Apocalypso Now

Here’s an article I wrote last year and never posted. It’s for Lewis Deane.

Today I posted the latest episode of Apocalypse Close, and wrote the final two chapters.. Apocalypse has come to a Close. I’m now working on the footnotes, which will probably be longer than the text  (in homage to possibly my favourite novel, Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”)

I see I’ve let pass the first anniversary of this blog, without noticing. I don’t go for anniversaries, but I do sometimes have a look at what people are looking at on this blog. Sometimes I go back to blog posts of which I have no memory, simply because someone else has been looking at it.

That was how I came upon an article I’d written and forgotten about, on the subject of someone well-known in the world of climate change politics, someone about whom I had been very rude, someone whose career I would gladly see destroyed because of their fascistic intolerance of any opposition to the green agenda.

Now it so happens that I discovered by chance, while researching something entirely unrelated, that this person (whom I despise) has recently suffered two tragic events in their lives – events of the kind that bring you down from the heights of political struggle to save the planet to the level of ordinary human sorrow. 

You can insult people on the internet, challenge them, possibly destroy their reputations. But you can’t hug them, console them, or even (easily) say you’re sorry.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I discovered, (again more or less by chance) that Stephan Lewandowsky, whom I have treated as a liar and a charlatan, is the editor and co-author of a book of academic articles condemning the use (or the condoning) of torture by our democratic governments. 

As I said in a post here

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/in-praise-of-lewandowsky/

this is not such an easy thing to do. An ambitious academic whose career spans three continents might do better to keep a low profile on a subject which can only displease the powers that be. He doesn’t risk anything too life-threatening in today’s political climate, but climates can change, and therefore I salute Stephan Lewandowsky’s moral courage.

My third example was the case of the blog of a young climate militant I’d written about who published information about her personal suffering that no responsible person could possibly repeat. My intention to explore the psychological roots of climate militancy was brought up short. One’s legal right to reproduce anything one finds on the internet was in flagrant contradiction with the moral duty of any reasonable human being to shut up in the face of suffering.

 My main purpose in haunting the internet has been, and is still, to point out when someone says something wrong, particularly when that someone is speaking from a position of power – for example the power of supposedly infallible peer -reviewed science. (“I can’t come to bed. Someone’s said something wrong on the Internet” goes that wonderful cartoon). 

Apo-calypso: 

I don’t know Greek, but I imagine there is an etymological link between the word “Apocalypse”, and the name of “Calypso”, the princess who saved Ulysses, that eternal loser, which is also the name of a style of song invented in Trinidad in the mid-twentieth century. In the thirties, British subjects on trinidad were composing songs in defense of King Haile Selasse of Ethiopia (deposed by Mussolini in 1936) or Edward VIII, deposed by a conspiracy between the editor of the Times and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1938. Both songs support the losers; (most good songs do). 

I have no reason to believe that we sceptics will win the climate wars. Maybe, instead of writing serious articles about climate sensitivity, or the failings of social science, we should be writing songs to be remembered by. Songs of losers, like

Feel free to add your own

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23 Responses to Apocalypso Now

  1. Lewis Deane says:

    Reading. But read my comment on Ben Piles latest. Ie I think I found my marmalade on the way down, atleast for now. In case it doesn’t show up it’s this:

    Ben,

    As usual you cut to the heart of the matter. Only a person without history and a knowledge of the vicissitudes of western thought could be so nakedly, unashamedly obtuse as Kevin. But that is the problem that is now almost universal. Instead of ‘progressing’, we just repeat, in an ever more hackneyed manner, an ever more corrupt thinking (and ever more ‘comedic’), those very ‘false’ starts we thought we’d just recently grown out of. It is not the ‘productive forces’ that are lacking, nor the people of ‘agency’ and ingenuity, but the Establishment, which like a half dead, parasitic carapace, continues to parasitically feed of the live body which has not yet learnt how to shed it. But there is a ‘spectre’ haunting this Establishment, and that is the ‘spectre’ of humanity, itself, which haunts in it’s inverted reflection as it’s own impotence.The people will out, sometime, sooner or later and it can be nice, but still difficult, or it will be bloody and tragic, like the those horrible consequences (but also opportunities) following the end of another paradigm, Stalinism.

