by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ December 13, 2019
It’s emotionally complex to watch the violent disruptions of the Anglo-American world even though these are now logical and inevitable. At one level it is rewarding to see what you projected to happen coming to pass but also terribly painful to be part of the population being socially torn apart by that projected disruption.
The old curse, may you live in interesting times, comes to mind. We are well into interesting times. You can spend a significant part of your life studying technology driven paradigmatic change and it is still a growing shock to find yourself fully in it. And we have been in it for over twenty years and it is only getting started.
These are historic events that are well beyond normal human scale. Our continuous tidal wave of information and shortening attention spans make picturing an anticipated timeline for these changes almost impossible. In a sense the last three years have resembled the summer of 1914 with the troubled election of Trump in place of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. This was followed by threats, declarations, alliances, arrests, public concern but an assumption that any fighting would be ritualized and not too damaging because we were beyond that in the new century.
Amazingly some of the same players are involved in similar roles. In 1914 we had full warfare but the lines of conflict were Russia pressuring Turkey to forcibly move one million Armenians to Syria, the US initially neutral but tied to Great Britain. The feeling was that things would be kept, at least somewhat, under control. We have that feeling with Trump’s impeachment but the foreign meddling is serious. Our battles are information based but we are not immune to violence.
While this is happening everywhere the epicenter was always going to be the leading national entities of the modern era. Great Britain is no longer a leading nation but it rides very closely on the the coattails of its offspring the United States. The shared cultural and political legacy means that Great Britain is also at the epicenter of structural collapse as the American era, specifically, ends and the modern era generally falls apart. After all the 19th century Victorian Era didn’t end until the autumn of 1914.
The Anglo-American civilization is locked in the process of paradigmatic change but as the cultural model for the modern world its structure is the paradigm that is being rejected and dismantled. The social reaction to that is both profound and confusing.
The landslide victory of Boris Johnson in the British election is as much a part of this social upheaval and reaction as is the impeachment of Donald Trump. Each of these has its own antecedents and specific events but neither will be historically significant except as symptoms of disruption and collapse. The tottering walls of the Anglo-American empire have been pushed over by opportunistic hoodlums each leading a mob of malcontents.
So it goes. Preparing for the subsequent changes and growing disruptions is what we need to face. What will happen is not what the current players are talking about. They are all focused on the past, their opportunistic goals, and already irrelevant ideas and conflicts.
Within the next year or so the general understanding among those most aware of and upset at these reactions will begin to clarify. In order to avoid the insanity of regional authoritarian regimes administration will need to be kept much closer to the, networked, population. As a result smaller units of population, metropolitan regions and areas (parts of the old nation states) will begin salvaging things from the rubble of the fallen empire to build new and innovative social and administrative entities. This will happen in some places faster but not in others at all. In each era of revolutionary change there are those organizations that disappear.
This is already well underway in, increasingly independent metropolitan and smaller state regions around the planet but more actively in failing nation states. The largest of these are struggling to implement total control while parts of their population are resisting in new ways. This will be a source of major ongoing conflict as the opportunist inheritors of the old national governments work to assert authoritarian control and to harvest all wealth and power.
In the long run the maintenance of old style exploitive states will fail in the face of climate crisis reaction but it will be a running tragicomedy. This will fully occupy the planet’s traditional mainstream media channels and the aging politicians among the ruins of the old order for the next decade. The time that this will take is primarily dependent on the acceleration of the climate crisis. At some point the educated youth of the planet will decide to take control and try to save what can be saved. The old games will then end.
The current victory of the opportunists and the forces of reaction in the Anglo-American modern order reveals a lot about the process of paradigmatic disruption. In short this type of change is tectonic as pressure builds against the old failing structure until it breaks and large elements of the ‘world view’ change. Most people are caught with no idea of what is happening but their world has turned upside down.
