In this piece Ahmed responds to a recent post by Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood entitled "It's not Climate Change--It's Everything Change" which is also worth reading as an urgent call to change our ways or we will face a dystopia and then become extinct. It looks like intellectuals are becoming worried about the approaching crisis given all the signs that it is real--and this is good, although a little late--but they are still keeping the discussion on a very abstract plane--which is not good if we humans are to save ourselves.
Ahmed does little better by targeting industrial capitalism.
The endless growth model of contemporary global capitalism is not just unsustainable — it is on track to destabilize the Earth System in a way that could make the planet uninhabitable for society as we know it.Then, as is the fashion among intellectuals, he quotes Foucault to indicate that the problem is us and that we need to change things. Unfortunately, Foucault is even more abstract.
It is not humanity, then, that is doomed — it is industrial capitalism.
The choice before us, then, is whether or not we are willing to give-up fossil-fueled endless material growth.
Given that overconsumption is driving many of the world’s most pressing problems, it may be that ethical activity today requires that we critically reflect on our own subjectivities in order to refuse who we are — so far as we are uncritical consumers. This Great Refusal would open up space to create new, post-consumerist forms of subjectivity, which is surely part of the revolution in consciousness needed in order to produce a society based on a ‘simpler way.’So, the gist of both essays is that "we" are responsible for the many crises "we" are faced with and "we" need to do something about it. It's like "we" are all participating in one grand world democracy and "we" have made wrong decisions. This sort of analysis carefully steers us away from any realities that we have been, and are currently, subject to massive forms of control by a specific socio-economic class who are committed to their system of capitalism because of their addiction to the drugs of profit and power.
I guess such essays as these represent progress because they suggest an awakening consciousness of intellectuals, a small segment of humans, but it is far from being sufficient to save ourselves from the many crises that are in our future if not already here. This tiny, compromised sub-class of intellectuals even control how we think about these crises, and these rather timid, abstract essays are a reflection of that control. They lead us into thinking that the capitalist system can be reformed or that people can be morally influenced to invest in the right things as illustrated in a current article entitled "Fossil fuel industry still winning the investment war".
Because time is fast running out, what we really need to think about is the development of revolutionary movements to counter the powerful control of capitalists over existing societies so that ordinary people can truly shape and determine their own future. While it is good to write consciousness-raising articles about the threat of climate change and, even more so, about capitalism that drives it, what is urgently needed are articles dealing with specific strategies and tactics to defeat this class and overthrow their odious, crisis-ridden system. Too often we are seeing articles like the above and articles like this entitled "Why Some People Will Always Bow to Tyrants" posted on Uncommon Thought Journal which wallow in pity by arguing that human nature is at fault instead of exploring how class rulers deliberately try to render ordinary people powerless both psychologically and in a real practical sense.
All of these efforts that lead to the overthrow of capitalism are needed in order to provide the necessary conditions for the creation of new societies that can live in harmony with the ecosystems of our finite planet. Only then can we ordinary people truly participate in decisions about how we live. We don't need any more abstract discussions about how we are responsible for the crises.