Welcome to 2023. Time for new stories
(careful: spoilers)
One year ago I wrote the text “End of stories. Welcome to 2022” about the world that is stuck in the grip of old stories that no one believes anymore, and still they continue to define our lives. During this year, we have returned to the past even more: we got rid of the illusion of progress, a gradual movement towards the better, and behind the varnished surface of modern megacities we saw ancient creatures – Witzraors that divided the world into zones of influence. These giant war machines are made from humans and fed with fear and repression, terror and blood. Contrary to our ideas about humanism and progress, they did not think of going anywhere and were only preparing for the next world war, gradually turning the crowned face into a mad emperor, uniting sacred and political power in order to sanctify the river of blood with the cross, to send people to the sacred slaughter. It wasn’t just one person who went crazy — it was all of us who were crazy and didn’t realize that our planet with depleting resources was and is in hands of gigantic systems competing with each other. Now, with new zeal, these resources are being turned into new weapons, military budgets are growing, and each side claims to be guarding the world and protecting it from fascism.

This is the same story of the struggle that created the modern world and its states, and already in kindergarten we learned that we must be for the good and against the bad. Still, beyond the apparent triumph of the old stories, something else is going on. Along with millions of people awakened from the pain and shock of what is happening, suddenly realizing the hopelessness of our situation, culture begins to tell itself new stories and invite new heroes to the stage. The process has started. It was as if a rotting ulcer had opened, and blood, bones, and tears flowed from it. The disease has entered a crisis, and it is increasingly difficult for the patient to deny the fact of the disease anymore. The world has not become worse this year – it has been so, it’s us who woke up and found ourselves in the ashes. As I already wrote, a crisis carries not only a danger, but also an opportunity. The exacerbation of the disease can end in death, but, as doctors know, it can end in improvement or even healing. Welcome to 2023 – the time of new stories…
Throughout the past year, especially since February, two scenes from “Dune” by Denis Villeneuve returned to my mind (it is interesting that both scenes: the restoration of Baron Harkonnen and Paul Atreides getting into a sandstorm – occur at the same minute of the movie, although they belong to different storylines). The film was released back in 2021, but turned out to be prophetic, artistically conveying the horror of violence and cruelty, to which extractive economics leads. If you may, not to build, not to grow, not to create, but simply suppress the indigenous population and extract spice (or pump oil) – you do not need science, art, or humanity – military force and systematic terror are enough to keep people in fear and obedience.Baron Vladimir, taking out his bald head from a black liquid similar to oil, in order to give the order to kill the local population, resume production and establish a flow of profit – this is one of the prophetic scenes of the film, answering the question: “How has the whole world endured this freak for so many years? And not only endure, but also grovel before him?” The modern world, no matter what it says about itself, does not need freedom and humanity – it needs the resources that this world is addicted to, and the world is ready to pay for it, turning a blind eye to cruelty and crimes. With this drug money, a tyrant can equip an army to wage war, build a system of violence, torture, and prisons to keep his own population at bay, and pay for an industry of propaganda and lies that will justify all that. Extractive economics gives an economic opportunity to build an animal farm where people control and torture each other not because they are cruel bastards. The banality of evil is that people simply take care of their own families, doing what gives money and not doing what threatens them and their loved ones. Providing food and caring for the safety of their own families, they commit heinous crimes. This is how love is placed at the service of the machine, lubricating the millstones of the extractive economy that pipes oil, gas and blood.
The world of “Dune” is divided into zones of influence of several houses – families with political power. The antagonist of Baron Vladimir is Duke Leto, and the audience, accustomed to the story of the struggle between good and bad, unmistakably see the Atreides family as the good side, and the Harkonnen family as the bad one. There are indeed differences between them, but both base their power on violence and war. Vladimir is an outright tyrant, and Leto is a benevolent duke who wants not to enslave, but to enter into an alliance with the local population. As “good cop” compared to “bad cop”, Leto looks noble, but both have come to steal from the planet and its inhabitants the resources that the empire needs for further conquests. Which cop do you like more? Which of the systems of institutionalized violence, competing with each other in the creation of weapons of mass destruction, in the destruction of species and indigenous cultures, do you prefer? Perhaps you like a more Western, civilized, less tyrannical and more comfortable way of enslaving the planet?
If Leto had remained in charge of Arrakis, his story might have looked like “Waiting for the Barbarians” while the extractive economy would have continued to turn its millstones. In order for a genuine alternative to emerge, the duke must die, and a truly new hero must appear on the scene. He is trained to fight, but he is not a warrior. His mother was engaged in his training, passing on the knowledge of magic and psychotechnics. He is visited by dreams and visions, he turns out to be very sensitive to the psychedelic scattered across the deserts of this planet. He is a stranger here, but he feels as if he has returned home after a long absence.…

