Our capacity to do things hinges on our imagination. We can do what we think when we think we can do it, especially when we want it badly enough to do anything, whatever it takes to develop the tools that will make our dream a reality.
When we want to explore the world, we invent ships that weather the distance.
When we want to live free we re-draft our social contract and come up with representative democracy and land ownership.
When we want to see behind the mirror we develop an extrapolated mind. Anything is possible as long as we imagine it long enough to develop it and pursue it.
Many of these ideas seem outrageous at first. They don’t fit the bill and seem so out of place they sound impossible, untenable, insane. They come across as suspect. Heretical. Preposterous and despicable. Dangerous and seditious and threatening to law and order and all that is good and just and noble. We have a way of resisting the novel by posing obstacle after obstacle in our last-ditch attempt to stay with the devil we know.
Yes, we love change, but not before we do everything to keep things the same. Our resistance to novelty is epic, as strong as our urge to move on, and usually first in the process. We resist change, happy to deal with familiar problems, but the devil we don’t know is always round the corner, waiting. Like it or not, we always meet him, and we’re better off for it because, like it or not, we get to know him and become accustomed to him. We open our minds to the emerging possibilities and the threat turns into a challenge, turning our fears round.
Pretty soon we’re handling him well, this devil we don’t know, wondering what all the fuss was about, thinking along lines once inconceivable. Heresy and magic turn into options and prospects, into innovation and potential, and down the future we go, building new worlds, worrying about the next devil round the corner, reluctant to meet him and exchange the world we just discovered for a world we know nothing about. And so on and so forth.
We have come a long way over the last two centuries. From the age of reason and the industrial revolution, to the development of the nation state and representative democracy, to land ownership, equality under law, equality of gender, the electronic revolution and globalization, we’re a species in transition, moving fast down the tracks of time. From a static, fixed reality we zip down the years to a world of endless possibility. The unknown looms ahead, scaring us, and we, with smiles on our faces – or kicking and screaming, it depends – roll right into it.
It’s a tricky situation. We’re aware enough by now to know what to expect. We extrapolate and imagine how things will turn out. We observe what happens to others and make educated guesses on what is likely to happen to us in turn. Our exposure to rapid and total change across the board, from the political to the technological, to the social and individual, and our ability to communicate everything we see, hear, and do across the globe, serializing the evolution of humanity, has made us prescient. We foresee and anticipate change. We’re aware of our surroundings in spherical ways, explicitly or intrinsically, mindful of how change moves (at a merciless pace(, how it pulls out stops that were considered crucial once upon a time, rearranging the field by leveling traditions once held at high esteem. We know the price of progress and development, and aren’t eager to pay it at all times. The young generations are happy to enjoy the fruits of a new world, but the older ones are eager to hold on to what they know.
The devils we know. Older generations. Doing their best to persuade the youth that they know what’s coming because they’ve gone through it before. They claim to understand the danger in the coming changes, anticipating the mayhem, realizing how blessed we are with what we have. They warn the youth against imprudent curiosity and reckless bravado, invoking discretion and calm, even obedience if need be, anything it takes to end the madness of relentless pursuit, rampant change.
And they’re right, on occasion. They know a little better than the younger ones, yes, having lived longer etc, aware of how enthusiasm is revealing and blinding at the same time.
But sometimes the older generations are wrong, speaking out of malice, jadedness, or ignorance, afraid of what they don’t know, unwilling to face it, unable to handle it. They sit tight and hold everyone back in a desperate attempt to hold on to the reins and keep the cart at the gentle trot they consider civilized and orderly, with themselves in control.
Who to heed – the devils we know, or the devils we don’t?
The answer is probably both. Each group has merit in what it represents. The new kids on the block hold the key to the future, armed with a fiery need to go forth and discover new worlds.
The old school, on the other hand, has the benefit of experience, its knowledge of great value when people’s emotions carry (away) the day, when the going gets tough and bumpy.
Combining the above two approaches does the trick, taking us where we want to go: ahead – with the assurance we can deal with problems.
