Latest from the eco-nutters:
Draw back the curtain, follow the tireless motion of cogs and wheels back to its source, and you will find the engine driving our civilisation: the myth of progress.
The myth of progress is to us what the myth of god-given warrior prowess was to the Romans, or the myth of eternal salvation was to the conquistadors: without it, our efforts cannot be sustained. Onto the root stock of Western Christianity, the Enlightenment at its most optimistic grafted a vision of an Earthly paradise, towards which human effort guided by calculative reason could take us. Following this guidance, each generation will live a better life than the life of those that went before it. History becomes an escalator, and the only way is up. On the top floor is human perfection. It is important that this should remain just out of reach in order to sustain the sensation of motion.
Recent history, however, has given this mechanism something of a battering. The past century too often threatened a descent into hell, rather than the promised heaven on Earth. Even within the prosperous and liberal societies of the West progress has, in many ways, failed to deliver the goods. Today’s generation are demonstrably less content, and consequently less optimistic, than those that went before. They work longer hours, with less security, and less chance of leaving behind the social background into which they were born.
Well, let\’s leave aside the factual inaccuracies of that last sentence….we all work shorter hours, have a great deal more security and greater social mobility than our forebears did, say, a century ago.
Look at what\’s really encapsulated there in that phrase \”the myth of progress\”. A myth is some phantasm, something that isn\’t real.
So, I guess we can strike these guys off the list of pregressives then, can we?
We are the first generations born into a new and unprecedented age – the age of ecocide. To name it thus is not to presume the outcome, but simply to describe a process which is underway. The ground, the sea, the air, the elemental backdrops to our existence – all these our economics has taken for granted, to be used as a bottomless tip, endlessly able to dilute and disperse the tailings of our extraction, production, consumption.
Ah, no, they don\’t understand economics, do they? The idea of a Commons, to which access must be limited when demand is greater than the ability of the Commons to regenerate, is hardly a new idea. It\’s hardly an unknown one either….half of last year\’s Nobel went to Elinor Olstrom who works on exactly how such limits can be and are self-organised within communities.
The last taboo is the myth of civilisation. It is built upon the stories we have constructed about our genius, our indestructibility, our manifest destiny as a chosen species. It is where our vision and our self-belief intertwine with our reckless refusal to face the reality of our position on this Earth. It has led the human race to achieve what it has achieved; and has led the planet into the age of ecocide. The two are intimately linked. We believe they must decoupled if anything is to remain.
We believe that artists – which is to us the most welcoming of words, taking under its wing writers of all kinds, painters, musicians, sculptors, poets, designers, creators, makers of things, dreamers of dreams – have a responsibility to begin the process of decoupling. We believe that, in the age of ecocide, the last taboo must be broken – and that only artists can do it.
Ecocide demands a response. That response is too important to be left to politicians, economists, conceptual thinkers, number crunchers; too all-pervasive to be left to activists or campaigners. Artists are needed. So far, though, the artistic response has been muted. In between traditional nature poetry and agitprop, what is there? Where are the poems that have adjusted their scope to the scale of this challenge? Where are the novels that probe beyond the country house or the city centre? What new form of writing has emerged to challenge civilisation itself? What gallery mounts an exhibition equal to this challenge? Which musician has discovered the secret chord?
Umm, riiiight. Luvvies to save the world then.
Against the civilising project, which has become the progenitor of ecocide, Uncivilised writing offers not a non-human perspective – we remain human and, even now, are not quite ashamed – but a perspective which sees us as one strand of a web rather than as the first palanquin in a glorious procession. It offers an unflinching look at the forces among which we find ourselves.
It sets out to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own – a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare – might recognise as something approaching a truth.
Luvvies to save the world by teaching the animals to read apparently.
This, then, is Uncivilised writing. Human, inhuman, stoic and entirely natural. Humble, questioning, suspicious of the big idea and the easy answer. Walking the boundaries and reopening old conversations. Apart but engaged, its practitioners always willing to get their hands dirty; aware, in fact, that dirt is essential; that keyboards should be tapped by those with soil under their fingernails and wilderness in their heads.
We tried ruling the world; we tried acting as God’s steward, then we tried ushering in the human revolution, the age of reason and isolation. We failed in all of it, and our failure destroyed more than we were even aware of. The time for civilisation is past. Uncivilisation, which knows its flaws because it has participated in them; which sees unflinchingly and bites down hard as it records – this is the project we must embark on now. This is the challenge for writing – for art – to meet. This is what we are here for.
Well, at least uncivilisation still allows the use of that flowering of the late 20th century, the computer. Going to be interesting how they\’ll allow possibly the greatest globalised industry to survive in the promised Green wonderland.
This is the Dark Mountain project. It starts here.
Where will it end? Nobody knows. Where will it lead? We are not sure. In its next incarnation, in the not-too-distant future, it will become a website, which points the way to the ranges. It will contains thoughts, scribblings, jottings, ideas; it will work up the project of Uncivilisation, and invite all comers to join the discussion.
Then it will become a physical object, because virtual reality is, ultimately, no reality at all. It will become a journal, of paper, card, paint and print; of ideas, thoughts, observations, mumblings; new stories which will help to define the project – the school, the movement – of Uncivilised writing. It will collect the words and the images of those who consider themselves Uncivilised and have something to say about it; who want to help us attack the citadels. It will be a thing of beauty for the eye and for the heart and for the mind, for we are unfashionable enough to believe that beauty – like truth – not only exists, but still matters.
Aha! Finally I get it!
They\’re launching a poetry magazine!
Could have told us a few pages earlier guys….
We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our ?ngernails.
Apparently nailbrushes are verboeten though.
We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
Snigger. As has been true of the lifestyle of every generation since the start of this civilisation thing. A result of that progress which you consider a myth, see?
Anyway, there we have it. This is the great new project, the Last Hope of Mankind. A literary magazine with no theories or ideologies tapped out on keyboards by unwashed hands.
Will you excuse me if I go back to planning how to get the stuff to make fuel cells work? Sounds more valuable really.