Fragments Of A Hologram Rose

Posted Dec. 16, 2022 by Paul Graham Raven

Everything Everywhere All At Once.


The “thick present” cannot be summarised in linear narrative, because the thick present is not linear. This is not merely a mater of wordcount, nor even a matter of my inadequacies as a communicator... though (I’ll be honest) those aren’t helping.

How about this: the world in which you live—which is contiguous with the planet on which you live, but which is not commensurable with it—is a four-dimensional event space with around eight billion simultaneous narrative points-of-view running in parallel. And that’s if we only count the humans.

Perhaps the only truly graspable thing is the ungraspability of the world. (Perhaps that’s just the best excuse I’ve got.) Narrative doesn’t scale—though this is not a shortcoming of narrative, and might be better thought of as its saving grace. Nonetheless, so much of the challenge facing us is rooted in the impossibility of narrating systemic agency and causality. No one is to blame, but everyone’s complicit.

And sure, yeah, that complicity is unevenly distributed in both space and time. But this is exactly why I prefer the term Anthropocene to alternatives such as Capitalocene: because, like Latour, I refuse to let the black box labelled “capital” go unopened. There’s no capitalism in the absence of people to perform the roles in its drama—and as even Uncle Karl himself was at great pains to note, people are more than merely their roles, even those who embrace them and benefit from them most fully. It would be a struggle to see the capitalist as a victim of capitalism—though it might do us good to try it every now and again—but there’s a very good case for seeing them as being just as thoroughly trapped by it as those at the other end of the mechanism.

Is it unfair, is it arrogant, is it unexamined privilege to say that ending capitalism will require the engagement and contribution of the poor, of oppressed and enslaved minorities, of those from the global South, of those from the liminal hinterlands and the rust belts and the dust bowls—of those, in other words, who might very fairly be described as capital’s victims rather than its benefactors?

Perhaps it is.

But is it not also unfair, arrogant and privileged to assume that we can, with the best of intentions—including the redemption of our many sins, of which we are ever more perpetually reminded—speak on behalf of and over those various subaltern peoples, and impose yet another global paradigm upon them—for their own good, of course, as well as our own—all by ourselves, without any input from them at all? Poor dears, how could we ask anything of them, after everything we’ve done to make the world this way? It’s not their fault!

But it’s their world. Ours too.

I don’t have an answer, here.

Part two in the series Hip Deep in the Thick Present

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