At first glance, the idea for a memorial to mountains seems peculiar; mountains need not be remembered in that way, for mountains will always be there, beyond the need for puny human memorials. Not so, however, in the deadly anthropocene, where mountaintops are routinely sacrificed for the extraction of fossil fuel. How can one think like a mountain when the mountain itself has been decapitated, or even obliterated?
The National Memorial for the Mountains offers a powerful online resource that documents the massive scale of destruction occurring in Appalachia, carving more than five hundred mountains into a vast geography of scars. We borrow that last phrase from the third section of Wendell Berry’s extraordinary prose poem, “Damage”:
APPALACHIAN MINDMARK: NOTATION FOR A LIMIT
The phrase “ghostly paradigm of things” descends from Yeats:
We note that “the taws” refers to a leather whip divided into two strands at the end, so as to leave a more complex signature upon the flesh.
KING COAL PLAYED THE TAWS HERE
Returning to Berry:
EVIDENCE OF A PESTILENCE
We recall Günther Anders’ “philosophy of discrepancy”, and his inverted utopians, unable to imagine the things they make. They are also, it seems, unable to conceive the implications of the things they unmake. Nonetheless, those who shake more than they can hold arrive for their last supper immaculately groomed. What fate becomes such a civilization? From the poet and DP correspondent Jon Swan, we receive the following answer:
Günther Anders’ “philosophy of discrepancy” centers around his lucid insight that our Promethean ability to create weapons, tools and productive networks far exceeds our capacity to absorb their implications into thought. As he writes in The Atomic Menace:
How do “inverted Utopians” behave? Unimaginably — with an instinctive drive towards disappearance. From his essay The Term:
In Visit to Hades, an analysis of the extermination camps as a form of productive labor, Anders notes historically overlapping modes of obliteration. One way or another, the future belongs to mass murder.
UNTHINKABLE DISAPPEARANCE FABRIK
Since the age of the Inverted Utopian is far from over, Anders’ philosophy of discrepancy remains strikingly relevant. We continue to devise tools, techniques and networked systems, with ethical and ecological implications that we are unable to fathom, whether in neurobiology, financial algorithms or energy extraction.
Anders would likely be surprised that the species is still around in the year 2013. And surely he could not have imagined that there would eventually exist such an occult ecstasy within the lethal discrepancy, namely among those infatuated with the coming (yearned for) “singularity” between human bodies and artificial intelligence.
In fulfillment of the inverted utopian maxim, a world without us will be such a crowning achievement for the species; let’s be sure not to leave any loose ends.