So whether you choose to perceive the dissolution of the American Dream as the hero’s journey or as the collapse of industrial civilization—or both, the American Dream was fated to fail each time the collective refused to be instructed by something greater than itself.
In other words, failing to halt the advance of climate change—to the extent that halting it, at this point, remains within our power—means complicity with mass human annihilation. We know, or at this point should know, that such scenarios are already on the horizon. We still retain the power, if not to stop them, then to radically ameliorate what they will look like, so our failure to do all we can means that we become complicitin what—not to mince words— is clearly going to be a process of climate genocide. How can those of us in countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions escape such a verdict?
We are close to the point where the Earth will tip over and start rolling by itself, ending the short Anthropocene. After which humanity will be turned back into an observer of changes in Earth Systems, rather than a remaker of those systems. The need for rapid changes in the way that we run our societies, and the acceptance that the old geographical and climatic certainties may rapidly change, is needed. The thought that we can simply geo-engineer our way out of trouble may be proven to be the naiveté of a still young civilization.
To put it bluntly, Eurocentric modernism is not compatible with human civilization. One of them has got to go.
In a recent article “Beyond Trump: Rebooting the System from inside the Death Machine,” Nafeez Ahmed, Andrew Markell, and Gunther Sonnenfeld articulated their perspective on Trump’s rise to power less succinctly and with fewer no-nonsense tools than I intend to offer in this essay. While coming close to the heart of the matter, they didn’t quite arrive which often happens when attempting to clarify “the crisis of civilization.” After all, we’ve never been here before, and if we’re honest, we must admit that we have difficulty articulating it for ourselves and never quite know how to articulate it to others.
Chaos in the White House reflects the deepening turmoil in the psyche of the president as deep-seated inner conflicts become projected as radical dangers and threats in the outside world. Because there can be no genuine reflection and no failure can be admitted, the desperate sense of superiority demands that all enterprises be deemed a success. The need to be seen as omnipotent and uniquely able to solve everything means not only that the truth and the facts will be routinely rejected, but also that the security of the country and the guiding principles of democracy may also be sacrificed.