by Mike Meyer
It is very hard to identify the future of our planet that is appearing around us because we have no references. How do you identify a virtual world if you have never experienced virtual reality?
In a previous age it would be like seeing a digitized image when you have never seen an image of any kind before? What is real? Not real? Do you even know what it is an image of?
We are in the world of not knowing what we don’t know. If we don’t know that we don’t know if it is real or not or even if it being real matters.
But with careful analysis of what is happening, and that does not seem right, we can see what may be our future reality. And more people are beginning to see elements of it, too. When we do it is an epiphany. Aha! Maybe that’s what is happening!
We are so fixated on the problems that are thrown at us daily. In the US we know the government is failing, the economy is is supposed to be good but is actually very wrong for almost everyone, we all feel powerless, and we may not survive the climate crisis that will go on for decades if not centuries. We see insane people pretending to be the highest officials yet having no idea how to play that role. But there is nothing that we can do.
It is important, now, to know that the US is not the future. It is not the past, now, but a caricature of the past. What is happening around our planet will not be happening in the United States except for some metropolitan regions. The emerging changes won’t happen for the United States because that entity will probably no longer exist.
We are caught, not just in political polarization and unsustainable economics, but in the growing dysfunctionality of our governmental infrastructure. The systems of government that evolved to handle the industrial revolution in it first three stages embodied principles of the European Enlightenment. These were based heavily on Renaissance concepts that developed from the breakup of the Roman Empire.
The result was a new kind of empire that nurtured a new kind of nation state. The administration of vast regions was not practical and the British Empire ended while smaller regional empires evolved toward the nation state model. Russia became a soviet alliance, the US a federal alliance, China became a communist empire, and India broke up with the end of the British Empire but retained much of the Empire’s form divided by religion.
From the end of WWII the model became constitutional nation states with some form of representative government. By the 21st century only three regional empires were left: America, China, and India. All of these presented themselves as representative nation states but for the US this only applied to a small portion of the citizenry and not the vast numbers that were subject to international, imperial control.
In all three by the end of the 20th century the ruling elites began to become more authoritarian to protect their power and status as an ethnically homogenous class of families forming an oligarchy. Within these empires control was becoming more difficult as population, education, and massively disruptive technology produced an ongoing sequence of information explosions allowing new groups to define themselves in growing urban centers. Racial segregation in public education and neighborhoods made this more extreme in those urban regions.
That disruption shredded the pretense of ‘national’ representative government as the oligarchy was based on control of information and the limitation of democratic rule. Growing diversity and open identification of interest groups in the great metropolitan areas created a new and inherently direct form of democracy with a much stronger affinity to their home metropolitan administration. These local, metropolitan governments provided direct services to the population and had to react very quickly and effectively to popular needs. This allowed little time for political ideology.
The national oligarchic governments were the home of rigid political positions often based on religion or economic ideology. The constant and single focused political wars at the national level were used by the oligarchy to cover their extraction of resources from the population that ensured their wealth and power base. Services to the mass population and environmental wellbeing became threats and punishments in the internal battles of the ruling elite. Long term well being was lost to the immediate and constant battle for political power increasingly unrelated to daily life in late stage capitalist economies.
Interestingly the disbursed, increasingly traditional, rural and small city populations became the only surviving political base of the national oligarchs. These groups had steadily lost ground economically but were still at the mercy of traditional media controlled by the oligarchy. And these populations were easy to target by social media disinformation as they remained tied to the most controlled forms of media and the most similar forms of social media.
Race and/or religion were the emotional weapons of the ruling elite and punishment rather than reward proved more effective in the traditional zero sum game that was how power was defined in their world. This was in direct opposition to the new diversity and direct democratic movements who used technology when needed to block the elite’s worst ideas. But this was done only when those power plays became to outrageous and intruded on specific urban regions and populations.
The decline of the imperialized large nation states at the rise of metropolitan diversity brought those regions more in line with the most successful of the planet’s nation states in size and services. Given democratic socialist governments as the peak of the nation state era the rise of urban regions easily inherited this structure as natural for complex urban centers. Management of provisioned services was the greatest need.
By 2020 the old imperial nation states and their traditional limited representational governments were acting almost exclusively for the benefit of their oligarchies in direct defiance of their constitutional standards. Urban populations watched the growing power of direct, tech based instant democracy in opposition to the old abusive national governments around the planet. Realization grew that a seismic shift was happening.
But the actual essence of this shift was still not being understood by either the national oligarchies or the older national populations. This had become a generational and paradigmatic shift. This essence was the product of a different way of seeing life's essential needs. While the modern nation state was based on politicians as rulers with an abstract concept of the citizen being consulted as a justification for that rule, the new population understands services as the purpose of government.
Services must be maintained and increased when possible for health and well being. The management of services is not one person or even a few but many overseeing increasingly automated systems. The replacement of people by automation in these systems is fine. Whatever provides the most services and avoids any disruption is the goal. Rulers are corrupt, greedy, and destructive. They also do not understand the threats and challenges of the climate crisis and limits of the 21st century order. They need to be kept in line until they can be replaced with automation.
The goals of flash democracy are elimination of potential disruptions to existing urban services and national usurpation of local control. That inspires group action because technology integration has made that now stronger than elite rule. Overthrow of the vast national system is not a goal. Protecting local standards, services, and control is the goal.
Establishing a new set of rulers is not worth the trouble. They will ultimately be replaced by, and in the interim, will be deemed successful by acting most like an automated system. Human success is in security and services shared by all while analysis and detailed plans are needed to help us survive and thrive. Threats, lies, and boasting is not needed. That has long been proven but now we can act together to replace that type of rule. Or, at least, minimize its impact at the city living level. Ignore the national. Everything is interim. Be agile.
Look to Hong Kong. Is that the future? I don’t know but I think so. Look to Moscow in the heart of Putin's retrograde Russia. Something like what is happening in Hong Kong is happening there over corruption and efforts at controlling the Moscow metropolitan government.
These are, to use an old very 20th century title, movable feasts. These are the new forms of flash democracy originating from flash mobs. They are full information events that exist more in urban virtuality and the minds of the participants than in the streets where things are happening. Those streets are virtualized by omnipresent video of spontaneous participants. They don’t really target the traditional forms of power but act to influence or prevent actions on the systems with which they live and work.
The point is that they are inseparable from their virtual mass, but carefully targeted, media. They are fronts in a digital war that is not a war but a virtual insurrection that appears where and when it is needed. These can be a flash democratic action that may last weeks or months or years in different forms.
Their demands may grow as they mobilize and more and more people become directly involved. If you are going to risk being beaten by government thugs, and the systems have quickly grown to support the people in action, you need a set of clearly agreed on goals. This is pure democracy not the imposition of ideas from the top down. And that protects the people. There are no leaders only thousands of voices and influencers influencing each other.
As we are seeing in Hong Kong, the constant streaming of video by participants even when they are attacked by police, or more commonly, by government paid ‘thugs’ creates instant virtual reality and thousands of watchers are beaten, too. This is the true force of technology creating a completely different form of flash democracy that respects things that were not respected in the past but builds a new understanding of human government without leaders.
The failure, and growing irrelevance, of the old political leaders and the pointless displays of the political campaigns are plain to see from the the new perspective.
How many can recognize our future before us? But that’s right. It’s not happening here.