Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

We live/die so fast, (in cosmic time) does anything really matter?

+3 votes
What the hell does it really matter what we believe or do in this lifetime. We are basically dust pretty soon, so Anarchy or any other lifestyle or belief seems to be a mute point in the big picture.

edited to add a tag
asked Aug 26, 2013 by anonymous
edited Oct 13 by ingrate
Your existential angst is no match for my kung fu.
the way i see it :

everything matters....and nothing matters.
perhaps a more pertinent question: 'does anything really matter' to you?
if my life did not matter to me, then i would seriously question whether and why to go on living.

i do still find joy in my life, and that is all the "meaning" i need.

what kind of "meaning" are you talking about? and who does it apply to? are you concerned about your "legacy", or what others will think of your life? i know a great many people have very strong feelings about that, but i personally have none. when i am gone, i am gone. maybe some will miss me, and think of me fondly. or harshly. it doesn't matter, i will be irrelevant.  (yeah, i know, i already am).

edit: i guess i injected the word "meaning" (after reading rice boy's answer), i don't see it in the original question.

4 Answers

+7 votes
I don't think there's an inherent meaning in anything, so any answer to this question is bound to be subjective. Or at least bound to point out this subjectivity.

Speaking of subjectivity, time is relative. The length of a human life is literally the longest thing you will ever experience. In the context of this expanse of time being the sum of your entire existence, maybe things might seem more urgent or meaningful - or maybe not.

I guess the only factual answer to this question is "it depends on who you're asking", or, on how much that person values their existence.

If you were to ask me, I'd say that the destruction of the planet (as a distant concept) matters less to me than my immediate fulfillment, happiness, self-actualization, and so on.

(Also: "moot" point!)
answered Aug 27, 2013 by Rice Boy (10,100 points)
+4 votes
The dominant culture is taking the only known planet able to support life and wildness and turning it into a desert-graveyard. I know my loved ones will certainly die of old age at some point, does this mean I do nothing when the colonizer culture tries to violently destroy them? Fuck no, I fight back tooth and nail. Do you have no self-worth or care for anyone or anything that you would struggle for? Do you not care even about your own dignity or self-determination?
answered Aug 27, 2013 by AutumnLeavesCascade (9,030 points)
+3 votes
its really a question of perspective and what you value in the world.  Is the 'big picture' really that important to you?-  all of those things that are totally out of your control? People experience time on a 'human' scale - mornings, afternoons, nights, instants, days, seasons, years, etc. but not really on the scale of universes unfolding.  So the question i think is 'do you value your own life?' and really only you can answer that question.  The anxiety of the big picture really only makes sense to me if your life is not worth living -  the existential idea is really just your actual lived experience projected forwards (mostly) and backwards in time.  so if its meaningless in 'real time', its usually looks meaningless in 'universal time'.

Theres probably also something to say about how this type of existential crisis and measuring on such inhuman scales is produced in no less so by the massifying ethos of our time - to think of everything in terms of intangible elements (populations, nation-states, identities, etc.), but i cant say much more on that right now
answered Aug 27, 2013 by jingles (2,220 points)
jingles i bet my balls from all the planet you cant find 1 person who understood the jiberish u said.speak english?

" to think of everything in terms of intangible elements (populations, nation-states, identities, etc.)"

i like that...

" i bet my balls from all the planet"

i like that too.... or i might if i knew what the fuck it meant!

–2 votes
Maybe you can't achieve what you want because you die before, but you can give us a revolutionary legacy.

Maybe we won't live/die so fast (in cosmic time) in the future. Have you seen the progress in sciences? Medicine, biology, biotechnology, etc. could break that presupposition.

These sciences can only be really neutral in anarchy, so they serve us without classes, I think it's worth it. With this becomes more knowledge, pleasure, simulations, etc.
answered Dec 4, 2015 by Whask (330 points)

"Have you seen the progress in sciences? Medicine, biology, biotechnology, etc. could break that presupposition."

why yes, we can all see this 'progress'...and its wake of pharmaceutical-laden waters, radioactivity, dioxin, etc., etc., as well as being an uncontrolled experiment waged on us all.

so, i'm uncertain as to what you could mean by 'neutral,' since this stuff is a-gonna be toxic 'then' (aka some fuzzy 'future') as it is now..unless of course you're a transhumanist then you have a whole buncha other presupps about 'then' and now.

