Escaping from Escapism


I have finally figured out why people actually want climate calescence (the great warming) to happen. There is an urge within many of us to want a form of Armageddon to purge all our failings and for everything to start all over again. Our lives have become so full of difficulty that incremental change for the good seems impossibly hard to achieve. To understand our predicament, we need to dig deep into our psyches and past ways of dealing with trauma. We also need to understand what is happening in our lives … right now.

In the past, periods of social upheaval and unrest lead people to yearn for relief and release from that which oppressed them. For example, various religious movements craved for an end of time where all evil and oppression would perish in a glorious moment of change. Even a President of the USA once proclaimed that the end of times would deliver us from evils such as nuclear war. The ‘rapture’ at the end of human time would take us into the promised land. Ronald Reagan, famously declared in 1983:

”I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about, I don’t know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.” ( )

We are going through similar times right now. Not only has the threat of nuclear annihilation returned with the taunts from North Korea, but environmental and social collapse seems imminent and pervasive.

With respect to the environment, a dark global dread hangs over the future and the present is full of tierratrauma and ecoanxiety. The great warming, plastic in the guts of fish and smothering once pristine islands in paradise, sea level rise relentlessly pushing people and land away, violent storms smashing records and houses … we are now living in an age of solastalgia.

The societal aspects of this build up to Armageddon are not even subtle anymore. Millions worldwide suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness, new generations being born with life chances such as good health, jobs and home ownership significantly below those of their parents. Material inequality exists now that has never before seen on Earth with the top eight wealthiest people (men) having more wealth than 50% of the population of the whole world ( ).

Social dysfunction arising from drug addiction is now rampant all over the world where the forces of loneliness, unemployment, homelessness, and powerlessness all combine to create an oppressive social climate that can only be countered by the taking of ‘opium’ by the masses. Included in the quest for ‘opium’ is a self-destructive consumerism that the addicts always know is at the rotten core of the problem.

Many more not so subtle signs and signals of mass social dysfunction are now manifesting themselves. Schools and schooling have become places of intense oppression due to the pressures to conform to a competitive model of academic success. Kids are crumbling under the weight of conformity to an impossibly standardised ‘excellence’. Universities pump out pre-stressed corporate replicants for a world that no longer exists for their ‘skill set’.

Corporate models of ‘success’ are also crippling workers within bureaucracies that have perfected control and surveillance to such a degree that creativity and work satisfaction are snuffed out. Bullying and oppression rule the competitive models of corporate ‘success’. Corrumpalism corrupts. Binge drinking seems like a quick way out of the iron cage only to have the worker put back behind bars every Monday with a cumulative hangover that never ends. Workers in the industrialising world just hope to endure intolerable working conditions and hours at the bench. Many don’t survive the fires and toxic pollution of maximum productivity.

There is much more, but you get my drift, we have created a world that is destroying us as we are destroying it. What a surprise! Many want out and are grasping at anything that makes the journey either smoother or faster. Such escapist thoughts combine to make climate change denial, avoidance and anti-environmentalism integral parts of a neo-millenarian movement that wants the current state of the world to end.

We secretly celebrate record temperatures and climate-related disasters. We actually want the world to fundamentally change. It is no wonder that Christian fundamentalists are so prominent in denial circles. They have read and understood the blueprint for such an apocalypse. It may not, any longer, be a thousand years, but the thinking is the same. When life becomes intolerable and there seems no way out, prayer, salve-ation and desperate hope for a final end so that we might start all over become the easy way out.

The response to oppression just might be a desire to see the oppression come to a grinding or blinding halt. Being involuntarily locked into a complex system they cannot change forces people into escapism. They will want climate calescence because they want a change that fundamentally alters a state of affairs they crave to be out of. Despite the risks of future disaster with the great warming, any big change will be a good one. This changes everything!

Some of the ‘lucky’ people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson might think that have their extra-terrestrial escape plans already in place, yet if they enact them, they will never be able to come home. Their escape will be permanent. As for the rest of us, our Earth is still a place where it is possible for us to create a home worth living in. We need to create and enter the Symbiocene, not desire escape from a suffocating Anthropocene by hoping for the coming disaster.









One thought on “Escaping from Escapism

  1. This essay reminds me of one I read by Vonnegut in the Nation magazine. I’ll try to find which essay; I have a collection on my Kindle. Anyhow, in the essay, Vonnegut concludes that humans have a death wish. There is no other explanation for our behavior.

    I love reading your work. Thank you!

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