Change is not new to the modern era. Shocks have become commonplace. The threat of war is dulled. The nuclear threat is muted.
We all like stability. And we go about our daily lives in as normal a way as possible. We might even ignore worsening crises, as does the proverbial frog in boiling water.
So, even though a sense of foreboding crept over me at the beginning of the year, even though my conscience prodded me to speak up, I just kept quiet. While I’ve known system change is coming for a couple of decades, timing has been impossible to predict in the short term, though it is clearly coming in the next decades. But in January I started to feel that humanity is now in the end-game: either we grow-up or we regress.
My perspective is unusual. A diverse lifestyle allows me to tune in to global events and humanity’s behaviour, while being rooted in the soil and growing food. This gives a unique, big picture perspective on the patterns in nature, the cosmic rhythm as I call it, which is naturally obscured to the casual observer. The big picture view is far removed from our daily lives but how the world works and the choices we make every day are connected and increasingly so.
Rising concerns that change is accelerating rapidly started with a rather discombobulated event in early December, A Vision of the Future, which proved productive and concluded that change is coming fast and planning for it is not possible, but being prepared is. This has influenced our strategic perspective since.
Then, in January as we recovered from the holiday season, we heard of the murder of an Iranian general at Baghdad airport by US President Trump. It seemed surreal. That sense of mesmerised concern continued as Trump and Netanyahu announced a “peace plan” for the Middle East which proposed taking more liberty from non-Jewish people.
Then the impeachment trial was a farce.
Meanwhile thousands continue to suffer and die because of war, starvation or simply murder by incumbent regimes …
Soon, the flu flew in to the news. It was bad from the beginning. How could you tell? Because China locked down a city of 11 million people, Wuhan, overnight. And then built a full service hospital in a week. The real lesson was that there is no way anyone can match China for mobilisation of people and resources. Too much complacency and distraction spread by greedy millionaires and politicians has got in the way of a common vision for collaboration. And that’s beginning to show as covid-19 runs around the world because symptoms are not displayed for two weeks after contracting the virus so you can have it and seem fine and travel around … Every major airport is probably full of it …
But it’s not the flu that’s going to get us. That’s just a symptom of our disease.
Humanity is suffering from a terminal disease. Decadence.
Our society is over-ripe and beginning to decay. There are many looking for rejuvenation and many who are showing the possibilities. But the voices for status quo are loud, louder than they have been for a long time. It is a crescendo. Even as the wave of democratic socialism rises to show how people can live together without killing, without suffering, with each other, with nature. But that wave of enlightened change might yet break upon the rocks of intransigent capitalism so that we regress again to wilder ways.
Even the terms “social democracy” and “capitalism” belie the phenomenon: One is looking for a democratic social organisation of communities, the other a community ordered by who owns the capital.
As a graduate of Wharton and IMD, two pre-eminent business education institutions, it is embarrassing to be so unaware of the reality of what we capitalists do. Capitalists are merely the progeny of slavery and feudalism – slightly less obvious, but still only caring about the control of stuff and people. There is no room for humanity in that model.
There might be room for transhumanism in the capitalist system. We are rushing to implement artificial intelligence, robotics and global data as integrated super-androids, cyborgs etc. But that trajectory must soon exclude the human element. The attachment of mechanical and silicone appendages to the brain can only limit the potential of consciousness to emerge, just as the illusion of scarcity is used to limit our values to base instincts of greed and fear. And, just in case ethics is of interest to you, it is questionable that conciousness and with it morality can exist in a silicon system (as opposed to a carbon based organism).
To see the dynamic at play demands a big picture perspective . Luckily we have the big picture model in ourselves. Those who have read a bit of psychology might have come across Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. That is a model showing a natural progression of values from survival needs to safety needs to security needs to transformational needs to community needs. There are numerous other models reflecting the same dynamic and, as you can see, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, fit the pattern too.
However, it is NOT INEVITABLE that humanity will progress before it regresses. That kind of thinking is human-centric, which is not how the universe works. The universe follows natural law which is reflected in all of existence and does not put humans (let alone men!) at the centre, pinnacle or focus. Rather, in order to progress we must choose to behave differently.
That is the great battle that now wages around the world as people look for answers to personal, yet universal, questions. Like “Why can’t I make a living?” “Why can’t we get on?” “Why are they taking stuff I don’t have?” …
So what will happen?
Perhaps nothing much this year, though maybe. And if not this year, soon. Time has run out. It’s not about climate change. It’s not about politics. It’s not about economics. It’s not about religion. It’s about energy.
It’s about the energy we share when we love or hate, but right now, it’s about the energy we demand to fuel our decadence. That energy is the currency of the biosphere, the currency of life, and we’ve raped it for 300 years. The oil addiction must end.
Do you think oil will run out?
Most people say between 10 and 50 years, some saying system breakdown will occur first. 50 years is the oil industry’s estimate. I think that’s a self-serving over-estimate: “Peak-oil” is not mentioned because it’s passed and “climate breakdown” takes the headlines instead to distract us. Oil-heads know the tank is empty.
Any way if there’s zero oil in 50 years, we’ll feel the pinch long before.
There is evidence to suggest it will run out much sooner (including analysis from inside the oil industry). You can make your own guess and do your own “what if?”. 20 years is my horizon. And we’re feeling the pressure now, even if there appears to be an oil inventory glut … When it comes the stresses will be extraordinary because most of our conveniences depend upon oil, like the washers in your household plumbing and car to the screens of your phone and TV. There’ll be no more plane delivered fresh beans from Africa or South America. Life will resort to the old ways, unless we’ve restructured systems, which seems a long way off …
Even 20 years is far off. What about now?
The battle will continue as the titans of capitalism resist the need to open systems, collaborate and care for nature. They have the resources. They have the evidence of current practice. They have the power of vested interests. They have the strength of ignorance and selfishness. And it is always the altruistic who are martyred first, often for no good end. For most of us, we choose sides: to continue in the same divisive ways, follow the “success” stories, do what we’re told; or to change.
Change means looking for answers, informing oneself, collaborating and nurturing altruism. The downside of change is finding answers (which are increasingly available) and implementing them (increasingly easy to do) which demand that you let go of what you’ve been told in order to recognise the truth that you feel in yourself. The upside is remembering what life is about and finding there’s a chance of living again. So, take a breath, think about your challenges and let your consciousness find your flow.