourselves is just one aspect of the challenges we face at the end of an era. It remains to be seen how to break out of this illusion and see the world for what it really is. Perhaps as the film suggests it is not how we break out of the illusion but that reality will literally come smashing in. It already has begun to do so.

Please see his new film embedded below.