The Anthropocene Epoch – dating from when human activity began to have a significant impact on the global ecosystem – is crashing toward a disastrous end amid melting icecaps, rising sea levels and dying species, but the human race can’t stop its rush to ecocide, as poet Phil Rockstroh observes.
By Phil Rockstroh
According to a recent, exhaustive study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy and headed by a scientific team from the U.S. Navy, by the summer of 2015, the Arctic Ocean could be bereft of ice, a phenomenon that will engender devastating consequences for the earth’s environment and every living creature on the planet.
Yet, recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said (in defiance of common sense and even a modicum of sanity) that the U.S. military will escalate its presence in the Arctic, due to the fact that “[the] potential for tapping what may be as much as a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas.”
Secretary of Defense? More like Commissar of Mass Suicide. This situation is like a family of self-destructive drunks inheriting a brewery. Sans hyperbole, it is exactly like making the choice to exist as fatally self-involved consumers as opposed to multidimensional human beings possessed of heart, mind and soul.
I mean, just what kind of suicidal clowns flounce through life gibbering on about bacon straws, cupcakes, online images of kitty cats, and the latest Playstation model when the specter of extinction looms and their psychotic leaders are doubling down on the criteria of doom? This is like giving Charles Manson the codes to nuclear missile silos.
In the Anthropocene Epoch, in our manic flight from consequence and accountability and our attendant estrangement from empathic imagination, we have come to regard all the things of the world as fodder for our empty appetites, as commodified, meretricious objects that exist to distract us and then be discarded.
By our actions, we are destroying the living things of the world by caprice. The fetishization of mechanization and its concomitant soulless and habitual reductionism has mortified our psyches inflicting alienation that we attempt to remedy with the palliative of perpetual media distraction.
Devoid of the musk and fury of true communal engagement, this communion with electronic phantoms only exacerbates our alienation and decimates one’s ability to evince empathy, when, conversely, empathy is the quality required to feel the suffering that hyper-capitalist industrialization has wrought. If we are to pull back from the brink of extinction, we must lament what has been lost to cupidity.
Yet, one must resist the temptation to become intoxicated by grim prophesy. It is possession of the qualities of sadness and gravitas that separates an individual bearing accurate augury from false prophets. The tears of the world will saturate the soul of an individual who lives in the truth of our era of Climate Chaos and global-wide ecocide.
“And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinking, But I’ll know my song well before I start singing…” — Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain Gonna Fall”
Allow the images of thinning polar icecaps, of oceanic acidification and depletion, and of the 150 to 200 species of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals that become extinct on a daily basis to permeate your heart and mind. Thus, you will know the tears at the heart of things.
Then decide what your song will be, arrange it according to your individual talents, and start to sing. Because we must end this paradigm or it will end us.
The changes we yearn for must be first glimpsed and nurtured in the heart. Creative expression (e.g., art, poetry, fiction, inspired prose) serves as the quickening agent of dreams. Language constellates from the quanta of possibility, where it gains scope and shape, so that ideas can become manifested by means of action and form.
The heart must be allowed to dream, grief, and yearn before the world itself even becomes possible.
When thwarted, life becomes seized with the quality of a reoccurring nightmare. Due to the ongoing, relentless destruction of the earth’s biosphere, the next episode of the planet’s periodic, epoch-ending Great Die Offs will not be caused by an earth-decimating comet but an earthbound (and apparently equally mindless) source i.e., us. Although we have been graced with life with all its possibilities and abundance, it has become apparent, we have fallen in love with Extinction.
Self-absorption, hubris and ignorance are traits that Unnecessary Death finds irresistible thus moves in for the seduction. The air is redolent with the intoxicating perfume of self-deception. When possessed by feelings of indestructibility, one feels immortal while dancing on the precipice overlooking a yawning abyss. Intoxicated: The rules of gravity don’t seem applicable.
Yet the delusion of being imbued by the immortal makes consummation with Death inevitable. This is the manner that an addict is dispatched from the world. A compulsion to remain high provokes a jealous fury from the spurned ground and she smothers the errand consort in an endless embrace.
To avoid this lamentable fate, we, as a species, must listen to the Earth’s entreaties. To demur, we invite our undoing. Ecocide should be regarded with the same sense of abhorrence as genocide, for the two abominations align to the same destination: The world shattered beyond recognition; mountains of corpses looming over a hideous and forsaken valley of denial.
