Hegel in a Hand Basket
by Rudy Martinez
In Georg Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel’s introduction to Philosophy of History, the influential German philosopher states that “the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.”
According to Hegel, human history was headed toward a destination in which rationalism and individual freedom reigned—this is how history “ended.” From the “stationary” societies of the East, namely China and India, to the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the “Germanic World” (an odd term he used to describe the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to “modern times”), the development of the concept of freedom would slowly yet surely flourish. Though at times it would seem as though humanity was taking steps backwards, the advancements made in prior ages could never be forgotten. Hegel’s view of history is optimistic not only because it is undergirded with purpose, but because a rational end to history was expected in the aftermath of the Enlightenment (We “dared to know,” therefore we deserve heaven on Earth).
Enter: Children of Men.
Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful 2006 film, based off the P.D. James novel of the same name, is my favorite film of all-time. In short, it presents a stark vision of the world in 2027, having succumbed to conflict, nationalism, and despair in the face of global infertility. For several years now, I’ve pretentiously classified Children of Men as a “Hegelian” film. However, its Hegelian nature is the antithesis to Hegel’s rational end to history, as the film portrays the end of history as an irrational and solemn event brought upon by infertility. The fact that humans are no longer able to reproduce abruptly ends history and causes humanity to act irrationally and mercilessly in the face of several existential crises, namely Global Climate Change. “Very odd, what happens, in a world without children’s voices.”
No future, no hope.
I implore Hegel and Children of Men in the wake of a sobering report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that we have 12 years for Global Climate Change to be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) OR ELSE. Even half a degree more will create a nightmare scenario for hundreds of millions of people. The IPCC’s report states that we have to dramatically change the way we approach transportation and energy usage if there is any chance for salvation. Reforestation will also play a large role in our effort to curb rising temperatures. Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC, said it best when she stated that the report was a “line in the sand.”
A child plays in the sand while a storm forms over the horizon.
Of course, the IPCC’s report fuels my pessimism. Though I’ve only glossed over the major points in the report, I can say with certainty that it isn’t encouraging world governments to pivot away from Capitalism, a self-destructive economic religion desperately being held onto by despots, the rich, and droves of misled working-class individuals.
This is our Children of Men moment.
In several decades, the migrant crises seen in Cuaron’s film and in our reality (both on the southern border of the United States and throughout Europe) will be dwarfed by the hundreds of millions of individuals seeking new homes once theirs are violently stolen by rising sea-levels.
Full-automation, achieved in a Capitalist system, is going to put one-third of the world’s population out of work.
Private companies are going to race to build walls around Manhattan or incredibly complex machinery that will block out the Sun’s rays.
A child plays in the sand while the adults rob him of sunlight—its time to go home.
If you really think that in 12 years we can repent for our industrial sins of the last 258 years, then you’re a lot dimmer than I previously imagined. That or you’re a Christian, and I fall just short of hating Christians due to my appreciation of sociology.
“If anyone in this shithole city gave two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about Truth, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Dear reader, your ambivalence is repulsive.
I’ve heard you speak, both sober and otherwise, about your desire to self-commodify in pursuit of comfort. You deny the acceleration of history, turn away from the glowing pulse of contradictions, by resorting to voting, canvassing 15 hours a week for the status-quo lapdog of the month.
Some of you have argued that we simply have to wait for Boomers to die and make sure we provide the next generation with a proper set of intellectual and humanistic tools. It’s a bit too late for that, don’t you think? Plus, take a look at any child under 12: They’re all glued to a screen, their parents are mutilating their intelligences before adolescence. The little buggers won’t have the attention span to read an op-ed, let alone any political theory.
In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out the politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.
George Orwell said that. You should remember this every time you assert your disdain for political discussions or claim fatigue in reference to the news. I hate that: Hearing that the news is causing fatigue, as if it were a game of basketball. You can’t retreat. This is war. Every single second of every single day, there is an ongoing epistemic conflict occurring between countless factions. The media-makers, the internet personalities, the talk show hosts, and others of their ilk—listen to them, brace for the impact of their blitzkrieg, but seek more. Dive underneath the surface of all the material provided to us, for that is where different futures dwell. Listen to the whispers contained in-between the lines of your favorite books. Different subway lines tell different stories, especially in the winter. Overcome the chaos by interrogating it. Interrogate yourself. Interrogate your parents, attack their biases and long-held beliefs. Interrogate your friends until they interrogate you. When provided a platform/stage, raid the consciousness of your crowd, its your bloody responsibility. Talk to yourself aloud. Write everything down. Learn to do word magic. Make it make sense before the inevitable collapse.
It doesn’t have to be a plot towards death.