Luddism is not the destruction of all machines. And neither is it the hatred of machines as such. Like cyberculture, it is another word for dismantling. Luddism is the performative breaking of machines that limit species expression and impede planetary survival.
That the Luddites are so constantly vilified may ultimately be a signal of their dangerous power, insofar as they show that people need not passively sit and accept everything that is sold to them as technological progress. Dismantling represents a politics “not as machine hating, but as a way to protect life against a large-scale regimentation and policing of security, labor, time, and community”.
As we contemplate legal, economic, and ethical strategies for limiting tech’s rampant growth, we need to look beyond privatised and individual solutions like setting “screen-time limits” or quitting Facebook. As with other degrowth endeavours, we need to strategise at the community, national, infrastructural, and ecological scale—and to acknowledge the crucial importance of maintenance and care at each of those scales.
Yet the threats imposed by tech’s unlimited growth are both individual and collective: they compromise our personal privacy and mental health, as well as our networked utilities, our geopolitical dynamics, and our global ecologies. These tiny devices are tethered to ever-growing pit mines, supply chains and electronic waste dumps—all of which require hazardous maintenance work. And the artificial intelligence behind the popular platforms has become more energy intensive than private cars.
How can we think in times of urgencies without the self-indulgent and self-fulfilling myths of apocalypse, when every fibre of our being is interlaced, even complicit, in the webs of processes that must somehow be engaged and repatterned?
Drawing from long histories of creative resistance and generative living in even the worst circumstances, people everywhere found themselves profoundly tired of waiting for external, never materialising solutions to local and systemic problems.
I envision a world full of spiders, weaving interconnected webs that resist patriarchal forms of supremacy that work so well at keeping us distraught, distracted, and divided.
One of the most miraculous things about forests is that they sometimes grow back after they have been destroyed. We might think of this as resilience, or as ecological remediation, and I find these concepts useful. But what if we pushed even further by thinking through resurgence? Resurgence is the force of the life of the forest, its ability to spread its seeds and roots and runners to reclaim places that have been deforested.
Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from a thirteenth-century French verb meaning "to stir up", to make cloudy, to disturb. We—all of us on Terra—live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times. The task is to become capable, with each other in all of our bumptious kinds, of response.
Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy—with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. Our task to is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle trouble waters and rebuild quiet places.
In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, or stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming generations.
Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.
Where spring is our “large” season, lasting roughly from March to June, the sekki calendar breaks it down into six small seasons: start of spring, rain waters, the going-out of the worms, vernal equinox, clear and bright, and rain for harvests.2 Both describe a similar period of time, but one does so with a precision that feels much more human.