onsdag den 2. september 2015

Ekstrapost til postapokalypsen

Jeg havde set, at Alex Garland (den glødende cool A.I.-thriller Ex Machina, som jeg dvd-anmelder i det nye nummer af Ekko) ville filmatisere Jeff VanderMeers Annihilation (første bind af en trilogi kaldet Southern Reach) og så forleden opdaterede skrivende maler Christian Schmidt-Rasmussen forsiden på samme roman, der pludselig virkede obligatorisk:

Passer udstilling på x and beyond i dag. Læser jeff vandermeer southern reach. Det er længe siden at jeg har kunne identificere mig så meget med fortælling der så knaldet som denne. Min udstilling er på så mange måder i samklang med denne fortælling at det føles som jeg allerede har læst den

- og så kunne jeg ikke lade være at gå ind ind på VanderMeers hjemmeside hvor jeg fandt en skarp blogpost, "Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc", meget apropos postapokalyptikken i Fjer og Mitose - et klip (og så må få læst den roman, den hele trilogi, på min iPad (dig og den redder jeg med på monstertruck-dækket, når syndfloden kommer)):

In this context, one possible solution to what fiction can do to portray the world—as it is and is becoming—is to avoid certain kinds of simplicity. One easy way to do this right now is to avoid what I call the Two-Percent Solution. In the Two-Percent Solution some plague or virus twenty to fifty years from now has reduced the world’s population down to almost nothing (usually white, with some exceptions) and characters in a gutted human environment soldier on.  And the reality of the situation, no matter how horrific, is still containable, manageable, easily understood, because the context is past real plagues that humankind has survived. These scenarios thus aren’t realistic but escapist, especially in that they tend to side-step the impact of global warming almost entirely. (No matter what you think of Atwood’s Oryx & Crake, and personally I think it’s great, that novel doesn’t side-step the issue.)
The other simplification going on is the expectation of some version of the hackneyed try-fail, try-fail, try-succeed structure that may make for effective storytelling, but also reflects the innate human arrogance of ultimate success in any situation. There may come a time when telling a traditional type of story seems like a betrayal of reality, but right now, we tolerate this approach, even celebrate it at times, because we live in a transitional state, in the middle of this slow apocalypse. Neither cooked nor raw.
What may be required is that we redefine Dystopia and Utopia, perhaps not so much along the lines of “do we have things or do we not have things”—less about a middle-class idea of happiness—and more along the lines of what do we need to do to be less intrusive on the landscape and to be more adaptive to it. If that lessening is “dystopia” then maybe dystopia isn’t a bad place to be.  (Or “Post-apoc”—if you think I’m confusing dystopia/post-apoc, they’ve been tossed in a blender across so many media outlets it hardly matters any more.)
Desolate is not depressing. Empty is not depressing. These are human constructs, values we apply to the diminishment of human beings or the thought of the diminishment of human beings. Any reasonable human being as the law defines reasonable may think this way, and that’s understandable. But what’s coming in terms of the slow apocalypse is not reasonable. It cannot be reasoned with. It doesn’t understand reason because it exists at a geologic level—at earth magnitude as the “dark ecology” philosopher Timothy Morton would say.
I state this, too, in the context that there’s a distinct possibility that there is no other exit strategy from our current situation than to find a way to halt global warming and ride out the effects of warming already in play and coming into play. And, to be honest, if I could be uploaded tomorrow into some AI version of the internet or become a nascent Mars colonist, I would reject both options as morally, ethically wrong. You cannot trash an entire planet, kill billions of organisms (often for no reason at all), and then simply take up elsewhere with no change in thinking or accountability.
No matter how remote that kind of choice might be, other sorts of related decisions may be forced upon us soon enough, in the realm of life, that render fiction a very secondary concern. It is therefore not giving in to despair to say that, while we’re able to, we should look the apocalypse in the eye or the snout. When we conflate dead with alive, we wind up in purgatory. We need to choose. Do we want dead. Do we want alive. If we do not choose we will live in dead town, thinking we are alive. It is always better to live in dead town knowing we are dead. At least then we’re not living a lie.

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