‘Black Elephant’ is a play of words on Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan concept : it is what happens, notwhen an unpredicted/unpredictable, external event takes us by surprise but rather when the elephant which is very much in the room—Covid and the contradictions it brings to light—crashes the party.
The pandemic represents a unique opportunity to re-approach things and attitudes that modern civilization would have us take for granted, from our modern definitions of nomadism and sedentism to the notions of Progress and Enlightenment, from the illusion of Separation to our resulting Othering tendencies, from our age’s obsession for scaling to the cult of our 3-pound brains (and the resulting techno-utopian verbiage, the new lingua franca of cognitive elites).
The metaphor of addiction is an apt prism through which to observe the civilisation of unendearing toddlers we have become. Addicts and alcoholics in recovery have an important place in the conversation because 12-step programs constitute a rare example of a methodology with a proven track record of turning the chronically immature (addicts are characterised by their childishness) into people who slowly but surely, one day at a time, learn to walk their walk (wisdom).
Covid calls on us to pause and explore the possibility, described notably by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) collective, that the myriad crises we face (political, social, environmental, societal, economic) may be the result not of external phenomena coming to disturb an imperfect but overall functioning system but rather the product of the violent, unsustainable practices said system is both founded upon and predicated on the maintenance of.
The BE podcast will thus bring together scientists and philosophers, representatives of Abrahamic and oriental traditions as well as indigenous belief systems, therapists, thinkers and academics in the business of critiquing modernity and, crucially, alcoholics and addicts in recovery, to talk convivially about the elephant in the room.