Pastoral Post-Apocalypse

One blog I’ve been enjoying recently is Paul Watson’s Artist’s notebook. Paul is currently working on a new series of artworks called Acid Renaissance, and his blog features recent works, accounts of local walks and consideration of his themes.

Paul recently posted about the Post-Apocalyptic Pastoral, a term he found in a goodreads review by ‘Terry from Toronto’. He quotes their definition of the post-apocalyptic pastoral in detail:

in essence we see the world long after a disaster of some kind has laid waste to our society, but while the horror of that event is not diminished, the resulting world is often seen as the chance to start again and perhaps correct the mistakes of the past (or alternately relive them if the tragic mode is adopted). The apocalypse has, in effect, allowed us to start again with a more or less blank slate and thus there is a pervading optimism underneath the implied pessimism of the genre.

I seem to write a lot about the end of the world, cosy catastrophes being a favourite things of mine, or stories where the world ends and nobody notices (a recent example is A Disease of Books at the Horror Zine). As Mark Fisher said and Paul Watson has also quoted, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. An apocalypse seems to be the only way to escape the dreary jobs that blight so many lives while wrecking the environment.

There’s a need for optimistic futures, for a positive vision, as John Higgs argues in his recent book, but Watson also cautions against the back-to-the-land utopias some people promote:

While ditching the technological advancements of the past few hundred years might be survivable (in the short term) for able-bodied people like myself, many people — because of disability, health issues, age, or other reasons — rely on modern technology, 24 hour electricity and heating, transport infrastructure etc. to survive on a daily basis. To pursue some sort of anti-technology pastoral utopia is to deliberately condone the brutal extermination of millions of people. There’s a word for that sort of behaviour.

Last year, at Easter, I was involved in a ritual to end the world (well, immantise the eschaton, but they’re similar). And the point about the end of the world, as Alan Moore has shown in works such as Promethea, is making space for a new, better world. But we need to work to pick the right future.

A world of fast fashion and cheap global air travel is coming to an end, although it’s lasted far longer than I expected. In the new world, there won’t be a billion cattle bred for slaughter, and human lives won’t wasted on commuting and office life. If we survive the arrival of the new world, it may be a kinder, slower place.

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