This article is a part of the Thesis Eleven online project: Living and Thinking Crisis
by Ayça Çubukçu (London)
It does not have to end like this. “Another End of the World is Possible.” In the final days of May 2020, during the uprising in Minneapolis, this was the slogan sprayed in black capital letters on a bright white wall in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Witnesses have it that the French version of the graffiti had already appeared in Paris during the anti-austerity protests of 2016. Whatever its origin, this was an iteration of the older slogan, “Another World Is Possible,” which had spread in the early 2000s as alter-globalization and then antiwar movements were sweeping the world. Clearly, the zeitgeist has changed over the past twenty years. Only in the last three months, hundreds of thousands across the world have died of a single virus. It was only last week that the police suffocated George Floyd to death in Minneapolis. By now, American cities are on fire, millions are screaming—we cannot breathe.
The beginning of a new world requires the end of this one. Perhaps, President Donald Trump knew this when, with a bible in hand, he threatened to deploy the military against protestors making black lives matter on the streets. Disaster, danger, dissent. All the way in Istanbul, it strikes one as a historic event. While millions are demonstrating in the heat, tear-gassed, clubbed, bleeding, the end of the world appears simpler to imagine than its beginning. Yet, there is a utopic element buried in the apocalyptic saying, “Another End of the World is Possible.” It too champions something. In the time that remains, it too affirms the possibility of another reality.
In a recent book, Judith Butler warns that on its own, “mania can never become a politics without becoming a dangerous form of destruction.” Nevertheless, she praises mania as a cipher for understanding “unrealistic” forms of insurrectionary solidarity that turn against authoritarian and tyrannical rule. Indeed, mania’s “vigorous unrealism” facilitates its capacity to incite the fantasy of another world, even another end of the world, while unleashing the energy needed to realize it in practice. Mania is courageous and contagious at once. Like riots and rebellions, fire and smoke, it spreads across divides. There lies its global danger, its unrealistic, futuristic, fatalistic affirmation that another end of the world is possible.
It is clear by now that we are not in this together as one nation, let alone one humanity. Even though the pandemic has demonstrated its interconnected vulnerability, “humanity” is not equally exposed to the social, economic, and political inequalities this pandemic has exasperated and created. Troops are not sent to establish “law and order” in every neighbourhood or country, states do not murder or nurture everyone equally. Populations are cared for, abandoned, maimed, and killed differentially. It matters that a woman is black and poor, an anarchist burnin’ and lootin’ with Bob Marley. Today, the possibility of global rebellion spells another end of the world on the wall. There resides a promise. There remains time to create another end of the world, to play a different role, to write a different script, to hope another hope.
Ayca Cubukcu is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Human Rights Program at LSE. She is the author of For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @ayca_cu