At The Baffler, Scott Beauchamp’s “Old School” is all about “the bold new franchise of adulting”. Trying to understand what “adulting” is all about, Mr. Beauchamp went so far as to attend some sessions at the Adulting School in Portland, Maine. Although he found the classes to be “great,” he still wondered about the point of it all:
I was still confused about what more efficient cooking and enhanced time management skills had to do with being an adult. In a sense, though, my confusion was the lesson: the subtext of every class, and the energy driving the entire event, was an unadulterated anxiety about the proper direction of one’s life—the very sort of recursive self-inspection that our intentionally unstable economy cultivates in lushly baroque fashion.
Beauchamp finally realizes that it’s the economy, stupid, and the demands it makes upon us that makes growing up (“adulting”) not merely difficult but actively frowned upon. Given the reign of “intentionally unstable” consumer capitalism, he writes,
Adulting…makes its own twisted sort of sense. Of course it’s something you do, not a person that you become. To adult is to learn whatever skill of the month the economy requires you to master. To actually become an adult, on the other hand, entails a declaration of fixed values and identity. In other words, it means to declare yourself bound for obsolescence.
The Baffler is also where you can find Laurie Penny’s meditation on “The Slow Confiscation of Everything,” in which she places our ongoing “climate apocalypse” in the larger context of apocalyptic thinking in general:
Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilisational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy.
And yet, the threat to the climate is real:
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. The past swept away along with the future. The deletion of collective memory. This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism. Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species. We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being. Of course we are afraid. We were afraid of the Bomb. We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage. It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. The second is that it’s not happening to everyone...Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed. It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while...
Finally, and also at The Baffler: Patrick Blanchfield writes about “New Praetorianism,” i.e. our “fetish for generals” and for all things military. “Let’s be frank,” says Blanchfield; one way or another, “America is heading to war.” Blanchfield finds both of our major political parties complicit in this inevitability:
There is a fundamental synergy between Democratic chauvinist exceptionalism, GOP clash-of-civilizations dogma, and Trump’s grotesque strongman antics. The Democrats may prefer a reboot of Cold War apocalypticism; Trump, for his part, looks eager to tear up global treaties, toss international law aside, and throw American weight around in building a new twenty-first century order of Great Powers. Maybe he will get his way, maybe he won’t. Maybe one of the parties will produce a more telegenic, more reasonable, and more “moderate” leader down the line. Any of these scenarios, though, skirts ever closer to disaster, and all take as unspoken that the essential business of the American state is a fundamental orientation toward war.
As Blanchfield makes clear, even the temperamentally non-belligerent Barack Obama, once in the White House, was unable to resist war (aka “the projection of force” or, even better, “kinetic military action”). War, as Randolph Bourne famously said, is the health of the State. Democrats want a healthy State in order to enact domestic programs; they accept an “orientation toward war” as the cost of keeping the State robust. Republicans, of course, have their own reasons for accepting the same status quo. Neither party knows how to conduct itself in the absence of a foreign threat; in fact, since Woodrow Wilson took America into World War I, the only time this country turned its focus inward was during the Great Depression, since which time we have always had some foreign enemy and some war, hot or cold, to fight.