Published in  
February 10, 2016

And the world shrugs back

As incredibly pressing as it may sound, the story of humans going out to fix the world that they are destroying still feeds a politics of binaries, of nature being the vassal of culture, of mind preceding matter, of ‘thought’ being an alien brooding over the moot, and of man rearranging the whole with language.

This isn’t to deny what we feel in our bones to be urgent: the need to address poverty, to create governments that truly exist for people (and not for big corporations) or enact radically different political imaginaries that sidestep the biased distribution of suffering made possible in nation-states. The ‘problem’ is that thinking in terms of agential loneliness, or thinking of the human as a homogeneous block of agency, has powerful material effects, and – in my reading – has led to sameness and disenchantment.

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Until we see activism as a politics of encountering the unsaid, of meeting the abject ‘other’, of sticking with trouble, of noticing how entangled we are with the world that the language of fixture and solutionism presumes is external to us – until we see difference-making as a becoming-with, instead of a coming-through, the violence and rudeness of the familiar will hinder us from the bold and risky ‘newness’ that lingers on the edges of awareness. In short, ‘saving the world’ is sweet tongue for sidestepping not only the troubling discernment that the world is more complex than language or thought or story (and therefore, ‘solutions’), but the confounding realization that the world is not a dormant palette for our most austere dreams or best intentions. Atlas shrugs, and the world shrugs back.