I confess. It is all my fault. I did it, all by myself. No, do not dare to counter it saying it´s an overreaction. It is not. In a dispute with an old friend who is a Doctor of Biology, I realised, it is me. Only me. Not you, me. For sure. Most likely. It feels like that. Actually I knew for a while but played the consequences down. Tried to talk myself out of it that it can´t be that bad. But it is. Don’t try to climb the barricades and point at other factors, Big oil, free trade, collusion of big green, governments, alt-right, policy makers, factory founders or billionaires. It will not cut it, they are only a few, and I am many. I am a whole generation. I am a child of the 80ies, born in the 70ies. I am Generation X.
In 1988 James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified before Congress that he had “99 percent confidence” in “a real warming trend” linked to human activity. In 1989 the album “Headless Children” by the Heavy Metal band W.A.S.P. got published (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or We Are Sexual Perverts, it´s up to you). In summer 2019 I flew to Canada from Europe for vacation and then took a ship to the Hubbard glacier in Alaska and back, to see for myself how warm or cold the North still is. Honestly, I was fleeing from the hot summers in Italy where 45degrees every day is also too much for the local bus drivers in Lipari having 10 t-shirts for changing under the seat. On the “road” I was finally reading Naomi Klein’s well researched and angry book “This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs. the Climate” from 2014, which changed my mind within 20pages connecting the dots in a language and density so far unheard of by me. See https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/books/review/naomi-klein-this-changes-everything-review.html.
She is right. This is how politicians should talk. Seeing Humpbacks regularly in Vancouver bay and the strait of Georgia (they recover, this is good news!), the disappearance of local resident Orca families in the last 4 years (bad news) made me think – e.g. not enough local salmon, but the program for protecting humpbacks worked. Anecdotal experiences of Canada’s indigenous groups, who have struggled against forces that have destroyed their natural habitats added to it. Posting about this raised the anticipated angry voices who want me not to speak up, because I have had an epiphany through a transatlantic flight. Cannot be. Indecent. A joke. No, I am deadly serious. Maybe silence would fit their own conscience better. But I will help them and get my head into the noose.
In Wild West movies (usually about killing Indians, or the extraction of gold from the land of the First Nations) the villain or the hero is often hanged at the next tree for his supposedly bad deeds, no matter if he confesses or not. As a European it is difficult to take responsibility for the smallpox and influenza which wiped out millions of people in both of the Americas, a cultural and literal genocide. All that was left was empty land with resources up fro the grabs. The local sources if hey do so (they did in the City Museum of Juneau, Alaska) blame the Europeans, not the Americans or Canadians. The local First Nations largely avoid blaming, which feels specially humiliating and generous. Seeing local wildlife humpbacks and glaciers, Haida totems and Squamish canoes, I realised how close and much on spot the Canadian author Klein is, when she talks about the Alberta tar-sands and the poisoning of the Moose (and thus, the human population) for greed. She is roughly my generation and had to work also through denial to acceptance and activism. Maybe, as a culturally learned catharsis, confession helps. Not WE do this to our world, now, but I AM doing this, for more than 30 years.
I am taking full responsibility. In a Christian culture that is the minimal thing I can do and everybody will understand. I do it for them, the lamb, the sacrifice. Nobody did foster this or is gaining from it. We all dance around the golden calf, but who am I to point fingers? I take responsibility and everything will be good. The climate crisis will pass, become normal and you will remember that I cooked it up. I fostered it with Top Gun, Amiga, C64 Olympics, 1983 WarGames, illusional Tron, the Never ending Story and The Flight of the Navigator. Stranger Things wishes to summon the demon of the 80ies, but all it gets is the nostalgia right, because the innocence is gone. We are adults now and I do not believe in Steven Spielberg anymore, but still in E.T. They are out there, somewhere, Agent Mully and Scoulder, watching us hovering over Boulder Colorado or Salzburg or Ulan Bataar and shaking their grey heads over my generations foolishness and fallacy. Stay hungry (yes, world hunger still looms…Live Aid 1985, anyone?) stay foolish (indeed, we all wanted to be asshole Steve and we actually got our wish). Start up fast to mess up the world before noon, producing more and more obsolete goods and services. The next big thing. No new ideas. Dominion over empathy. Holy smoke – how did we get here?
