This post is part of a series: Adalbert Arcane’s expanded Notes & Theories to Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski (Fantagraphics, 2022). This time we have Arcane’s notes on the celebrated Million Year Boom, a short dark-ecology comic. All posts in this series can be accessed here.
Million Year Boom, the best-known story by the author, found its way into the celebrated Best Nonrequired Reading anthology. It’s another Ballard-influenced story that excavates the primitive drives concealed within us under a thin veneer of civilization.
We demand a greener future. Global warming is irrevocably changing the planet. Humanity has become a geological agent, like asteroids, tectonic
shifts, or bat guano. Our civilization will leave a mark on geological strata. “This is the Anthropocene! We are the gods of destruction. We must do something!” At least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves.
Our late-capitalist societies (late for what?) should account for all undervalued externalities (think greenhouse emissions, exporting waste, etc.) in our biosphere. Imagine this scenario pushed to the absolute limit. Under this new regime, the entire biomass of the planet would have to be counted, weighed, measured, understood, and monetized. This kind of hyper-rationalization of all matter and biomass on the earth will result in a new scientific techno-animism.
Science and big tech do not create knowledge but clouds of data. We see science and data as a solution, but we should view them as another kind of pollution, a destabilizing process that deterritorializes societies. The most advanced science and technology are rapidly retribalizing and re-primitivizing societies. It is a paradox that most scientists and intellectuals do not want to confront.
Cyclical theories of development grasp this intuitively. When there’s enough moisture in the atmosphere, the wet season arrives. When water falls to the ground, things grow. This repeats every year. The cycle can break, of course, but it eventually restabilizes into a new cyclical process. What kind of weather do clouds of data bring?
Agrarian societies think in terms of growing cycles:
• spring > summer > fall > winter > spring …
Cosmopolitan societies (Greece, Rome, Medieval Europe, etc. [ 1 ]) think in terms of great ages:
• golden age > bronze age > decadent age > the fall > golden age …
These above modes are analogous.
Modern society, on the other hand, thinks in terms of binary eschatological teleology (BET):
• present > g a p o f t i m e > utopia or dystopia.
In other words, the future is binary (good/bad) and exists at an unknown distance from us. The critical difference is that we no longer view ourselves as human animals. Since we broke the cycle, we now see ourselves as beyond nature.
Even green activists who want to protect the planet imply we are more significant than nature. Or when they insist that we must de-industrialize (i.e., devolve) — the implication is that our current stage of evolution is already beyond nature. There is no understanding of the forces that we unleashed in this paradigm. [ 2 ]
To continue as a species, we need to understand two things: the cycles of a planetary society and who we are. There is no one cycle, but there are two that matter above all:
• Art > Religion > Science > Magic > Art …
• Conquest > Consolidation > Conquest …
We are animals who master territory. Mastering is conquest/consolidation. The Conquest / Consolidation cycle will be dealt with in a future post. [ 3 ]
The valuation of all capitalist externalities is analogous to the valuation of attention (screen time, participation, engagement, and other such metrics). However, we must supplement this process of material valuation with a spiritual (mental, ethereal) valuation. Nietzsche tried to convey this with his “reevaluation of all values” notion in Genealogy of Morality. Marx’s theory of value makes similar claims. [ 4 ] These reevaluations will happen whether we like them or not, so we must do so in a controlled fashion.
The future is a choice between two options. [ 5 ] Option one: global society will destabilize and (d)evolve into techno-cyber-animist magic niche-cults competing for scarce planetary resources. We remain an Earth-bound civilization. This is the end of history, the apocalypse, the final revelation of the BET mentality.
The other option is harnessing off-planet resources. In other words, to continue our unstable but productive expansionary economics, we must expand our energy inputs using extra-planetary resources (see Utopia Dividend). This option extends our understanding of ecology beyond the planetary biosphere and creates a new cycle.
If every blade of grass has monetary value, how is that different from the animistic kami of Shinto religions? Already we can see the sprouting of this ideology in the green movements. The recent rumored correspondence between Greta Thunberg and infamous eco-terrorist Ted Kaczynski (no relation to the author as far as we can ascertain) is one of the many signs.
Why does everything necessary to life become expensive? Because inflationary money is worthless. In economics, money seeks stability. Since inflationary currency constantly leaks value, it must colonize all things that stay valuable. If money were stable (deflationary), all other goods would become less expensive [ 6 ]. In mythical terms, inflationary currency, Midas-like, turns everything into gold; it destroys everything. Deflationary currency, on the other hand, is Alladin’s lamp, powerful but limited by the user’s wisdom.