That is, of course, the ideal result in an ideal world. In reality, things are messy. The way ahead is carved in big swaths of determination, caution thrown to the wind. We meet the future with great leaps and bounds, furious revolutions, belief systems gone wild and out of control. Our causes overshoot their mark, and we find ourselves in vicious situations, our emotions and righteousness dialed up. Overzealous and self-destructive, we eat away at the core of our beliefs.
It’s not all mayhem. Sometimes we catch wind of ourselves and regain control of our emotions, toning down the rhetoric. Our causes let up, we relax our grip, easing into something that works for as many people as possible, warts and all. It’s a long process of mix and match, alternating between good and tough times, booms and busts, and so on and so forth.
Other times, things turn out well, for the best, and the golden age is long. We reap the fruits of our efforts.
Other times there’s prolonged terror and ongoing suffering, hardship and oppression. We must fight our way through an endless gauntlet, which either kills us or makes us stronger.
The outcomes vary. But the world moves forward.
Point is, movement is indispensable. Without it there’s no point – or meaning – to anything. We have to keep moving to stay ahead of reality’s limitations, if we want to improve ourselves. Adaptation to change brings about more change and more adaptation in an endless spin of development. It’s a rollercoaster ride, the highs alternating with the lows in between areas of calm, mixing excitement and panic with clarity and pause, paving the way for the next manic spin. And away we go again.
It matters a great deal right now. These are historic times. The old establishments are shaking, cracking under pressure, while new ones rise to bridge the gaps and leap ahead.
- Endless credit is bottoming out.
- The interconnection of our (national) economies and our (transnational) corporations is clear.
- The balance of power shifts from West to East.
- The balance of populations shifts the same way.
- The influx of migration is from East to West.
- The need to curb carbon emissions and control rampant development has gained momentum and credibility.
- Emerging economies and markets are flexing their muscles, eager to get a piece of the pie, unwilling to stem their development on account of the environment.
- The Economy, as it stands, is at direct odds with the Ecology.
- Billions of people are gearing up for political and cultural revolution that will free them from despotic rule or theocratic abuse.
- Coffers are emptying and pensions will become a thing of the past.
- A world of multiple superpowers is shaping up to become an arena, with great conflict ahead, which will likely take place over precious resources and commodities, such as oil and water, debt, carbon emissions, immigration trends and world population numbers.
As things stand, things aren’t looking up. If tensions don’t fizzle out and the friction between key players keeps growing – in a world of scarce resources and shifting power – war is the most likely scenario.
It’s a bleak prospect, no doubt. World war is to no one’s benefit, save a certain brand of Keynesian economists. But the possibility gains momentum.
The prospect is so unnerving that too many people would shoot the messenger – especially when they think the message is unfounded and likely to create a situation out of nothing – keeping all negative thinking away from the table, or so they claim.
But shooting the messenger is no solution. If we’re honest with ourselves, and to tackle the problems facing us, we have to acknowledge them in their entirety no matter the inconvenience they cause.
The vast majority of individuals are eager to avoid worldwide confrontation, be it armed, economic, or other, hot or cold. People are working toward a peaceful solution to the globe’s problems. The economy and its markets have been integrated to an unprecedented degree, acting as a bedrock for cooperation between players, and common sense has a good chance of prevailing over violence, if we do it right.
Bottom line, we’ve reached a point of critical mass. There’s no room for error, no space under the rug anymore, no place to turn and hide. We’re not disconnected from each other. No one’s an island, or unaccountable. This is the age of responsibility. Let’s adapt to the changes and face our interconnectedness, embrace it as a means to an end, much as the organs in our body embrace each other no matter their different functions. The devil we know necessitates it, and so does the devil we don’t. Anything else will result in dis-ease.
To be fair, there’s no telling what will happen. We may clash and destroy each other, just as we’ve done countless times in history, in order to see the light, like some neurotic organism at constant war with itself, flirting with illness and death before springing back to life – or, should inspiration strike, we may heed the call and rise to the challenge before the blood hits the fan, coming out of our predicaments the constructive way.
Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a spin.