disruptive narratives for a brave new world

There are some interesting dynamics at play right now. Anyone heard of Uncivilisation (aka The Dark Mountain Project?). It pitches itself as ‘a space for conversations in a time of global disruption’. It’s a great pitch.

It started out as a simple manifesto, fronted by a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation”. It has since grown over the past few years into a far-reaching creative movement encompassing writers, doers, dreamers, artisans and anyone else disillusioned with the status quo.

Its dogma is such. First, that we are living in a time of systemic collapse and need to engage with this through a new narrative, one that is rooted in nature. Second, that a fresh perspective on humanity is required from a deeper ecological standpoint. To take an excerpt from the manifesto as an example:

Today, humanity is up to its neck in denial about what it has built, what it has become – and what it is in for. Ecological and economic collapse unfold before us and, if we acknowledge them at all, we act as if this were a temporary problem, a technical glitch … For all our doubts and discontents, we are still wired to an idea of history in which the future will be an upgraded version of the present.

This summer Uncivilisation will host its annual summer festival at Hampshire’s Sustainability Centre, with 55 acres of woodland as its backdrop. Expect plenty of free-thinking debate, fire-lit storytelling and transformational encounters. I’m planning to drop by.

Another proposition of note I recently stumbled across is the London-based ‘Purposeful Decline Discussion Group’. This aligns itself with a similar belief system; that our society is heading for a dysfunctional fallout as the consequences of unsustainable economic systems take hold.

“Do you believe that economic collapse, peak oil, climate change, resource decline, are real possibilities in the near future?,” it asks. “Do you believe that we may not be able to stop them from greatly affecting our society?”

In other words, an open platform for those who think such a scenario is likely and want to ‘purposely decline’ – not just as individuals, but also as communities. Its argument is that by deciding how we want to decline, we can have more control over what we lose, and what we keep, should we ever be confronted with the stark reality of climate crisis.

This type of reflection not only intrigues, but speaks to me on a deeply fundamental level. Such perspectives are so absent from the mainstream, perhaps because they are slightly subversive yet spiritual. There is no business case to argue for here, nor moral duty to guilt-trip. Death and failure are allowed in. Whether we stay or head for the nearest exit is up to us.

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