    Just as an aside, I was think how ‘progress’ has become vicarious through the medias of entertainment – I was thinking, in particular, of Scifi and my, what at first I thought of as problematic, love of it. It was and still is it’s re-enactment of that optimism, specifically American, born from the ‘Forties, Fifties and Sixties, but as old as the founding of USA, and older, to the Enlightenment, but as that inverse parallel universe to the aforesaid ‘impotence’. But if ‘vicariousness’ is, for the present, thee modern condition, in this case the impotence is not internal but exterior and enforced and it is only a matter of time before it blows the unproductive and historically regressive, dying superfice.

    By the way, Geoff, I love ‘Pale Fire’. I love Nabokov. “The shadow of the waxwing slain In the reflection of my window pane” I paraphrase from memory.

  2. Lewis Deane says:

    “I feel I understand
    Existence, or at least a minute part
    Of my existence, only through my art,
    In terms of combinational delight;
    And if my private universe scans right,
    So does the verse of galaxies divine
    Which I suspect is an iambic line.
    I’m reasonably sure that we survive
    And that my darling somewhere is alive.”

  3. Lewis Deane says:

    This is it:

    “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
    By the false azure in the windowpane;
    I was the smudge of ashen fluff -and I
    Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
    And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
    Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
    Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
    Hang all the furniture above the grass,
    And how delightful when a fall of snow
    Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
    As to make chair and bed exactly stand
    Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!”

  4. Lewis Deane says:

    What you address, Geoff, is the real humans behind the ‘phenomena’ and that they are real humans. This why all ad hominem attacks are a lie to oneself, first of all, and a sin, to misquote, against the human spirit. It is, after all, only the latter that matters. If one ‘forgets’ the humanity of others one loses what humanity one has. Perhaps, that is why I would rather ‘internalise’ than ‘attack’. This ‘debate’, after all, not merely divides Modernity but even ones own family, including my own. Above all, one must avoid ‘animus’, ‘resentiment’. What is the first ‘sin’? To bring someone shame. There are different ways of doing this – Ben Piles Strong Reason is one, Judith Curry’s Balance another, etc, but as I say, I prefer your whimsicality much more. Keep it up, my friend, for your breaking some kind of ‘new wood’.

  5. “I think I found my marmalade on the way down”
    That stands as one of the great lines of the twenty first century. Do you know the work of James Tiptree? She (yes, she – real name Alice Sheldon) was the best science fiction writers of her generation. She wrote about torturing unicorns to extract the tears that give us humans orgasms.
    What are we doing faffing about tenths of a degree of global warming when there are lives to be led out there? Here are some more songs, not the best songs in the world; maybe, but songs nonetheless. Songs of losers.


    Si me quieres escribir / ya sabes mi paradero: / en el frente de batalla, / primera línea de fuego.
    Si tú quieres comer bien, /barato y de buena forma, / en el frente de batalla, / allí tienen una fonda.
    En la entrada de la fonda / hay un moro Mohamed / que te dice: / ”Pasa, pasa, / ¿qué quieres para comer?”
    El primer plato que dan / son granadas moledoras, / el segundo de metralla / para recordar memorias.

  6. Lewis Deane says:

    Which is not say I am Immune to such sins, far from it. Hence the need for Reflection. We all cast Stones.

    [PS I’ve decided I much prefer the old English way of alluding to Abstract Ideas – by Capital Letters, rather than ‘inverted commas’ (in German, “goose feet”!), don’t you think?]

  7. Lewis Deane says:

    Jiri Schelinger was a very interesting fellow – he drowned in the Danube in, I think ’92, after drunkenly trying to swim in Bratislava. He was very popular during the Communist era! Holubi dum means the Pigeon House – “How do I get back to the pigeons house?” It’s Czech irony of which they are the masters – history and all that.

    http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=cs&u=http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji%25C5%2599%25C3%25AD_Schelinger&prev=/search%3Fq%3Djiri%2Bschelinger%2Bwiki%26sa%3DX%26espv%3D210%26es_sm%3D122%26biw%3D1040%26bih%3D674

  8. Lewis Deane says:

    No, I don’t know Sheldon but I’ve heard of her. I’ll look for her.

