paradigms don’t die easy (but they die all the same)

A bunch of people I know online were talking recently about a piece by Yancey “Kickstarter” Strickler, which I won’t link to here, for reasons best explained by this toot:

Weary snark aside, I do at least recognise there being something to the whole Dark Forest metaphor, even if it seems already to be riven by an internal contradiction: if you keep trying to tell the wider culture about it, you’re undermining its most basic premise. But hey—we’re all trying to make a living here, amirite?

Anyway, I haven’t been reading Venkatesh Rao as closely as I once used to, because he’s gone off into certain dark forests that I actively wish to stay out of. But when he comes back out to do his more broad-brush theory stuff, he can still drop gems like this:

In the recent Dark Forest Collective roundtable Yancey pulled together to discuss the anthology, I took the contrarian position arguing that the dark forest and cozyweb were (or at least, should be) temporary conditions of retreat and that we should be figuring out how to reclaim the public for peace. But what does this even mean and how do you do it?

I think you do it by building up unstoppable momentum in cozyweb peace-room cultural production flywheels while the war rooms are busy fighting negative-sum wars over what’s left of the public spaces. Once the momentum is high enough, you can stop hiding and go public. You don’t end wars by arguing for peace or imposing “order” by force after “winning.” That sort of peace won by war is fragile and unsustainable. It is a delusion harbored by self-styled “strong men” during their 15 minutes of strength.

You actually end wars by making peace too valuable to miss out on.

That felt very much in sympathy with this riff from Annalee Newitz, who is teasing their forthcoming book on psyops:

Recognizing psyops is one way to defuse them. Instead of engaging with people and organizations hurling weaponized messages at you, do anything else. Write a letter, sit in a garden, talk to a friend, play a game, listen to music, or seek out information that isn’t laced with lies and threats. We won’t end this culture war by manufacturing better weapons. We must refuse to fight. We must rebuild our public sphere, not nuke it from orbit.

There’s a fin-de-siècle feel to things at the moment, which manifests (for me at least) as a sort of oscillation between deep ennui and the feeling one gets just before dawn at the summer solstice. An era is ending—and that inevitably means messiness, because eras do not end easily. This is the extinction surge.

But endings are always already new beginnings.




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