For a birthday present last week, I decided to join the Green Party.
Being a previous Liberal Democrat and lifelong hornet you'll see I side with the plucky underdog, the rank outsider (did I hear 'loser' from someone at the back?). Those two win some, lose some. But the Greens are different. They're destined to lose.
Odd words from a believer and a supporter, I know. Let me explain.
There's a cartoonish simplicity to British politics reproduced, I suspect, wherever humans are involved. The Labour movement grew up to fight for the flat-cap wearing loom weavers against the tweedy factory owners rolling around in gold sovereigns like pigs in shit. Then the workers won the right not to have their hands cut off by moving machinery after eighteen-hour shifts without a break for a cup of char and a wad, at which point the Tories said now you've all got two half-farthings to rub together, look at how those socialists are going to take them from you. There are the feckless and the foreigners to watch out for, and thievery everywhere, and if you really want urchins educated it's gonna cost you loads. Plus, you'd be better off with us in case the French invade, a fear which forever lurks at the very core of the British psyche.
The point is that we are hard-wired to think in terms of sides. There are us and the people out to get us, and we vote for the people who are most like us and most out to get the people out to get us.
I look forward to being cited in PhD theses.
And that simplistic approach to politics is, I think, just another facet of how we tell stories because story-telling reflects something at the very heart of what it is to be human. And our stories, from our first nursery rhymes onwards, have heroes and villains, protagonists and antagonists. We pick sides. And the key point here is... sides are different. Otherwise, they wouldn't be sides.
It's such an obvious rule of story structure that almost everything written about it takes it as read. Google "antagonist and protagonist" and you get advice like:
- Protagonists and antagonists are both essential characters in a story
- The antagonist is the primary opponent of the protagonist
- The antagonist is the character who opposes the protagonist
In all of them the implied, but never stated, parameter is that they're necessarily different. Think about it. There are no decent stories where antagonist and protagonist are the same character. Sure, there's Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde and all its kith and kin, but these are always two characters in the same body. We have no narratives where the hero and villain are the same person at the same time, where to side with one is to side with the other. It doesn't make sense. It's squaring a mental circle, an inconceivable impossibility.
And the trouble with climate change is that we're doing it to ourselves. We are our own antagonists. We cannot win without defeating ourselves. Get your heads around that. If we think we can reverse climate change without stopping the use of fossil fuels, we can't. And we just can't stop using fossil fuels. We just can't, not without sacrificing too much. We are not the solution. We are the problem. And if we think with a bit of recycling and a Tesla we'll get the world back on track, we're as delusional as Leonardo di Caprio in Shutter Island (oops, post-hoc spoiler alert!).
It's hardly surprising that everybody from our leaders downwards has created a narrative where things aren't as bad as they seem. The truth would leave you looking like Munch's Scream. Even the Green movement tries to put it into chewable if unpalatable chunks. Put simply, the scale of the problem is too harsh a mirror to turn on ourselves, hence we can't cope. So, what do we do? We deny, and underplay, and construct an alternative reality where we haven't done this to ourselves, where we're not doing it to ourselves as we speak. There's a decent hypothesis that says climate change and the behaviours it drove was a causal factor in the spread of Covid-19 but, hey, that's not going to play well in swing states and marginal constituencies so we just don't go there.
Now, if only we had an antagonist to rail against. Wouldn't that make everything oh so much easier? For me, one of the great mysteries of history is how the British people were persuaded to accept rationing in World War 2. Not the rationale for it, that was clear (even more so than the climate crisis today, perhaps, because of its proximity and immediacy), but for everybody to play their part, for the one-handed loom weavers and the those with gold sovereigns still stuck to their tweeds to share and share alike.
I don't think it all came down to altruism. I think it had more to do with an antagonist. The biggest baddest antagonist of all time. Adolphus Schicklgruber. Hitler, to you and me.
So here's today's fever dream hypothesis: that we won the Second World War, in part, because we had Hitler to focus on, and everything that those fighting did, large or small, could be seen as going up a human-sized antagonist, an easy to understand foe because we understood wolves and witches and evil stepmothers. And if each and every one of them, including my father, was up against an evil opponent, that made every one of them a hero on the side of good. Wouldn't that keep you going just a little bit longer?
Would anthropomorphising Covid-19 - nasty virus! bad virus!! down boy!!! - give you some frame of reference in keeping up the hunt for a vaccine? I expect so. And well done to those that achieved it.
But climate change? There is no antagonist for us to rail against. Shit, I'm using fossil fuels just working at this laptop, searching the internet for the links above, uploading this blog post. You see the problem?
I can only see the logic leading to one possible solution. To solve the climate crisis, we must create an antagonist. Somebody we can rail against. Trump? Russia? The French? I like the sound of all of them, but if we are all the problem, maybe everybody needs to be the antagonist. You are all my antagonists. And I am yours. I am causing your climate crisis and you are causing mine - but the idea that we are each causing our own is simply impossible to keep within my own brain, because I'm hard wired to be the hero in my own story.
Which can only mean... the only way to solve the climate crisis is, in my humble opinion... to turn on each other... total global war. Mass slaughter. Only when I am the last man standing can I say the climate crisis has been averted. And the same is true for you. Huzzah!
Hmm... I hope I don't achieve any sort of position of influence in the Greens... I wouldn't want this blog to come back to haunt me. I'm not sure they have that great a grip on satire...
2084. The world remains at war.
In the Eurasian desert, twenty-year old Adnan emerges from a coma with memories of a strictly ordered city of steel and glass, and a woman he loved.
The city is the Dome, and the woman... is Adnan's secret to keep.
Adnan learns what the Dome is, and what his role really was within it. He learns why everybody fears the Sickness more than the troopers. And he learns why he is the only one who can stop the war.
Persuaded to re-enter the Dome to implant a virus that will bring the war machine to its knees, the resistance think that Adnan is returning to free the many - but really he wants to free the one.
24 0s & a 2
Twenty-four slipstream stories. Frequently absurd, often minimifidian, occasionally heroic.