And just like that things changed. In the beginning, of course, nobody knew what to make of what was happening, but if one ability of this species of ours has shown itself to be inexhaustible, it is adaptation. We adapted. From the ground-dwelling, house-building, crop-harvesting settlers we had become in the last millennia, we very quickly, within a matter of only a few years really, adapted to become – this. At first it was hard. We lost a great many of our own and without time to grieve, to cut our losses and decide who we wanted to be because of it, we moved on. Perhaps a little bit of time would have done us a world of good, but taking time was not an option. Taking time is for those in safety, and safety – as you will soon see – was not an option either. Still isn’t. But we adapted to that too and we did it well.
I am sorry to admit that Darwin was right all along: In the worst of times the fittest do survive. Because they are not scared. Because they don’t hesitate. Because they don’t think an awful lot about the consequences of their actions. Which of course is more the result of necessity than being a conscious decision. There will surely come a time when the values we have established over a great many centuries and through war and politics will mean something again. But who is to say what exactly? Maybe nothing. Maybe we will have to start over and build life from scratch because not enough of us are left to remember and remind the rest of us what used to be important, valid and, well, right. Maybe that’s a good thing. There is no way of knowing. So in a sense, this is as exciting for me as it is for you. Anyway, no matter how this turns out, no matter where and who you are: I wish you well. I hope you are in a place of relative safety and comfort.
My name is Mackenzie and I want to tell you everything I remember.
I am the second child of normal middle-class people with normal middle-class jobs. My dad was an accountant for a relatively large car dealership and my mom worked the front desk at some dentist’s office. As far as I can tell they were happy. Though I wouldn’t know really, because here is what’s special about our time: Happiness has become a rather difficult thing to define. Where my grandparents only needed homes and steady jobs to consider themselves lucky, live happily ever after and shut the fuck up about shit already, my parent’s generation might have been the first to feel this nagging discomfort that comes with being too comfortable. Maybe discomfort is the wrong word. In hindsight I think it might have been sheer and blatant boredom. What to do with all this ease, when evolution has infused you with a constant willingness and maybe even eagerness to fight? You see, I am no expert on anything, but when I think back I cannot think of one single thing with the potential to tip the scales towards this mess. Of course there was war in some places and poverty in others, politics was heading into one of those big messes you read about in history books in literally every grade in school, and yet: That is how it has always been since the dawn of time. And still we managed not to blow the place up. The only real difference I can see between all of history and the last 3 decades is this: The lack of a real, tangible, day-to-day-life-affecting existential crisis. Well, as I said, I’m no expert. I’m just a survivor trying to do that and only that: survive. But let me be clear about one thing: I was bored, too. And so was everybody else I knew.
And boredom breeds crisis.
Though, of course, that’s not what we called it.
It’s not like there was nothing to do. We had plenty to do and lots of entertainment, but none of that stuff was challenging. What I’m trying to say is this: There was nothing to achieve really. Sure, there was money to be earnt and stuff to be bought with that money. So you could put your kids through school. So they could get a good-paying job and buy their own shit. So you could buy a new gizmo. So could take that vacation. So you could get that degree. So you could sign up in that cool sports club that opened two blocks down a few weeks ago and that promises to finally rid you of that constant dissatisfaction with yourself. So you could get surgery on your boobs. So you could get whatever it was your heart desired.
And then what? Find something else to want, work for, get and forget. Do you see how boring that gets after the umpteenth cycle? Take a minute to think about how it must feel to constantly acquire new stuff without ever adding any real value to your life. Terrifying, right?
