insanity by k barnes
insanity by k barnes // larger image

The Anthropocene isn’t just an epoch; it’s an ailment. 

Our society is medicated to suppress the anxiety and depression of our reality. I am one of the many people I know medicated beyond belief. The anxiety of climate change, capitalism, and fascism short-circuits my brain and I can’t function in our neoliberal capitalist society unless I medically alter in my brain chemistry. The social impacts the chemical. This is my experience of Thacker’s “world-for-us” in the Anthropocene. 

Laugesen (2019) defines “insanity” as “the inability to rationally and responsibly cope with the confrontation with crucial changes in one’s environment with potentially dire implications for the conditions of future living” (p. 42). I feel the insanity of human society’s actions. I can’t rationally cope with what feels like an irrational reality.

Nazis are back in a big way. The planet is on fire. Capitalism keeps on consuming. Drill baby, drill. Austerity for the people but welfare for corporations. American imperialism returns to Bolivia. I have student loans to pay off but I might get laid off from my job. Green capitalism means we’ll fight wars over lithium instead of oil. Concentration camps at the US-Mexico border. Ocean acidification kills coral reefs. I’m so glad Grandma passed before seeing this past election. Forests burning. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. 

If you aren’t medicated, or if the chemical and psychiatric intervention isn’t enough, the result is horrific. If you aren’t medicated and/or crushed under the weight of the end of the Anthropocene, you must be in denial, or already dead. It’s utter insanity that a species with a biologically-programmed imperative to survive and reproduce brings about our own extinction; we remain in denial as a species that we caused it. No wonder I willingly medicate with prescriptions and videogames. 

For me, this concept is the most personally resonant of the three, and that is reflected in the piece. Inspired by the form of Mark Danielewski’s (2000) House of Leaves, I decided to unsettle my personal narrative and relationship with insanity in the Anthropocene. This piece is an assemblage: a letter to my ex who killed himself this past August (a victim of the Anthropocene), a recreation of my Zoloft/sertraline prescription, the medical information notes of the aforementioned medication, and news headlines or graphics to symbolize some of the objects of my Anthropocene-based anxiety–– climate change and fascism. Woven together in a seemingly incoherent layout, it is my goal to convey how overwhelming, consuming, and insane the Anthropocene is. While death and denial make appearances in this piece, they are supporting actors to insanity in this piece. For me, this piece is my attempt to disavow and refuse trying to rationalize the irrational, as inspired by Wallin and Beier (2019) suggest in their essay “Pedagogy of the Negative”. 


Beier, J., & Wallin, J. (2019) “Pedagogy of the Negative: Pedagogical Heresy for “The End Times”. Lectures on Ahuman Pedagogy. Presented on November 8, 2019 at the University of Alberta.

Lysgaard, Begtsson, Hauberg-Lund Laugesen. (2019). Dark Pedagogy: Education, Horror and the Anthropocene. Chamm, Switzerland: Palgrave-Springer.

Thacker, E. (2010) In the Dust of This Planet : Horror of Philosophy vol. 1. Alresford, UK: John Hunt Publishing.