AWESOME HUMAN THEORY: those buildings aren’t sky-scrapers, they’re ‘progress trees’!

“I do think that people are a little kneejerk about the whole environment thing. Some people act like the Earth is broken just because it’s so hot. It’d be refreshing to hear one intelligent person, besides myself, suggest the seemingly obvious possibility that the Earth is just fine, thank you, but perhaps there’s something wrong with the Sun! I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure that that son-of-a-bitch is where all the heat is coming from.”

– Arj Barker



I attended the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and saw Arj Barker at the Melbourne Town Hall. The times they are (possibly) a-changin’, and his hour long routine included some very well-received send-ups of green ideology and global warming alarmism. I’ve followed the comedy scene for several years now and usually the jokes are about the ‘deniers’. The beauty of Arj’s routine was that it was very, very, funny but also the routine had a positive message; namely, humans are AWESOME!
No sooner had his espoused his ‘Awesome Human Theory’ than a facebook group had been set up using that name! Borrowing one of Arj’s lines, the facebook group introduces itself thus: “Awesome human theory proposes that humans are not bad for the environment. Rather the environment is simply not good enough to handle how awesome humans are”.
Arj Barker packed out the Town Hall most nights of the festival. I reckon the uber-earnestness and quasi-religious fervour of the alarmists is starting to piss people off (at long last). No-one likes to have a big finger waved in their face telling them they’re wrecking everything. You can either bow down to that crap or rise up against it – and satire/ridicule is a very effective weapon.
The more upset the reactionaries get, the more they wag that finger in our faces – thus proving the point.
I couldn’t find Arj’s routine on youtube but he uses a couple of the lines in this radio interview (goes for 90 seconds):

Great to see some stand-up comedy that challenges the mainstream in a progressive way rather than pander to audience assumptions about things.

4 Responses to “AWESOME HUMAN THEORY: those buildings aren’t sky-scrapers, they’re ‘progress trees’!”

  1. 1 Dalec

    Ah Barry you do such an awesome straw man thing.
    If you are pondering a career in stand up I suggest you keep your day job as well..
    Beating up the most reactionary and backward elements of the environmental movement may be fun but it does not help the debate very much.
    Your quasi-religious fervour that posits man in total command of the entire natural world is very amusing.
    Apparently Darwin was wrong, we are an uber superior species that came here by spaceship from another world eh Barry?
    Sort of Supermen, uber alles?

  2. 2 Barry

    For a long time, nearly all the stand-up routines have been directed at the so-called skeptics (“deniers”). The mood seems to be changing. Alarmism is the problem and the appropriate target. I reckon it was the alarmist spirit that Arj Barker effectively undermined with his humour. Alarmism does not seem to me to be confined to the most backward elements of the environmental movement. It tends to define the ‘warmists’.

    Dalec, I’ve stood near the top of Mount Tambourine, in Queensland, at sunset, and marvelled at the glorious colours in the sky. And I’ve marvelled at my Siamese Fighting Fish breeding – the male wrapping his body around that of the pregnant female, squeezing her, so that the eggs fall gently from her. The male then picks them up in his mouth, fertilizes them, and places them in the nest of bubbles that he has made on the surface of the water. Yet none of this inspires, excites, or enthralls me in the way that the skyscrapers* of Manhattan do – or France’s Millau Viaduct or Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

    You see, the former are just natural. The later are the product of human collective labour and imagination.

    There are two fundamentally different outlooks when it comes to Nature. Those who seek to harmonize the relationship between humanity and the non-human natural world on one hand, and those who seek to achieve progress and greater freedom through continuing the process of mastering it. Yes, this is not sustainable – but since when have left-wingers been the ones into sustainability? When I became involved in the mid-1960s, it was because I wanted a society that reached for the stars.

    Under the right social system, I reckon the Millau Viaduct and the Burj Khalifa will seem quaint and small one day. And the Siamese Fighting fish will no doubt keep on breeding.

    *opps, that should be ‘progress trees’!

  3. 3 Dalec

    Barry, there may be limits to our “mastery”.
    There are many natural world events over which we have absolutely no control, it is fantasy to suggest that we ever would unless we managed an entirely artificial world including an artificial equivalent to the sun and enough of the solar system to ensure stability.

    The close in natural world (solar system) does not care about us, has no “knowledge” of us and is entirely indifferent to our survival or to our prosperity. It has sources of energy that are many many orders of magnitude more powerful than any-thing we can presently produce.

    “Reaching for the Stars” is in itself an admission that the natural world is far beyond our control. Why would we simply reach for them?
    Surely we should control them ? Control the entire universe? Space and time itself?

    Sounds good Barry, but pehaps we also need to take care that our present habitat lasts long enough for us to do all these things.


  4. 4 tom

    I’m with Barry. It’s an attitude thing. It’s about how we strive for and understand progress, the human footprint.
    Hikmet puts it well:

    Regarding Art
    Sometimes, I, too, tell the ah’s
    of my heart one by one
    like the blood-red beads
    of a ruby rosary strung
    on strands of golden hair!

    But my
    poetry’s muse
    takes to the air
    on wings made of steel
    like the I-beams
    of my suspension bridges!

    I don’t pretend
    the nightingale’s lament
    to the rose isn’t easy on the ears…
    But the language
    that really speaks to me
    are Beethoven sonatas played
    on copper, iron, wood, bone, and catgut…

    You can “have”
    galloping off
    in a cloud of dust!
    Me, I wouldn’t trade
    for the purest-bred
    Arabian steed
    the sixth mph
    of my iron horse
    running on iron tracks!

    Sometimes my eye is caught like a big dumb fly
    by the masterly spider webs in the corners of my room.
    But I really look up
    to the seventy-seven-story, reinforced-concrete mountains
    my blue-shirted builders create!

    Were I to meet
    the male beauty
    “young Adonis, god of Byblos,”
    on a bridge, I’d probably never notice;
    but I can’t help staring into my philosopher’s glassy eyes
    or my fireman’s square face
    red as a sweating sun!

    Though I can smoke
    third-class cigarettes filled
    on my electric workbenches,
    I can’t roll tobacco – even the finest-
    in paper by hand and smoke it!
    I didn’t —
    “wouldn’t” — trade
    my wife dressed in her leather cap and jacket
    for Eve’s nakedness!
    Maybe I don’t have a “poetic soul”?
    What can I do
    when I love my own children
    than mother Nature’s!

    Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

    Nazim Hikmet

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