By Martin LeFevre
With characteristic obtuseness about the undercurrents of American culture, the New York Times offered readers “a black hole” to write their feelings about Donald Trump’s return to the political stage.
America’s newspaper of record led off its op-ed section yesterday with the headline, “You probably have a lot of feelings right now. We have a black hole for them.”
Clicking on the title, a screen full of stars and nebulae rotate clockwise, with bold letters enticing the reader: “Did Donald Trump back on the main stage stir up some old emotions? Go on, get it off your chest.”
Taking the bait further by clicking on “HOW ARE YOU FEELING?” a black hole appears at the center of the screen, with a blank line to type your “feelings” to be sucked into it.
Besides the interactive creepiness of feeding one’s feelings into a black hole, why is the NYT is contributing to the black hole that is American culture?
And why would anyone want to feed a black hole anyway? More importantly, since America has been a black hole for a generation, the question is, has human consciousness per se become a black hole?
The first question is rhetorical, the second serious. Since man’s consciousness, synonymous with the so-called real world, has become a black hole, the question becomes: Without adding to it, can there be an explosion of the light of insight?
It certainly won’t be a movement of any kind, whether Trumpian or climate activist. Movements are inherently superficial; they are about power and politics, and politics is merely the manifest level of collective consciousness.
To our national shame, a corrupt, malignant and violence-inciting narcissist is running for the presidency again, after nearly destroying the US Constitution and electoral system when he lost in 2020.
Even so, the wishful thinkers in the national media proclaim the midterms “a great day for American democracy,” while leading climate activists declare success, announcing, “The zeitgeist has shifted.”
A self-proclaimed “bummer-outer of other people,” the man who wrote “The End of Nature,” now says, “I guess I just am very hopeful that maybe someday some of the fever that has engulfed the world these last seven or eight years may break enough that we can begin to take rational action.”
That’s seven qualifiers in one sentence. Is that what climate success and optimism feels like to its leaders?
Rather than strained optimism, we need to face the failure of governments and activists at COP-27 to actually halt global society’s carbon spewing, which is still increasing.
Two orthodoxies of both liberalism and conservatism are accepted as gospel and go unchallenged – gradualism and incrementalism. Climate activists, like the politicians they’re trying to move, adhere to the illusory idea that humans change gradually over time, even as the human crisis intensifies by the week, and the Earth demands a leap out of time-bound attitudes and approaches.
The NYT podcaster began his interview of the climate movement leader by saying, “Something I’ve heard again and again in the past few months is that the climate movement is fracturing under the weight of its own success.” Viewing fracturing a success isn’t just a contradiction; it’s irrational. Besides, this notion of success is a very low bar – just that most people finally accept the fact that man is wrecking the climate.
“Massive coalitions always crack apart,” he self-comfortingly adds, “but that is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of power…and the compromises they have to make. I really don’t think fracturing is the right term. I think the right term is governing. People who looked radical begin to look incremental.”
Incrementalism never was and never will be an adequate response to the human crisis. Nevertheless, the activist leader echoes the sentiment. “I think that there may be some room in our politics now…there is an opening here.”
Despite the illusion of incrementalism, is there an opening, and if so for what? Certainly not just “some room in our politics?”
Reaching further but not delving any deeper, the climate leader avers, “What unites the climate crisis and the threat of nuclear war is combustion.” That’s a shallow externalization of the crisis confronting all people.
In truth, what unites these two manifestations of man’s destructiveness is the crisis of human consciousness that symbolic thought has wrought.
The opening, despite or because of the black hole that human consciousness has become, is therefore in human consciousness itself. The climate activists didn’t create it, but they can clog it up.
The climate movement leader “has been one of the movement’s most important writers and thinkers but also activists and organizers — he did not just stand on the sidelines.” Prioritizing activism and organizing, repeating the tired old refrain about movements being the means and the answer, has become a philosophical error of the highest order.
Being comes before doing. There’s an old quip: Don’t just do something; stand there!
Real change doesn’t begin at the political level; it is only partly expressed there. Paradoxically, to increase the speed of the transformations in human society that are required to halt the Sixth Extinction and avert ecological collapse, we have to stop thinking in terms of time.
When there’s an opening during a crisis, to think and act as though there is more time, which is the hallmark of incrementalism, is to lose the opportunity to act and move through it.
Though die-hard politicos and activists will never see it, igniting insight alone and together in the black hole that human consciousness has become, is the remedy and means to it.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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