My Daughter, the Ecofascist – Daniel Lukes
September 27, 2022
Where to begin? It’s hard to tell this story, knowing your own daughter is the person responsible for wiping out the entire human race, and possibly all organic life on Earth.
Everybody knows her name now, and they believe that she’s a million times worse than Hitler. But to us, before she got into the whole wiping out humanity thing, she was just Jenna. Or “the Bug,” sometimes.
The Bug was a good kid, they all are. Well, that’s not true actually, some kids are horrible. She wasn’t a particularly troubled or violent child, she didn’t display any noticeable sociopathic tendencies. She played well with others, was very extroverted, a lot more than her parents, for sure. A normal child, we educated her the best we could: growing up in a lefty, secular household of course we taught her about climate change, pollution, all of that. Part of your duty as a parent, I believe, is to raise your child in political awareness, to become the next generation of responsible adult citizens: we never shied away from discussing world events over the dinner table, and the climate crisis was always there in background, the pressing concern driving all other pressing concerns. The world is heating up, the ice caps melting, the oceans rising, coastal towns will be destroyed, and there will be massive and disruptive movements of people across the globe: you know the drill.
In hindsight yes, her responses were a little strident – what kid isn’t an intransigent, a little dictator at heart struggling to impose their will on the world?
“Human beings are DESTROYING the planet,” Jenna the toddler would say emphatically, showing us her drawing of forests on fire, spindly grey limbs rising over crude factories, a swarm of butterflies departing their natural habitat in a flurry of anxiety. I know that plenty parents say this about their kids, but her art was fantastic, from a youngest age – psychedelic and morbid and quite apocalyptic.
At age two she developed a fascination with death: I remember taking her to a local cemetery and she was transfixed by the graves of the babies who had died in childbirth.
“They only lived ONE DAY,” she’d say.
“Like many insects,” I’d add, and she would nod solemnly.
It was all very normal. This is what you do when you’re a parent: you explore the weirdness of the world and the paradoxes of existence with fresh eyes, the cosmic veil unfurling itself to you anew. It’s a privilege, really: routine crushes us down and we forget to keep interrogating the absurdity of our condition: our place in the cold mechanics of physics and space, the grinding cogs of an indifferent universe. Yet as a parent you’re given a chance to see it all again, as if for the first time: the mysteries of life and death, the cycle of flesh endlessly recombined in fresh forms.
Here in the valley the rot creeps slowly. Shapes advance and retreat, like a slowed-down time-lapse, playing with the light. The wild hues, the yellows and the pinks, the crumbling vegetation and bark, the same rot that affected human flesh never ceases to enchant me, especially at the golden hour when the world feels like it is melting, collapsing into itself with a sigh. Who knew the end of the world could be so beautiful? Like a slow, drawn-out death dance of matter itself.
In a way I feel sad for their failure: sad that they failed to prevent the virus jumping the gap from the human to the non-human. They’d taken every precaution to bioengineer a pandemic that would restrict itself to human beings, but there was always a chance, between 6-7.5%, that it would make the jump. Well, it did. Not just humans rotting in their own bodies, but animals too: first the pets, the cats and the dogs, then the farm animals, great cows and pigs crumbling slowly into mush right where they stood. Now the rot has hit the vegetable world, who knows where it will stop.
Oh, the Bug. Jenna became the Bug after she began to develop a panicked relationship with insects; she was simply terrified of crushing them underfoot. One time crossing the road she jumped back to avoid stepping on a line of ants and was nearly hit by a passing car.
“You’re going to be killed by saving an insect one day!” Connie yelled at her.
“That wouldn’t be a good deal,” I added. “Trading your life, for a bug.”
So after that she was the Bug because she’d trade her life for an insect. Little did we know. She’d make us “save” snails straying onto the sidewalk after rain, by picking them up and putting them back in the grass.
In the spring when it rained and the worms were flushed out of their earthy homes and swept through the streets by rushing rainwater, she would get hysterical. Connie would get her to sing a special chant in order to walk her to school:
“Hawa Hawa Hicky Hippy! Hawa Hawa Hicky Hippy!”
I have no idea where the phrase came from, but it worked, calming her nerves and shutting her up just long enough to get her walk to school through the wormy streets without freaking out every few steps.
The cat being hit by a car did its fair share of damage, I guess. We’d gotten the cat because our efforts to have a second child had come up fruitless. So Chonky became the baby of the family: an affectionate and mischief-loving tabby with big green eyes who would only drink water out of a special bamboo plant vase that had to be topped up daily. He’d stick his paw in and suck the water from his fur, it was pretty gross, but always a good party trick to show when guests came over. We debated high and low about whether Chonky should be an indoor or an outdoor cat; in the end what won was the “will of the cat.” He liked going out hunting mice and birds, and so we let him roam the outside world. Then he got hit: Jenna found him at the bottom of the garden. Chonky had a big hole in his side and there was dried blood on his fur. He was stiff already.
“Humans don’t DESERVE to live anymore,” said Jenna with the contained fury an eight year old can muster.
We buried him in the yard; sometime later something dug him up, but I went and covered up the spot with earth and didn’t tell Jenna about it.
