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YOUR LIFE IS FAKE
By Mike Hembury
Your life is fake.
Don’t take it personally.
My life is just as fake as yours, probably more so.
I get up every weekday morning and go to work.
As if nothing were wrong.
As if the world weren’t already halfway to hell in a handcart.
There’s a permanent discussion group going on in my head.
One side knows that record forest fires, catastrophic floods, ongoing extinctions, melting icecaps, record droughts, and hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and the rest of them are just a warm-up for the civilisation-crushing effects of climate collapse as global warming moves into the uncharted territories of 2, 3, 4 degrees of warming.
Where we can all kiss our collective asses goodbye.
The other side just says “Get up Mike, you’ll be late for work”.
The other side always wins.
This is seriously fucking with my head.
At the beginning of World War II there was a period commonly referred to as “the Phoney War”. The Allies had declared war against Nazi Germany, but nothing happened. There were no major military land operations on the Western Front for the first eight months of the war.
Then of course, the shit really hit the fan.
I get the feeling we’re experiencing “the Phoney Anthropocene”. The Anthropocene is the geological period when humanity’s impact on Planet Earth becomes so overpowering that it has the potential to render it uninhabitable.
Except that we should probably call it “the Capitalocene”. The age in which obscene capitalism terminates with extreme violence the planet that spawned it.
Listen to any scientist who has anything to do with climate science or earth systems science—and who is not in the pocket of the criminal fossil fuel lobby—and they will tell you that now is the time to get our shit into gear.
We have a window of opportunity to avert the worst, but we have to act now.
Because after a while, when the worst gets even worse, we’ll just be measuring different degrees of hell.
Having said that, what did I do this morning?
Got up, had breakfast, went to work.
Waited for the call from the global climate insurgency leadership for an indefinite general strike.
Shoot, that didn’t come.
Carried on working, had lunch. Carried on working. As if nothing were wrong.
I know I’m a cog, pixel, subatomic particle, whatever, in the great capitalist chain of surplus value production. I know Granddaddy Marx explained that capitalism is evil. I know all that shit.
But where does evil start?
If I punch my boss in the face, will that help the climate?
Hell, I work in a small company making machine tools. My boss is a nice guy. I wouldn’t dream of punching him.
So, just carry on working.
Evil, evil, evil.
Get in the car.
Evil, evil, evil.
Take my groceries home in a plastic bag.
Evil, evil, evil.
My life is fake.
I’m stuck in the Phoney Capitalocene.
Of course, not everyone can say that.
For a lot of people, in a lot of places, climate collapse is kicking in with a vengeance. At the time of writing, over a thousand people have died from, and 40 million are affected by, flooding in Asia. Texas, Florida and the Caribbean are reeling from damage from monster hurricanes, satellite imagery for the northern United States show what looks like cloud coverage but is actually smoke from burning forests. LA was famously pictured a couple of weeks ago ringed by fire. The state of Montana is experiencing an unprecedented drought. Southern Europe is recovering from a heatwave aptly named Lucifer. And scientists say that in places that are both hot and wet, like South-east Asian river basins, conditions could soon become too hot to support life.
For people in all of these places, climate change just got very real. They are like as not fighting for survival, right now. And if there is one good thing to be said for the events that are afflicting them, it is that the people struggling to deal with them probably no longer need to be convinced of the need to do something fundamental about the climate problem.
But what is it, that fundamental thing?
Pull the plug, maybe? Overthrow the system. Put the fossil fuel bosses and their political shills and cronies on trial for covering up and procrastinating in the face of ongoing ecocidal, potentially genocidal collapse? Agitate for the immediate transformation of all fossil-fuel related industries to ecologically sustainable alternatives?
Well, the fundamental thing is all of that and much much more.
We have to do everything we can, put the pressure on wherever we can, as much as we can, right now.
But the thing I want to look at is the fakery of work.
To be honest, I don’t know anyone who is making any decent money these days. Most of the people I know are just scratching around, doing their best to get by. And all they end up doing is making money for someone else, usually the boss.
It’s a fake existence.
It’s an absurd, pointless, obscene way of life. Getting paid to do meaningless stuff and watching the world burn in the process.
When, exactly, do we get to have a say in the matter?
Putting a cross on a ballot once every four or five years just ain’t my idea of democratic participation.
Because in the meantime, most of us are caught up in dictatorships great and small.
I mean the dictatorship of life in the unemployment line, or—unless you’re lucky enough to work in a cooperative—the dictatorship of work.
I guess this is the bottom line: Every workplace needs to be democratically run. All work needs to be democratically controlled. All production needs to be socially and ecologically meaningful and sustainable.
And if you’re putting your money on green capitalism, in the hope that Tesla will save the day, let me tell you this.
There might be a tendency towards gradual transformation of the economy towards cleaner solutions, but those aren’t the people in power. And at this stage of the game, gradual transformation just ain’t going to swing it.
Right now, in the global scheme of things, winning slowly is the same as losing.
Feel free to get angry about any or all of this.
Angry? Shit, I’ve been on this planet for over half a century and I feel mad as hell. For all of my adult life I’ve been working for, agitating for, waiting for revolutionary transformation of this fucked-up system of ours.
It sure as hell hasn’t happened yet.
But on the other hand, the clock just struck twelve.
There’s an ongoing global crisis on multiple fronts, and nobody’s delivering solutions from on high.
We need radical change, and we need it now.
Give it everything you’ve got. In whatever way you can.
Use your time. Use your vote. Organize. Argue. Agitate. Connect.
Enough of fakery.
Now’s the time to get real.
Mike Hembury is an Anglo-Berliner originally from Portland, England. He’s a writer, translator, musician, coder, sailor, environmentalist and guitar nerd in no particular order. You can follow Mike on Twitter here: twitter.com/schnappz