Apocalypse When? Two Views from the End Times
The end is already here; the end is yet to come: not a pair of contradictory statements but one statement made up of two parts, forming a temporal modality—already /not yet—which orders much of contemporary political, ecological, and philosophical discourse about the future. The present has already foreclosed on the future; the present is the crucial time to act to avoid this foreclosure. The grammatical tense of the Anthropocene is therefore the future perfect: we speak of human and nonhuman worlds as they will have been, of our sphere of action within the irreversible transformations of life and earth as they will have occurred.
This essay is an examination of already/not yet as the dominant temporal position in and of our contemporary crises. I offer a brief sketch of its recent historical development and attempt to draw out the affective and phenomenological tendencies which it contains, describes and performs—suggesting that this temporal positioning has contributed, over the past century, to the apocalypse becoming permanentized, rendering recuperative action difficult and mourning impossible. Finally, I ask whether an alternative temporal positioning to the already/not yet might be possible—a modality of no more/still, which orients the subject towards the future not through the imposition of a looming and latent eventuality but through a difficult, incomplete, and ultimately generative confrontation with what simultaneously is and is no more/never was.