I assumed hordes of sickening people would come out here and bother me, but so far it’s been months and no-one has come. The long shadows of the hills keep me company, and my memories from before my daughter turned into a genocidal maniac. Like the time we took her to see Greta Thunberg speak and she got into a fight with another kid because she wanted to keep this pretty pink candy wrapper instead of letting it get thrown away.
Everything seemed to speed up in the end, humanity roaring toward its climax and bursting in an explosion of pus and clay-like body parts. Faces bloated by the virus, weird swellings, and those endless sighs as the fever ravaged the body from within, hollowing out the guts with ruthless abandon, imploding the flesh in hideous ways, as if transforming the human form into a series of artworks aesthetically pleasing to an alien race.
Connie and I got the serum: Jenna snuck it to us surreptitiously in a flute of champagne, at the little celebration we had for our thirtieth wedding anniversary at our favorite Italian restaurant. We had clams linguine, which means “little tongues.” But the serum didn’t help Connie or Jenna, and so here I am alone, whiling away the hours at this cabin, jotting down these few idle thoughts. I have plenty of supplies and when they run low I can nip into town and go scavenging, there’s all kinds of foods lying around for the taking. The bodies have shriveled down to dried puddles of hairy mould, freakish in their psychedelic rainbow sludgy smears. I walk around taking great care to not get the stuff on me.
In college the Bug fell in with ecological groups. There was a host of them, spanning the political spectrum, from laissez-faire neoliberals who believed the best thing was to let the free market take care of it – entrepreneurs would forge a new path in “green living” and save the planet – to statists who declared that the government had to step in and force humanity to face the looming emergency: the boiling seas and the shrinking ice-caps, not to mention the daily disappearance of up to 200 species. Then there were those who advocated violent action of all kinds including murder against anyone in a position of power to influence climate policy not pulling their weight, and especially those who made a killing actively blocking renewable energy technology and implementation: politicians, industrialists, oil merchants.
That’s when we first heard the term “ecofascist,” when Jenna had that bust-up with her bestie Naomi, who friend-dumped her over this political disagreement. In her sophomore year Jenna got heavily involved with a group called After Us, a cult-like organization founded by charismatic Dutch billionaire Dirk de Kruyper, and predicated upon a belief which they called “extinction posthumanism”: the idea that nature had to “heal” and humanity had to be wiped out in order for the world to keep on living. Of course they never spelled that out explicitly, it was all wrapped up in symbolic, poetic discourses, and quite generic themes of renewal and edenic return.
“Imagine a world without us,” was their mantra. You were supposed to think of a world free of human beings, and act accordingly, setting in motion a human withdrawal from spaces to be ceded back to the natural world. “Nature is healing,” they’d say to each other: a shared joke, but as my father always said, we only joke about the things that are important to us.
Naomi was having none of it: I still remember them screaming at each other over blueberry waffles they’d made as a snack because they had the munchies.
“Fascism, or Nazism rather, was about killing a certain class of people, a different race thought to be inferior,” Naomi proclaimed. “Ecofascism is simply applying that concept to humanity: the idea that somehow humans are an invasive species, that we do not belong or deserve to be alive.”
“Well maybe we don’t,” retorted Jenna. “Maybe we’ve proved we don’t deserve to be here anymore with all the death and destruction we’re causing.”
“It’s not your call to make,” said Naomi. “Death is…part of the universal cycle of life, living things die, there’s no morality to it. Would you cancel meteorites for wiping out the dinosaurs?”
“Yeah but we are doing the killing, we have agency. Think about it from the perspective of all the species annihilated daily: is it their call to make? Maybe they need an advocate.”
“Ugh, you’re exasperating. We need to work this out as a society, we need to protect human lives, we are not expendable, we are part of nature.”
“How’s that working out for you? Working it out together as a society,” said Jenna.
“Most people alive have no role or responsibility for the ongoing eco-genocide,” sighed Naomi. “It’s the 1% of the 1% at the top making these decisions…”
The data was incontrovertible: rather than slow down the car in the last two decades, even after knowing the extent of the problem, we’d stomped our foot down on the gas and were accelerating towards the cliff. Gleefully, even. We were the human death drive.
“You know how this is going to play out, Jenna,” said Naomi, packing her book bag with hefty legal tomes. “A world pretty much empty of humans, but the 1% will stick around – kill everyone else off so the planet can be their private playground. Ecofascism has always intended certain populations to be more expendable than others – like black, brown, and Indigenous people, duh?”
“It doesn’t have to be that way. We can create an equal-opportunity genocide,” retorted Jenna, her eyes darting about, her face a mask of determined angst. Naomi left.
In the beginning the pandemic wasn’t equal opportunity at all. The very very rich castled in their fortresses and underground bunkers, stayed healthy for a while, while the poor gave up the ghost in droves, coughing up their bubbled blood clots while their flesh slithered off them in great sloughs of colored putty – that “fantastical puff paste” of which Webster wrote in The Duchess of Malfi (1623).
