There are three original ideas left in the world, and Zeroism isn’t any of them. It’s really just a bunch of other things with more swearing, like when David Mamet wrote The Art Of Fucking War. Cobbling it together I’ve magpied and misquoted a whole bunch of political philosophies, standing on the shoulders of giants and geniuses, so preoccupied with whether or not I could I didn’t stop to think if I should. Although that last bit is all mine.
Let’s batter through the truths we would hold to be self-evident if I wasn’t about to explain them all.
I don’t want to set off a moral panic here, but capitalism is dogshit. This idea we hit upon, that the best way of living is to screw each other over, kidnap and kill each other, enslave and oppress each other, so a few of us can get more objects than the rest of us is, by any objective measure, total shit.
Capitalist bigwigs and old-money hoity-toits argue it’s brought us improvements in living standards, yer industrial revolution, yer digital revolution and such and such. But it’s a lousy pyramid scheme sold by the pointiest tippy top of the triangle. Really, capitalism lies behind most of the problems we aim to fix. Its industry makes polluting the planet more important than its inhabitants’ survival. It keeps most of the world poor so some parts of the world can be rich. It keeps people in sweatshops so we can keep getting cheap clothes in shopping malls. It industrialised racism with slavery, kidnapping millions of people to bring down production costs. It makes the industrial torture and slaughter of animals not just fine but also dandy. It makes war a viable business model.
And although everything else in the world can be refined or reimagined or replaced, apparently capitalism is the one indestructible Forever Concept that can’t be bettered or done away with, and criticising any part of it makes you a pinko-commie rebel scum. People, we must, as a species, say “Balls to that.” If we can treat poxes both small and cow, if we can plonk robots on Mars, if we can invent vibrators with 21 varying speeds and settings, we can at least have another bash at a decent way of living.
We need something that’s not quite past-or-current-socialism, but maybe something like if capitalism wasn’t dogshit. Like as if the world could run without exploiting people horribly. Like as if people could still have ideas and still invent and innovate but because it would improve the world instead of just to fill their Scrooge McDuck money bins; a potential political system I like to think of as extremely fucking vague.
It’s partly from capitalism that we get survival-of-the-shittiest structural disadvantage and oppression. And while the Jeremy Clarkson types will have just rolled their eyes into the stratosphere, for the rest of us its obviousness is obvious. Powerful people run the world. They shape civilisations and societies around their interests, make laws to safeguard themselves and criminalise the not-them, and put in place structures that prevent them being toppled. They’re assholes.
Back when I was a teenage Zero I had a bit of trouble walking, the trouble being I couldn’t really do it. It was my first time on the receiving end of personal, social and structural discrimination. Around the time I started using a wheelchair, my school started thinking I shouldn’t go there any more. The Disability Discrimination Act didn’t apply to education, so individual discrimination (by my teachers) was supported by institutional discrimination (my school) and by structural discrimination (the law). So while my legs wouldn’t work for shit, my eyes were opened good and proper. The same structural privilege, disadvantage and oppression exists for every category of non-white-able-bodied-heterosexual-men knocking about the planet. It’s those structures, as well as the dickbag individuals propping them up either wilfully or blindly, that we’re aiming to take down. And we’re gonna.
Feminism has a couple of basic points: First, as Marie Shear put it, it’s the radical notion that women are people. I’ve looked into that. It checks out. Second, it sees how oppressive, male-dominated patriarchal forces have shaped our world. And while red-pilled “men’s rights activists”, or “micro-peened diptishits”, deny it the evidence is so clear there’s no arguing with it. Look at voting, where women were prevented from voting in Britain until 1928, in America until 1920 and Saudi Arabia until 20fucking15. Look at access to education, work and politics, look at property rights, look at forced marriages throughout the world. This isn’t opinion. This stuff is happening. Feminist facts is facts.
Intersectional feminism, figured by Kimberle Crenshaw and adopted by insufferable check-your-privilege Twitterites everywhere, sees how we smush together people and experiences that shouldn’t be really smushed. It sees, for example, how racism and sexism join forces against black women, and how white feminists could miss the specifics of black women’s structural disadvantages. So while above you read women got the vote in America in 1920, you ignored that black women’s voting rights weren’t protected until 1965, you massive racist. As Zeroes we aren’t just feminists. We’re intersectional feminists, wise to the intersections and crossovers of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and such and such.
You’ll recall from Goals, Plans and Assorted Machiavellia we aim to be anti-discriminatory. This is a solid step beyond non-discrimination, that neutral position of intellectual Switzerlandness that’s about as admirable as a concerned frown when someone shouts for help outside. Being non-discriminatory means we won’t burn any crosses ourselves but we’ll shrug while other people set about them. It means we won’t sexually harass anyone but we’ll look away when Brian From Accounts grabs someone’s arse.
We’re anti-discriminatory. We’ll keep an eye out for other people’s bullshit and call them on it, both online and for realsies. No more smiling awkwardly and scuttling away when some d-bag talks shit about immigrants. No more keeping quiet when the lunchroom’s banging on about political correctness gone mad and how you can’t say anything nowadays. We’ll be feminist allies whenever sexist jackasses open their mouths, LGBTQ allies when people say they don’t want gay people wagging it in their faces, allies to everyone all the time everywhere. If we’ve got a dose of intersectional privilege (men everywhere, white women, able-bodied everyones), we’ll weaponize it on behalf of the put-upons. We’ll be the argument equivalent of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves: (Everything we do) we’ll do it for them.
