I began thinking about disquiet as I was working on two sprawling radio projects. After recording long conversations with nearly four hundred strangers about the past and present, I began to hear a common refrain rise out of the clamor: the future was scary. Nobody could agree on the cause, but they shared a narrative structure.Test Driving The Apocalypse (BoingBoing)
Trespass. Punishment. Redemption—maybe.
The trespass could be anything from capitalist excess to withering family values, but in both cases, it resulted from hubris. Punishment always came in the form of collapse, whether environmental or economic, abrupt or incremental. If the story continued, redemption could look like a Norman Rockwell painting, Star Trek, or a massively depopulated planet of sustainable farms.
If I had been seeking our common humanity, I found it in a primal sense that we are about to enter the punishment phase.
[...] But this nagging doubt made me take the disquiet seriously. The Americans I met were level-headed, not Cassandra-like. For them, anxiety stemmed less from feeling personally stifled than from a belief that the biggest systems supporting us were cracking at the foundations. There was a consensus that the economy was rigged, money had eroded the democratic process, and, for a large minority, environmental problems were escalating. Optimism about personal lives was mirrored by pessimism about broader change.
It is easy to say that every historical moment is unique and people always feel they inhabit pivotal moments. This is true in many ways, but attributing the disquiet to biology or psychology drags our moment outside of history and prevents us from seeing fundamentally new issues when they arise. We are more interconnected than at any point in the past and our tower of seven billion is propped up by a frail scaffolding of man-made and natural systems. As individuals, we are dwarfed less by God and Nature than by the immense scale and inertia of our own civilization. The stakes are high, the responsibility is ours alone and, perhaps for the first time, we're starting to feel it.
People know in their hearts that things arent right, that the system is out of hand and not even working for the people at the top; that things are disintegrating, and that its reaching the limits of viability. Every Ponzi scheme collapses when it runs out of new people buying in. And there are entire industries dedicated to saying "look over there!" and assuring us that everything will be all right and that there is no alternative.
If there's one common thread here at The Hipcrime Vocab, that's it, along with exploring how we got here and what alternatives there are. If you read the entire essay above, you'll see that more and more people are coming to the realization that something is very wrong, even if they cannot articulate it or express it by acting out in irrational (and unfortunately, sometimes violent) ways.
Earlier this week I listed some ideas about the future that the more mainstream and reasonable Peak Oil commentators who are aware of resource limits and environmental damage have made over the years and that are coming to pass. I rhetorically asked how long the mainstream can ignore them. Well, I am optimistic that they cannot be ignored forever. Maybe it's misplaced optimism, but I think one community who consistently and reliably describes the future more accurately than any other community, and who articultes the real underlying causes and proposes real solutions is eventually going to gain more followers that the ones who get it wrong over and over and over and over again (recovery is just around the corner!). Mr. Anderson's finding that these ideas are now being found all across the spectrum makes me believe that there is some sort of critical mass forming, even if the resolution is still mired in confusion. Yes, it will take time, but since the Mayans took a pass, we're not going anywhere.