Like us in 2022, Paul Atreides is witnessing the death and destruction of everything he knew and loved. By Jem Bendell’s definition collapse is “an uneven ending of our normal modes of sustenance, shelter, security, pleasure, identity and meaning”. For the Quisatz Haderach to be born, Paul Atreides must die.

A person who dies and comes back becomes a prophet, a shaman, a healer. Faced with the reality of war and destruction, the hero becomes aware of the madness of civilized society and heads off into the wilderness to learn the ways of the indigenous people. His journey is just beginning. This is our journey as well. It is impossible to go through it and not lose ourselves. It is impossible to survive the storm by maintaining the usual methods of action. What the hero does at the most crucial moment, being in the heart of the storm, does not at all fit into our usual ideas and known stories. He disables all controls and goes to sleep, surrendering to the will of the storm and dormant. He merges with the distraught, smashing everything around… and stays alive.
The past year has for me been connected to the work in the Deep Adaptation Forum – a virtual community of people who are sure of the imminent collapse of modern civilizations. This community is so strange that even its founder and author of the name criticizes it for the total lack of constructive action. Usually movements related to climate change and environmental catastrophe come up with a plan of action. Thus, Extinction Rebellion activists and friends of Greta Thunberg from the Fridays for Future go to the streets, attract media attention, try to influence politicians, drawing their attention to the ongoing catastrophe, and demand immediate action. If we are in the midst of a disaster, doesn’t that mean we need to act now?

The Deep Adaptation Forum, like “Dune” and Bayo Akomolafe, gives us the answer: “No. If you’re in the midst of a disaster, slow down.” Our usual actions are dictated by the habits of the culture of war. If something is wrong, then someone is to blame, it means that someone must be defeated, something must be proved, someone must be saved, and someone must be punished. Something needs to be done. Still, if these are habits based on the story of struggle that brought us here, they are unlikely to help us to get out. Here is the time to leave them, time to slow down, to stop. It makes no sense to drag old stories when it comes to the destruction of modern society and the identity we are used to. This moment was described in my essay from the last year – the moment when old stories lose their power, and we are not yet able to perceive new ones. Now the storm came. It goes across the planet, leaving ruins and cemeteries behind, burnt fields and poisoned rivers. Our immediate reactions to what is happening are dictated by fear, anger, despair, they only add fuel to the fire. But if we have slowed down enough, given expression to these emotions, and stopped fighting the reality, is there anything we can do now, not out of fear, but out of love?
Among all events of the Deep Adaptation Forum last year, the one I remember the most was the meeting with Joe Brewer, creator of the Earth Regenerators Network, that raises funds through digital economic systems in order to buy real territories and to restore ecosystems and biodiversity. Joe and his daughter live in Colombia, in a place called Barichara, where, together with locals and volunteers from all over the world, they are restoring one of such territories. During our meeting, he said a simple thing: “We need to detach from the warrior archetype and join the healer archetype”.

Time for warrior stories comes to an end. A warrior separates the bad from the good, defends one and defeats the other in the name of certain values. It’s very nice to be aware of yourself on the right side, to be good and to fight the bad ones, isn’t it? Who didn’t play this as a kid? Who doesn’t keep playing it now? This is the main plot of films, books, family quarrels, news articles and computer games. This is the main story of modern life. The story of a warrior is a story of separation that justifies and makes necessary war and all that goes with it. The corpses left over from the war, bodies and destinies torn apart, crippled families and psyches usually do not receive attention. This is something that we are not pleased to look at, it can only be mentioned in the heroic context of the necessary losses or the heaviest price paid for the next victory of good over evil.

