People must first be made to give up on the existing system before they will become receptive to fundamental change.
Michael Byron, Ph.D., Author of Infinity's Rainbow: The Politics of Energy, Climate and Globalization
Last week a review of the documentary "What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire" was posted on Energy Bulletin and sub-titled "a review of a new doomer cult classic." While the review was favorable, I must state that as someone who has seen the documentary dozens of times, who consistently shows it to my history classes, and who is a personal friend of the film makers, I was appalled at the use of the word "doomer" to describe the film. The reviewer's use of the term was the culmination for me of the inappropriate use of "doomer" to label individuals who have rejected the soporific of "hope" with respect to the terminal state of planet earth. I am equally unnerved by those who consistently describe me as "negative" and obsessively attempt-almost beg me-to offer them "something positive." Hence, the inspiration to write this article.
I'd like to begin with defining the word doom. My dictionary defines doom as: "fate or destiny, esp. adverse fate; unavoidable ill fortune." When I consult a dictionary of etymology, I notice that the term had its origins in the early Christian era and is connected with the idea of divine judgment. Since I have made clear ad infinitum, ad nauseum that the "fate" of the planet is in our hands and that extinction of earth's life forms including humanity is unequivocally avoidable, labeling me as someone who embraces "doom" is factually erroneous. Likewise, most people who know me well do not experience me as someone who walks around preaching divine judgment. After all, I published my autobiography earlier this year in which I described in vivid detail my exodus decades ago from Christian fundamentalism and all that "divine judgment" yah-yah that I grew up with.
Let me say again: The probable extinction of the human race and all life forms on the planet is absolutely avoidable, and it is not the product of an angry deity who will visit judgment on his naughty children. Only humans can reverse the lethal process they alone have set in motion.
Secondly, anyone who watches "What A Way To Go" to the end will be incessantly confronted with the notion of opportunity that the film makers insist the collapse of civilization brings with it. In fact, one could easily replace nearly every use of the word "collapse" in the documentary with the word "rebirth." People locked into "doom" do not talk about rebirth; far from it-they are generally depressed individuals who may be looking to throw themselves under the next freight train or jump off the nearest cliff.
The Psychology Of Doomer-Labeling
I have asked myself repeatedly where this label of "doomer" comes from when applied to people who continue to talk about opportunity and rebirth, yet refuse to sell the snake oil of "hope." I didn't fully understand the "doomer" label until a friend called after having just heard an interview with Harvey Wasserman, co-author of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008. What Wasserman stated in the interview and what he also implied in his article "Do The Neo-Cons Need Karl Rove When They Can Count On The Democrats?" is that overwhelmingly, the progressive left does not want to hear the irrefutable documentation of the stealing of the 2000 and 2004 elections-or the compelling evidence that the 2008 election is already stolen! It appears that if they were to fully comprehend the futility of voting in national elections, they might feel-oh dare I say it-drum roll-hopeless?
This reminds me very much of the alcoholic/abusive family system where abuse and addiction are rampant, and someone in the family breaks silence and speaks the truth about what is so. Immediately, that family member is scapegoated, labeled a troublemaker, incorrigible, ungrateful, or in the case of the abuse of the planet and the political systems that enable it, a negative-minded "doomer." Even worse, in the abusive system, the truth-teller becomes the identified patient, that is, "this family would be just fine if it weren't for the troublemaker." Translation: Why can't you stop being a "doomer" and just vote Democratic, buy a hybrid car, put some curly lightbulbs in your lamps, and think positively?
One result of this finely-tuned denial system is that the truth-teller ends up feeling the feelings that everyone else in the system refuses to feel. The other members of the system are numb or cheerful, but the truth-teller is wracked with anxiety, anger, or depression because he or she is carrying the emotional baggage of the entire system.
Pardon a little bit of ancient mythology, but I'm quite certain that Noah was called a "doomer". Talk about negative! Talk about raining, so to speak, on humanity's "perky party"! Truly an identified patient he was.
Derrick Jensen states that everything in the current system of civilization is set up to protect the abusers. Those who refuse to do so will be scapegoated-if not by the abusers, then by their "siblings" who beg them to be quiet and maintain faith in the system.
Please understand that I am not forbidding disagreement. If you can look squarely and rationally at the evidence for the likelihood that civilization has entered a state of collapse and knowing the evidence, disagree with the probability of the extinction of the planet and its inhabitants, that is your prerogative. What I resent is being scapegoated because I have a different perception and I refuse to look at the evidence and still support the enablers of the system that is murdering the earth and every life form on it or because I refuse to say that everything is going to somehow work itself out, that politicians will save us, that solar energy or carbon credits will provide the magic bullet, or that technology will come to our rescue. And-what is more, I refuse to accept the scapegoating of those who absolutely will not face the overwhelming evidence of stolen national elections or who, for whatever reason, expect me to carry the feelings they will not feel and who identify me as the "troubled patient" in their terminally toxic, hope-addicted reality.
Repeatedly, these individuals do not hear or see me when I refer to the opportunity that the collapse of civilization may afford us or the rebirth of human consciousness that could unfold as the old paradigm crumbles and a new one erupts. In my book in process, I am among other things, painstakingly taking the reader through a process of introspection regarding collapse and rebirth, inviting her/him to be aware of the feelings that loom or lie dormant around the end of the world as we have known it. I do not expect it to be easy for anyone to acknowledge the reality of collapse; it certainly has not been for me. I have only been able to open to its irrefutable truth because I have had the support of others and because of a deep and abiding sense of meaning that I experience in the demise of empire. For me, both are extremely "positive" forces in my life-more authentically positive than "hope" or "optimism" or voting for the Democratic Party.
When I speak of rebirth, this is not for me some airy-fairy fantasy about "positive outcome". In my opinion, rebirth is absolutely the most apt description of civilization's demise. For most women, birth is no walk in the park-it's painful, bloody, and very uncertain. What is born may be healthy and intact, or it may be impaired. Whoever is born must be nurtured, tended, given structure and limits, and he or she will at some point (or many times) break one's heart. Parents almost always admit that giving birth has changed them, and that as a result they will never be the same. Giving birth consigns one to a lifetime of responsibility and care for one's offspring; sacrifices must be made, priorities re-arranged, personal comforts postponed, risks taken-all with no guarantee of "happily ever after." From my perspective, rebirth and collapse are inextricably connected and consistently mirror each other.
Mimicking Mainstream Media
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