by Mike Meyer
Continuing from Dickens and the best and worst of times, this is the most confusing of times. If it were only the best or worst we could handle it. Unfortunately we have moved beyond the dyadic to the complex.
We are totally screwed but that is, of course, either very bad or very good depending on how you define ‘screwed’. On the downside of this confusion are the folks unable to handle anything but black and white. That world has gone with kingdoms, empires, and nation states and religions have gone with them. While our world is now digital it is becoming a quantum computer with more states than two.
Too bad that infinite shades of grey has already been used. But even that is too simple. We are all stumbling into things that we have never seen before and for which we have no names. Worse yet some people mistake things for other things and the results can be dangerous to them and everyone else.
This is an age of new language as we clumsily work out new names and working descriptions so that we can restore common communication. We cannot re-establish shared goals and ideals when we don’t know what the hell we are talking about.
Very much like learning a new language we need to keep trying to talk until things start to make sense. That is very hard because we don’t want to appear to be idiots and we refuse to rely on other people’s willingness to cut slack for idiots like us. But that is what we need to do. On both sides, we need to cut ourselves some slack in order to keep both listening and talking.
I think we all know about the worst. Late stage capitalism, gross assets grossly mis-distributed, conversion of people to scalable components in a materialist hellscape, corrupt and collapsing national political systems, greed as the only virtue, and shameless racism. All of this is liberally fragranced with essence of asshole and plain stupidity. And this describes some people’s heroes.
But that’s not all. Having thought that we had escaped the nuclear death of the Cold War but we found that we had already launched a far bigger bomb with a century of carbon pumped into our atmosphere. And there was no one to blame but ourselves.
Adding to the complexity, the real armageddon requires massive economic restructuring starting immediately and extending several centuries into the future to have any hope of slowing, let alone stopping, the disaster. The big red button was pushed and can’t be unpushed. This is not, and cannot be made, into the good kind of screwed.
Is there any point in going into the details? That includes mindlessness and knee jerk reaction with the most depressed people prone to fascist manipulation. Any knowledge of history makes the horrors that these people will end up producing very clear.
At the same time we have reached the highest point in knowledge and available resources in our history. With seventy years the United Nations, mocked endlessly by the problem population, has pulled the great majority of humanity up from abject poverty and starvation. Very few people are at real risk of starvation and most have access to more information and knowledge than their parents could ever imagine.
Even with the terminal distortions of late stage capitalism and old fashioned government corruption, some of the vast wealth created has made its way to the populations in emerging states while the middle class in the US, for one, has lost ground. This has brought classic middle class standards of living to billions in China, India, South America, and Africa.
We have the scientific expertise and theoretical models that allow us to work on understanding the nature of our universe and to begin to seriously explore our solar system. This can be turned into technology and opportunity for us to overcome our disastrous management of our planet and its resources and move to a much higher level of existence, power management, and well being.
Of course that could end with us trashing our solar system as we have trashed out planet and then what do we do? But we are being positive here.
The threat of species death may well be what we need to learn to deal with ourselves and all other lifeforms in a new a respectful way. There are already several billion of people who are looking to achieve something very different from our past.
This is what is driving completely new and different ways of building, what used to be called, democracy. It takes awhile to figure out what this stuff is and how it can really work but that is moving along faster now in places like Hong Kong, Moscow, and the great metropolitan regions of the world including the US.
The reality of the climate crisis and the need to work harder than we ever have to avoid its doom is driving our youngest generations who can already speak the new language, at least, a little to take control away form the old and blind who are struggling to prevent change. This has brought us very young, politically active planetary citizens who aren’t taking any shit about the threat to their future.
This is a very good thing that offers all of us hope even if we are part of the generations that caused this catastrophe and who may yet refuse to acknowledge it. They are on the way to being ignored in the best case. Some of them may need to be moved out of the way in the worst case but we can hope for the best.
The majority of the hopeful young are much better informed and much more socially sensitive than any previous generations. There are exceptions and there are problems but this is what we have and it looks as if it could be possible.
While this is not simply the best and worst of times it is one hell of a time to be involved in planet Earth’s potential coming of age. The challenges are great but we couldn’t go on the way we were anyway.