The Future Is Unknown, but the Unsustainable Will Implode

by CHARLES HUGH SMITH April 26, 2012

I don't how the future will unfold, not just because I'm an idiot but because it's unknowable. Though we cannot know the future, we do know two very important things: 1) that which is unsustainable will implode, and 2) the present Status Quo is unsustainable.

That ultimately leaves us with a single question: what are we going to do about it? In my view, it's not important that we agree on solutions--agreement would in fact be a catastrophe, for dissent and decentralization are the essential characteristics of any sustainable "solution." What is important is that we realize the future boils down to a simple choice: do we passively comply with the Status Quo feudalism or do we resist?

In my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation I summarize this thusly: There are no apolitical "personal choice" acts; there are only profoundly political acts of resistance or complicity.

The roots of this line of thinking go back to 1969 when at the age of 16 I discovered Jean-Paul Sartre's What is Literature? (print) (Kindle). This book inspired my goal of becoming a writer, and it's easy to understand why: Sartre's central argument is that among the arts only prose has the power to change our lives. reviewer Riccardo Pelizzo summarized this concept brilliantly: "The function of a committed writer is to reveal the world so that every reader loses her innocence and assumes all her responsibilities in front of it."

These excerpts give you a flavor of What Is Literature?:

"The function of a writer is to call a spade a spade. If words are sick, it is up to us to cure them. Instead of that, many writers live off this sickness. In many cases modern literature is a cancer of words. There is nothing more deplorable than the literary practice which, I believe, is called poetic prose and which consists of using words for the obscure harmonics which resound about them and which are made up of vague meanings which are in contradiction with the clear meaning."

"That is not all: we are living in an age of mystifications. Some are fundamental ones which are due to the structure of society; some are secondary. At any rate, the social order today rests upon the mystification of consciousness, as does disorder as well."

"There is no guarantee that literature is immortal. If writers lose it, too bad for us. But also, too bad for society. Of course, all that is not very important. The world can do very well without literature. But it can do without man still better."

"Language is our shell and our antennae, it is the prolongation of our senses, a third eye which is going to look into our neighbors heart."

"We are within language as within our body."

"To speak is to act; anything which one names is already no longer quite the same; it has lost its innocence."

Reviewer Vasha7 made a critically important point about financial/economic freedom:

"Sartre asserts that if a writer is not fully committed to both political and more importantly economic liberty, he is internally at war with the fundamental free nature of literature."

Though people say a film, podcast, song or interview changed their life, prose retains a unique ability to not just to crystallize an emotional or intellectual recognition but to spark a chain of insights that illuminates a different path in life.

The goal of Resistance, Revolution, Liberation is to change your life in a positive fashion. Here is a key quote from the book:

This is the basic credo of liberation:

"I no longer care if the power centers of our society-the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system-are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests."

As an example, nothing is more apolitical than food, according to the Status Quo. Yet this is entirely backward; nothing is more political than food, for it either sustains us and our freedom or it indentures us to disease and dependence on the Savior State's immensely profitable sickcare system, i.e. the abomination known as "healthcare" that profits from chronic disease, not health.

From the Status Quo perspective, the citizen who bicycles to work is either a "health nut" or some outlier who perversely refuses the obvious convenience and comfort of the auto. From the point of view of one who has experienced an inner revolution of understanding, then the simple machinery of the bicycle has freed the citizen from dependence on the oil complex and its enforcer, the State, and also from the sickcare system and its enforcer, the State.

In the consumerist mindset, riding a bicycle to work is an apolitical "personal choice" that is meaningless on the larger stage. To the citizen with a revolutionary understanding, every bicycle ride is an overtly political act of resistance against the concentrations of capital that maintain their power over the State via dependence on oil, auto-centricity, and sickcare.

To the unaware citizen burdened with multiple chronic diseases brought on by a corporate-supplied diet of packaged food and fast food and a sedentary life based on the worship of "convenience," then buying frozen pizza and fast-food are apolitical, "personal choice" actions. To the citizen with a revolutionary understanding, then these are the actions of the indentured, and the refusal to consume packaged "food" that no caring consumer would feed their dog lest it sicken and die is a deeply and overtly political act of resistance.

There are no apolitical "personal choice" acts; there are only profoundly political acts of resistance or complicity. (pages 205-6)

The inimitable Steve Jobs succinctly described complicity in his famous challenge to former Pepsi head-honcho John Sculley: "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

Sugar water comes in financial and intellectual favors, too. A friend recently recounted a story from personal knowledge of an immigrant who started life in the U.S. renting a closet to sleep in and in the space of a few years moved into a posh home in Boston after making a small fortune wholesaling saccharine. This is of course the Status Quo's "American Dream": the big house, the Mercedes in the driveway, all achieved by whatever means or debt-loads are within reach.

That is the false choice provided by the Status Quo: do you want to buy/sell/drink sugar water or saccharine?

There is another choice: do we want to passively self-destruct in servitude to the Status Quo or do we want to join those with a positive vision for the future? Every act is a choice, and the future is in our hands.

Charles Hugh Smith is a novelist and economic commentator who writes for Business Insider and blogs at Of Two Minds.

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