Monday, August 29, 2005 +

After the Crash

From Caryl Johnston, After the Crash: An Essay-Novel of the Post-hydrocarbon Age:

The Science Controversy had taken place during the time when most people in society were going insane. It was very difficult in this period to ignore the growing numbers of unbalanced individuals. People would accost you on the street, for example, and tell you how they were feeling, or inform you that the government had moved to a new secret location, or that they were being shadowed by a difficult decision of destiny. Other people would stand in the street surrounded by little piles of household appliances that no longer worked, in the vain hope of trading them for something useful. One person might specialize in toasters, another in electric can-openers (p. 43).

So this is what I think: if you think about things but do not complete the whole cycle and return to re-internalization and participation-with, your thinking is basically nothing more than a refined form of egotism (p. 96–97).

If you have ever sat by the bedside of a person who is dying, you learn that it is not easy to die. . . (p. 166).

There was a lot of talk about ethics, but it mostly came down to the fact that ethics were fine as long as they didn’t involve any form of personal sacrifice. Where morality was concerned, the Hydrocarbon Era never abandoned its intellectual standpoint. The intellect was self-justifying. It had brought forth oil. What more needed to be said? (p. 168)

No one said anything for quite a few minutes. It was the intention of the mediator to hold this moment of emotional expressiveness for as long as possible, and not let it slip away into acts of interpretation, rationalization, judgment, pretence (p. 170).

I think it was this feeling of being in the dark, of being at a loss, that I remember so clearly of my Hydrocarbon-Age experience. You could turn on the lights, anytime day or night, but the light of knowing yourself, knowing how to cope with a situation—this kind of light was dim. Maybe it really always had been, in human experience, but the contrast of that inner dimness and uncertainty with the bright lights and the smoothly-functioning machines all around you was pretty overwhelming. I think this realization was one of the first things to strike us, when the oil and gas began to give out and people were worrying about the real difficulties of electrical generation in the face of declining resources. For the first time, it was as if knowledge (or ironically in this case lack of knowledge) actually corresponded to what was going on in the world. . . . What I am trying to say is that the Crash, the shortage of energy, caused a great many people to become connected to reality through not-knowing, through this feeling of lack. . . . And yet this not-knowing was not the same thing as ignorance (pp. 178–179).