Human prosperity, we are told, is an unalloyed perfect metal, forged in the crucible of the industrial revolution. The modern world was born in a revolution of steam and flame. Abundance, available endlessly in infinite quantities, poured forth from the workshops of creation. And now forevermore, thanks to the alchemical formula of technology, capital, and power, will the world get better.
Like all myths, our creation myth of abundance reveals the truth at the heart of the lie. The facts are these: the beggar’s prosperity of meta-modernity is not an unalloyed good, available endlessly in infinite abundance, forged nobly in a great and virtuous workshop. It was born in the rape of the earth, nurtured by war and holocaust, conceived in the workhouse and plantation. And it is ordered, today, by a creaking, buckling system of finance, barely contained volcanos of social upheaval, and armies of middle managers who desperately wish for better things to devote their one and only lives to than pillaging the earth and plundering the future in the noble quest for… new flavours of deodorant.
It is true that the world is getting better — in the narrowest of terms. But it is truer that it is precisely the unbridled pursuit of such a simplistic notion of progress which is, simultaneously, paradoxically, contradictorily, causing it to get worse in many real, and irreversible ways.
And so. It is confronting, untangling, and resolving exactly the paradoxes and contradictions of our Predator’s Bargain with prosperity that is the great challenge to which this generation of ours must rise. Not merely philosophically, but pragmatically, in the real world, here and now. Rise, or else surely fall from what little grace our forefathers earned for us.—