Contemporary events appear in ever-shifting configurations. They seem to be entirely contingent, their amplification on the global scale dependent on how many people are paying attention. The vicissitudes of spotlighting various events are daily, if not hourly: something that was the focus of attention yesterday may be forgotten today. A massacre and a wardrobe malfunction are put on the same level of intense scrutiny and curiosity, attitudes that just as quickly latch on to another object. As a result, vital issues flash by before our eyes, only to be displaced and buried under piles of trifling matters.
In my book Dump Philosophy (2020), I treat these phenomena of the Information Age as part of a global ‘dump’, where all qualitative differences are erased and where the nihilistic attitude of generalised indifference rules the day, despite peaks of usually superficial engagement. It is with a view to resisting the bulldozing forces of the global dump that we need patient reflection and careful philosophical analysis, lingering with a singular event, being or image. Plato’s question throughout the Republic was: what could be saved from oblivion? Which tale, conveying crucial ideas such as justice, beauty or the good, would be transmitted further to others and into the future? These questions are ours, too.
The story I want to save here is that of the trenches dug up by Russian troops in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, early on in their brutal assault on Ukraine. Trenches in Chernobyl may appear as one of those peculiar shards that kaleidoscopically and only momentarily make up the category of ‘current events’. Still, it is imperative to think through the absurdity, the staying power, and the subterranean connections linking this ostensibly fleeting military disaster to the catastrophe that took place in Chernobyl 36 years prior. Despite the relatively quick withdrawal of the occupying forces from this place, this story (which is more than a ‘news story’) is far from irrelevant. If we look a little closer, we can espy in it a strange condensation of everything that went wrong, and continues to go wrong, at the site of the nuclear accident. And that site, in its turn, condenses the modes of thinking and acting that continue to steer the world toward global disaster. [Continue reading…]