Sometimes I wonder. What I said earlier, that there wasn’t anything to achieve? I think I’ll have to get into that more for you to understand. Because you probably know that that’s not true. Of course there was worthwhile stuff to achieve, but it couldn’t be done, is what I’m saying. Take war in what used to be the middle east for example. Up to this day I don’t understand what happened there. And I’m not stupid or anything. It’s just that the available amount of information on any given topic was so large, so intimidatingly big that there really was no way of getting into a state of clear understanding. With me there always came a point where I thought: Why even bother? Plus you never knew which bit of information was true and which wasn’t and why. Every massive body of information for me always boiled down to one basic fact: People were fighting over something in some remote part of the world. Of course you could get all riled up over some injustice here and some unhuman act of the civilized world there, but not five minutes later some other source would say: That’s a lie, here’s the truth. Then you could get into that, but after the third, fourth, fifth or twentieth forced alteration of my own opinion I really couldn’t be bothered to care anymore. Because caring implies knowing and we really lived in the age of amassing information without ever knowing anything. Same with climate change. When the shit hit the fan officials and dumbos alike were still publicly arguing whether or not climate change was even a thing. Can you imagine that? Really, I’m serious, can you? Let me take a minute and paint a picture for you: Back in the day there was this rumor about something called Climate Change. Some said this: Pollution in the atmosphere will result in rising temperatures, ice caps will melt, sea levels will then rise and flood coastal regions all over the world, leaving millions of people homeless. But that’s not all. With more ice melting, the gulf stream will be affected and eventually screech to a halt and then, dear friends and foes, shit will get very serious. The world as we know it will end, because weather conditions will dramatically change. Some predicted the entire northern hemisphere would be eradicated and every human being in those parts would die a terrible death if they didn’t make it past the equator in time. Well, in case you haven’t noticed: That’s where the civilized world dwells. Ironic, right?
But–and here it gets interesting: There where others who said that this was sheer and utter bogus.
As a smart human being you then of course start to question the sources of said information and soon learn that party A consists mainly of eco activists backed by scientists and party B consists of politicians and economic moguls. By this point you know what’s truer than not, because you’re used to being lied to by your elected officials and come to the inevitable conclusion that Climate Change is a thing and a dangerous one at that. Now what? If you’re like me – and let me assure you I’m as average as a human being can get – you do something you have learnt to despise: You dig into more information to find out what the fuck it is someone as average as you can do to help avert catastrophe. Buy local, fly less, drive less, recycle, eat less or no meat, buy sustainable products, invest in green companies, save power, save water etc. And then one night after a long day at that soul sucking job of yours you turn on the TV and hear on the news that all these great and important countries, who some time ago agreed on specific goals to avert catastrophe have failed to do so. That’s it: They’ve failed. They shoot out excuses like machine guns, but the end result stays the same: Nothing has changed, we’re still on track to end our own lives and nothing happens. No one resigns, nothing shifts. Shocking, right? Not really.
So what do you do? Besides getting angry and frustrated I mean. What do you DO? By now the answer should be crystal clear: Nothing. Buy shit, watch a movie, fuck – anything that makes you feel better. You are useless. You have no power over anything, not even your own life. But of course, you cannot live a powerless life, that would make anyone suicidal after a while. So you search for ways to exercise power and you find them in the self-help section of every bookstore. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, qui gong, reiki, nutrition, work-life-balance, stress management, counseling, coaching, therapy. You name it. You are led to believe that there is SO. MUCH. YOU. CAN. DO. So you start doing it, but that doesn’t work, either. You get depressed because you feel like an even bigger failure than you could ever have thought possible. You do not see clearly enough to understand that it can’t work, because the system is rigged. People are not islands after all, you cannot create a safe haven on top of a steaming pile of shit.
I now understand so much more than I did then.
Do you see now? Of course there was an existential and life-changing crisis crystallizing itself on the horizon, but it was not tangible in any meaningful way, because we glossed it over with trips to Taiwan in the winter and a new pair of New Balance Sneakers for that Yoga retreat in the summer and the third mortgage on the too expensive house we had learned to dream of since middle school.
And I haven’t even talked about money yet. Jeez, that shit? Seriously, that shit has more dead bodies under its belt than all diseases in human history combined. But by now you might have figured that out all by yourself. Because you’re smart, aren’t you? You’re smarter than us. At least that’s what I hope.
