IN PREPARATION for the global Extinction Rebellion actions that start today — as you read this I, with my fellow middle aged, non-violent librarians and teachers and nurses and worried parents, will be lying on the road outside Downing Street — I have been reading a post-capitalist survival guide.
And yes, it’s just as much fun as it sounds. Given how our handcart is already gathering speed en route to Hell, it seems sensible to mug up on what exactly Hell might look like, beyond a vast deserted shopping mall with trees growing through its forecourt, the creepy shadows and blinking strip lights dotted with former office workers gone feral, killing each other over the last chicken drumstick. The last can of Coke. Or maybe we are there already.
We don’t need to delve too far into dystopian sci-fi imagery when we have Donald Trump eating Big Macs and tweeting in bed in front of a giant TV screen, having appointed a former coal lobbyist as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bees fall from the sky and forests burn. We are there already. Or are we? The Worst Is Yet To Come, warns the title of Peter Fleming’s book. Fleming, an often comically exasperated business academic, specialises in how the cult of neo-liberal capitalism is just that — a cult. Irrational, addictive and hard to escape. How it is destroying us, and the world around us, yet no matter how much it fails, we keep it going, and we keep going back for more.
“Just look at the glaring evidence that ought to discredit this economic doctrine,” writes Fleming.
Not a society of prosperous entrepreneurs but a massive polarisation between the rich and the working poor. All this should prompt even the most ardent free market zealot to lose faith. But it doesn’t.”
Fleming urges “revolutionary pessimism” to forge a “radical hopelessness”. I think this means something between allowing despair to fatalistically overpower us, and remaining stubbornly upbeat — that is, in denial — in the face of looming catastrophe.
Fleming advocates being somewhere in the middle. We need to “anticipate the nastiest surprises that a derailed civilisation has to offer, yet refuses the cult of futility”.
All of which makes me want to lie on the sofa watching The Dirt on Netflix, while chewing on high doses of Prozac and contemplating a vodka relapse. Except this probably falls into the cult of futility, which is why I will be instead lying on the ground outside Downing Street with my fellow humans, in a symbolic attempt to sound the alarm that has been clanging insistently for some time now.
Although in the interests of sanity, I have bought with me not a guide to post apocalyptic politics, but a fat cheery novel. There’s only so much doom a girl can take.