Naomi Klein, who’s written well-known tracts on climate change and the insane and psychopathic system that is capitalism, has just published another important and surprisingly beautiful book. It’s called Doppelgänger: A Trip into the Mirror World, and it investigates the political and social strangeness that covid unleashed. I read it in a whirl over the last two days, and there’s so much in it, but these are first thoughts on what landed strongly for me.
Her book reminded me of the hope that came along with the virus; that it could be a reset (don’t go back to normal! – remember that?). The hope that we could all come together to cooperate on big, complex global issues that would require sacrifice for transformation. The excitement galvanised in all working together to meet a threat, working together in the service of the vulnerable. But it wasn’t long before that fractured, and suspicion crept in, and a sense of unity faded. And with it, my hopes for a real response to the far bigger issues approaching us fell. I know I can’t know what large, collective steps could truly work to save what we love. But I do know how small, collective work is changing me, and for that I am deeply grateful.
And it’s here where, for me, Doppelgänger is such a profound read, with topics close to my passions and my work. The concept of the Doppelgänger – the secret double, the shadow, the one who carries all that we disown – is explored in a shattering, stunning way. There are many ways a culture hides what it cannot face, or is captured by unconsciousness. So I’m moved that she writes extensively about Indigenous dispossession of land and attempts at cultural annihilation, and her feeling that these facts are haunting contemporary culture, revealing themselves in the fantastical stories conspiracy communities create.
Conspiracies are always telling some kind of truth. This is why it is important to give space and respect for all voices – hidden, shadowed things will be revealed. They can show us how to use the past – to understand what has been lost, and how we might integrate what we have repressed.
She quote African-American writer James Baldwin: “An invented past can never be used: it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life…(however) to accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same as drowning in it: it is learning how to use it.”
This is where I feel my work connects to hers; through integrating and processing our past, we can come to a fuller understanding, and we can change. And we can access a different way of knowing. My work seeks to access a different reality, not the invented one where humans are at the centre. Instead, we seek to meet the real world, the wholeness and fullness of embodied, ecological reality. And we prepare to meet it in a radically different way, more akin to Indigenous ways of knowing; ways repressed with the repression of Colonised peoples everywhere, including far back in our own cultural lineages.
I deeply value Naomi’s book for its compassion and tenderness towards the broken and damaged world, and broken and damaged people, that climate change and ecological tipping points are creating. It revealed to me some of my unconscious attitudes towards those I consider less than perfect. This was humbling and painful, but I’m grateful, because I can change.
Lastly, I want to say how grateful I am that such a thoughtful, intelligent person has woven together many of the big questions I’ve been grappling with, and brought some sort of clarity to the complexity of the last few years. In my teaching I hope I can, in a small way, do something not unlike this – to integrate, and clarify. I seek to make space for esoteric, artistic and culture change questions to live alongside each other, in the hope of greater integration of these aspects of life. To do so, alongside my research into how we might engage in depth practices on Aboriginal land, I bring together the work of many amazing thinkers. In the mix of the year-long course we’ll be beginning soon, I am excited to be including this book as suggested reading. There’s just a couple of spaces left, if you are interested in joining with us, read about it here.