Nihilism and Revolution

Apocalypto-Nihilism

Three fatal system errors and three mass “aha!” moments.
Apocalypto-Nihilism
Post Krieg, 2009 – Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

Imagine our global system disintegrates. Hunkered down in scattered pockets of survival, people try to adapt to the savage new landscape: scavenging for bits of food and water and defending themselves against marauding bandits. Imagine the recriminations and the finger-pointing as this dark age dawns … the gut-wrenching autopsy of our murdered way of life. What picture of blame would emerge? What were our fatal system errors and who among us was responsible for making them?

Culprit #1 would undoubtedly be the economists. How could this prolific class of scholars, wreathed in medals and PhDs, have led us so far astray? How could they not see that every product in the global marketplace was valued incorrectly, and that every purchase pushed us deeper into the cosmic red? And how could they, like villagers with their backs to Vesuvius, simply keep counting the money while the end drew so ominously near?

Culprit #2 would be the unholy alliance of commercialism and communication, which transformed our information delivery systems into tools of mass merchandizing. Why did we allow a cavalry of marketing hits to assail our minds every minute of every day, each of them telling us the same lie: that to live is to consume and to consume is to live?

Culprit #3 would be the corporation, or rather the way we abdicated our reason and endowed it with the legal rights of a human being. In doing so we created more than a person – we created a living monolith, stronger than any man and impervious to all assault. A supreme being who, once animated, could never, ever be stopped.

Now … imagine the power of three incidents of collective recognition. Three mass “aha!” moments in which we identify our fatal system errors and fix them, preempting the ultimate crash. First we break the unholy alliance of commercialism and communication and clean up the toxic areas of our mental commons … then we design a global marketplace in which the price of every product tells the ecological truth … and, finally, we kill the corporate “I” and get capitalism bubbling from the bottom up again.

Are we capable of such meta-level systems tinkering? Can we pull this thing off?

—Kalle Lasn

86 comments on the article “Apocalypto-Nihilism”

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Anonymous

1. Adbusters is non-profit. That doesn't mean that nobody at AB makes money, but they do so on a sustainable, positive sort of paradigm. I'd be happy if more of our business were conducted on an AB model. Adbusters is leading the way. 2. Most Adbusters readers are not so ignorantly asleep as to miss that preceding fact. So adbusters doesn't talk down to its audience by assuming we'll all make this huge leap of un-logic. So, erm, wake up. Red shoes.

Anonymous

1. Adbusters is non-profit. That doesn't mean that nobody at AB makes money, but they do so on a sustainable, positive sort of paradigm. I'd be happy if more of our business were conducted on an AB model. Adbusters is leading the way. 2. Most Adbusters readers are not so ignorantly asleep as to miss that preceding fact. So adbusters doesn't talk down to its audience by assuming we'll all make this huge leap of un-logic. So, erm, wake up. Red shoes.

Anonymous

Basically what I think it comes down to is this: A system is created because it serves a purpose. That purpose is usually dictated by the purpose the previous system served, the conditions of which no longer exist. For example, only through arduous struggle did capitalism replace monarchy, which replaced feudalism (sort of). Feudalism arose out of the anarchy of the Roman Empire's collapse, of the need to be protected and to have some semblance of stability. After awhile, though, conditions changed and it became clear this system was repressive and didn't work, thus creating things like the Magna Carta. And it wasn't until around the point of the American Revolution that people realized that kings and emperors were old-fashioned and ridiculous. (well, I'm sure quite a few people knew this all along, but it wasn't till this time that widespread revolutions began occurring in the West.) So, thus came the advent of Western capitalism, the need to separate church and state, and the desire to have an economy that wasn't meddled with (in principle) by politicians. We all know that didn't work out too well, and we are getting to the point where the system must change again. Even the most liberal government will become oppressive over time if it is allowed to calcify. Allowed, though, is the key word.

Anonymous

Basically what I think it comes down to is this: A system is created because it serves a purpose. That purpose is usually dictated by the purpose the previous system served, the conditions of which no longer exist. For example, only through arduous struggle did capitalism replace monarchy, which replaced feudalism (sort of). Feudalism arose out of the anarchy of the Roman Empire's collapse, of the need to be protected and to have some semblance of stability. After awhile, though, conditions changed and it became clear this system was repressive and didn't work, thus creating things like the Magna Carta. And it wasn't until around the point of the American Revolution that people realized that kings and emperors were old-fashioned and ridiculous. (well, I'm sure quite a few people knew this all along, but it wasn't till this time that widespread revolutions began occurring in the West.) So, thus came the advent of Western capitalism, the need to separate church and state, and the desire to have an economy that wasn't meddled with (in principle) by politicians. We all know that didn't work out too well, and we are getting to the point where the system must change again. Even the most liberal government will become oppressive over time if it is allowed to calcify. Allowed, though, is the key word.

Julian H.