We did this. We can do it differently
Everything that exists, every amazing thing we’re proud of, every horrific thing we should be ashamed of, every system and structure and tradition we have, every ism and ology and phobia, every injustice, every episode of Manimal is the way it is because it’s the way we made it. Pollution exists because we invented it and then churned it out, first by accident and then deliberately. Poverty exists because someone way back pointed to a thing and said it was his and no one else’s, and everyone got the same idea until the haves were solidly boning the have-nots. We made racism. We made injustice and hardship. We made Scott Baio a thing.
And because we’re idiots we convinced ourselves everything we’ve done has always been done, that everything that exists was inevitable, that everything was carved in stone like those commandments I came up with. Happily, the opposite is true. If we invented the whole of everything, except space and nature, we can reinvent it. All of it. If, for example, we built a city on, for example, rock and roll, we can just as easily build a city on, for example, thrash metal or grime. But with no racism and pollution and stuff.
The Butterfly Effect
And so to the final, most critical component of Zeroism. Chaos theory reckons a butterfly flapping its wings in Beijing can make a tornado go bananas in Washington. The theory, developed by Professor Edward Lorenz and Dr Ashton Kutcher, has it that billions of butterflies going about their day, flapping their wings like nothing’ll come of it, mash up enough of the air, when added together, to impact on global weather patterns. I think.
I just saw that one scene in Jurassic Park. The basic idea is how tiny things add up to something. There’s a ton of things we could do as Zeroes that would bring a tiny, almost unnoticeable change to the world, but combined with the tiny, unnoticeable changes made by other Zeroes would add up to hefty, global, revolutionary change. Every bit of paper we recycle is a bit of a tree that doesn’t need to be cut down, a bit of deforestation left forested, a bit of carbon unemitted, a bit more CO2 sucked up, a bit more oxygen produced. Every bit of paper adds up to a rainforest. And while we really need global, top-down, systemic change, we’ll do our bit while we’re getting there. This is one of the absolute foundations of the Zeroism philosophy, if Zeroism can indeed be called a philosophy, which it can’t because it very clearly isn’t. Still, it’s going to work.
So that’s yer basic Zeroism. It sees how capitalism has screwed over the majority of people on the planet and through history; sees how individual discrimination is propped up by structural oppression; sees the intersectionality of the put-upons and the privileged; aims for anti-discriminatory do-gooding; sees how we made and can remake everything; and how all of us everywhere can make little changes, flap our little wings, and add up to world-changing tornadoes. And to all these noble ideas it adds and is undermined by an audacious and wholly unnecessary foul-mouthery. Now let’s get going!
More on Zeroism
A Beginner's Beginning
The Grand Zero Epiphany. How a nobody figured he should do some things about some stuff but still be kind of a dick about it. Inspiring.
Goals, Plans and Assorted Machiavellia
What we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it. And you’re included in the we.
Onward to independence, somehow
The Equality Act (2010) demands people make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of those with disabilities and long-term illnesses. What I’m saying is, Long Covid’s still giving me a doing so you’re legally obliged to pretend this post-election hot take was published about three weeks ago.
Green Scotland/Little England
The Scottish Parliament elections are coming up on the 6th May, and even those of us still slobbing around with Long Covid can do something actually useful: We can vote to make a ton of progress on a whole bunch of things, and take steps towards ending Tory cruelty forever.
Victory! After four years of outrage and misery, five days chewing my nails down past the knuckles, and four nights sleeping so fitfully I thought maybe post-election panic was a cure for Long Covid lethargy, we got the motherfucker: Donald Trump got beat.
Red alert: Vote blue!
In the wide world of general do-goodery there is, at present, an opportunity to right an absolute shit-ton of wrongs and restore a small bit of order and decency to a smaller bit of the universe: Voting Donald Trump the fuck out of office.
When last we met, back in mid-lockdown May, I was banging on about Covid knackering my attempts to do a bit of the old ultra-activism. As I said back then, if ever there was a time for some proper solid do-gooding it’s in the middle of a deadly pandemic. What I didn’t anticipate about this particular deadly pandemic is that I would be personally attacked by the motherfucker.
I decided to spend ten days off my tits with fever, and then most of March struggling to breathe, and then half of April self-isolating while I downgraded my cough from persistent to lingering to socially awkward. It’s been frustrating. But I’ve been up and about for a few weeks now, and the old nagging feeling that I should be doing more is kicking back in.
I was a true believer back when the allegations first hit. I loved Michael Jackson with the bone-deep intensity only teenagers get to feel, when music feels important. When it feels tribal. When the heavy metal mob splits from the goths, when the indie kids look down on manufactured pop fans. I spent the next couple of years in second-hand record stores, car boot sales and memorabilia fairs building a collection so obsessive it could have scored me a diagnosis and a decent whack of DLA.
Vote. Campaign. Donate. Win.
Well… We lost the fuck out of that one, didn’t we? After Christine Blasey Ford’s heroic testimony, after Jeff Flake’s ego-driven dithering, after a week of two Republicans pretending to struggle with the ethics of the thing, we had Trump mocking Dr Ford while his disciples laughed uproariously.
And so to the latest reason for perma-outrage in this hellish, goatee-filled darkest-timeline in which that sorry bastard is occupying the White House and people like him are swagging around with their racism and misogyny proudly on show: the Kavanaugh hearings.