In a world that is coming apart at the seams; who notices the lost places? They talk about the sixth great extinction, those who live in Styrofoam palaces and with tin voices lament the loss. The coming anarchy. The return of empire; of sultans in their palaces of old, tall walls to shield them from the carnage around. Towers punching up through the clouds – Elysium high above the stench. Do they know that the future is being written in the lost places? That it’s there, far away and way down below where the animals are being killed, where the wars are being lost not out of inferior strength but instead for lack of anybody to care if we win; great islands of garbage clogging up the oceans, far from the eyes of those who gaze only inward.
Who considers the lost places? Patches of dirt where seeds no longer germinate; over-sprayed and over-fertilized and over-burned. Deserts that advance grain by grain filling in the sad holes where trees had once stood stoic against the elements, not climate change but a tree genocide perpetrated by the poor, the dwellers of in-between spaces where there is no future and no past; chopped to become coal upon which beans and some rice will be cooked, boiled in rainwater that no longer falls as it did and salted by fish that cannot escape the mosquito nets stripped from the beds of the dying infants to dredge the mud for that one scarce mouthful of protein.
Who thinks about nowhere? – when all we ever want to do is be somewhere; somebody. Something other than that which we are because there is always somebody out there who is, so why not us? Meanwhile the nowhere is expanding. When I started, twenty years ago, maybe more, it occupied only the dangerous edges of empire, far away and wild and somehow exotic. Lost because though while they could never touch us, we could touch them – and this made them safe. But now, now they are right beside us, just over the ten foot wall crowned with concertina wire, beside the bulletproof pillboxes of our guardians, beneath the windows of our towers from which lift our drones, our helicopters. Anything to avoid contact with them and their nowhere.
Yes the nowhere is expanding. No longer the terrifying depths beyond the horizon where “there be dragons”; no longer cannibal pagans occupying the distant beaches of our imaginations. Now the nowhere is here, with us; in the crowded favelas teaming with infants, running with sewage. Just outside the city states; areas that exist as the inverse of epicenter which extend out from the seats of power and government in radiating waves of indifference. The abandoned roads where the pirates ride. The empty countryside strewn with cadavers of past life, desiccated organs once fed by the blood of commerce which no longer flows down roadways that had oxygenated the lost places before they suffocated from lack of those to care for them.
Nobody cares for the nowhere; we are soothed by statistics. Angus Deaton tells us of “The Great Escape” – forgetting to mention that it is temporary, that it always has been. Forgetting to tell us that the escape was from one dollar a day to two, or ten. “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty,” as Heinlein has said. Steven Pinker or Patrick Deenan?
Stagnation and unemployment and a creeping managerialism that has made the world boring, and somehow now rebellious – brittle. Elites who talked of future while thinking of only themselves; self-serving and self-dealing while democracy burned. Yes, nobody has considered the nowhere. And now its too late.