30. What Next? The Future...
Looking towards the future, it is simply impossible to predict what might befall during the coming hundred years – yet it is possible to gain an overall impression of possible scenarios, based on an historical sense of probabilities and on considered speculation. Indeed this is necessary. Our historical habit is to stumble backwards into the future without looking. We feel that we as individuals make little difference, as if history and the future just happen at us. Paradoxically, religious, Marxist or visionary grand-plans which have guided people in the past have now rendered themselves invalid. There are no known, reliable roadmaps to show pathways into the future – even though some people still believe otherwise.
We're going to have to 'drive by the seat of our pants', without prepared answers. We'll need to consult back not to formulated ideologies but to our hearts, commonsense and basic human qualities. We'll need to consider the deep issues at stake and make deep choices about them. Otherwise, it looks like disaster, of some kind or another.
This threat of disaster is actually a helper: it activates inventive survival instincts. The human race needs to change course – this much is visible to thoughtful people, though how to bring it about is not so easy to see. We witness atrocities, abuses, scandals and horrors in daily news broadcasts, and we encounter many similar issues in the details of our personal lives. "Someone ought to do something about it!". Perhaps the next government might make a difference, or perhaps the media might expose the corruption and insidiousness of it all, or perhaps an aid organisation or an influential person or pressure-group might crack it.
However, it turns out that, with some bright exceptions, only a marginal difference is genuinely made. In the 1980s and early 1990s we tended to lapse back into an insidious form of resignation. "Perhaps I'm wrong to think things could change... perhaps I'm too idealistic...". Or, alternatively, we strained at the leash, burning ourselves up in noble efforts which seemed to bring but limited effects.
In recent decades the world situation grew more and more complex and disquieting. There was a general public awareness that things need to change, yet preferably without inconvenience or sacrifice: changes are necessary, but not in my back yard. Someone else ought to start it. A cynical conservatism thrived in a situation where radical solutions were called for. As a result of this circular illogic, fundamental issues stayed essentially the same, just getting worse year by year – and 'disappeared' by sophisticated mastery of PR. In recent decades many people have dedicated immense time and energy to change and transformation, to campaigning, education and good works, yet it seems only marginal differences have resulted. There was some enormous indefinable inertia at work. A consensus of busy inactivity. "Sorry, I haven't the time..."
If we accept the proposition that the current direction of mainstream civilisation is auto-destructive unless we change it, then it follows that we ourselves are part of this auto-destruction. Simply buying food at the supermarket reinforces the current mass-suicidal system. Yet opting out is difficult, and working to change the system from within comes a-cropper when the system itself and even our own colleagues and neighbours resist change. The temptation is to drop one's principles and isolate oneself within one's own little life. The system has its ways of making life difficult for detractors. In the end, money decides.
Questioning the state of the world keeps us awake at nights – a sure recipe for burn-out and possible loss. So, the tendency is to settle into one's niche, do one's little best and forget about the big questions. However, we keep returning, in moments of honesty, to a basic truth: the way things look, humanity is likely, during the coming century, to suffer greatly, unless things change. Humanity could even become extinct, together with many other species. Some survivors might remain, but do you want to be one of the 'lucky' ones? It's difficult to rest easy with the prospect of our offspring saying to us "Look at the world you've left us! Why didn't you do something while you had the chance?"
Sooner or later, life as we know it (according to information we now have), might no longer be able to continue. Delaying and evasion tactics have been successful in recent decades, yet world problems have not gone away. We're still busy working on Maggie's Farm, and we still haven't found the love the Beatles reminded us we needed. Gaia is crying for attention, but everyone's gone to the movies.
Various identifiable changes need to take place within coming decades. Not just legislation or tinkerings with interest-rate settings: something fundamental. Many great and wonderful things have been created in our civilisation, yet 'progress' as we know it is in itself destructive, relentless, directionless. Who chooses? Shall we institute corrective world changes by choice – an enormous historic step, itself a redemptive factor – or shall we have changes foisted on us by circumstances, in dire states of emergency? The latter is our customary pattern. The jury is out, and the future is dauntingly in the balance.
So here we stand, looking at the coming century and wishing that time would leave us alone and let us get on with our own lives. While there are great glimmers of hope, the Old Order still remains, perpetually dressing itself in new clothing.
Many readers will already be convinced of the need for world change, or will at least be open to the notion. Nowadays in new age circles the terms 'world transformation' and 'planetary healing' are bandied around with enthusiasm, intermixed with varieties of millennialism and apocalyptic catastrophism. Few have thought how world change and the awakening of humanity might actually come to pass, in greater detail. Many invoke geological, climatic or astronomical catastrophe, massive social reorientation, divine dispensation, extraterrestrial intervention or other dramas, without fully grasping how such phenomena might realistically affect us all. If our incomes, comforts, children, morning cup of coffee or annual holiday are hit by such a change, how will we feel?
Rain falls on saints and sinners alike, and it is unlikely that simple black-and-white solutions will prevail. The Bad Guys won't awaken one morning inspired to change their ways, and the Good Guys might not be fired up with clarity and instant answers. There might be no descent of angelic hosts or star-people, and there could be an almighty show-down. The potential details of the situation and the specific events which could arise become more elusive the closer you look at them. One characteristic of our time is that the events with the greatest impacts are those which are unexpected. Nevertheless, as real-estate agents describe dilapidated houses, this property has great potential for renovation.
Predicting possibilities has its value if it widens our horizons. However, if we omit to see reality because we're waiting for specific predicted events which we project into our future, we'll get nowhere. While our world is proto-catastrophic, it isn't worth hanging around waiting for catastrophe. The millennial mythology suggests that catastrophe is inevitable – which means, by implication, that it doesn't matter what we do. Yet if we wait for a massively-forceful prompt to get us moving on world transformation, we'll blow our chances.
Our approach to change must be proactive – it needs to come from us in advance of final need. There is no map to follow, yet we must start somewhere. So we're faced with an enigma, an all-embracing, stacked queue of competing priorities. Approaching this logically and rationally is demonstrably a non-starter – logic and rationality have become part of the problem. So how to proceed?
The 21st century is likely to be characterised by multiple hair-raising close shaves and reality-crunches, with mammoth changes in economics, politics, social structures, nature, human values and beliefs. Tragedies, wrenches, shocks, hard medicine, withdrawal-symptoms from the past, cultural frictions and change-fatigue are on the agenda. It could be a tough century – although, for those choosing to be born into the 21st century, this will be their normality. However, underpinning this, there might well be a growing counteractive relief, a resolution of age-old issues, a simplification, a growth in human integrity, cooperation, expanded awareness.
It's conceivable that different parts of the world will go through different scenarios – some parts rising to the moment and others going horribly wrong. Yet there might be a median line of breakthrough going on, a labour-process, giving birth to an utterly new and unprecedented world civilisation. There could be much more happiness in coming times. Perhaps that's what many of the bright young souls being born today are coming for.
The nexus of world change lies with us now, in our current societies and situations. Whether we like or want it or not, we are organised into groupings, nations and cultures which are being forced to square up with each other, and with the natural world and universe which contain us. This is our starting-point.
Our options are proactive change or received crisis. Will we be willing to go through the necessary wrenches, breakthroughs and sacrifices needed to allow manageably rapid transition over the coming decades? Or are we going to wait, gritting our teeth for a massive storm which tragically clears many issues in one go? Destruction is not really an option: like the suicide of a teenager, it is a meaningless fate met before our time. It doesn't make sense of our history.
Humanity on the threshold
of a global breakthrough
by Palden Jenkins