The healer story is quite different. Even being at war, a healer character, as shown in animated films “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” by Hayao Miyazaki, does not choose one or another side of the conflict. She serves life in both camps, suffers from both sides, but does not take revenge because she doesn’t separate herself from those who hurt her. The healer’s consciousness perceives the ongoing conflict as a single process caused by a common illness. The division into one and the other, into us and others turns out to be not a primary reality, but a symptom of an illness, a construct, an illusion which does not allow living beings in a state of war to recognize the unity that binds them. More Dionysian and animistic than Apollonian and Abrahamic, the consciousness of the healer does not separate itself from the disease and does not fight it, doesn’t burn it with the witches and doesn’t try to demonstrate its own purity. The healer and the disease become one, and, not being sinless, she is ready to plunge into the blood and impurities, accompanying both death and birth…

While encountering a terrible monster, the healer character does not look for a weapon to defeat it, but discovers a painful wound inside the monster that needs to be freed from the thing that is stuck in it, so that the flow of pus and sewage can go to rejoin the cycle of all living things. Unwilling to realize, to take into account the most horrible and dirty consequences of our own actions, we have formed a huge blockage, so now the stream of sewage accumulated by our civilization, is trying to break out, but we are afraid to give it a go, while inventing new excuses and hoping that we can again stuff everything under the carpet and pretend that nothing happened. The desire to localize the problem, to say that the problem is there, and therefore it is not in me, is an understandable desire for security, for ultimately being good or at least not participating in crimes. It’s hard to accept a world where the problem is everywhere and everyone, including me, is an accomplice… but show me, please, a place where there is no problem, and a person who is not an accomplice? Against whom then to direct your sword? And who then does not need healing?
World War III, Armageddon – the last battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil at the end of times is the logical outcome of the story of division and struggle that has nurtured our societies. Of course, each side will find reasons to consider itself as forces of good and others as forces of evil. But the more absurd the race to mutual self-destruction becomes, the closer we come to the degradation of the biosphere and the destruction of ourselves as a species, the more people wake up from their sleep and realize that the history of struggle is a mistake, and separation is an illusion. Now when the difficult year of 2022 is behind us and we have entered perhaps even more difficult 2023, time has come for stories of interconnectedness and cooperation. Our world now needs not great warriors, but healers. Until now, such characters could be found in works of rare depth, such as Hayao Miyazaki animations, but now healers are quietly coming to us through mass blockbusters, telling us that the collective subconscious of our culture is preparing to revise the core values, which have determined our behavior for at least a few hundred years.

At the end of 2022, the sequel to the film “Avatar”: “The Way of the Water” was released. Like the first part, at its core the film is a typical struggle story, where the white conquerors are bad, and the Indians are good, defending their beautiful living planet, with which they are in close relationship on the spiritual and biological levels. The main characters of this story are still warriors fighting for their families, values ​​and beliefs. But in the continuation of their story there is a change of generations, and children, who are a mix of two cultures, connected to both white conquerors from the Earth and local indigenous people, begin to tell another story. One of them, Spider, helps his enemies to better understand the family ties that bind him to them. Another, Kiri, enters into a direct mystical connection with a living and intelligent planet and its inhabitants. The states in which she falls are defined by earthly doctors as epilepsy, still local shamans see it as a special gift that allows one to realize interconnectedness where only an illusion of separation is visible from the outside. Two peoples, Earthlings and Na’vi, are part of the same sacred web of life. The problem is not the origin or color of the skin, but the illusion of separation, which allows one to chop off one’s own hand, believing that it is the hand of the enemy.

So far, this story is typical action movie with shooting and killing, similar to the action movies from my childhood, but, unlike them, “Avatar” describes the real situation of destruction of our living and intelligent planet, clearly hinting that the key role in resolving this conflict will be performed not by warriors, but by healers who are now growing up in order to define a new paradigm of mindset and culture, so necessary for us in the midst of pain and chaos.

Welcome to 2023 – the time of new stories…