Nobody will need to help me seeing the big picture, because it is obvious…I kicked the ball of earth over the rim into the abyss within my lifetime. With my bare feet. From 1988 With my bear hands, oh, deer! The key-kid on a bicycle of the 70ies. The lost generation on a BMX. The ones who never wanted to make a career (read Douglas Coupland´s iconic take on that). We wanted to have philosophical conversations and opt out of the rat-race. Dolce far niente, rather than a banker or an accountant. We wanted to be dangerous. We wanted to be left in peace. That did not go well in the last 30 years for many. We helped fucking it up, consciously. Became, what do I say, stayed decadent and got into executive positions to secure the status quo. For us we thought. For our children. Well, congratulations, that seem to have backfired, hottest summers ever, Greenland free of ice for the first time in 115.000 years. We did it for the Baby Boomers in charge, who do not want to leave the seats of power, cling to it like monkeys. But we, a generation of non-conformists who thought they are different, we helped them in the end, licked their boots, bought their products, shut up and hoped to become their heirs. We will become the heirs of a toxic dumpsite, scratching scrap out of precious tin cans. And it’s all our own fault.
I will be known as the generation who drowned New York, or Singapore, or Venice. I did it, and I am still doing it. I fly transatlantic for a honeymoon and do not feel bad about it, fighting with an old friend of the same generation about „flightshaming“ (Flugscham). I am ashamed that I did let my fellow peers down. That I have no better answer than blaming myself, or pointing out to Naomi Klein, as if calling for mama. I know that I did it. I should be ashamed. But I am not. I confess, because I am a rebel in the F.D.G. and I say only God in the heaven knows, I’m a bad child, come and love me, but I am not ashamed. I am guilty, but I own it. The Fucking´Decadent Generation, true in 1989, is true now, 30 years later in 2019. The more poetic, the truer, as Novalis romantically puts it. Read more Novalis, listen to more W.A.S.P. crying out the truth (above). Affirmative stances may yield the greatest response, hopefully from the right people.
„A rebel?“ you say, youngster, – I hear you. „A rebel, stinking youngster?“ an old man born in 1939 says. Both times they are mad at me, because, yes, because, what was I thinking? Who burned coal on steam ships accumulating in the atmosphere cannot be worse than burning down the Amazon rain forest. It is true. I am stinking, an dripping barrel of guilt, because I am drenched in oil, kerosine and plastic derivatives for my lifetime. I used them all, I confess, mostly without thinking. I probably die from cancer from it like the Malboro man. They were simply there, and they were cheap. A cheap excuse of course. The Chinese Red Army had less grave confessions given to their youthful soldiers of a new Republic leaping forward – and people got shot. A cruel way of keeping people in line, confessions.
I fear I will get something worse from my peers and other living, breathing beings (like trees) on that warming globe: indifference. You can name me anything and read out the list of my crimes in tons of CO2 and Methane, but you cannot accuse me (j´accuse!) of indifference. I feel bad. I know what I did, I know that I put my pedicured foot (I once had a pedicure, what an uncomfortable thing to let happen, poor ladies) on the gas pedal, all too often. I thought having fun, driving fast (within limits) is fun. That cars are fun. That girls are fun. Drinking is great. What a fool I was. No fun for the perpetrators. All for the judges.
Metal is part of the extraction logic of generations. I used way too much of it and still like the sound. A legion of reckless prospectors swarmed out for millenia who took so much and gave back so little. Bronze swords. Barbarian iron helmets. Steel lances and armoured cars. Litte refined idols, four tires screeching, lifelong cruising waiting for the accident and the price of oil to go down. What you could buy was the smell of napalm in the morning, glory, fame, children in despair, explosion, burning wheels and roaring engines. Rattling chains of slaves and cannons spewing more metal, killing the masters. The masters of puppets. I am their puppet and I admit it.
Metal is something to listen to. Heavy Metal may be in practice as unhealthy as listening to a train flying by at 0,5m distance loosing some cargo chips due to rattling, or living in a steel mill. But it has its merits. It tells you, that it is ok to be a rebel, an outcast, something who breaks the laws, a Mad Max. Oh, driving through the desert in a road movie with Goa Trance tuned up to comfortable max. The classic scenes in gas stations and motels. The ticking of steel and chrome in the heat of the desert sun on death valley. American myths. Gallons of gasoline. For fun. For freedom. Now a burned word. It had meaning. It still has, if its not abused as freedom fries. Grease, rubber, kinky business. Oh, the glory of European steel factories. Oh, rubber production. My uncle was part of that in a factory in Austria where I grew up, the only big one in the region, giving work to most of the people there. It lasted till 2002, then the production moved to the Czech Republic and then to Thailand.
Rubber is part of the extraction logic. I am a rebel, because I am recklessly using it, as part of a reckless decadent generation not knowing better. I should have known better since at least 1988 (read Naomi Klein‘s article on that matter: https://theintercept.com/2018/08/03/climate-change-new-york-times-magazine/ …and the book). We should have known better. We should have cared more, letting the green agenda not getting cared for by pale people wearing German sandals and praying for the harmony of society with banners and the occasional squatting. We were the punks who fought police for fun. We squatted whole blocks in Berlin (Tacheles, anyone? Köpi?) and nobody could say we were illegal unless risking his lip or getting his ass whipped by a hoard of „Sick of it all“ Moetly Crues. We hung on loud bikes like easy riders and roared down the highway in moderate 50mph without a helmet. Now many dwell now in McJobs longing for the dreams that the future will have a positive aftertaste. Anything goes. Born to be wild.
