I’ve had the kind of morning that drives me along. Checking in at the Dark Mountain site, still waiting to hear if they’ll be publishing a story I sent them, I was hit once again by the relevancy, the immediacy and a strong sense of connection I’ve felt towards Kingsnorth and Hines‘ project, their perspective and their goals with what I’ve been after for so long. I highly recommend watching the videos attached to both of their most recent posts. I was particularly struck by the conversation Dougald had with Vinay Gupta from the Hexayurt project. There’s a lot there. Gupta is an engineer, although very much what I used to wish for, a “tame” engineer, one able and willing to see past technology and look at wider frames of reference! This is something I’ll be covering in Fine Lines as we go along.
They went a long way towards placing where the Dark Mountain Project, and by association my efforts in a way that should make it easier for outsiders to comprehend. Hines took Gupta’s sense of having grown up with Science Fiction and his wondering if it was possible to characterize “Uncivilized” writing as a new form on that mold. He widened the perspective and posited that Science Fiction was a recent manifestation of the much older form of Myth. That Science Fiction was the “Myth of the Engineer, or of the Atomic Age” while what we need now is a Myth reflecting the limits of technology and where our cultural, social and human place is positioned where we place an emphasis on adaptation as opposed to utopian or apocalyptic fantasies. Looking for ways to imagine life as livable in a multitude of conditions.
Gupta waxed poetic, surprising them both – he’s the engineer after all! He put it this way, Dark Mountain is “Standing in the Gap in the Imagination.” We are trapped in these opposing Myths, either a Star Trek techno marvel or Cormac McCarthy’s Road. While what we need is somewhere in the gap between these polar opposites. They discussed the way the utopia and dystopia share the same common ground, a ground we think is bankrupt, if I may interject.
Gupta and Hines agreed that if our problems were technological we would have solved them by now. these aren’t technological problems, but questions of a wider cultural import. Gupta admitted that even his project has shared the underlying assumption of all engineering based thinking – something that’s not limited to the hard engineering of making stuff by any means! – The assumption that a technological intervention can be made without consequences for the underlying cultural dynamic, and that in the end if we don’t address the cultural questions, which they concisely stated as the question of Enough! The way homo economicus has co-opted any potential for an ecological movement to be a critique of its activities and turned it into a tool for “greening over” greed.
Before I spend this entire post relating what they said, again I urge you to look for yourselves. The point was how well this conversation was able to bring out understanding and initiate insights. The title of Dougald’s post could be a title for the moment we find ourselves in,
The other incentive behind this post was my dipping into the writings of Ivan Illich. While I’ve shared a sense of the centrality of John Berger’s work with Dark Mountain, I had not been familiar with Illich. Dougald’s reference to Illich’s book, Energy and Equity sparked my interest and I’ve been reading a couple of his essays for the last few hours. In the background all I can hear is myself yelling, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE!” to this marvelous thinker who died in 2002.
For the moment, let’s leave it at that, although I know I’ll have more to say about Illich as time goes on.