At the same time those in more dynamic societies, usually the more educated and metropolitan, will have been actively adapting to new trends and pressures. This means they are continuously adapting to the emerging new way of seeing reality and we already have that in the most contentious and largests of the old nation states. This means the pressure is most extreme on the least able to adapt parts nations population. That group and the, usually urban and educated, parts of the culture become increasingly unable to communicate and thus become residents of different worlds. We have this now.
This is only superficially political polarization although it presents as that. It is much more fundamental and is the center of paradigmatic divergence. The concepts, goals, and,even, language are different with very different meanings for what were, in living memory, the same words. This has been illustrated most clearly in the US impeachment hearings with one group following an obvious rational approach to a major problem and the other speaking what appears to be gibberish with confusion and lies. The latter is the old language that is being used to speak to a population locked in an older world that is threatened and shrinking.
This is now glaringly obvious in the complete upending of traditional modern politics in both the US and Great Britain. In the US the Republican Party, traditionally conservative and authoritarian, was the party of business and the wealthier classes including educated professionals who were not necessarily socially conservative. The Democratic Party represented common interests of farmers and workers who had gained status and wealth through unions and socialist, now progressive, policies.
The Republican Party is now fully reactionary and relies on racism and fear of paradigmatic change. It has also been captured by a criminal opportunist, Trump, and Mitch McConnell representing a cohort of oligarchic accomplices. The result is that one of the two US parties is now an active agent of collapse. The role of institutional racism in US society complicates elements of these changes but doesn’t change that this is part of the collapse.
The Democratic Party is now the, tentative, party of the educated and new populations. The tentative nature of this is the result of both US parties being aspects of the old order and, now, mostly irrelevant to the emerging planetary reality as noted in the projected changes outlined above.
The British are following the same transition with the old Labour party population having become reactionary and ethnocentric and switching to the reactionary Conservative Party dedicated to Brexit. This is not the future of a planet that must unify in the face of historic climate crisis threat. At the same time the old Labor Party has lost its constituency and is no longer relevant. In Labor’s case they have fallen into the chasm between reaction and what was once progressive in the old order. That position no longer represents a valid political position.
In both cases, but quickest in Great Britain, we will see the beginnings of the breakup of the vestige of the unified kingdoms. It is now obvious that the future is with diversity and planetary coordination and that is obvious in Scotland and Ireland. The south of England is the metropolitan center and may well break away also depending on the actual trajectory of Boris Johnson. There is hope he may, effectively, double cross his reactionary constituency and move to give them what they need rather than what they want. But it was an early hope that Trump’s destruction would turn the same way but his insanity and the inability to control him laid rest to that.
The differences between the US and Great Britain in this situation are significant with a mentally ill, criminal incompetent supported by a fascist party in the US and a, somewhat, more likely to handle change leader in the other. The respective societies are at the mercy of overpowered and arbitrary leaders so times will be very interesting. If only we were not faced with the climate crisis we could watch this playout as the old generation fades away.
This process will spread through all planetary governments and societies over the next ten years. The nature of the technological change makes old, multi layered elite governmental systems dysfunctional. Ubiquity of networked societies and virtual reality self management makes administration of smaller diverse societies easier and more efficient. While this efficiency may be short circuited by successful total authoritarian control, as the US, China, and Russia are attempting in order to save the old order, the climate crisis will increasingly dominate what happens.
As noted above we have the normal human generational change now fully defined by paradigmatic change with growing tensions between Gen Z demanding services and openness to diversity on one end and the Boomer generation struggling to prevent change and retain racial and ethnic barriers on the other. The OK Boomer meme is, now, the public symbol of the cultural divide between old paradigm and the new.
It is obvious that youth will win. The questions remaining are how bitter the battles will be. The difference now is that the nature and quality of our species survival requires a completely new level of planetary collaboration and coordination with our climate crisis. The old paradigm does not even recognize that and refuses to face the changes already past due.
The new paradigm is a very open and constantly connected culture with great diversity in free forming, dynamic, virtual groups. This appears to be what is needed to survive and, hopefully, thrive if the climate disasters can be overcome. It is also obvious that this is what is needed to achieve planetary collaboration, rather than rule in the old sense, to succeed in the next centuries.