Keep It Happy
…we have to say that we kept imagining a conversation involving some combination of the agent, editor and publisher prior to the book being written that really stressed how important it was to make this a positive book–after all, everybody is sick of downers like Jim Kunstler talking about oil crashes. And since negative scary arguments apparently just make people retreat deeper into their cocoons of denial where their only sustenance is crime dramas and celebrity blogs, it’s important to keep. it. happy. We’re serious: HAPPY! Thus sentences like this one in the introduction: “The future will be exhilarating.”
The review of the book is an interesting one – discussing the road to $20 per gallon of fuel, and what changes that will bring in – and the topics covered link to my recent post here – but it was the reviewer’s comments about the positivity of the book that I want to briefly talk about.
I do rather feel that we’re juggling doom with optimism right now, and we keep dropping the optimism: it’s fucking slippery stuff. With proclamations like this one from the Ecological Society Of America, giving us fifteen years at best, we’re facing a huge spectrum of Grim Meathook Future downers. Hell, read through Jared Diamond’s Collapse and you’ll be hoarding tinned food and building a Mad Max battle-wagon in your garage. Look at any of these prediction sets closely, and anxiety will ignite. I even have friends who aren’t planning for the future, and honestly don’t believe the human race will manage another hundred years. You can see why.
But that’s cowardly. It’s almost contemptible. The enforced editorial HAPPY that the Infrastructurist posits is actually much braver, whether or not it’s tied to sales, and whether or not it is, ultimately, cynical. It’s not retreating into denial, or shrugging toward inevitability, it’s saying: there is a future, for better or worse, let’s look at how it might work without predicting apocalypse. Being realistic doesn’t mean being a harbinger of darkness.
And the next few decades are going to bring in massive changes, and we need to grasp that change positively, optimistically, and energetically, or we’ll allow the horrors that usually take hold when people are in a bad place to come to pass. Gritting our teeth, swallowing our fear, side-stepping the emotional man-traps that tell us that the end of our own lives might as well coincide with the end of the world, and then coming up with a plan, is the only way forward. I’d rather be holding an optimists guide to the end of the world, when the time comes, than one written by someone who just assumes we’ll be screwed.
People like Steiner, who are quite pragmatically saying that ecologist-scaring tech like nuclear power *must* be allowed to flourish, might just be people who end up saving the planet. If that’s down to some upward editing on the part of their publishers, then, hey, I’m all for it.
Perhaps the tide is turning. All the metrics of our doom are in, and now it’s down to people to start making the adjustments required to sort out our ecologically damaged, expensive, food-shortaged future of over-population and consumerist collapse. The fact that people are getting on with it, in whatever format, can only be a good thing.