Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
One of the strangest aspects of living in late capitalism is what Mark Fisher, following Franco Berardi, termed “the slow cancellation of the future.”
Similar to what Francis Fukuyama famously called “The End of History,” it’s not really an end to things happening, but rather the sense that development has stopped: Events will still occur, but there is nothing more to be learned from studying them. Humanity’s story is complete, and now we just get to keep doing what we’ve been doing since 1980 until the heat death of the universe or Christ’s return in glory or whatever it is that happens when humanity goes away.
Even if you think capitalism is great, it’s hard not to see what Fisher and Berardi are getting at. You don’t need to think we should redistribute anything to agree with Fisher that the Arctic Monkeys would sound perfectly at home in the 1980s. And I like the Arctic Monkeys!
What applies in music applies in politics as well. Fisher’s sense that time has stopped has been on my mind thanks to the Democrats’ past few weeks of old-fashioned, down-home racism.
First, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam got caught either wearing blackface or dressing in a KKK robe in his medical school yearbook from 1984. Then the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, preemptively announced he had worn blackface in 1980. Now, here in Maryland, Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford) apparently referred to part of Prince George’s County as a “n—– district.”
Each of these stories resembles a strange mash-up of other scandals. Gov. Northam’s blackface photos, for example, are a mixture of Covington Catholic’s blackface photo and Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook.
Asked by The Washington Post if she’s ever said the n-word, Lisanti said, “I’m sure I have … I’m sure everyone has used it.” This reminds me of celebrity chef Paula Deen, who told a lawyer “Yes, of course” when asked if she had ever said the n-word. (I’m not sure in what world the n-word is a normal part of people’s lives.)
Is it even worth the energy to call for Lisanti to resign? Of course, she should step down. Nobody with that sort of hateful attitude toward others is fit to govern. But she’s not going to — nobody does anymore.
Scandals are over. We’ve all more or less forgotten about Northam already. As Fisher puts it, we’re “simultaneously exhausted and overstimulated.” The scandals come too fast for anyone to care, and even if you somehow manage to keep track, what are you supposed to do? Post even more tweets?
I don’t have any answers to these questions — I wish I did. I could mumble something about “civic participation” or the Democratic Socialists of America or whatever it is that’s supposed to save us from the hell we built ourselves. But the truth is, I think we’re just stuck.
Political liberalism, with its Leviathans and absolute social contracts, is made to preserve its own power at all costs. How do you break an ideology like that? What sort of radical shock would make history start again? I have no answers. Until someone comes up with one, I think we’re just stuck like this.
The future isn’t, as George Orwell wrote, “a boot stamping on a human face, forever.” The future has been here since 1970. It’s invisible wars in countries most Americans won’t ever see, barely-hidden racism continuously breaking out into public view and an immiserated populace drowning itself in drugs and porn until it will finally manage to release enough carbon into the atmosphere that the clouds stop forming and all this burns away into ash.
John-Paul Teti is a senior computer science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.