How much more is there to say about Texas? Words aren’t really up to the task. It’s not just that people have died, either freezing to death or resorting to deadly means to keep themselves warm. It’s not just the flagrant greed and negligence leading to events which otherwise would have been entirely avoidable.
No, what renders words so insufficient in these circumstances is the knowledge that it will all happen again. The knowledge that those responsible will likely never face more than slapped wrists, that the venality that led to the collapse of Texas’ power grid is not all that exceptional, and that therefore it is only a matter of time until another piece of the infrastructure that is supposed to sustain us follows suit. A bridge. A levee. A dam.
As always, there is an alternative to be dreamt, and we could stand to dream it a lot harder. One where access to housing, warmth, food, shelter from the elements were prioritized. But because the far-left of our times is still scared of its own shadow, the dream is faint. We cannot touch it. Those of us who still desperately cling to a vision of real liberation are likely to find our anger and horror redoubled by our own impotence.
For some, it’s easier to think maybe it’s not all that bad. After all, we now have a president who declares, in a crisis like this, that “climate change is real.” What of it, though? What exactly will this new and presidential president be doing about it? Other than reassure the oil-and-gas industry that he is decisively not banning fracking, that his newly imposed restrictions on them will not threaten their existence, it remains to be seen. Plenty will vociferously defend him, of course, neurotically claiming “he’s doing everything he can.” We should ask ourselves how many of those waging such uncritical defenses were also, as this crisis unfolded, saying that Texas “got what it deserved” for being a red state.
Yes, words are insufficient in capturing our rage, our fear, the emotional fatigue of living in this world of crisis upon crisis upon crisis. And so we turn to images. The hot and dry chaparral of Texas transformed to frozen tundra. Cacti encased in ice and snow. Homes flooded. Empty supermarkets. Surreptitious snapshots of Ted Cruz fleeing to Cancun.
These are the pictures that have made up our doom-scrolling over the past week, dramatizing our numb shock. They are harrowing and bizarre, a reminder that we cannot predict the exact shapes and contours of exterminism. But also that exterminism is not so much a conscious choice of the elected as it is woven into the trajectory of late capitalism. The dreaded unknown is a bit more known now. And even more dreaded.