Sweden’s ‘Dagens Nyheter’ Newspaper’s Discussion of ‘Life in Limbo?’

A recent article in the cultural pages of Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s biggest circulation daily newspaper (Wikipedia entry here), began by discussing the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar before segueing into a summary of the Turbulence 5 editorial, ‘Life in Limbo?‘ The original Swedish article is online here, and we’re posting an English translation below.

The world’s currently most watched film conveys suspicion against “the system”. What does that tell us?

Sverker Lenas in Dagens Nyheter (12/1/2010)

At the same time as the numbers for the Christmas trade are – once again – up to record heights, the number one cinema blockbuster takes issue with the destructiveness of a society that aspires to infinite growth. In “Avatar”, humanity has been forced to colonise and exploit a new planet in order not to perish on the old one. With the help of gigantic “hell trucks”, confusingly similar to those gigantic trucks that transport the Canadian tar sands, they mine the mineral unobtanium – a necessary component of Earth’s energy supply, all the while the planet’s indigenous population is being murdered, and the forest devastated.

Does director James Cameron believe in infinite growth on a finite planet? I’m guessing not. The real question is what it says about the state of world order if the world’s currently most-watched movie – produced in the heart of the global Empire – conveys suspicion against “the system”?

“We are trapped in a state of limbo” writes the international magazine Turbulence (no. 5/2009) in a massive manifesto in their most recent issue. Limbo, this emptiness, refers to the absence of an ideological core at the heart of the system. Although neoliberalism has been in crisis for nearly two years, the neoliberals are still in power. Banks and major companies have been nationalised, not in order to change a useless system, but in order to save it. Everything has changed, so everything can stay the same.

But, Turbulence points out, there has nonetheless been a change insofar as the middle ground of politics has moved. For example, only two years ago it was impossible to articulate a critique of growth without being labelled a loony. Today the 1972 Club of Rome’s report “Limits to Growth” is cited ever more frequently without mockery or ridicule. In Sweden there are today discussions about the economy’s ecological limits on well-known blogs such as Livet efter oljan (Life after oil), Cornucopia or Flute, newspapers such as Effekt magasin, and ever more frequently even in established outlets. The Social Democrats’ student organisation’s programme for the coming decade raises questions about the habit of growth. Even conservative politicians are doing it.

What will come to occupy the middle ground of politics instead of deregulation and privatisation? Climate justice and commoning – the extension of the commons – Turbulence hopes.

More suggestions are likely to follow at the same speed as Hollywood will produce movies predicting the collapse. All the while, the growth society’s container ships will continue on their journey. But is there really anybody standing behind the wheel? Or is it just the law of inertia that keeps the vessel on course?

Sverker Lenas


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