AF, they're saying that science can only be neutral in an anarchist (ie "classless," as they put it) situation, not that it's neutral now.
dot, yes, i got that. what i was getting at was that Whask touted the achievement of scientific 'progress' (biotech, medicine, etc) which has most definitely come about by way of a lot of undeniably nasty shit. for instance, i don't see how dioxin's toxicity will be neutralized in an anarchist future. the current medical industry is one of the largest dioxin producers and making that industry 'classless' is irrelevant in this regard.

maybe i'm missing something, though?
Yeah, but the world is being turned into a giant toilet to maintain the progress of science and it only benefits a small minority of the world's population. I never really understood all this "progress" stuff people talk about often. :/

to the extent that i understand the argument, it is that any problems with science today cannot be used against the science of a utopia (uh, i mean a classless society), because a good society will create a good science. so the fact that there will be problems left over from today's science doesn't negate the positives of the future science.

and it is always possible that i'm missing something.

'and it is always possible that i'm missing something.'

and i'm a-thinkin' we're entertaining a very similar criticism from different angles at this point.

i actually think a lot about the "science and technology" issue a lot...sometimes im convinced that the only way to fight the dominant order is through different uses of technology and science. You can't argue with the fact that science and technology are dreadfully effective in terms of amassing power/resources, there won't be any magical, spiritual, or intellectual strategy that will be able to make up for it in strength. It's for this reason and the fact that even the most primitive humans used some sort of technology i find the whole anti-technologist position that primitivists take up to be fundamentally flawed. It's only useful as a criticism against the technology=progress argument.

And on the whole "classless" thing...this will not necessarily make science/technology any less destructive to the planet! When i think classless science and technology, one image that pops up is a flying spaceship with human beings connected in one bubble planning on how they will suck the life out of different alien planets in the universe.

" the fact that even the most primitive humans used some sort of technology"

that depends on how you define "technology". especially when contrasted with "tool".

well i guess primitivists only define something that's automated as technology, but i don't see what's wrong with automation unless it implies living servants.....but i guess, extrapolating from that, what's wrong with enslaving people?! they're gonna die anyway ;-)
actually, most primmies i've come across would not define technology by automation, but by the scale, complexity and destruction necessary to produce it - which require all those boogie-folk like division of labor, hierarchical and oppressive authoritarian relations, mediated relations, etc. basically, the entire network of institutions of domination is necessary in order to produce technology.

automation - originally aimed at (technological) production efficiency - became a convenient side effect for consumers as well. kind of like how so much military technology is so generously turned into consumer technology.

ain't capitalism grand?
Capitalism....black magic at its finest! Why not blame the people for your tyranny instead of getti g your hands dirty.....

But it cant last forever.....right....?



in the meantime....ill just try to enjoy my consumer horseshit while it lasts (brought to you by android...literally!)

to slow down a minute (?), i think that the premise that a different society will create a different science is an absolutely valid point. my argument would be that "science" would then be something else, something not-science... because to me the word science has been hopelessly compromised by its proponents. but i can imagine having an interesting conversation with someone who has not come to that place with the word "science." 

also, "science" means a million (sometimes contrasting) things, and people who argue for it frequently transition from one meaning to another sometimes without even seeming to realize it. which makes me cranky.

 

'i think that the premise that a different society will create a different science is an absolutely valid point. my argument would be that "science" would then be something else, something not-science... '

dot, i see your point here and even tentatively resonate with it. tentatively mainly due to how Whask presented their answer and what you said in your last paragraph.

Whask seems to conclude that what counts hitherto as 'progress in the sciences' can be made-over into a classless enterprise, as if classes made up the only, or even main, difficulty to be perceived here. to me, there are quite a few (un-examined?) presups in Whask's answer for it to be comprehensible, much less interesting, as a whole.

while i can feel ya on 'science-becoming-non-science,' that is, it being an interesting topic of conversation, it is only by way of totally divorcing this thread from the rest of the answer which makes it so for me.

yes, dot, i see the point you are getting at. and as you stated clearly, it would then be something completely different, not "science".

another hugely relevant point you make is the different definitions of science (as with technology, tool, etc) used in different contexts.

i like the distinction made (by many, including most green anarchists i know) between big "S" Science and little "s" science. the former both creates and requires all the technological infrastructure and hierarchical institutions that dominate this world today, as well as being a major driving force (and driven force?) behind the concept of "progress" and its inviolable (?) hold on mass consciousness. the latter is simply the existence and effects of human curiosity, creativity and learning; without the desire or ability to destroy life on a mass scale in order to pursue those endeavors.

a gross over-simplification, no doubt, but hopefully my point is not lost.

i feel that it's difficult to imagine a society based on or a praxis based on a new science for two reasons:

1. There aren't any original thoughts so to speak, human creativity is a variation upon variations, and for this reason i still maintain skeptical appreciaiton of primitivism, for the fact that based on science (LOL) there were societies totally different from ours that survived and lived just fine, and that  at times duped by western civilization because they didn't expect humans to be THAT detached and empty in their dealings, were still on an intuitive level aware of how anxious and miserable it is/was (referring to repeated examples i've heard of native american quotes specifically)

2. That our current science requires heavily controlled spaces for a lot of the testing, and detached observance repeated numbers of times, which unfortunately is also what makes it really effective.

I would imagine in a better science the emphasis would be "natural" sciences since they are easily accessible, whereas the more easily accessible electronics/computers/automobiles become, it will exacerbate the problems already created by science (maybe? i just feel this is the implication of talking about classless technology and science, and especially all the open-software/pirating type dreamers....even though i love it for my personal use lol)

Maybe we won't live/die so fast (in cosmic time) in the future. Have you seen the progress in sciences? Medicine, biology, biotechnology, etc. could break that presupposition.

That was for the We live/die so fast, (in cosmic time) does anything really matter? question, so we can see here that it's not so closed.

I don't think we have to sacrifice sciences (with scientific method) in anarchy.

Second, what I mean for neutral sciences in classes I mean some of these sciences could serve corporate profit (or just capitalist enterprises) in a non anarchic world like the one we have. For example, financing nonrenewable energy over renewable energy, distorting some books because of editorial interest.

Clear examples are how they impose in the privative software, in detriment of free software (which I consider libertarian), other examples that are even clearer, are the teachings of economics and social sciences. For example, in economics, in my case, they teach me first "out of reality" models that collaborate with classes and in practice would lead the working class to poverty.

I didn't mention primitivism, and about the heavily controlled spaces for a lot of testing, I think it's not an issue because we can have impersonal defense to defend that, and even more in a community where the people carry arms and a rotatory militia patrol it (while the community has more arms so they can beat them if neccesary), apart from that incentive of entering inside it for malicious purposes would be removed.

whask, what you describe sounds eerily like an anarcho-capitalist/transhumanist wet dream. i don't see anything at all anarchistic about it, at least not to my notions of anarchy.

you appear to be framing your entire position in ideologies (progress, economics, ...) and their assumptions, that i have no use for in my desired world.
yeah sounds pretty distopian
I don't understand why you say it's anarcho-capitalist since there's no capitalism and it doesn't have to be transhumanism (or yes). This can be done in anarchocommunism, anarchocollectivism or maybe a mixed mutualism (not so sure).

No people over other people, classes abolished, state abolished, I think it remains anarchistic. The other option is anarcho-primitivism which I don't like, I want knowledge and the use of technology.

It sounds to me pretty utopian, I don't see the distopia.
so-called primitive peoples didn't have 'knowledge' or 'technology'?

They didn't have modern science or technology (and scientific method?).

Anarchoprimitivism rejects modern science and technology since they think that it's not neutral and it creates division of labour. Some of them would say that society started to be hierarchical in the Neolithic due to agriculture and their properties.

One of their greatest contributors is John Zerzan, I will give you a fragment of an interview with him in VICE:

And maybe it’s not just learning long-forgotten skills, but also learning to forget. Will we forget what stars are, for example? In the past, people would look up and they wouldn’t know what they were, and it wasn’t so much an absence of knowledge, but a presence of mystery.
Right, why do people need to know those things? What’s the instrumentality? I would contend that it’s not ignorance. It’s actually the opposite of ignorance. The hunter-gatherer people could see a bent blade of grass and tell you eight things about what it meant. Is that not science?

Source: https://www.vice.com/read/john-zerzan-wants-us-to-give-up-all-of-our-technology

Unlike primitivists, I think science and technology becomes neutral in an organized anarchy since there's no one above another, and it benefits giving us more efficiency, more free time compared to primitivist works, more personal choices and allowing us to know our world in a more sophisticated way (as examples). But even more, I think anarchoprimitivists are chaining themselves rejecting modern science and technology, because they are making their thoughs a religion based on faith instead of facts due to their lack of method and progress.

To end this comment, I'd also point out that they are fighting against history itself, don't you think that in some point the people of their communes would want to know more, and if so, they would have to leave it or see repressed their thirst for knowledge?

whask, you are doing the following...

a) associating all anti-civ/tech thinking with jz and anarchoprimitivism

b) defining science in the most broad way possible (to define science as the desire to "know more" is so general as to be meaningless).

c) blurring the transition from "wanting to know more" to  "modern science and technology"

also, while i am definitely not a fan of jz, and not an @primitivist (or any kind of primitivist), i am not offended by this particular quotation from him. to me it speaks to the idea that knowing doesn't solve all problems, and also that what we choose to pursue information about means a lot about how we live.

(although i find the bit about "forgetting" the stars to be dumb--people understood them differently, and can again).

Whask, so now you're equating really-true-knowing with scientific methods? oh boy...

i'm not being nasty, but for some reason i get the old glib presumption that what so-called primitive peoples (aka 'the savages') didn't have really true knowledge since they didn't possess The Scientific Method (enter, sound of thunder). a bit eurocentric wouldn't you say? and full of so many (seemingly) unexamined presups. i'm no @prim nor a big fan of JZ, but i think he's written some undeniably powerful critiques. one that comes to me in light of this discussion is 'that thing we do' which directly addresses one of the aforementioned unexamined presups: reification and some of its problematic consequences.

i cannot see how your 'organized anarchy' could, in fact, be anarchistic, since modern tech/sci is thoroughly based in historical hierarchy, division (socially/intellectually/ecocidally), colonization, slavery, etc. to brush off this cruel, violent history (often written in gloating manner at having done so) is to perpetuate the notion that some eggs (most often brown eggs) get to be broken in order to make this dystopian omelet of yours. those 'eggs' can be found in the jungles of the amazon and in the shitty factories, mines, service jobs; the displacement and genocide of whole peoples and different ways of living. yech!

to make believe that the present tech-systems don't themselves rely upon the continuance of this worldview, and that someday this may be resolved (once, of course, the remaining wild world is fully conquered) into a benign system is, to me, naive at best and no world in which i'd want to live. i'd fight it tooth and nail.

Well, first of all, i don't see John Zerzan's ideas as gospel, while i like his books I'm also very skeptical of his ideas on the way that people should live and about how the only way to be is that which resembles more primitive tribes.

However, i have problems with technology and science not on the basis of them "not being natural", but:

1. science, in the sense we know it, relies on cold objectivity and DETACHED observation, as in, if your experiment involves torturing rats, then your focus is not "look at how horrible it is to be that rat right now!", it's the results of your experiment. "Objectivity" implies treating the world as an object, which is how capitalism treats the entire world, and perfectly normal people commit egregious crimes against other people and all living beings in the environment.

2. technological advancement implies by itself a lack of autonomy and personal control. For example, look at automobiles. Many of us need them for work and to stay in touch with humans in the state that society is in right now, they are in no way necessary but society has MADE THEM necessary. If your car breaks, you cannot simply fix it yourself unless you have in depth knowledge of automobiles and a vast store of auto parts at your house! This means that you have to spend your time making money (probably doing demeaning things that you don't like) and then you spend that money in auto-body shop so you can be driving again. Also, think about computers and smartphones, it's impossible to make those yourself! In order to manufacture these things, you need crews of people mining the materials and you also you need factory machinery to make sure that all the parts are soldered perfectly in place, or else they would not work the way you want them to.

3. As Buckminster Fuller said, technological solutions create more technological problems. To fix a problem technologically, you need ANOTHER LAYER OF TECHNOLOGY. 

4. Technology and science require a huge amount of unnecessary use of resources. If people in our society were not forced to work their own jobs in their own little cubicles shut off from the people they cared about or were not forced to spend their childhood in a prison like environment, there would be no need for video games and internet.

and as was said before, you seem to have this religous fervor in relation to "science and technology", but if you want to use either of those to a positive end, the question is not whether we oppose or approve of science and technology, it's WHAT science and technology would help us live more freely, and HOW? Science and technology, in the sense your talking about them, are empty ideas that you seem to revere out of how cool they sound.

"Unlike primitivists, I think science and technology becomes neutral in an organized anarchy...."

you want an ORGANIZED anarchy? When you say ORGANIZED, this means that someone has to do the organizing. A group of individuals, if not controlled by a technocratic elite or monarch, would find no need to organize themselves. They would tackle problems as they saw fit.

"To end this comment, I'd also point out that they are fighting against history itself, don't you think that in some point the people of their communes would want to know more, and if so, they would have to leave it or see repressed their thirst for knowledge?"

LOL, considering that history is composed of slavery and despotic misery, why not fight against history?! The industrial revolution brought about perhaps the most miserable conditions that ever existed throughout mankind! 

uggghhh...thirst for knowledge?? This gives me a headache.....we are all curious about things, and a commune that suppressed this is not one i would want to be a part of...but the "thirst for knowledge" is some academic, western bourgiousie horseshit

 

 

 

a. I'm talking about anarchoprimitivism since I said I wouldn't like to live in a commune of this type.

b. I'm not defining science as the desire to "know more", but since we have curiosity, this leads us to science.

c. "Wanting to know more" leads to "modern science and technology".

I see in Zerzan's quote a compliment to ignorance.

"Whask, so now you're equating really-true-knowing with scientific methods? oh boy..."

Not really, science is progressive so we can say it has his "provisional truths", but I consider this method very important to know as precisely as possible.

No, it's not eurocentric, it's a method, it doesn't matter if it originated in Europa, Asia, Africa, Oceania, America or in other galaxy, it has the same validity.

"i cannot see how your 'organized anarchy' could, in fact, be anarchistic, since modern tech/sci is thoroughly based in historical hierarchy, division (socially/intellectually/ecocidally), colonization, slavery, etc. to brush off this cruel, violent history (often written in gloating manner at having done so) is to perpetuate the notion that some eggs (most often brown eggs) get to be broken in order to make this dystopian omelet of yours. those 'eggs' can be found in the jungles of the amazon and in the shitty factories, mines, service jobs; the displacement and genocide of whole peoples and different ways of living. yech!"

Since I know about anarchy I know it can be organized, for example, with assemblies and direct democracy, I'm not proposing what you say (which isn't anarchy).

The critique of technology and science that you are doing here, has to be with the mode of production, since this can be solved in anarchocommunism or anarchocollectivism where you can really decide regarding to job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCjD5ISBPQE

This was the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) in Spain working with industrial technology, it's compatible with anarchy (or I don't see why not).

Answering ricksantorum666:

1. I accept this, the problem with experimentation with animals.

2. That's because markets force us to live like that, a problem of capitalism.

3. Yes, but isn't this how the whole world advances? For example, when the first MRI machines were made and used, the images were not very good for multiple reasons (poor signal, weak RF gradients, inhomogeneities in the magnetic field, various artifacts that sometimes mimicked pathology, etc.). Tackling each and every one of those problems resulted in more problems, more solutions, and so on, until we reached the unbelievably beautiful images we are now capable of acquiring. If Google Glass is another MRI machine, then I am pretty sure quite a few people will make their living for a while trying to solve its problems. (Quoted from a radiologist).

4. Technology and science can help us to manage resources more efficiently too, to the extreme of working for us (for example robot Baxter), they allow us to do the same work in less time, this is a way how they can help us to live more freely, medicine can also help us to be healthy, etc.

"[...] there would be no need for video games and internet."

And what if I wanted to use and develop them? I wouldn't see any slavery in a video game which is made in an artist way, like there are games done for their own enjoyment by indie developers.

I answered what I mean by organized before. "Anarchy is the highest expression of order" from Elisée Reclus. I like this quote.

"LOL, considering that history is composed of slavery and despotic misery, why not fight against history?! The industrial revolution brought about perhaps the most miserable conditions that ever existed throughout mankind! 

uggghhh...thirst for knowledge?? This gives me a headache.....we are all curious about things, and a commune that suppressed this is not one i would want to be a part of...but the "thirst for knowledge" is some academic, western bourgiousie horseshit"

Because slavery and despotic misery is just a stage of history, I don't think the problem in the industrial revolution was the machines themselves, but how the production mode is structured, thus lowering the welfare of workers.

We are all curious about things as you say, I don't see why "thirst for knowledge is some academic, western bourgiousie horseshit, this has nothing to do with the working class or the bourgeoisie, call it how you want.

As you see, you associate the evils of technology and science to their own root, while I associate them with capitalism and his social structure.

I want to free software, not removing all software, I want to have renewable energy, not living in a cave.

@Whask: taking JZ's verbiage,'The hunter-gatherer people could see a bent blade of grass and tell you eight things about what it meant. '

how is understanding a bent blade of grass 8 different ways ignorance? it seems pretty well clued in on one's world. the quest to 'know what a star is' may most definitely be seen as a western preoccupation since it presupposes a 'thing-it-itself,' does it not? this is naught but a spook.

just because this preoccupation, and nearly every axiom entailed in it, has gone global doesn't mean it's ceased to be eurocentric. this is like polishing the turd of colonialism and calling it 'ecotourism' and saying they're unrelated. they most definitely are. i see it daily.

at any rate, you seem impervious to critiques of technoscience, its origins in western thought, values and power, as well as its inherent ecocidal/sociocidal/suicidal consequences. i'll just say i have no desire to live in a high-tech mass society and i'll fight it in every way i'm able.

i don't even see the need to continue this conversation at the moment, the things that Whask are talking about are clearly motivated by ideological tenents of anarcho-syndicalism, " I don't think the problem in the industrial revolution was the machines themselves, but how the production mode is structured, thus lowering the welfare of workers.".....even though the use of the machines were inherently harmful to the bodies of the workers and DANGEROUS. The conversation will ultimately go no where, i don't see any room in the techo-science world Whask is trying to promote for any other type of living thing besides humans.

and how absurd, that we've gone past the "stage" of despotic misery!

or to get back to the original question (which i somehow revived, and then forgot why!)...

why does any of it - how we look at things, and why we look at them in a certain way - matter?

perhaps the OP meant to allude to this type of discussion above about science/technology (or any other way of interpreting or understanding or creating meaning about what we encounter and experience in our lives)...
Why believe, that is a more direct route to the answer you seek.

To say that life is short, is itself a belief.

When we watch the nature of time in relation to ourselves we see so many factors involved therein. From the oppressive overlap of memory to the state of the body itself. Time is completely dependent upon our own experience, or experiencing.

To say that we are dust, is itself a mere belief too. What is actual life... that beyond the immediate appearance, beyond memory, beyond hopes and fears, beyond social programs, beyond the need for meaning, etc.

We can only answer when we know. So how do we reach knowing? Without such our life shall be an endless drag of confusion and contradiction.

It seems obvious that every problem is a lack of understanding, a lack of awareness. So can we settle into awareness?

Asking questions which are fundamental can only be answered within our our being, via direct perception. To ask others and accept an answer, or compile and combine from various sources fails completely. It is like a dog chasing its own tail.

edclear - this answer is so very saying not really anything. What I take from this is the equivalent of "dust in the wind... all we are is dust in the wind." which has been said, and has been said and been parodied. I realize this question is, in itself, ridiculous, but could you give a more concrete answer if you are going to answer?

Hello Ingrate, perhaps nothing is concrete in life. Hence, why have a problem? All aspects of human interaction are at the mercy of our own consciousness, and consciousness is at the mercy of awareness.
...