Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Voltaire

‘Remarks on Utopia in the Age of Climate Change’

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…from Kim Stanley Robinson.

So the question of history returns. How do we act on what we know? The time has come when we have to solve this puzzle, because the future, from where we look at it now, is different than past futures. Before we just had to keep on trying to do our best, and we would be OK. Things seemed to slowly get better, for some people in some places anyway; in any case, we would keep trying things, and probably muddle through. This is no longer the case. Now the future is a kind of attenuating peninsula; as we move out on it, one side drops off to catastrophe; the other side, nowhere near as steep, moves down into various kinds of utopian futures. In other words, we have come to a moment of utopia or catastrophe; there is no middle ground, mediocrity will no longer succeed. So utopia is no longer a nice idea, but a survival necessity. This is a big change. We need to take action to start history on a path onto the side of the peninsula representing one kind of better future or another; the details of it don’t matter, survival without catastrophe is what matters. In essence the seven billion people we have, and the nine to ten billion people we’re likely to have, exist at the tip of an entire improvised complex of prostheses, which is our technology considered as one big system. We live out at the end of this towering complex, and it has to work successfully for us to survive; we are far past the natural carrying capacity of the planet in terms of our numbers. There is something amazing about the human capacity to walk this tightrope over the abyss without paralysing fear. We’re good at ignoring dangers; but now, on the attenuating peninsula, on the crazy tower of prostheses — however you envision it, it is a real historical moment of great danger, and we need to push hard for utopia as survival, because failure now is simply unacceptable to our descendants, if we have any.

Rising from the Ashes Thursday

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* Confusion Reigns Over Legality of Anti-Union Bill Passage in Wisconsin. I offered in the MetaFilter thread last night my suspicion that having this bill overturned on procedural or state-constitutional grounds could be Walker’s face-saving exit strategy at this point; it’s been very common over the last few decades for Republicans to pass transparently illegal or unconstitutional legislation as red meat for the base, only to raise additional cash when “activist judges” throw the legislation out. If the lack of quorum genuinely tied his hands, illegitimately claiming to have passed the law anyway lets Walker still claim to have won. It’s certainly being reported that way.

* Watching Twitter last night was inspiring, despite the defeat. Calls for a general strike in particular are exiting; that’s something I’d never expected to see happen here. (The last was apparently in 1934.) The class war is definitely happening out in the open in the moment: Wisconsin GOP Bill Allows State to Fire Employees for Strikes, Walk-Outs. No strike yet.

* Elsewhere in union-busting news: The many lies of Chris Christie, in the New York Times.

* So what is this Manifesto? In essence, it is a vindication of the arts and humanities as the most valuable of social and cultural practices.

* Flying cars: just one year away.

* And you always knew it: science proves running a lot will kill you.

Candide 2.0

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All Possible Worlds is the digital extension of the New York Public Library’s current “Candide at 250: Scandal and Success” exhibition; one of the highlights is Candide 2.0, a “networked edition” of the text annotated by professors, novelists, playwrights, and translators. I’ve been having an email conversation with the curator, Alice Boone, about reading Candide as a kind of proto-science-fiction novel, which I’ve always thought it was; something between a thought experiment and a dystopia, Candide was even on my “SF, Modernity, and Empire” exam list at one point.

More than that, though, Candide is one of those books I read as a teenager and could just never forget; it’s probably one of the ten novels most responsible for building my young leftist, atheist self…

Written by gerrycanavan

February 25, 2010 at 9:34 pm