Doomerism Revisited

Back in March of 2013, I wrote this post outlining a working definition of “doomer”:

In reality, most of the people I’ve met who self-identify as doomers are, like me, simply not invested in the American imperial project, and want to extricate themselves, when (or if) possible, from its daily machinations. They also, like nihilists, think all human systems end in oligarchic cesspools. They may or may not see the destruction of the natural world as the most important problem, but the endgame is the similar for both the peak-oil and peak-soil factions.

Some doomers conjure horrific hypothetical scenarios of other kinds, such as nuclear winter, pandemic outbreaks, or the artificial intelligence singularity. All of these cataclysms may have credence, but for me the impending water shortage seems (literally) more grounded.

I’m glad—if “glad” is the right word—to report that almost three years later, I still stand by my original assessment. I still don’t see any redemption for any component or consequence of that foundational idealogical juggernaut we call the American Dream. The “cloud” still requires cables running along the bottom of the ocean. All economies still require water.

However, my thinking on some of the strategies that result from such cynicism has “evolved,” to borrow from the parlance of our times. Occupy was both a resounding success and a disappointing—if not annoying—failure. More people are hip to cooperatives and craft breweries and farm-to-table simplicity, but at the same time, less people own more of the wealth, more people are turning to religious cults for their meta-narratives, and, well, there’s even less potable water to go around. Hasn’t everything just continued to get worse since 2013? And if that’s the case, what’s wrong with our strategies?

I’ve been thinking more lately about Bob Jensen’s notion of leaving the planet gracefully. Is it the best we can do simply to tend to a patch of earth, to make and care for a few friends, to go searching for owls and stars and melodies?

I guess in the years since January 2014, when I posted this chart of notable doomers (based on prediction for success or collapse vs. the need for/likelihood of peaceful vs. violent transformation), I’ve moved away from McPherson and towards Paul Kingsnorth (who isn’t even on the chart). And if there were a chart with people from history, I would fall between Nietzsche and Marx.


2 thoughts on “Doomerism Revisited

  1. Good questions, entertaining – but how was the Occupado Movement a “Success”? There are absolutely no Occupado people in the US Congress or in governorships – as opposed to rafts full of Tea Party maniacs. There were no Occupado bills, ever, passed, as opposed to the Tea Party lunacy being embedded in the C-Spanitations of our little outpost of a country. Bernie is an Occupado, sure, and he is getting some crowds, but he has had zero (0) policy effect on his chosen body, and he’s a F-35 mad militarist at his core, anyway.
    Bob Jensen is no nihilist, homes.
    In my post today, I posit a cartoon of an old-fashioned cemetery, with all the headstones bearing the same epitaph, for every man and woman.
    Sorry, that’s just the way it will be for us humans.
    Have a nice day – thanks for writing.

  2. I’ll try to respond to the questions/comments in order:

    1. The Occupy movement was a success in that we’re still talking about it. But note that I wrote in the same sentence that it was also a failure — but not for the reasons you mention. It was a failure because one of its stated main goals was a return to the ’90s — a goal that in my mind isn’t even desirable, let alone achievable.
    2. Bernie does speak about income inequality, etc., but I don’t have any expectation that a politician in the system we have now can change anything even if they wanted to. And by change anything I mean stop the interwoven corporate machine (and I use the word “machine” deliberately) that is destroying the living planet.
    3. I don’t remember saying that Jensen is a nihilist. He thinks there are all kinds of worthwhile projects one could and should put their time to. But he also thinks that it’s impossible to vote our way out of the ongoing ecological collapse. Or at least, that’s what I’ve gathered from our conversations.
    4. “The system” is a problematic term that I myself have been guilty of using. What do you mean by “the system”?

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