When our cups runneth over
I am back from a six week hiatus during which I was mostly abroad, watching the world stumble from bad to worse in every continent I stepped foot. Glass half empty ain’t half of it.
While running on empty, I came up with a theory about why we are where we are today:
Our systems are overflowing their containers, the rules and boundaries we have built over generations. It’s a flood, an anthropogenic bookend to the history that started with Matsya and Noah.
Every important instrument and institution is in a state of overflow: the market, the nation, technology and above all, carbon. Over the last few months I have been covering the technological overflow into the metaverse. When the Ukraine war started, I started writing about the nation in overflow. Some nations such as Russia are in overflow abroad, while others - The US India and (perhaps) China are in internal overflow. Underlying all these overflows is the overflowing of humanity, aka the anthropocene.
The national overflow is capturing my theoretical attention. I was reading this article about Jiang Shigong when a comment struck me in the gut:
The modern Chinese state, he argues here, was founded by a popular revolution that established the sovereign dictatorship of the Communist Party. It is the unwritten historical fact of this dictatorship, not the written document known as the constitution of the state, which structures the whole of the Chinese constitution and has embodied the continuity of the Chinese state through three successive written constitutions
The nation is always overflowing its rules and boundaries, for there’s an unwritten power which is barely tamed by the existing rules: in China it’s the Communist Party; in India it’s Hindu Nationalism, in the US, White Supremacy. When we say with great pride that unlike our feudal ancestors, in the modern world the ‘people are sovereign,’ we might discover truths such as those ‘people’ can be rather unpleasant.
This spring I will continue monitoring these overflows while trying to stay afloat. I am going to start slow as I restart my writing habit and picking up speed as my fingers get married to the keyboard.