Up From Under the Rulers
The Anarchic Phenomenological
Some dream of a better future “up from under the rulers,” and it is possible. But we could have a better present as well. Remaking the world for the better right now—a world in which we live together appropriately, promoting our mutual flourishing—is not only viable, it is necessary. Presently. Today. As soon as possible. Even when it seems impossible.
One of the most dangerous fallacies of thought, yet one that is so widespread it is often mistaken for common sense, involves looking around at things—the world, the culture, the government, the traditions we have, the way we live in general—thinking, “Yes. This is more or less the way it has always been and more or less the way it will always be. This way of living is natural, normal, inescapable, inevitable, and apart from some incremental ‘progress’ (such as increasingly ‘better’ technology) it is eternal and unchanging.” Especially within civilized societies, every generation tends to feel that the way the world is currently put together is the way it always has been and always will be. And yet most generations also tend to feel as if they may be in the end times, that things are so precarious it all must soon be coming to an apocalyptic end. The false comfort and pull of the former feeling typically outweighs the nihilism of the latter, and we live with the cognitive clash only by telling ourselves that given that the system under which we live is immutable and normal, but we are also generally miserable, perhaps the thing to do is to make small changes here and there to the system when possible and otherwise just accept our lot in life. Today, in the United States of the twenty-first century, that means we perhaps need to build more electric cars, strive for stronger rights for this group or that group, sign the right online petition, advocate for the passing of the correct laws, follow the right social media, vote for the better candidate, and so on.
This sort of thinking must stop! Not only is all of this merely rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic, but spending our time in such pursuits enables the Titanic, and the tragedy it engenders, to exist generally. It enables the system to continue on and coopt any dissent. It enables the system to continue to appear inevitable. All while it is this very system that is the problem. It is this system we must overthrow.
It is often said, at least in contemporary America, that the system is broken. All of our desires to make things better thus get channeled into “fixing” the system rather than imagining a different and better system completely. There is nothing broken about the system of contemporary neoliberal capitalism-democracy. It is doing exactly what it is meant to do. The misery it creates is part of its normal output. When a gun leads to someone dying, there is no need to “fix” the gun; it is doing precisely what it is supposed to do. When a smartphone leads to someone being obsessed with checking it constantly, to someone being available to their boss 24/7, to someone feeling as if they cannot get by without it, there is nothing that needs to be “fixed” about the phone; the phone is doing exactly what it is meant to do. Nothing will truly improve for us by electing the “right” government official, getting the “right” judge appointed to the Supreme Court, passing the “right” new laws, attending the “right” school, creating the “right” high-tech, finding the “right” career, shopping from the “right” store, or getting our information about the world from the “right” media outlet. Instead, all of these institutions and practices must come to an end. They all must be overturned completely.