How did we become afraid of each other? Angels of hell in search for other factions who do not look like US. And others who looked different, doing the same. For a living, for living a myth. I mean, not on the weekends as full time clerks or fast-food jobs putting on costumes and going to Rammstein concerts, but for real. As a way of living. To be proud. To be not part of the establishment. Now everybody seems to conspire and be part of the establishment. So, I am a rebel in the F.D.G. but I am lier. I am lying that this way of Western living with washing machines and refrigerators, TVs and light bulbs (sorry, LEDs, which actually made a difference) is horrible and a scam. That we shall all be hunter and gatherers again – well, we somehow are, but all land is taken, and people have private security now. I am lying when I say, I did not like living in the 80ies, I loved it – see all the nostalgia my generation is indulging in. And we burned the most there, we were most dirty, reckless and eccentric. And we signed free trade pacts with the devil believing in the dream-team of an Iron Lady and an American actor changing our world forever. A Wild West star and a woman destroying the middle-class which voted for them.
How could a character shooting fake bullets with fake sympathetic smiles convince us of the three pillars of neoliberalism: austerity, deregulation and privatization? How could Margarete Thatcher state “And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.” in 1987 and not mean to shrug off all responsibility? How could we sheep be lead into a major financial crisis the communities still have to pay for world-wide, 2000+ billion US$ paid by the taxes of…the society? Who else cleans up after them? How could that become the gospel, forwarding the debt of wealthy individuals to society, while our middle-class way of living, our systems of social cohesion and solidarity, our cultural budgets and time for ourselves were discarded like old TVs on the street by competition? Just buy new ones. Better ones, bigger ones. One you need to exchange for a better, newer 3D one next year. We advertise it, we put models next to it smiling, slim, deceptive and you fat imbeciles are buying it as if it would be the holy communion. Sorry, I wanted to speak of myself and got derailed… Pay for our Credit Default Swap (CDS) and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) madness, it got out of hand! Help, dear individual. Gives us your houses, your water and your land. We need all that so that we can gamble, we swap your infrastructure and back-lease your railroads and trams. You will own nothing, we want everything. And in the end it is all your fault and you have to pay to use what you built with your hands. On the back of 10.0oo Chinese workers we ride, to the West and to the East. We burn coal for mobility and fight the Indians (or ecologists, or Greta, or anybody who objects) so that we can steam through their tipis like through your living rooms which you lost through General Fannie Mae and stupid German money (Deutsche Bank, anyone?). The biggest dream 100 years ago…railroads for everybody. Now discarded by trucks and roads, more tanks, more distribution, better lobby, better profit, less caring.
The railways once were the biggest force to change a country. With coal. The lonely clever witch witch Ayan Rand with a heart of stone put the propaganda in able heads that it is ok to be selfish. That you just need to own something and then you are entitled to survive. That the poor able hands who work for you all just distract from the genius of the owner, the founder. That it is the fault of the workers, the ones who struggle, the unions and the weird social people, that the world falls apart. They shall perish, who cares? They, the owners, the rich, can elegantly retract – and let the rest burn in hell. That is not how it will work out. That is what our generation, the rough, the normal people, the middle-class, the new worker will wake up and will not let it happen. We are too educated, but only lazy. We do much more than the owners who seek for ways to let the money work. We keep their lifestyle going. We collect their garbage. We inhale their emissions and ours in addition. Emissions and hurricanes for everyone. Say bye-bye to glaciers. I tried and failed miserably, because I stupidly chose the only one (out of 8 world-wide) which is growing, due to fortunate locale conditions. The ocean’s water, also there in “Disenchantment Bay” (a formidable name) is still warming up, creating oddly more moisture and more snow in the region.
This way of living, our system, is now clearly killing our environment. I got it sold as a way of life, limitless possibilities and resilience till the end of days. Bullshit. I am sure it is the fault of the minorities, the unadapted ones, the misfits. The few outcasts who own bikes, the few who still drive SUV´s. The main part of humanity, the majority, they need somebody to blame. Or is it just a few? Why not a whole generation, demographically weak in comparison to the one beforehand, after the war. The Baby Boomers are right, it might be the fault of the consumer, their children, their clients and assistants. Of me. Not the generation who built up the world from the ashes of WWII – no, ashes, wait a minute, where there are ashes, there is smoke, burning stuff, accumulating CO2…no, lets be kind and not extend the courtesy to other generation’s more numerous than us who torched some stuff here and there for a good reason. Dresden. Hamburg. Nagasaki. I am sure we can take the blame for that, too, or forgive them, even if we were not born yet. Who cares?
