Mini-manifestos: Part 3
The collective spectrum of Doomer Optimism
The umbrella of Doomer Optimism is not one vision for the future, it is an orientation that says: we see the world as it is, and we move forward with a practical, positive vision despite the challenges.
We defined Doomer Optimism as “a collective dedicated to discovering regenerative paths forward, highlighting the people working for a better world, and connecting seekers to doers.”
To demonstrate the variety and breadth of people engaging with such a perspective, I have asked for Doomer Optimists to write mini-manifestos clearly stating the vision for the future they are working toward.
I hope this exercise will make clear the very many thoughtful people working on practical initiatives to bring about a better future. I also want to make legible the specific philosophies and toolkits being used, so that others may find what resonates with them and thereby, find their community.
Doomer Optimists don’t all have to agree with one another. In fact, many virulently disagree. It is my goal to highlight the good work people are doing, and to lift them up. I also think of our collective as a place to interrogate each other’s perspectives. With public vetting and pushback, each of our individual visions can become stronger.
I will be releasing these mini-manifestos in parts. In Part 1 we heard from Aris Roussinos, Tara Ann Thieke and Empty America. In Part 2 we heard from Joe Norman and Chris Ellis. In this part we will hear from Shaun Chamberlin, Jeff McFadden and Adam James Pollock (AJP).
In future manifestos we will hear from Tucker Max, Julie Fredrickson, Chris Smaje, Anarcho-contrarian, Roxanne Ahern, Chris Dancy, Willow Liana, Pentti Linkola Stan, Gregory Landua, Stone Age Herbalist, Mary Harrington, Matthew Pirkowski, Chelsey Norman, and Simone Cicero among others.
Realists of a larger reality
Our globalised world finds itself caught on the horns of a seemingly impossible dilemma – either cease growing, and so collapse the economy on which we all depend, or continue to grow until we overwhelm and destroy the ecosystems on which we all depend.
As my late mentor, the historian and economist David Fleming, put it,
“It is certain that there are no simple answers to this—none that could be proposed without proposing at the same time a transformation in the whole of the way we think, work and order our lives.”
Meanwhile, most live in an economy so violently contrary to our human instincts and desires that it leaves epidemics of depression, loneliness and suicide everywhere it goes. Like villagers glancing fearfully up at the castle of some dauntingly powerful vampire, we live our lives under the shadow of the seemingly unchallengeable economy of undeath.
Yet its weak point is obvious. People straight up hate this economy. They hate their jobs and the futile – often desperate – materialism imposed on their lives.
Nonetheless, as I grew up inside it the corporate media kept us blind to other possibilities, made it seem patently obvious – only common sense – that continuing to participate in this grim reality is the only realistic option.
But it’s a lie.
We all know of course that this economy is unsustainable, but it’s somehow easy to forget that this means that it will end. The truth is that it takes immense energy (of all kinds) to keep a population suppressed – to fight all our contrary impulses; to quiet our profound inner misgivings, our spark of creativity and rebellion. This energy is running low.
And when the current paradigm transparently offers nothing but a literal dead end, we can be sure that we are on the cusp of a fundamental shift. There are two possibilities from here – we dramatically change direction or we end up where we are headed. Either way, we are on the cusp of radical change. The work of today is building the sequels.
Fleming's writing provides the radical but historically-proven alternative: focused neither on the growth nor de-growth of the market economy, but on huge expansion of the ‘informal’ or non-monetary economy—the ‘core economy’ that keeps our society alive, even today.
This is the economy of what we love: of the things we naturally do when not otherwise compelled, of music, play, family, volunteering, activism, friendship, romance and home. Yet over the past couple of centuries, this core economy has been much weakened, as the ever-growing stresses of precarious employment, debt and rising prices have left people with less time and energy for friendships, family and fun.
The New Economy our times call for is in many ways the Old Economy. Around the world, we are rediscovering the ways human beings related to each other for hundreds of thousands of years before we were ripped into isolation by the brief historical anomaly of market capitalism, into which most of us alive today happened to be born.
Wherever we are, we are spending our days relearning how to seek our security in each other – and in Nature – rather than in money, and as we do, we notice that the unfolding end of the undeath economy (no longer our undeath economy) becomes less something to fear, and more something to celebrate.
We think less about what we might stand to lose and far more about the joys we had already lost and are slowly learning to regain, together. At long last we are remembering how to build a world in which, as dear David wrote,
“There will be time for music.”
excerpt from https://www.darkoptimism.org/2019/01/18/realists-of-a-larger-reality/(with cartoons!)
Forty acres and some donkeys
Jeff McFadden @homemadeguitars
I believe that group action from the bottom, beginning with small groups and spreading, could literally solve the problem in spite of government. That's why I still write. I'm not interested in what the government does. I've got that figured out. It won't work.
I believe that Americans, powerless, employed, anonymous Americans, in small groups, could break the fossil fuel machine. And this ain't gettin' well any other way.
