Between the bank of Styx and the gates of hell

The future is a grim place – this is one of the few things of which we can be sure. From the looming threat of war between superpowers with weapons of mass destruction, to climate change, economic anxiety and the rise of racist movements, all omens point toward one thing: at some point in our lives, we are going to march through hell.

What makes these catastrophes peculiar is that we all know vaguely how to avoid them. The vast majority of humans have a rough idea of how to avoid climate change or solve social miseries. What makes these series of impending catastrophes even more baffling is that they are avoidable, but we know we are marching toward them anyway and little is done to avoid them.

The possibility for a bright future is there. We have the means to abolish any form of economic misery. The means to secure a reduction in future greenhouse gas emissions could be found through geo-engineering. Breakthroughs in science, such a gene therapy, could make our lifetimes considerably better and longer. Robotization has the capacity to free millions of humans from mind-numbing and physically devastating labour, as long as it comes with a redistribution of wealth that guarantees a decent life for all. We all know the questions of the future are not questions of engineering. They are questions concerning eight billion humans that must be tackled by eight billion humans. They are political questions that deserve political and henceforth collective answers – not technical ones.

The questions that remain are: how do we get through hell? Are we going to be dragged into the fire by the uncaring arms of Mother Nature, or by the cold invisible hands of the market? Or, are we going to march though it together, caring for each other and making it to the other side to enjoy the wonders we could be creating?

If so little is being done to avoid impending disasters, there must be forces in the way of possible solutions. These forces are not the lizardmen or the freemasons, but social forces that allow a tiny portion of humanity to hold dominion over the rest of the biosphere. These forces are the movement of capital, for which the production of profit is the only imperative, even at the cost of our extinction. They are the various nations states that divide us with borders and citizenship statuses, mobilizing the interests of some human groups against others when unity of purpose at a global level is necessary to tackle our problems.

We won’t make it without a direct struggle against these forces and those who side with them, despite all of our politeness and restraint. It is imperative that, from now on, the collective control of humans over their social conditions walks hand in hand with our capacity to control nature. We must take back our lives.

“May you live in interesting times” is, purportedly, an old Chinese curse that describes our predicament perfectly. We stand at a crossroads in history. Will we take our responsibility and spit at the face of doom, or die a messy and forgotten death? The choice is ours, and I have made mine.

To those I have met in these past four years: I wish you good luck, and see you on the barricades.