The world is coming to an end. Make no mistake about it, the days are numbered. Where you are, you can’t even imagine what it will be like when the bottom hits.
Or, to put it differently, the world is always ending. What comes next is up to us. Every morning we wake up and sweat and bleed to put an exact duplicate of the previous day’s world in its place. We need not do this, but we do, out of fear, or despair, or psychotically deluded petty ambition, or sheer stubborn lack of imagination. At any moment we could all stop paying rent and going to work—nothing could stop us if we all deserted together—and rebuild society from scratch without landlords or loan payments. Heaven knows we’ve all had that daydream at least once. It’s not police or politicians that keep the wheels turning and the bodies burning, it’s our own compliance and complacency, not to mention lack of faith in each other.
Yet even if we insist on keeping at it, the Disaster is not sustainable. Capitalism as we know it is not going to be here in five generations—any environmental scientist can tell you that. Likewise no one has to argue for the destruction of the middle class—it’s already destroyed: it is the class of people laid waste by their own materialism and duplicity, suffering emotional and psychological consequences to which any psychiatrist can attest. It’s no longer a question of whether the system we grew up in has created the best of all possible worlds—everybody knows the answer to that question by now—but of how we’re going to handle the mess next time the terrorists get through the checkpoints, the fuel supply runs out, the computers and power plants break down. Considering other options, trying them out, that’s not radical—it’s just common sense when the writing is on the wall.
But are we really going to live to see anything else? Do we dare hold our breath for another world?
Despite the seriousness of our situation, the future isn’t one of monolithic, inescapable doom. There are several futures ahead of us, just as today there are people who live side by side but inhabit different worlds; which one you live to witness will depend largely on what you do in the meantime. This nightmare exists precisely to the extent that we invest ourselves in it— every day we work for it, buy from it, and stake our lives on it, we are buying into the protection racket that keeps it the only game in town. Correspondingly, the world of our dreams exists to the exact degree that we behave as if we’re already living in it—there’s no other way it can come to be. The turning point for each individual is the turning point of society, in miniature. Don’t ask when or whether that point will come, but how you can reach yours; if you can get there yourself, everyone else can too.
When you really start to go for it, when your actions open a bona fide portal to another way of life, others will come out of hiding and join in. What, did you think you were the only one going crazy here? It takes an entire subjugated nation to keep things running, and there are plenty of others among that number who know how little they’re getting out of it. They are the millions who don’t get consulted for newspaper polls, who might pick you up hitchhiking but never appear on television. Ten thousand sleeper cells wait for the point of critical mass to arrive, ready to spring into action with their own yearnings to breathe free and private scores to settle, desperate for a war to fight in that really matters, a love to fall in that can command their attention—killing time and themselves in the meantime with anorexia and alcoholism, dead marriages and deadening careers. Every day each of us puts off taking the risks we know we need to take, waiting for the right moment to come or for someone else to make the first move or just feeling too beaten to try, we have the blood on our hands of every suicide who couldn’t hold out any longer, every ruined love affair that couldn’t endure in the vacuum, every sensitive desperado artist buried inside the corpse of a miserable service industry employee.
Next time the end of the world comes, we won’t be paralyzed watching it on television. We’ll be out there deciding for ourselves what comes next...
It’s not too late to live like there’s no tomorrow—all hope for the future depends on it. Say your last words now, and start from there with whoever joins in. Dreams do rebel and come true.