Before and after Joe Biden became President-Elect of the United States, it seems that some so-called Progressives have disavowed all involvement in American politics and directed their efforts, not toward any political candidate, but toward the total destruction of the political process itself. I use the term “so-called Progressives” because there is nothing progressive about nihilistic impulses to incinerate the system with scorched-earth annihilation.
I would not argue that the United States is an empire and the most dangerous empire in the planet’s history, but like all empires, it will eventually crumble and is already in the process of doing so. The number of people voting for Trump in this election only underscores that reality. The election of the Biden-Harris ticket cannot prevent the collapse of ecosystems, institutions, and industrial civilization itself. Yet, some individuals who are convinced of this fact whine and pine for a perfect model of government and trash the slightest impulses to work within the system for a less brutal, less heartless, less savage collapse. I can only compare them with adolescents so enraged with their parents and older generations that have betrayed and abused them that they become “Natural Born Killers.” The Menendez brothers also come to mind. I have to wonder how these individuals would function within what they define as a “perfect” social and political system. Perhaps they wouldn’t function at all because they would feel so uncomfortable with it. Feeling compelled to scorch the Earth as a result of binary thinking and false equivalencies is nothing less than a trauma response that only exacerbates our human predicament at the end of the industrial era.
I repeat: The Biden-Harris ticket cannot prevent collapse. In fact, they are part of it—just as you are and I am. Even if they offered the ideal model of governance, they could not end collapse. Collapse is baked into all of our lives. The only question that matters at this point is: How will any administration and how will you and I respond to suffering? Who created the suffering and how is much less relevant than how we will meet it. If we continue to lament about a deep state and label Trump as only a symptom of it and eviscerate every politician or leader whose perspective isn’t “radical enough,” we contribute to the inexorable suffering that collapse will continue to inflict on the Earth and its inhabitants. Does climate catastrophe give a rat’s kiss about how progressive the current occupant of the White House is? Does Covid care if we think America is fascist at its core?
It’s time for us to put on our big girl and boy pants and stop whining and pining for a more “progressive” agenda and get on with the most urgent task in front of all empathic human beings in this moment: preparing emotionally and spiritually for the collapse of all aspects of life as we have known them. I emphasize emotional and spiritual preparation because beans, bullets, bunkers, organic gardens, solar energy, and expatriation will not save us. In addition to having enough food to eat and water to drink, if we don’t have our sanity and our compassion, we are guaranteed a living hell as collapse exacerbates.
As I often say in my writing and teaching, it’s too late for some things but not too late for other things. Rather than simply raging at politicians, we should be asking ourselves what we are doing to alleviate suffering. We should also be curious about what our “not radical enough” litany is doing for us. Is it protecting us from grief, fear, and opening our hearts to anguish? Is it keeping us from feeling flooded with the trauma we all carry? Let’s not keep pretending this is about “having a right to an opinion.” We all know it’s about so much more than that.
It’s too late for ideal social and political models. In fact, looking for them at this stage of collapse is not unlike seeking an ideal case of terminal cancer. But it’s never too late to act in ways that make collapse less brutal. This, and not political correctness, must be our first consideration when voting for local, state, and national officials. The world is aching for compassion, not our definitions of radicalism.
We need to distance ourselves from obsolete paradigms. Let’s choose the view from 35,000 feet—or the view from the bottom of the ash heap. It’s the same view, and it has little to do with who supported the Iraq War 17 years ago or how clueless we think someone is about climate chaos.
Who, right now in this moment, in a position of leadership is more likely to temper the carnage of collapse? And what is each of us doing in our limited sphere toward that end?
So what acts do we need to prioritize?
- Practice active, patient, empathic listening. You may be well-read in political theory, but in the territory of collapse, you know nothing. No living human at this time has been through the collapse of industrial civilization. We are all novices. Behaving otherwise is naked privilege.
- Learn skills for alleviating suffering: Seek training in hospice and palliative care. Prioritize attending, comforting, rescuing, and fostering animals.
- Get involved with others who are protecting land, waterways, air, and soil, near you.
- The operative word in collapse is C-A-R-E. Practice the skill of caring for yourself and other living beings in the natural and human worlds. Stop seeking ways to be right so that you can validate your perspective. Begin from a place of humbly not knowing and seek to learn through service.
- Meet regularly, even weekly, in person or online, with people who are willing to talk about their grief, anger, fear, and despair. Recognize that we are all being driven by our trauma, but those who talk about it and act with compassion and service to alleviate suffering are the only ones who can ease the pain of collapse for others and for themselves.
- Find ways to make the demise sacred, not scurrilous.
Although I personally am breathing a sigh of relief that Trump was not re-elected, I have no illusion that all is well, and that isn’t because Biden and the Democrats aren’t “radical enough” for me. It’s because I’m viewing both external and internal events through the lens of collapse and therefore hold all “progress” loosely. My work is to move with, not against collapse, and to choose leaders and personal actions that assist all of us in retaining and retraining our humanity because whatever my political opinions are, collapse changes everything.