“Imaginary pains are by far the most real we suffer, since we feel a constant need for them and invent them because there is no way of doing without them.” – E. M. Cioran
It happens in very similar ways every time I step outside the front door and the result is as-bad-as identical each time too. I leave the block in the morning, cool air plus town noises, and almost immediately, seeing the dolorous miens of the early morning commuters, I start contemplating what a miserable planet we live on, or better, what irredeemable mistake humanity is. I see the faces and I think: this is what it means to have to absolutely do something one does not at all enjoy, at an hour which is pointlessly early and unhealthy into the bargain; these are the flesh&phlegm faces of the too-abstract term “alienation”, this is the malignant matrix most people sooner or later give up resisting against. This is the horror otherwise known as every day life.
This can be considered chronic misanthropism peculiar to my half-assed personality. Yet, even when trying to dispel it by subauditing optimistic chantras about this being “the best of all possible worlds” etc., the impression is immediate and vivid and hard to dispel: we are a miserable, stupid, ego-centric species and we will cheat, steal and kill each other out of existence. The optimal population of the planet must be zero. In the early hours these thoughts are admixed with unjustified anger and occasionally even resentment but then after a few mental adjustments they fade into a logical, cool consideration of the human predicament –
We are seven billion organisms, 50 years ago we were not even half that, we have experienced the hottest temperatures of the last 800’000 years on record yet our only, nearly universally accepted dogma is unlimited “growth”. We are truly and utterly fucked and according to the scientists who are experts on climate it should not be much more than another fifty years to a century to get the apocalyptic job done. But for me this consideration of a planet without any homo sapiens sapiens [what an epic misnomer, try homo ignoramus] quickly becomes a soothing prospect: only futureless animals, air, water, minerals roaming the earth.
The next logical step of this type of pontification [which always is overwhelmingly subjectively convincing] is that I myself too am a member of this supposedly hopeless humanity and that consequently I too must be some total human shit-piece-of-turd, which is not a welcome thought at all. So instead the thing to do is to account for my acts of participation in the grand civilizational swineries: a large-screen TV, occasional petrol-powered holiday jaunts [though I’m happy to report that there have only been two in the last three years], cheap Asian clothing [though I’ve been making an effort to cut down on those], a laptop computer [I use it a lot for writing and publishing my written material] and cellphones [but NO smartphones]. The sin must always be paired with its excuse. But so yes, undeniably I too aid the advance towards the climatic & possibly war-related downfall of the planet but I pride myself on hardly flying and watching perhaps as little as half-an-hour of TV a week, anything that will let me look in the mirror in the mo[u]rning and get me through the day without my head exploding from cognitive dissonance.
The other thing is that by internally acknowledging what a breath-takingly backwards bunch we human beings are, I somehow hope to be a tiny bit exculpated: I acknowledge our short-comings even if I feel [or deftly pretend] to be helpless about them. “Most other people go blindly about their swinery” is the janus-faced mantra of self-acceptance in this case.
Any other gripe? Cars, petro-chemically powered private transport. This I hate with a passion, with great self-righteous zest and abandon. Especially here in Switzerland where public transport is so luxurious and abundantly available that getting inside a car to travel from A to B is the transportational equivalent of literally kicking yourself in the head [as well as everybody else]. You go somewhere and you decide to lug along an ugly box of scrap metal while you’re at it. It is the civilizational suicide of a thousand cuts, except that everybody sits inside their 1.5 ton blade all alone, happy, smiling, listening to goddamn radio music in rush-hour gridlock while apoplectically honking. How can one possibly not despise cars? They are, I think, by far the most evident manifestation of human stupidity and profligacy and the eternal craving for convenience over….I don’t even know what because the real deal is that cars are not really convenient at all: they get stuck in traffic jams, they don’t allow you to do spend your time reading or napping, they’re stupendously dangerous compared to public transport, they guzzle petrol, you blow massive amounts of time searching for parking space and they need to be repaired often. Not to mention the initial cost and insurance. On the other hand, ugh, you don’t have to wait three minutes for the bus. Cars are unforgivably idiotic. By this conviction also I am somewhat redeemed from my clan of drooling, biped, in-theory-ethical metazoans.
In the evenings during the home commute, the babble, which has no regard for other people’s desire for down-time or reading or simply a few quiet minutes going on about TV shows and the daily drivel in the free paperlets confirms all my dire, dystopian imaginaries. Whatever positive thoughts about humanity I have been able to accumulate in the course of the day, being engaged in individual/dyadic encounters, meeting family&friends, thinking through certain complex ethico-social arguments and reading incorrigible optimists like Badiou and Latour, yes, whatever internal human positivity or anthropo-centric optimism I have accumulated in the course of approx. 10 hours or so gets totally blown out of the window by the babble of 50mins worth of commute on a public train. This surely also must mean something.
My blighted view of human civilization does not mostly infuriate or depress me, it is more a matter-of-interestly consideration of the current state of affairs. Nor does it mean that I am against or wish to belittle fighting the good fight; indeed I have about two-hundred NGO-job applications to the opposite effect saved on my HD. Even so I remain around 99.99% convinced that this thing of ours, as it does with each of our lives individually [old age, disease, death], will end badly. Yet…