Eschatology and Utopia (Dark Mountain)

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the Dark Mountain manifesto:

It’s easy to get caught up in the eschatological aspects, but I think the basis of the project is that it “sets out to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own – a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare – might recognise as something approaching a truth.”
This reminds me of something Zizek said about Derrida’s essay “the animal that therefore I am” – he brought up the example of a cat which for some scientific purpose had been placed in a centrifuge, and virtually all its bones broken – and yet somehow still alive, staring back at the worker after the experiment. And what can we see in the eyes of the cat? Our own monstrosity, something like that. I just actually found a transcription of the talk, some animal rights folks posted it.
I don’t generally like this move of jumping outside the human to achieve a “more objective” sense of who we are, it goes against my deeply held beliefs that problems can only be solved from the inside. But I think another way of looking at this kind of radical critique of civilization as ‘ecocide’ is to simply not reduce humanity to “civilization”, or what has often been called on the left “the logic of empire”. Certainly a danger exists here of fetishizing the past (although I’m not sure how practical this even is – what do we know of a time before empire? Very little, as it is through the very artifacts of empire that we generally are able to access the remote past). I’d prefer to look to the permanent margin, the sense in which at any time there are always people trying to live outside the logic of empire, outside “civilization” or “capitalism” or whatever language people use to refer to the dominant ethos, without living physically outside it. And the sense of “outside” here varies widely, and is contested – because I think this category stretches from the non-profit industrial complex, where people who believe in another world are literally funded by the largest polluters and profiteers, to community development initiatives, local, regional and national reformers, co-op projects, communes, “ethical” capitalists (i.e. climate change oriented venture capital of ‘beyond meat’). There is no purity here, as any “purity” would mean that the “outside” of civilization/the logic of empire was total – and then we’d be back to fetishizing the outside, the “un” civilized.

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