Here’s a compelling piece (sent to me by my partner) about being childless:
Here’s an article (“Has All the Important Stuff Been Invented?”) that my friend sent to me this week. It’s about economists dueling over the future: one a realist, described as “curmudgeonly,” of course, and one a technotopian, described as “cheerful.” You can see where this is going.
I think the future holds much more technological innovation as long as resources allow, but I agree with the curmudgeon that it will mostly be attempts at corrections of problems created by previous technological innovation, like trying to clean air and water, reduce carbon emissions, and pack more and more people into city centers. Further tinkering will create further problems, rinse and repeat (pun intended).
Other than that, technological innovation will be purely about distraction (will the iphone 12 and iphone 13 really be that different?) for the purposes of helping the corporate-military elite consolidate their control. Such innovations may increase life expectancy, but they won’t necessarily improve life quality. In the future, people not in the elite will be more depressed and alienated—if, that is, they believe in the redemptive power of new gadgets.
Notice how people already worship Apple, and their main innovation was modifying an existing invention. It’s not like their “genius” innovation cured a disease (in fact, their phones may cause some) or stopped the accelerating death of migratory birds (in fact, their towers kill birds—seven million birds a year by one estimate) or helped clean contaminated ground water (in fact, Americans use phones on average for about 18 months before junking them in landfill, where the old phones leach lead, cadmium, lithium, and other chemicals into watersheds).
And Apple is extolled as an exemplar of the new era of innovation. Sounds like the same old shit to me.
“We have to turn thinkers into fighters and fighters into thinkers.” – General Baker
Here’s a review of two books about Thomas Malthus, the man who might well be considered the first “doomer,” as the word is used presently. According to the review, there are three stages of Malthusianism, the last being the current strand of doomers: those who think our population is in overshoot and will exhaust the world’s resources before they’re able to be replenished. Another definition of doomer might be someone who doesn’t believe in infinite growth—or thinks it’s only an illusion anyway, considering that the elite is getting both richer and smaller while a growing majority of people have less stability, less stake in the affairs of their insulated governments, and less viable food and water sources.
The third phase began in the later twentieth century with a new Malthusianism aligned with ecology and the fear that Earth’s resources would soon be outstripped by excess population. A reputation for apocalyptic warnings was earned by Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968) – though two other biologists, Georg Borgstrom and Garrett Hardin, engaged more directly in the 1960s in support of Malthus’s arguments. Today, in the continuing debate between “cornucopians” and “doomsters”, some of the more pessimistic academics and commentators mention Malthus by name, but others prefer not to do so: partly because his original mathematical formula – asserting that populations expand geometrically while resources expand only arithmetically – has been shown to be applicable only to agrarian economies, but also, no doubt, because of his popular reputation (according to Mayhew, much exaggerated) for callousness or misanthropy.
I remember being introduced to new members of the editorial collective at Baltimore’s Indypendent Reader as a neo-Malthusian; I took the “popular reputation for callousness and misanthropy” as a compliment.
But is neo-Malthusianism a tool of the elite in the class war? This person seems to think so:
Abstractly considered, the relationship between scarce resources and a continuously increasing population turns the arguments in favor of population control into “self-evident truths” which can only be rejected by the unthinking and the dogmatic. From a Marxist viewpoint, such “self-evident truths” are but reifications of concrete historical, social, political, and economic relations which should be taken into account if the population issue is to be at all understood. Just as in the 18th century the English ruling classes fought the impact of the French Revolution with military and ideological weapons among which Malthus’ “Essay on Population” was perhaps the most important, today the ruling classes are bringing back the Malthusian argument in an effort to increase their control over the growing number of the dispossessed. Like Malthus, contemporary socio-economic theorists view excessive population rather than social institutions and social relations as the main source and barrier to the solution of social problems.
I take the point that solving our current problems, insomuch as they have solutions, isn’t just about population control. But surely unchecked population growth helps governments (which are really proxies for corporations) consolidate power—both by creating scarcity and by fostering unending competition between people with the same class interests. And this isn’t even mentioning the ecological impact of more and more people—and the space, resources, and energy they take up.
Any short-term benefit the corporate-military elite gains from purposeful population decline (i.e. contraception) would be outweighed by the prospect of a livable planet. Even if a leveling off of population somehow leads to more people being forced into wage slavery, it would be good for all other species.
A poem by Sandy Longhorn:
Let the thunder clamor above and continue
after lightning has licked the heavy air.
This is not a haunting. I mean to be awake
and wide-eyed—to be both owl and field mouse
caught in strobes of light.
The clock pushes past midnight, then one,
then two, and I am counting backwards
into what is left as the bruises fade.
One man told me love was a transitive verb,
worrying me like a rosary bead to prove it.
Another man stood me in the middle of Nebraska
to prove the Permian seas once stretched
from Pittsburgh to Denver, home to creatures
we read about with our stone-caressing fingers
but could never know. The last man was a thief,
his voice a prayer to a god so exotic I bloodied
my knees falling down before them both.
This is a recounting. I mean to be accurate
and true—to be both diary and document
held open and up to the light.
Let the storm pass, dawn taming the landscape
outside my room, leaves and branches loosening
back into the shapes of trees.
When I’m exhausted and mentally busy, like I am right now, I like to find and read a poem I’ve never read before. It not only calms me down but gives me a chance to think differently about things, and then go out into the world again, as if emerging from some imaginary den—ready to try all over again. I found this poem in my anthology after a particularly stressful day working with middle-schoolers (and adults) at summer camp. I think tomorrow I’ll read the poem again before I take my last sip of coffee and head out into the still dark morning; the last three lines might need to be repeated.