Later, the virus made its way to the 1% too, largely via “the help” – the working class employees they couldn’t do without, who cooked their meals and cleaned their asses, bringing them the sticky HR-241 virus (colloquially known as “Human Rot” or “Human Resource”). Soon enough they too were regurgitating their cheeks and throats, evaporating in stinky pools that looked like the fuzzy remnants of a child’s painting palette.
Because try as I might, I can’t separate the aesthetics of the disease and its multi-colored crumbling flesh from the Bug’s talent as an artist: it seems like the two blend into one, a kid’s art coming to life and stanching humanity at the neck, slicing off its flow of rot like the amputation of a wayward soul. The pinks and the yellows, blending into mouldering orange like a sunset made of liquifying rock – burning plastic bubbling with synthetic styrofoam entrails. Humanity was popping like a rotten, psychedelic popcorn.
Yes, I do worry that one day I’m going to return to the shack to see smeared human remnants all around the cottage, my supplies ransacked, maybe from rotten humans carrying a new strain that will penetrate though the vaccination I was given, and finally grant me that which I’ve been not-so-secretly waiting for all this time: the sweet oblivion of death and dissolution. I just can’t bring myself to take matters into my hands, not that I’m squeamish about suicide, it’s more that I have this endless curiosity to see how things pan out: I need to see what happens.
Connie and I went to hear Jenna speak at one of her After Us events. It was very youthful, a party vibe: lots of impassioned and eloquent speakers, though our Jenna wasn’t one of them. Her presentation was dry and technical: she was well into theoretical physics at that point, doing her master’s in bioengineering, all paid for with a scholarship from the De Kruyper Foundation in Sustainable Ethics. She showed a PowerPoint with lots of graphs and predictions about population related to the climate crisis. But it was all a bit too dense and serious, and only in the Q+A did her thoughts come truly alive.
“Isn’t this all very Malthusian, this advocation that there are ‘too many’ of us?” remarked a scruffy-haired student with glasses, some kind of ecological Harry Potter. “Don’t we have a duty to take care of each other no matter the number?”
“I wish we had been up to the task, but we have clearly failed,” answered Jenna forlornly, her eyes flashing darkly. “We’re bringing everything else down with us: we don’t have a right to annihilate all natural life on Earth, just because we made a fatal miscalculation for ourselves. Maybe we do have a future in some form: for now we need to think about making ourselves scarce for a while.”
This all sounded very cryptic to me. I did not care about the world without me. As far as I was concerned, the world dies when I die, just as it was created when I was born. Adding to the evening’s bizarre quality, the Dutch billionaire made an appearance on Zoom from his hot tub in Iceland, looking deathly pale, like a corpsepainted goth, and flanked by two mediterranean beauties in leather bikinis – fake leather I imagine.
We wandered over to congratulate the Bug on her talk, but she was sharing a glass of wine with the Harry Potter, and so we just said hi from afar and stuck our thumbs up like the dorky parents we were. In that moment she looked so grown up, and all of a sudden the years felt slack as they rolled by at breakneck speed, as we unwittingly hurtled toward the edge, the precipice of doom. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this, is that it can all end at any moment; bit late now, though.
Everything was so frantic at the end: there were so many assassinations, that was unexpected to me. A wave of high-flying world leaders and billionaires were killed in shocking and very public ways: heads on spikes, bodies thrown from skyscrapers, private jets downed into the sea by attack drones and broadcast online in real time. A vat of boiling oil for the petroleum CEO, the evil purveyor of “hydrocarbon corpse juice,” as Reza Negarestani calls the cursed black gold that got us all killed.
The seven wonders of the world were detonated with neon bombs, massive craters forming under multicolored mushroom clouds. It was a party! Humanity was going out with a bang, a grand carnival of self-destruction. And our daughter was the one who’d made the cocktail to give it that special pizzazz. The hospitals choked, then people started dying in the streets, their bodies flowing out of doors and windows like liquid gravel, skin and bone turned into a sandy vomity sludge.
It’s unclear whether Jenna died of rot or was shot: there are videos of both online, so who knows what to believe. I like to imagine her here, beside me, laughing at the end of humanity, but maybe her problem was that she was way too serious and couldn’t laugh enough. I still entertain the idea that certain billionaires in shiny suits and hazmat flying vehicles will come buzzing over the horizon at any moment.
Would I go back in time and kill her before all of this could take place? Of course I would, and I do it in my head every day, in an endless variety of gruesome and creative ways. We could go back even further and make sure she never even got conceived: I could kill myself before I met Connie to make double-sure. But all of this is academic because somebody else would have made HR-241. We’re not bubbles, we’re clusters. Innovations are not made by individuals, they emerge from teamwork.
I prefer to dwell on the good times, and to think ahead to what I want my end to look like: staying in the valley, growing old here, a wizened wreck shrinking into the ground and melding into the land’s ever-spottier technicolor spores, growths, and patches of sickening color. As the world turns into a rotting fruit coughing with mould I burrow my way into its rind, curl up and close my eyes, becoming very still. Slowly but surely I blend with my surroundings and begin to dissolve fast.
One last wink of Chonky licking his paw from the bamboo water and I’m out like a light.