Hopelessness; Or, the world is a prison for the believer

You can feel the anger in the voice. But the voice gives shape to the anger and you can see that this is anger of hatred. Not the anger of hope, not the anger that leaders can tap into to turn revolts or riots into revolutions, but the anger of disdain, of contempt. And what is more worthy of contempt than this world.

I often think in terms of biography. Biography can easily turn into sentimentality and avoiding that is certainly difficult. But I think in terms of biography because one cannot understand the world without that understanding being lived. Understanding may be lived in various ways and the point of Laruelle’s account of the lived-without-life is to undercut the cloying sentimentality that is often carried in the notion that life can be lived rightly. It must also mean that the narrative of a wrong life must be destroyed precisely as a narrative. A grim narrative is still a narrative and it may still be theodical in form. I take much of the theoretical obsession with inventing the future to fall into this trap. A world of Soylent, peans to Cthulu, and problematic obsessions with cargo cults or appropriations of Afrofuturist literature is a hellish world, but it is not very different from our own. Such grimness is the obverse of sentimentality.

But biography deracinated from narratives of affect that overdetermine a lived (life) are important because it is in the signs of life that one finds their understanding. The turn away from philosophies of productivity and positivity was forced like the growth of a plant in a greenhouse. It was forced by the pressure of a number of structures, but perhaps the one that broke me the most was the forced return to the US after five years living in the UK. A simple letter comes in the mail informing you that you must leave within 14 days. The small print informs you that you may appeal. Those without any resources, with darker skin, and/or with countries where there is a threat to their life may find this letter delivered through other means just as they may also find other options that my own postionality foreclosed. There is a magnitude of difference between their experience and my own, but what is common is the structure we are subject to.

I can’t sleep well anymore. I wake up around 5 or 6 most mornings after going to bed sometimes between 11:30 and 1 in the morning. I wake up before I want to and so I lie in bed. Surrounded by various bodies that have a certain level of dependency upon me for their means of existence. And I let the anxiety build on my chest as I scroll through news sites to check out the latest terror attack or the latest stock market dip. I used to have the experience, thankfully no longer common, of waking up in the midst of muttering “fuck”.

The stupidity of structures is perhaps what causes the anger. How much of your life, and the lives of those you love, some who lie in bed with you and others who do not, how much of that is dependent upon the particular whims of a small class of nihilists concerned more with their fiduciary duties than anything to do with what you value in your life? My continued employment at a small university is not likely to survive another 2008, let alone something worse. Such massive structures proliferate throughout the world. We’ve all resigned ourselves to the fact that intelligence services probably check in on our texts and emails full of whatever it is we do to pass the time. And many of us are currently preparing ourselves for the reality of a new level of resignation in mainstream politics with either the election of Trump or Clinton. To say nothing of the coupled natural systems of human civilization and the biosphere that exist outside of the control of any single group, multinational, or alliance of nations.

It is anecdotal, of course, but I don’t see much hope amongst the younger generation today. Despite the lectures of middle-aged and older left-wing activists, academics, and others, I don’t see many of the mature demands coming out of leftwing groups. What we do often see is the attempt by some to position themselves for certain positions of power within the world as it is. I can’t blame them, but I also won’t pretend that this is radical. It may be survival for some and complicity for others. But the demand that the youth be hopeful is a kind of demand to stop treating the world with disdain. Choose a structure you will be subject to. Choose this day who you will serve. Gun to your head, can you admit that the European and American regimes of violence keep you safe? Would you rather live in the Islamic world? Would you build a new route to China? Just shoot me, you can hear them mutter while they roll their eyes.

I can’t help but find certain values of my allies annoying with regard to politics and hope. There are certain tendencies, sometimes called adventurist, sometimes insurrectionist, sometimes masculinist, and so on, that seem to think they will survive such violence. I do not quite understand how dialectics somehow solves the problem of scale in terms of armed struggle. Perhaps that is somewhere in the Logic I haven’t read before. But all of the violent men that have alternative structures, as in the drug trade or even some revolutionary groups, they too subject ordinary people to great violence, to the shaping of a future either for their children or for the idea. But the struggle against the structures of states and the global economy they serve pale in comparison to the struggle we face with regard to the earth. If they think their children will survive armed revolt, will survive the camps, forced migrations, and death squads, do they really think their children will survive hunger and thirst? If they are willing to make the sacrifice of their children, then let them declare so. Or do they all think of themselves like Abraham, telling their Issac that God, the revolution, the people, the commune, or divine violence will provide the sacrifice?