In light of the irrelevant squabbling that characterizes the fear based struggles of the west, particularly the current election cycle, we should be aware that in important ways the world is ‘moving on.’ As a culture we will either learn to ride the waves or we will fail.
My generation woke up in the sixties to the horrors and injustices of a world overtaken by colonialism and the machineries of global capitalism. We came of age in the first decades of television and the rise of electronic media. The shock of seeing the world from a whole new perspective than that of our parents drove us into a quest for the future that was both hopeful and desperate. We created the hopeful dream of a future dominated by peace and love. We tried to transcend the forces of history and in the process created unfortunate blind spots in our view of the present.
Things have turned out differently than many of us dreamed, at least in the short term. Instead of an Age of Aquarius we appear to have arrived in a world where the dominant reality is one of fragmentation and fear. Instead of universal brotherhood we’ve become isolated into paranoid camps dreaming up ways to attribute our woes to others. Many ‘New Agers’ that I know have taken refuge in bizarre fantasies of persecution and/or redemption that are drawn out of thin air to ‘explain’ the bewildering complexity of the world. We are unable to give up our destructive addictions, so we turn them into religions and defend them with a passion born of fear.
In our struggle to deny the reality of the situations we collectively face, we’ve been caught up in a confusion of contrarian visions, each defending its own turf against all others. The Internet, while opening us to a world of almost infinite diversity has also been a mixed blessing, particularly in the so-called ‘developed’ world. In the domain of ‘social networks’ (read ‘tribes’) we tend to gather into closed networks that reinforce our preconceptions while excluding input from contrary points of view.
In spite of all of this the world continues to change and humans continue to imagine and create. What we need more than ever is the ability to pay attention, to listen to other points of view and other ways of perceiving the reality we face. More than ever we need to be detached and fluid as the world reshapes itself. My advice to us all is, “don’t sweat the big stuff.” We can only effect the enormously complex forces that are reshaping the world by the quality of our everyday interactions.
As an illustration of the factors that will effect our future, I offer a link to this important TED talk on China by Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World.
Mr. Jacques presents a historical outline of the important aspects that we in the western world tend to miss when we assume that a country like China approaches the future in a manner that merely replicates our own and that the Chinese are motivated in the same way that we are.
The main points of his talk:
By the end of the next decade China will have an economy twice the size of the United States.
The speaker warns that “the West has lost the sense of the future.” He makes a case that the world of the future will be shaped more by the developing world than through the weakening influence of the long dominant western models.
China’s problem: A huge number of people and no space.
Three crucial differences in China’s sense of itself and the factors that shape its decisions:
The concept of the Civilization State (as opposed to the Nation State).
The notion of Race (the absolute primacy of a single dominant race: the Han).
The State as the defender of Civilization (the state as the guarantor of Unity).
The Chinese invented Golf.