AS ONE gets older, our regard toward life swings to the past instead of the future. There is more to remember than to look forward to as we confront the mortal truth that we will all eventually die. Unlike when we were younger when the future stretched out before us, today it is merely a matter of time before tomorrow brings the end.
I am not sure if this feeling is a function of one’s age. I have a sense that this goes beyond my growing pessimism and is actually an indication of the signs of the times. We are after all considered trapped in the post-modern condition, the hyphenated contemporary cultural context that has eschewed all hope for humanity in exchange for the hedonistic joys of the here and now for the select few. Since the modern project has been considered a failure and the end of history has been heralded to be this – predatory capitalism at its worst in the midst of widespread global suffering, it has been difficult to imagine a future to look forward to.
The zeitgeist communicates a feeling of dread. In fact the dominant posturing in mainstream academe and beyond has shifted from the ideological struggles of the past to a strange unanimous agreement regarding our shared bleak future. Even the staunch defenders of the present economic order have recognized that the system of unfettered private rewards have wreaked irreparable damage to our chances for survival as a species. But all we have is a sense of alarm without solutions.
The polar caps are melting and water levels are said to rise on average of 12 feet affecting coastal cities and towns the world over. We are facing extreme weather events because of the rise in global temperatures because of the greenhouse gases accumulated since the era of industrialization up to today’s endless production for profit.
And we have also depleted our resources in the process. Oil, which is the element upon which this economic system subsists on, is finite, we are now finding out painfully as gas and electricity prices continue soar. Since 2005, the production of oil has not kept up with the growing demand. And alternative sources of energy still lie in the realm of potential.
In the meantime, we have polluted and depleted vital resources such as our oceans, forests, and fresh water reserves. To keep profit margins up, the rule is the mindless extraction of minerals and resources for private gain. The signs are everywhere: from the violent wars of aggression over these precious resources staged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and we need not travel far, Davao del Norte; to the basic fact that we have come around to regarding as normal buying our drinking water.
But despite all these undeniable signs that the apocalypse is now, humanity seems ill-equipped to make sense of the situation and respond to these important issues with a commensurate degree of alarm. I think this has got a lot to do with the failure to look at the problems on ideological terms – the handicap of the post-modern condition we are mired in.
It’s simple, really. Wasn’t it predicted by an ideological thinker that the endless production cycle for private profit is bound to fail at some point because there would be no one to buy these goods? Just look at the parked brand new cars occupying abandoned airports and open spaces the world over. They keep on producing cars that no one can afford to buy given the decline in global wages. They also bury food and consumer goods as a norm nowadays so as not affect their profit margin while majority of the peoples of the world go hungry.
We have arrived at a lamentable situation when our technology can feed three times the world’s population and yet our system of allocating the gains of this social system of production only benefit a few private entities. And now we are entering the stage when the resources to keep this capitalist machine in perpetuity are drying up creating even greater social contradictions. But we refuse to be ideological and read the writing on the wall so to speak.
During the birth of the industrial revolution, almost two centuries ago, a German thinker realized that the system of private property that fueled social progress of his time will not be tenable since it concentrates wealth to a few at the expense of the many. The wasteland that is now is the veritable proof not just of this injustice but also of this madness.
(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)