A Single Radical Act
The world, as many of us are well aware, is in a state of utter chaos. We can easily imagine the Byzantines having a similar conversation as the Visigoths sacked Rome, or Aztec citizens observing to each other as the Conquistadors pillaged Tenochtitlan. This has likely been the conversation held by all people throughout all of recorded history. Yet, what makes this particular observation so salient, is the extensive and intensive creep of this chaos throughout almost all of our lives. Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental degradation, corporate control; we are mired in problems with seemingly no way out.
The common complaint when anybody says that there is something wrong with this or that is ‘what shall we do about it’? We demand answers. Or, more to the point, we demand someone to tell us what to do.
Maybe not an answer, but here is a suggestion.
When almost every single realm of life has become an appendage of the very chaos we seek to dispel, the single radical act left to any of us is simply…to do nothing.
But this is a very peculiar type of nothingness. This is not nothing as inertia or mechanical repetition, but ‘nothing’ as a severe and (as much as we can) complete break from the system of chaos as it stands that we support with the small choices we make every day.
There are so many types of nothing we could engage in. A good one for starters is, turn off the TV (and stop letting corporate advisors tell you how to think). After that, you can stop purchasing new phones and new clothes and new toys every week (and contributing to the pollution of the planet). You can even stop buying plastic (and adding to the poisoning of animals and ecosystems).
Doing nothing is not so much doing nothing as it is stopping what you are currently doing; in doing so, you open up a negative space of freedom where finally something new can actually appear. Geoffrey Bezos would go broke if we stopped purchasing things off Amazon, and the Earth would stand a better chance of surviving if we stopped using plastic. The negative field is ripe with possibilities. Instead of purchasing all your food from stores you could try your hand at growing something on your own; no longer using plastic will encourage you to consume differently and arguably, more ethically.
The single radical act left to us in a world that has been almost complete enlisted into the service of chaos is to do nothing. The withdrawal of support for a system that is utterly chaotic is perhaps the most radical thing we can do. The power in this is not that it is a guide or blueprint for what comes after. Nobody can predict that. But, it opens up a space where imagining and perhaps implementing a different, less chaotic world becomes possible.