Yesterday while working out I read a stunningly good article from Aeon (http://aeon.co/magazine/science/why-has-human-progress-ground-to-a-halt/) by Michael Hanlon. I thought it was well done and extremely thought provoking. It’s worth the time for you to read it yourself. In a nutshell Hanlon focuses upon the unwillingness to take risks as the thing that is sapping our ability to progress both scientifically and socially.
In times of war or crisis, power is easily stolen from the many by the few on a promise of security. The more elusive or imaginary the foe, the better for manufacturing consent.
― Ronald Wright
Of course part of my attraction to the article was it similarity in thought to a number of my own posts:
He did have a significant amount of additional thinking beyond anything I’ve written. I thought his thesis that we have become risk adverse as a society is worth a great deal of consideration. Moreover he didn’t really pull out the big smoking gun with respect to risk adverse behavior, the “War on Terror”. Almost nothing demonstrates our commitment to not taking risks as well as this. Moreover it has become a tool for amplifying fear for those taking distinct and specific advantage of it to feather their own beds.
A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
― Paul Romer
While I agree with the general nature of Hanlon’s thesis, I think something deeper might be at work.
The 20th Century was punctuated by three catastrophic crises: World War 1, the great depression and World War 2. The great leap forward for humanity took place in the wake of the Second World War’s carnage powered by American hegemony, a rebuilding industrialized World and the Cold War. The great stagnation that started in the early 1970’s has seen each of those elements come to a halt, and an immense rise of two paired elements massive inequality and conservatism. The rebuilding of the class of oligarchs is destroying the vast middle class that marked that period of great progress. The conservative movements are a direct response to the vast social (and technological) progress. The conservatism is a reaction to the outright fear of change that Hanlon identifies.
At first sign of crisis, the ignorant don’t panic because they don’t know what’s going on, and then later they panic precisely because they don’t know what’s going on.
― Jarod Kintz
Ironically, the oligarchs have relied upon the rejection of progressive ideals for business to power their accumulation of wealth. They have also relied upon the massive societal disruptions associated with technology to provide much of means of creating wealth that is outside the established channels of the social order. The conservatives have come as a reaction to the sort of changes produced in the “Golden Quarter” as Hanlon describes it. Fear of racial equality is driven by the loss of the white majority, and religious fundamentalism reacts to the sorts of freedoms earned during that period. All of this amplified by the discomfort of new technology while the new technology creates change in society that wreck havoc with the traditional social order.
Crisis is Good. Crisis is a Messenger.
― Bryant McGill
What will fix this and result us to the sort of progress that humanity should aspire toward? I fear it will be a new set of calamities that will surely be unleashed on society some time in the (near) future. We are approaching a serious instability and believe the events of 9/11 and the financial crisis in 2008 were merely pre-shocks to what is coming. As before during the 20th Century these calamities are the results of systematic imbalances and the violent end of eras of excess.
Treat this crisis as practice for the next crisis.
― John Parenti
Old Europe started to die in World War 1 and its wake helped set in motion forces that created the depths of the depression and the cataclysm of World War 2, which marked the end of Old Europe and the birth of that Golden Quarter. One must also remember that the excesses of the hyper-rich and inequality also played a key roll in how WWI and the depression unfolded. These excesses unleashed a torrent of progressive action to fix the damage to society. It seems that the same thing could unfold in the future to end the current era of stagnation and greed. Let’s hope not. One might hope we have the wisdom to turn away before things get so bad.
The bind we are in today is largely about trust and faith in each other. We don’t trust because we know how selfish, self-centered and fundamentally corrupt we are. We assume everyone else is just as untrustworthy. Without trust the ability to do anything important or great simply doesn’t exist. No one is worth investing anything for the good of the whole. Every action has become centered on the good of the self. Crisis and calamity are built by such selfishness. Unfortunately, America is the most selfish place in the world, bar none. You do the math, who is the most likely to trigger the next calamity?
Then the shit hit the fan.
― John Kenneth Galbraith