With regard to the future, people seem willing to accept one of two basic extremes: the status quo – that things will be as they have been – or the end of the world. What seems harder to accept, indeed a less popular, socially heretical idea, is that we will endure suffering, hardship, and chaos, but the world will not end, not immediately, not while it can get worse.
The terror of inconvenience, of deprivation, of having to undergo radical life changes is simply unacceptable in many quarters. Optimism, at least a basic underlying level of it, is the required dogma of the day. We’re supposed to be happy, and we’d darned well better be.
Frankly, then, fear will likely be the rule of the day, and all the societal soma necessary to squelch it, if things continue as they seem to be going.
What seems harder to accept is that we will endure suffering, hardship, and chaos, but the world will not end.OMG! Life won’t mean anything! I’ve actually heard people suggest that. How tenuous our grasp of meaning if it depends on cheap food, cheaper fuel, and the prospect of living always beyond our financial, environmental, and geopolitical means. How shallow such life already is, let alone then. But perhaps a leaner future with a smaller footprint is a blessing in disguise.
In any case, it may be that the middle class era is ending – the values of safety, security, deliverance from risk may seem unrealistic one day – the vestige of nostalgia – a bit like the romantic conventions of old movies.
How might we live in a world in which risk is the norm, security is not something you can be granted, even by totalitarian utopias, and safety is neither in numbers nor homogeneity?
Whenever someone says things will always be as they have been, I prefer to look at the radical changes taking place. If you don’t believe it, just remember that a couple of years ago, we were buying SUVs like crazy. More than half of us were sure there was no such thing as global warming. We knew that gas prices would go down with a reluctant war over oil. The marker has already moved, and we’re never going back, my friends. When they say ‘maybe the world is coming to an end’, I prefer to ask “What if it doesn’t?” How will you live your life then? Isn’t it interesting to think about?
Or maybe I just like observing that shudder of horror barely concealed by stuffing in a little more food or fleeing to a refreshing diversion. But I wouldn’t be that bad.