09 August 2012

Waltzing with apocalypse, waiting for the lights to go out

Chimp at Cognitive Evolution Group research center, New
Iberia, Louisiana, from Surviving Progress (2011).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—the guy ahead of me as I exited the theater was raving about Surviving Progress. “That’s the best film I have seen in 20 years. I saw it other day too. Everyone ought to see it. What did you think?”

“Well, more of the same,” I said, diplomatically, wondering whether he has been living under a rock for the last quarter century.

The documentary, based on the book, A Short History of Progress, “explores the concept of progress in our modern world, guiding us through a sweeping but detailed survey of the major ‘progress traps’ facing our civilization in the arenas of technology, economics, consumption, and the environment.” It is one of a spate of recent films that looks at the 21st century against the backdrop of ecological, economic and political collapse and the apocalyptic present.

Touted by one critic as “Koyaanisqatsi meets The Corporation,” Surviving Progress [trailer] is the equal of neither, as cinema or narrative, though it provides even more compelling evidence and support for an argument that has been convincingly made in west for more than 40 years: predatory capitalism driven by short-term gains by an insatiably greedy minority with utter disregard for the planetary commons, and lifestyles predicated upon orgiastic patterns of consumption and waste production are pushing to the world as we know in into extinction.

Acknowledging that reality, by itself, has not made bit of difference.  The first Earth Day, the symbolic birth of the environmental movement, was 22 April 1970 and four decades of mounting evidence has not altered the trajectory of the freefall. The interconnected ganglion of problems requires every resource and all the focus of the world’s population, but for the most part, the rot at the top, the parasites, the deniers, the “1%” and their hired guns, the boneheads, the bagmen and the assassins of truth have it made it clear that they aren’t about to do anything differently. What the collapse of earlier empires, all local, some regional but none global, tell us is that the elite will ravage and rule until they can’t, plundering unto death, starting with the poor and the weak, who get tossed overboard first. The first requirement in the reordering of the universe, it seems to me, is not a matter of ideas, or better technology, or education, or awareness, but the exercise of raw political power to wrest control of the present from the forces of death before the lights go out for good.

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