I work as a graphic designer, and am often unhappy about my industry as a whole. My unhappiness stems mainly from the position I am often put in by my boss, clients, and peers: Lie. The argument could be made as stated earlier in the comments that Adbusters itself is using the same tactics as the systems it is rallying against. But I disagree with that sentiment. I believe the big difference is the intent behind the message. Nike doesn't come out and say "Buy our shoes made in sweat shops across the globe so we can make even more money off of your ignorance". They say "Just Do It", an anti-thought bearing slogan, that the mass culture ingests quite happily. It is for all purposes, one of the greatest lies of all time. It is unrealistic to think that Kalle; et all, could design, produce and distribute their product without any marketing or self advertising. There is a big difference between product advertising and product awareness. The ads AB posts for itself, to me fall on the side of product awareness and advertising transparency. I think AB does a good job of walking the thin line. Their Blackspot shoe campaign for example, shows us the factory and the people behind the scenes, and explains the price breakdown. To me it is something to be proud of, that a company could produce a superior product, with minimal impact and exploitation. Imagine if Nike showed pics of their factories in China or Indonesia, is that something they would be proud of, or something they would want to hide from us? I don't believe the idea is to destroy all brands, not make any profit, or be unable to pay one's bills. The message and the motive of Adbusters to me has always been: think first before reacting, and be truthful about your intentions. Which I still feel is important to me, hence my subscription renewals. Capitalism IS the system we are locked into. Sometimes you have to use parts of it to get the message out there. Use the system against itself if you will. The platform of print, t.v., and web is a viable form of getting your message to the public. All of this costs money, so unless you want Adbusters to hand out free flyers on the corner, or holler to the public walking by, then money is a necessary evil to convey the message of fighting uninformed consumerism. One could say it is hypocritical, but again I think it comes back to intent. Can we make things with a greater respect for globalism, sustainability, and human rights? Yes we can, although it is less profitable in terms of cash, the reward is something some of us might never truly feel: Pride.

Julian H.

I work as a graphic designer, and am often unhappy about my industry as a whole. My unhappiness stems mainly from the position I am often put in by my boss, clients, and peers: Lie. The argument could be made as stated earlier in the comments that Adbusters itself is using the same tactics as the systems it is rallying against. But I disagree with that sentiment. I believe the big difference is the intent behind the message. Nike doesn't come out and say "Buy our shoes made in sweat shops across the globe so we can make even more money off of your ignorance". They say "Just Do It", an anti-thought bearing slogan, that the mass culture ingests quite happily. It is for all purposes, one of the greatest lies of all time. It is unrealistic to think that Kalle; et all, could design, produce and distribute their product without any marketing or self advertising. There is a big difference between product advertising and product awareness. The ads AB posts for itself, to me fall on the side of product awareness and advertising transparency. I think AB does a good job of walking the thin line. Their Blackspot shoe campaign for example, shows us the factory and the people behind the scenes, and explains the price breakdown. To me it is something to be proud of, that a company could produce a superior product, with minimal impact and exploitation. Imagine if Nike showed pics of their factories in China or Indonesia, is that something they would be proud of, or something they would want to hide from us? I don't believe the idea is to destroy all brands, not make any profit, or be unable to pay one's bills. The message and the motive of Adbusters to me has always been: think first before reacting, and be truthful about your intentions. Which I still feel is important to me, hence my subscription renewals. Capitalism IS the system we are locked into. Sometimes you have to use parts of it to get the message out there. Use the system against itself if you will. The platform of print, t.v., and web is a viable form of getting your message to the public. All of this costs money, so unless you want Adbusters to hand out free flyers on the corner, or holler to the public walking by, then money is a necessary evil to convey the message of fighting uninformed consumerism. One could say it is hypocritical, but again I think it comes back to intent. Can we make things with a greater respect for globalism, sustainability, and human rights? Yes we can, although it is less profitable in terms of cash, the reward is something some of us might never truly feel: Pride.

Anonymous

I agree with a lot of what you are saying. But still, the Adbuster ad for their t-shirt still says "WEAR IT," which is the exact same anti-thought bearing slogan as "JUST DO IT" that you mentioned in your excellent essay. If they supported thinking first, they would just show the photo of the product without any slogan (or at least at thought spurring slogan to match their pro-thought philosophy). But, yes, I respect that entire article you just wrote... it opened my eyes to the difference between product awareness and product advertising, as you put it. Thanks.

Anonymous

I agree with a lot of what you are saying. But still, the Adbuster ad for their t-shirt still says "WEAR IT," which is the exact same anti-thought bearing slogan as "JUST DO IT" that you mentioned in your excellent essay. If they supported thinking first, they would just show the photo of the product without any slogan (or at least at thought spurring slogan to match their pro-thought philosophy). But, yes, I respect that entire article you just wrote... it opened my eyes to the difference between product awareness and product advertising, as you put it. Thanks.

Anonymous

This article, and the posts that follow it are missing an important series of points. First, what can YOU, control in your own life. You can alter your own behavior, thoughts and feelings. Encourage altruism in everything that you do. That is the first step. Second, life as an example. Don't like corporations? Don't buy from them. Educate others, through your own actions. Third, stop complaining about other people. you cannot, and should not desire to control other people. Control yourself, live as a positive example to those around you.

Anonymous

This article, and the posts that follow it are missing an important series of points. First, what can YOU, control in your own life. You can alter your own behavior, thoughts and feelings. Encourage altruism in everything that you do. That is the first step. Second, life as an example. Don't like corporations? Don't buy from them. Educate others, through your own actions. Third, stop complaining about other people. you cannot, and should not desire to control other people. Control yourself, live as a positive example to those around you.

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