Economics and religious sentiments must not mix. The economic sphere must remain autonomous and independent. We must take steps to forcefully bracket economic activity from intersecting with spiritual matters. The mixing eventually results in for-profit religions, magic, and art. The blending is exciting but counter-productive. Material valuation of immaterial spheres is a recipe for disaster. These spheres should remain independent. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [ 7 ]
Though we would be loath to admit it, Marx attempted a Nietzschean revaluation of capitalist values into communist or socialist ones. Unfortunately, his critique smuggled religious, psychological, and magical values into economics. His famous formulation: “All that is solid melts into the air,” is the equivalent of “let there be light” or god’s breath that animated dead clay. If Marx flipped Hegel right side up, then we must do the same with Marx.
The Base > Superstructure formulation is another pyramid scheme. These formulations clarify in the same way that a pyramid explains the power relations embedded in society. By naming the devil (Capital), Marx gave it power unimagined before. The subsequent invention of Marxist analysis and critical theory by the Soviet states and the Frankfurt School is almost algorithmic:
• Input: a critique of the power of Capital
• Output: Capital increases its power
Critique: A Summoning
Critique constantly invents new ways for Capital to win; it is an incantation and invocation [ 8 ]. Words are the key to postmodern critique; it relies almost entirely on verbal games. These are forms of magic. The theorists are under the impression that they are banishing the entities they describe. Instead, they give them more power by concretizing, naming, and materializing them out of a previously fluid notion [ 9 ]. Many demons are born in theory courses.
Equal Opportunity Sacrifice
The dénouement of the story (p. 69-70), the awkward conflagration between Segway-riding (remember the Segway?) security guards and amped-up business execs, and the resulting bloody sigil — a blood offering and a sacrificial act — are a prophetic sign of things to come.
The valuation of all matter is flat metaphysics (flat ontology), where all objects (biotic, abiotic, or virtual) exist at a single value status. These flat (read, democratic) systems often carry primitive valuations akin to ritual sacrifices. For example, a society can achieve balance only by sacrificing entities (humans, animals, etc.). The value of each entity is equivalent in some way to the perceived value lost or gained. Power diffuses and becomes difficult to ascertain. Eye for an eye. Everyone is a potential rival. Justice can only be immanent mob justice.
Hierarchical modern and proto-modern societies paradoxically lack these mechanisms. They do value some entities over others. But, the value of entities at the top emerges from the collective value of entities below. In other words, value flows up (in contrast to trickle-down economics—another name for socialism) and aggregates.
These systems are unstable but very productive. Generating higher hierarchical levels (CEOs, Popes, politicians) can only be accomplished by raising the aggregate entities below. The higher-level entities act as anointed ‘sacrifice kings,’ ready to receive collective punishment through revolution or social scorn. It crystalizes and directs power. Justice is transcendent: law.
The hierarchical system can only improve through increased instability; this is Capitalism’s danger and paradox. Only a continuously increasing (extra-planetary) energy input can temporarily stabilize it until the next growth crisis/cycle. All stable systems (ecological, social, seasons, etc.) are only durable for a limited time. (see Utopia Dividend, 36th Chamber of Commerce).
[ 1 ] Please note that I am primarily concerned with western cyclical notions. The work (Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse) is a commentary on the decline of the west.
[ 2 ] Bizarre inconsistencies arise from these lines of thinking. On the one hand, we must protect nature from humans, but on the other, we must devolve our civilization to be ‘natural.’ If all energy must be sourced from natural biomass again, we will consume all biomass. By re-naturalizing, we will destroy nature like the locust. Paradoxically, “unnatural” energy sources (like nuclear) allow us to leave biomass alone.
[ 3 ] This is expressed as territorialization/deterritorialization in Deleuze, Solve/Coagula in Alchemy, etc.
[ 4 ] How To Philosophize with a Hammer And Sickle by Jonas Čeika. Repeater Books (November 9, 2021).
[ 5 ] I know I am being very binary-eschatologically-teleological.
[ 6 ] This is a gross simplification, of course. Price fluctuation would continue depending on supply and demand. But, holding money would be analogous to how ‘investment’ works today. But, the ‘investor’ would only need to hold money instead of figuring out how to game the inflationary system by manipulating the ‘portfolio’ by following financial bubbles (property, commodity, crypto, etc.).
[ 7 ] Mark 12 : 17, The Bible, King James Version.
 For example, see Foucault’s work on the discursive construction of sexuality in the 19th century.
 This is how demonic summoning works.
- Million Year Boom | Notes to Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse
- Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar 9-10 (1982)
- The Cozy Apocalypse; Adalbert Arcane’s Notes and Theories to Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse
- Tintin in Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s The Nautical Chart
- Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse: Adalbert Arcane’s Notes and Theories to the Sound Strips