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Culture, Reality

Abandoned Jet Skis

by Brandon Edmonds / 26.01.2011

Who needs Wikileaks when there’s Worldometers? Real time world statistics. The inside dope on reality. Horror films can’t compete. Try watching ‘Deaths today’ (ever-climbing) without feeling the self-protective vertigo of disbelief. My favourite rolling stat is ‘Suicides this year’. It’s not as dynamic an indicator as ‘Cigarettes Smoked Today’ or ‘World Spending on Illegal Drugs’ (both of which spin appreciably – their compound numbers visibly swelling) but its faster than ‘Road Traffic Accident Fatalities’. So well done there humanity. Every cloud right.

There’s been well over 69,000 suicides already. Would there have been that many if they’d known there were that many? An imagined community whose perceived existence would cancel its own necessity. Oh there are more like me. I’m not entirely alone. Is that fatuous? Who cares, the stats keep on coming. Almost 3 million abortions. Think of the knock-on sorrow of that. No? Perhaps a healthy percentage of them resulted in lasting relief? We don’t know. The numbers spin. Close to 140 000 HIV/Aids deaths. More than enough to hold on to a word like “epidemic”. And we’re only in January.

There are deeply mysterious stats, harbingers of our looming apocalyptic future: ‘Days to the End of Coal’. Sounds like a post-punk album. Sounds like a Talking Heads lyric. An eschatology. There are poetic categories with dark implications: ‘Forest Lost this Year’. The dread trickle of desertification. The loss of species (nearing nine thousand and counting). The ‘Spill of Industrial Toxins’ in tons. You can’t help but see our accursed inheritors scrabbling in the biting cold, picking through mall scraps in a Hobbesian nightmare of ‘war of all against all’. ‘Days to the End of Oil’ – 15, 655. Middle Ages redux. Horses on highways. Abandoned jet skis. A Ballardian, Wellesian, Kubrickian futurama. The numbers don’t lie.

There’s the delicious quantification of presiding American excess. The number of ‘Obese People in the World Right Now’ is suitably sluggish. But huge. Nearing 345 million. Here’s the supreme definition of the old Marxist idea of ‘capitalist contradiction’: right beneath the obesity figure is the far fleeter ‘People who Died of Hunger Today’ stat – around 15000 when I glanced. You can’t make this kind of suggestive co-relation up: who would believe you? Contradictions abound. Health and Education ‘Expenditure by Governments Worldwide’ climbs at virtually the same rate as military spending. There is no lack of potentially revolutionary material out there, but none as blunt and convincing as http://www.worldometers.info/#mce_temp_url#.

These stats puncture lifestyle ideology: wellness, holism, centeredness. Self-help, feel-good bullshit: it’s all about putting your best energy out there. Clearly the world doesn’t give a fuck. Numbers spin regardless. You don’t even need a philosophy class, just stare at the numbers for a bit. That haunted, hollow feeling is existentialism. Soon that disgusted, despairing feeling is nihilism. Keep on looking until you hit the ghost town of misanthropy, then go for a walk outside.

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