We have to break the machine. The machine survives on growth and acceleration. We've got to slow it and shrink it. Slowing it will shrink it. Slowing it a whole lot will break it. There are two points of pressure. Traffic speed and intentional community.
If every single person in the United States who lists climate as one of their top 5 concerns would never again drive faster than 5 mph / 10% slower than the posted speed limit just that one change would significantly reduce fossil fuel usage. We're all waiting for someone else.
Climate aware people are forming intentional communities in America today. I am not aware of any that are food energy focused, meaning animal powered. I have offered, and hereby officially offer, 40 acres in Ray County, MO, to a donkey powered intentional community.
I would go with the prospective founders to the University of Missouri, where the Agroforestry Department has information about creating land trusts, and if we could come to agreements as to how to begin, execute documents and turn them loose, within agreed upon terms. I see about five families. There is 1/2 mile of road frontage. There is one building site with utilities installed. There is piped, metered water, and an historic well remains.
I would provide assistance as I was able, both with donkeys, training, making friends with, care, all that. I would also provide limited assistance by operating my farm machinery, small scale fossil fuel machines, quality equipment, as might assist the community in their goal. I am elderly, without heirs, free owner of the property in question. I would execute a permanent trust.
There is one horsedrawn community with outposts around the United States. Most of their communities are prosperous. If donkey powered, Earth focused, voluntary communities sprang up around the United States, made a clear statement that this was for the climate and would really work, and then proved it, made it work, more could spring up. This is a lot more realistic than waiting for all the billionaires and, soon, trillionaires, to pony up Fifty or a hundred trillion dollars to fund a global renewable, fossil fuel replacing, renewable energy infrastructure dream science fiction story. This is possible in the real world.
I would personally recommend hazelnuts as a staple crop. I've been reading The Dawn of Everything, and every time you turn the page, some culture or other in North America was blowing off agriculture, having figured it out, and gone back to picking hazelnuts. Persimmons. Pawpaws. Acorns.
If the machine collapses you'd have all the food you needed, and transportation. Some of that stuff might be growing there now. If it is, it's in among the old field invaders and early succession woodland, thorn trees and sumac thickets - it's not easy land. And it's not generous. It's been mishandled, plowed, 5 to 9% slope, 90 to 95% topsoil gone. It wouldn't be easy. There's an old fallen-down house full of what were once my possessions. I walked away from them 17 years ago. Came here. Married G. Joined this land.
It's there. It's a dream. All I know.
An excerpt from:
Finding Meaning in the Mundane
There is a good German word called Weltanschauung, literally meaning “world perception”, but more broadly referring to an entire philosophy of life, a way of living or viewing the world. The idea of Doomer Optimism speaks to all these facets of the weltanschauung: the doom emerging from seeing the world as it is today, and the optimism coming from a view of what the world could be tomorrow.
For me, still well within my first quarter-century on Earth, I am often the target for most messaging directed at the youth. Constant advertisements on social media or in my local city centre coercing me into buying the latest product or clothing item which I don’t need nor want. Recurring soundbites from news organisations and multinational corporations about how good the metaverse will be or how tasty the bugs are. How to master “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” and other such pleasant philosophies which make up the books of the day.
The problem is, according to the mainstream culture, that you should care. Or, more precisely, that you should care about things that are actually meaningful, instead of the things that can contribute to the malignant globalisation and commoditisation of the meaningless. I am not allowed to care, for example, about the working conditions of the people who make the latest phones of fast fashion that I should buy, because that would not be conducive to the “global community”. I am allowed to care, however, about the environment, but only to the extent that my perceived solution would be to buy an electric car. Don’t worry about where the components come from.
There has been a concerted effort across the western world in recent years to instill in the population a sense of self-pity, deference and regret about their way of life heretofore, mixed with an entirely misguided morality on what is right and wrong. For the entirety of human history, survival has been ensured by finding like individuals with like values, and working towards a common aim; nowadays, being entirely unique and unlike anyone else is celebrated as aspirational. Like a cancer, this culture grows and is self-destructive.
I believe it is entirely possible to push back against this system. For me, the clearest first steps towards this involve rediscovering meaning in the mundane, in the everyday objects and rituals we carry out without thinking, or more increasingly subcontract out to others. What is wrong with cooking your own food? Why will you not build your own cabinet, or carve your own spoons? It is through asking these questions of myself and others that I discovered there are no valid reasons, only excuses. So, in an attempt not to be hypocritical, I have tried to learn these things which were once important, and which should be again, discovering their significance along the way. Everything can be sacred if undertaken for the right reasons.
The aim of all of this has a considerable overlap with many other proponents of the Doomer Optimist weltanschauung, which is a partial or complete exit from this system. The desire is to eventually establish as large a degree of autarky as possible, with self-sufficiency in other areas of life such as food and fuel, and for the things I cannot reasonably do myself to rely on a community of likeminded people who are slowly but surely emerging from the quiet. Until then, like Jünger’s anarch, I will live within the current system but not as a part of it, working towards my own idea of a better future, tried and tested by everyone who came before us.
Read more from Adam James Pollock at this substack Allegorical