Late capitalism’s putrefying paradigm has but one remedy for the devastation reaped by the system … insanely, more production and more consumerism. Bafflingly, despite the vast carnage inflicted and multiple promises betrayed, why does the storyline of the capitalist/consumer state still resonant with so many?
Consumerism, in the U.S. and elsewhere, is one of the few activities in the capitalist paradigm whereby fantasy and human libido merge (albeit a facsimile thereof). The mall, the big box store, even upscale stores and department stores are phantasmagoric agoras, much like the fairways of old style roving carnivals wherein the modus operandi of carnies was to bamboozle gullible, repressed rubes by bait-and-switch scams involving the commodification of curiosity and desire.
The social repression, attendant atomization and ennui inherent to existence in the corporate/consumer age give rise to a form of a pent-up longing for release. And that is where the bait-and-switch comes in, vis-à-vis Edward Bernay’s and his mercenary misappropriation of his uncle, Sigmund Freud’s theories regarding the dreamscape of desire (i.e., Eros).
When we approach the dominion of Eros, we enter the realm of both beauty (Eros’ mother Aphrodite) and soul, Psyche (Eros’ eternal mate). Although the union of Eros and Psyche is fraught with mistrust, betrayal, outside interference (both human and divine), estrangement, struggle, the lover’s shattered bond wends, ultimately, toward rapprochement. (Familiar tumult to anyone who has pursued art and surrendered to love.)
In short, to survive the exploitation of the consumer paradigm, it becomes imperative to regain one’s soul. First step: the reclamation of beauty. Hint: The quality cannot be found in a retail outlet.
Beauty reveals herself in the longings of the heart. Tell me what you long for and I will tell you who you are. Hint: You are not the sum total of your consumer preferences.
Living things are closer to works of art: never finished, yet ever alluding to something hidden, subtle, and sublime — an immense and deathless quality within that we long to quantify, but remains elusive. This is what we concretize — despoil — when we seek consumer gratification.
Eric Hoffer summarized the hapless state of being thus: “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.” That is why the following incantation cast by the dark magicians of the consumer paradigm seizes the psyche, literally steals one’s soul: “No one can eat just one.”
Attention: Consumer State shoppers: The world was never your oyster — nor your salt-spiked snack food. Beware, although you believe you possess the consumer item, in reality, the consumer item possesses you.
The heart is untamable. It is not a poor creature in a circus that can be goaded and bribed into performing demeaning tricks. When we attempt to dominate and coerce it into accepting the dishonest, the artificial, and the demeaning, the heart will lash out, sink into sorrow, or even damage its host.
My heart grieves yet will not cease to yearn that we, as a species, will begin to resist, heart, mind and spirit, the reckless course that the economic elite have set us upon. We do not have the luxury of acting as though the carnage wrought by the Anthropocene Epoch is not upon us. We cannot deceive ourselves that the crisis can be ignored.
By choosing to retreat from the challenge, one exiles oneself from the heart’s landscape — a state of being comprised of angst and ashes. In this limbo of destiny deferred, the heart turns away from you. Your face will have become unrecognizable to it. Yet the moment one calls it by its name a rapprochement can begin.
How not to be a bystander in your own life:
Be attentive to the things of the world that evoke within you quicksilver enthusiasm or roil you with apprehension.
Remain open … allow yourself to be remade by the interplay of innocence and experience … by transitory wonders and eternal forms.
Tell the story of it all, in your own time and in your own way, and whenever and wherever you can.
Never bore your audience.
The above can be achieved by telling an honest tale. In short, like an inspired storyteller who appropriates artifice to limn reality, you will be able to lie the truth. If you do so, people will be moved or angered — but they will not be bored.
Before us, the denizens, operatives, propagandists and enforcers of the old order grow more certain of their convictions in direct proportion to its accelerating rate of decay. Stoned-faced phalanxes of soldiers and bristling clutches of militarized cops stand guard before the entrances of shoddy, swaying towers.
But lies cannot be built to last. The lipless grins of a billion skulls mock the illusory staying power of deceit, while the perennial yearnings of the heart and its perpetual coupling with the eternal present endure. Love songs ring out among the rot of empires.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh