How can we consistently judge the world, our societies, our institutions, our arts, and even our basic everyday choices – when we are also asked to accept the fact that just about everything a human fact is bad for our planet?
The climate crisis is clearly getting worse. Essential life systems on our planet are collapsing. We are guilty. But even with this knowledge, formulating a rational and coherent response at the individual level is virtually impossible. “Should I buy these imported blueberries?” Do the systems that let me buy blueberries in January also speed up the apocalypse? I need to eat something.
As a member of this planet-destroying parasite species myself, I find such mental somersaults exhausting to the point of numbness.
And I’m not the only one. Like the audience’s positive response to the film Do not seek has highlighted, our species is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the level of cognitive dissonance now required to move through each day with our sanity intact.
You have to grapple with the complex realities and the grim conclusions they lead to, or you withdraw – consciously or pampered by calming distractions – in ignorance. Either way, it is not sustainable for a civilization or for the natural world.
Do not seek has been Netflix’s most successful project to date, and it’s not hard to see why – it offers some of the great consistency and core truths that we all crave. Yet there is palpable anger at the many bad reviews of Do not seek, and it is for a fascinating reason.
We know we absolutely fail as a society to find meaning and purpose. The film – even without the eloquence that many critics would apparently have preferred – shone the spotlight on the “scar across our collective soul,” as the anthropologist David Graeber describes the psychological impact of the brutalist hold of capitalism in his book Jobs bullshit: a theory.
The film offers no redemption. He takes a look at our society and judges it beyond all safeguard: our leaders are abject, the systems in which we work are largely useless and damaging, our uneducated populations only want easy answers or comforting lies. It’s extremely uncomfortable for a lot of people – maybe especially those who are in the movie – including those in the media who deal with light entertainment.
In addition to the climate crisis, the film captures our confused and incomplete response to the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about trust in the media, politicians, business, science and whose interests are ultimately served.
It shows us the mess we are in. He doesn’t show us how to escape this mess. Again, this makes us uncomfortable, or ironically may alleviate the fact that at least some of us are able to admit how screwed we are. But more than that, the intense debate over the film’s critical reception should serve as a turning point.
As our species struggles, for real, over whether it has a future or not, it is simply not enough for those of us in wealthy countries to maintain our existing cultural norms (which have largely been derived from 20th century political and economic doctrines).
For their part, the critics didn’t do anything different than how they would normally critique a movie – they looked at the script, the acting, the jokes and the directing, and the context of the film in relation to d ‘other movies, as they would. have done it for any other Hollywood action movie.
But what suddenly emerges is a loathing for this narrow way of thinking. A lot of responses to the film’s bad reviews say that the critics “missed the point.” They’re right.
What is that scientists and environmental activists are better able to explain why the film was powerful? That’s because the lens through which they see the world suddenly overlaps with people’s broader concerns about the state of the world – not the state of the cinema.
It should be noted that not all critics attacked the film, and many indeed recognized its key elements, notably the four-star review by my colleague Clarisse Loughrey.
Empire magazine also gave the film a good review, although he somehow made no mention that the film was an allegory of the climate emergency – perhaps illustrating the chasm in concern for the natural world that this article discusses. .
As the climate crisis worsens, it will increasingly inform the human experience – from our most fundamental interactions with our planet, such as breathing, eating and drinking, to our relationships, our arts, our architecture and our political philosophy.
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Within government, calls were made for the creation of a “net zero ministry,” which could work across departments to verify policies to ensure they work within a common environmental framework. It’s a good idea – it needs to be implemented.
A similar approach must be taken by the mass media. Critics of the future must invest more in the human project, that is to say control the impact of the climate crisis and the environment on their subject.
We have to find a new way to see what we do and the world we are a part of, not outside.
Harry Cockburn is environmental correspondent and editor-in-chief of The Independent