Before I get into the dirty details of what happened let me make a confession: Being bored and frustrated and angry, I was desperate for the apocalypse to finally happen. There, I said it. Pretty screwed up, I know. But there it is. I must say it feels really really good to let that out. I wanted shit to hit the fan, for pressure to be released in some epic, meaningful way. I wanted an excuse to stop. Stop going to a job I saw no meaning in, stop wanting to buy useless trinkets, stop worrying about ageing and whether or not to have children, stop feeling like a lazy underachiever with no real trajectory and with no hope of ever knowing what was really going on in this world and ergo not finding my very own and unique place in it. Ever. Well, I guess I got what I wished for.
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t want to die. I still don’t want to die. And while I don’t enjoy hanging on to dear life every second of every day in the same way I would enjoy watching a good movie or hiking, I do feel that my life finally has meaning. What I do, how I act, has real consequences–the game of cause and effect is finally back on.
It’s not like it was all bad, though. I had friends and family and things I loved, my life had structure. The chaos of a looming catastrophe wasn’t obvious. Had it been obvious we would be having a very different conversation now. No, it was more like a steady undercurrent that ever so slightly pulled on your limbs and made moving just the tiniest bit harder as the years went by. There were signs of course, but since we didn’t know what to look for, we never saw what was coming. When I try to grasp the state of mind we were in, I must admit I find it hard. Our minds were scattered, and I believe many of us spent most of their time just holding their shit together. A constant input of information leaves you with barely any time to process that information and make sense of it after all. I read somewhere that the brain needs lazy time to function properly. The brain needs times when you just sit and do nothing. It then starts processing and tending to pending queries so to speak. Which is a beautiful thing when you think about it, it’s a built-in excuse for taking it easy. And it makes sense, too. Nothing in nature goes fast – growth, healing, evolution – most things just need time. But here’s the catch: We had forgotten that we were essentially nature too and for some reason we were convinced that we didn’t have time, for anything. So we needed to be reminded. And we were.
You see, I don’t believe in fate. I still believe that our planet is a humongous stone hurling around in space and that our life is just a coincidence of natural evolution and not even an exciting one. I think on some other rock there are different forms of life that perfectly fit into the characteristics of that environment. But it does strike me as odd that our demise would match our state of mind so perfectly. It’s like somewhere someone consciously designed the perfect method to take us down.
The truth is, I don’t really know what happened. All I can tell you is what I observed then and still observe now, so you’re in for a story about symptoms basically. Maybe one day I will bump into a super smart scientist on this weird journey and get a chance to question her, but until that time my layman’s account will have to do.
Well, as I said, my name is Mackenzie. My Mom picked that name, because she thought it sounded badass and being a part-time-hobby feminist, she didn’t want to strand me with a super girly and weak name for the rest of my life. I always liked that my name has the letter Z in it, because not many names have that and it’s true – you’d rather plausibly get kicked in the ass by a Mackenzie than by a Sarah or Cindy, right? I didn’t turn out to be as badass as my Mom might’ve hoped for, but I did okay. I completed the standard educational routine without any major issues, though I did get drunk a lot in college. But I never let my guard down enough to make a fool of myself like many other girls on campus. I wasn’t very ambitious either, but I did just fine. Looking back, I realize that I’ve always had this feeling that maybe stuff really didn’t matter. It’s hard to explain now, but it felt like on some unconscious level I knew what was coming, so there was really no sense in getting into the hassle, you know? I graduated and got a job, because more than anything I wanted to be self-sufficient and do cool stuff in my free time. Which is to say I was never particularly career-driven, because, you know, what’s the point? I always liked to write, even as a kid liked to write, which probably explains this. Plus now it makes me feel less lonely, because I’m not, I’m talking to you.
I have met other people since, but … well, you’ll see soon enough.