  9. Lewis Deane says:

    It might be a good line but one would have to know it’s context. I sometimes wonder, after our fantasy ‘Apocalypse’ (I like your extemporization on that – who cares whether it’s ‘true’ or not? It’s fun!) and there were only ‘a few thousand battered books and a couple of broken statues’, would whatever we write be understandable. Anxieties that are particular to all writers with any ambitions, no matter whether such ambition is ‘deserved’ (without undeserved Ambition what would we be?). Painting, music (and it is always for the ‘losers’, Geoff, who are secretly winners), the plastic arts, yes, but writing. And yet we do Understand even Gilgamesh!

  10. Lewis Deane says:

    “What are we doing faffing about tenths of a degree of global warming when there are lives to be led out there?” Exactly. Wouldn’t it be fun just to Create. If we have a Duty as human beings, it is just that.

  11. Lewis Deane says:

    Jsem pry blazen jen – “I am a fool.”

  12. Lewis Deane says:

    I was wrong – he died in ’81. So the latter is one of his swan songs!

  13. Lewis Deane says:

    Si me quieres escribir / ya sabes mi paradero: / en el frente de batalla, / primera línea de fuego.
    Si tú quieres comer bien, /barato y de buena forma, / en el frente de batalla, / allí tienen una fonda.
    En la entrada de la fonda / hay un moro Mohamed / que te dice: / ”Pasa, pasa, / ¿qué quieres para comer?”
    El primer plato que dan / son granadas moledoras, / el segundo de metralla / para recordar memorias.

    Beautiful!

  14. Lewis Deane says:

    It’s sad but it’s beautiful:

  15. Lewis Deane says:

    ” … Night: and once again, the nightly grapple with death, the room shaking with daemonic orchestras, the snatches of fearful sleep, the voices outside the window, my name being continually repeated with scorn by imaginary parties arriving, the dark’s spinnets. As if there were not enough real noises in these nights the colour of grey hair. Not like the rending tumult of American cities, the noise of the unbandaging of great giants in agony. But the howling pariah dogs, the cocks that herald dawn all night, the drumming, the moaning that will be found later white plumage huddled on telegraph wires in back gardens or fowl roosting in apple trees, the eternal sorrow that never sleeps of great Mexico. For myself I like to take my sorrow into the shadow of old monasteries, my guilt into cloisters and under tapestries, and into the misericordes of unimaginable cantinas where sad-faced potters and legless beggars drink at dawn, whose cold jonquil beauty one rediscovers in death.” Malcom Lowry Under The Volcanoe.

  16. Lewis Deane says:

    Malcolm Lowry is probably the greatest prose writer, in English, of the 20th Centuary

  17. Lewis Deane says:

    I think there are certain lights in the darkest fog. There is a country, which I shall not name, that has established itself in the most hostile territory, escaping from a murderous history, that bravely battles and preserves what we used to call Civilization. Fructifying the deserts, beautifying the high and low, courageous, opposed by all Sparta’s, perhaps, it will only last as long Pericles Athens? I hope not. It is, in fact, the Athens of our time. We don’t know how to appreciate Heroism because we have killed our Heroes.

  18. Lewis Deane says:

    Geoff, Sorry for spamming this thread but I guess I’m sort of ‘permited’? Anyway, more poetry.

    Dialectic.

    .I.

    You deal only with the hard present,
    Something I envy: your record’s written
    By another, no one cares at the time
    To stop you, drink doesn’t kill you or,
    If it does, it’s at the end, a full stop
    To who you are. We die, some of us,
    Still incomplete and some whose life is nothing
    But the presence of failure. I write this
    Like a man who sits in the comfort
    Of possibilities, the cobalt
    Of a gun eyeing his talk of sophistries,
    Entertained passion, solitude,
    A neat cushion to back me up, stinking fear.
    I don’t register what’s there.

    Unlike you: you have the gun, I think.
    As an aspect of that script I haven’t grasped
    You turn this B movie into something more:
    Like Marriott in ‘Farewell, My Lovely’
    I’m the patsy, the limbo of certain guilts
    Whose weaknesses ditch me in the end;
    A clobbered beauty, corrupted by such
    Expectation my body is forced beyond
    What feeble reach I had into those other lives,
    A sub plot that’s their harder climb.

    .II.