The classic scapegoat, a common goat of the village (the innocent one, but those are details if you are convinced it works) is chased out of the village burdened symbolically with the sins and vices of everybody. Blood sacrifice is a reliable strategy to cleanse the consciousness of a community and not talk about the burden of guilt or the skeletons anymore buried in the closet und under the rug in your house, yesterday. Somebody says „it was me!“ and the relief is palpable. The crowd cheers and can go home.
The French revolution did not eat its children, no, and the chopping of Royal heads did not lead directly in a monarchial restoration and more colonial misery. The French and British ate colonies like the Belgians ate Congo for breakfast. We still suffer from that and the extraction politics of self-righteous contempt and pride and making no excuses. Whole economies founded e.g. on the Guinee, the golden lead currency before the British pound – a Leitbild. Of course, extracted from Guinea, Africa. Of course Great Britain will want to flee from the European Union, because it fears it will be not be able to comfortably spin the tale being the victim forever and finding out that isolation politics are deadly in our globalized world. Nobody will help me. Nobody will help them. Gold is not a commodity anymore – code is, e.g. Bitcoin. Proof of work is making my generation salivate, the processing cores of miners are running hot, running after Moore´s law, baffled that in recent years computational power was not doubling every year anymore (see
What I have in my laptop 7 years old is only 3x slower than the most advanced current i9 chip. Somebody sold us infinite growth and it is not working out. We have limits, the planet has limits. Some of my generation earned a lot of money on top of their family´s money and estates, making us believe in THEIR growth while they where helping to stall the development of sustainable and clean use of resources at every angle. Corporate propaganda blocked climate politics and prevention effectively for decades, precious time to wind down a deadly spiral passed.
Brace, Judge Dredd is coming. All your icons turn against you. This is what our generation was waiting for, silently. We know now where to bring this Fight Club. We, the waiters, artists, the clerks and normal people fucked over by themselves, trusting that the future will be all right, forever. Only on Saturday in the drive-in cinema we want to get the short thrill of a world falling apart, of armageddon coming and villains which threaten the planet. It is us. We do that ourselves, and it is a lot less entertaining. Every school teacher of this generation, every city slacker knows, that you, behind the the desks, the lost headless children of the Generation X, you messed it up. And we helped you in it. We Tarantinos, we Zabriskie Points, guns, smoke, booze and powder. Sin City and sci-fi trash. Toilet seats made of plastic, braces and school book safety-envelopes, Walk-Mans and glowing galactic charts on the ceiling in our rooms. We wanted to care for everything and we lost it all. We trusted ourselves in the land of confusion, when our friends from school who were more clever becoming the wolves of wall-street. We were rather drinking ourselves into oblivion in the streets of Venice, parks of Vienna or on that rave everybody said you have to be at. We had a great party. Others worked hard to optimise the dirty results.
Brace, the judge is coming, because you gave us the tools to recognize ourselves. Self-realisation. You know exactly, as I know myself. Hide in gated communities and on remote islands, soulless children of Atlas Shrugged, we are coming. Your lack of empathy is not protecting you, because you have no other planet to flee to. You depend on us. You need our consent, and if we take that away, you own nothing anymore and no one wants to serve you a meal anymore. No one wants to defend you in court and spin your politics. Headless children of generation X and your coves, leagues and lodges, your brothers and sisters see you and will not forget. We observe you and there is nowhere to run. You will never know if your spouse or your cook, your child with the nose buried in your smartphone or your pilot is one of us and records your guilt in long lists. Check-lists to account for the truth. Lists we know that you would recite in public and repent, praying for forgiveness. When the time comes.
„At every stage our actions are marked by a lack of respect for the powers we are unleashing—a certainty, or at least a hope, that the nature we have turned to garbage, and the people we have treated like garbage, will not come back to haunt us.“
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein, 2014
One day, we will extract you and will make you confess. We do not want to be alone. We seek for company. Your companies, your off-shore games, your tax evasion schemes and your PR departments. Your tweaked and influenced social media channels and flash trades. Your financial bubbles we will make pop. We are the needle next to a ballon. We are tiny, but pointed. We are like an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We are the petrochemicals in your feathers. We will not let you get away. We find you, and then, we make you confess. As radical as that. A reality tv show like no one before. No one gets hurt, as there are already too many people hurt by the doctrine of greed and selfishness. Respect your children. Shaming and exclusion from the group worked already effectively in the Viking law system. You will need our compassion, but you have to earn it. I will try to earn it, too, by not saying I am different, making me the exemption. No. It was me and I own it. I am very sorry and I do confess.
From the wealth of the earth we all own together with all living beings, we will build a better future, a more sustainable world, a caring economy.
Let´s start with our heads.
I started with mine.