Navigating Chaos: Living the Apocalyptic Dystopia
Hegel wrote that the only thing we can learn from history is that we learn nothing from history, so I doubt the epidemic will make us any wiser. The only thing that is clear is that the virus will shatter the very foundations of our lives, causing not only an immense amount of suffering but also economic havoc conceivably worse than the Great Recession. There is no return to normal, the new “normal” will have to be constructed on the ruins of our old lives, or we will find ourselves in a new barbarism whose signs are already clearly discernible. (Slovaj Žižek, Pandemic!)
Žižek’s warning against the inadequacy and eventual failure of our social, political, and economic structures in these times, wherein all certitudes of stability and normalcy are staked, demands an enquiry into the failure of modernity project and subsequent goals of our postmodern reality. Events of the last century have already punctured our faith in teleological history of progress that was impressed upon us by the thought of Enlightenment, countering its Utopian models with experimental Dystopic premises. Modernity’s announcements of the death of fundamental concepts like God, ontology, meaning, etc., have bred a distrust in the potentiality of mankind to carve a future for itself; Postmodernism now embraces this lack of confidence in all man-made structures and authorities, to push for prescient narratives that glimpse the beginning of an ‘end.’ Consciousness of the absence of any concrete remnants of reality—which is now replaced by hyperreality and simulation (Baudrillard)—can be witnessed in the unconscious surrender by the rational subject to the incomprehensible opacity that this objective world has become. Such Dystopic turn around meaning and human subjectivity estimates a world without concrete presence of both and gives rise to questions such as: whether our phenomenal experience is crumbling because of our belief in the failure of human ‘progress’; and whether we live in dystopian times edging towards an apocalypse where all man-made structures are failing? Our erstwhile belief in positivist Utopias is now countered through alternate spheres of thought that challenge the ‘grand narratives of modernity’ and question our faith in the futuristic possibilities by satirising present systems. A growing concern with symbolic state of disaster within our postmodern reality has thus witnessed the praxes of deconstructing Utopian hopes without any promise of reconstruction. This catastrophe can be regarded as an apocalypse of our own making where these apocalyptic representations of future imply our imagination’s inability to see beyond. Hence, the presence of apocalyptic dystopia within our postmodern reality points to a despairing crisis emanating from systems’ inability to renew themselves because of a fundamental absence of any shared vision of society.