    Offended by the wrong words and never
    Catching your welcome I retell mostly
    A monologue of what could be done
    Given conditions, appropriate sun,
    Five mile wind, compliant interlocutors,
    The usual list, verbatim anaesthesia
    Of the irrepressible ego. Can’t be done.

    Everyone expects, seconds before
    The end, some kind of recognition:
    Just the usual mechanics of the gun.
    Except: I knew you before, before
    The days of ‘hard drinking’ and searching out
    Other people’s lives: a time when you were
    Merely possible, not always there,
    Treated as a friend of what was future.

  19. Lewis Deane says:

    My book is called ‘Seasons Such As These’ after:

    Poor, naked wretches, where so e’er you are,

    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

    How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides,

    Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you

    From seasons such as these?

    King Lear Act III, Scene IV, Lines 28-32.

  20. Lewis Deane says:

    The Apology.

    .I.

    The heat folded in an airless layer.
    So you see my seeming arctic heart
    How foolish this tearful child and babbling eye
    Which is drunk and staggers,
    Broken below your stairs.

    We never could lift up our waxen wings
    Or lifted did not the hateful, burning accident
    Dissolve then drown its flesh? You and I
    Adrift among the pillared trees,
    Charred in our two dreams wary sleep.
    We float on the lazy but then unstoppable streams.

    So, to be left in the arctic land,
    Here, where the bell broods hollow.
    Among the clattering ice
    Of your eyes dream
    Never where we so formed
    Nor oned like our lips seal.

    Then darling (you permit me thus?)
    I have fought the darker things
    That instant light extinguished,
    That here with fortune rise.
    And age but the second tide.
    Oh, perhaps sensed beneath the skin
    Youths wild but aesthetic bone.

    Then how we might laugh, how dream
    As the tedium formed stalagmites
    Count our mortality.
    Blushes for the flesh
    And a pointed limestone world.

    Yes. But love? Words that patter on the floor:
    It will not utter, it will not speak, disclose.
    Our memory will blow like dust in the common wind,
    Absorbed in a million pores it will forget itself.

    .II.

    I have fought this long hard day to contain you
    But you where ever braver than I:
    Will I always, thus, fall under your hammer
    Auctioned at the obscurest price?

    And how, then, do the ages tell
    You from your dalliance,
    Those ages that could never tell
    Old bones from new dust.

    And how then, pray, will you find
    A companionable skeleton
    There for me to commune
    Through it’s blown skin ribs?

    .III.

    Our talk has a fungal form
    Or metaphysic and directed down
    From some ill hell it wiry swells
    Like creeping ivy through the gloom.
    Sad and distempered a fiery rage
    Infects its veins and illuminates
    A wistful steam that pales the face.

    And, how, across this space,
    That when I look stretches dizzy,
    As if with ambition coils the Earth,
    Can we again drown the cold
    In ignorant passion?
    Our desires recoil and wrap
    In frigid, spiritful fire
    Till love is all but a little,
    Indistinguishable, sanctuary flame
    For how long burning?

    If the branches here do touch
    Can the steal there then melt?
    And, if inflamed, would you despise
    The uncontrolled, fast beating heart
    Or, then, mourn ices wavering
    Or unwished loss of our loved
    Stone, statuesque, seeming godhead?

    .IV.

    Caught in the webbed distraction of a gaze
    Buzzed impossibilities, Utopic dreams.
    Your breath dragged at a thousand coattails
    Saying seeming unity. I was aware of slurs
    Genetic tales drowned in its inaction.

    And you said: ”Then this sole point I put there?”
    “Our land marks, thus devised in the conscience,
    Display an open world, inessential.
    Such mortality and such the way its tunes
    Out echo as the corpse the body.” So thus I.

  21. Lewis Deane says:

  22. Lewis Deane says:

    The Age Of Darkness.

    The chatter on the wind is the irritation
    Of the street: drunks or illiterate poor
    Claiming back bitter heritage of dark
    Or barbaric recompense of pillage.
    The habited Romans on their destined sword
    Of solitary circlings; burnt books,
    Artefacts in whose flames is seen the death
    Of some peculiar, personal march
    To some incongruous goal. Not sacrificed
    But burnt with the words and flaming tongue
    Taking all in a lying confession
    Of confounded biographies.
    The time heralded on an ox skin drum
    And thus brought to a passive, anonymous march,
    A prayer of strangers.

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