PART ONE: The Millennium and the State of the World
Whatever significance one gives to the Millennium, one thing is true: it falls in interesting times! Many periods have been ‘interesting’ to those living in them - though perhaps less complex, intense and large-scale than today. Nowadays, more is at stake and changing than ever before: uncertainties are stacked high and sold cheap. A lot is passing. And much is dawning.
Things are unlikely to change overnight, even if they change rapidly. When our slot in history is examined retrospectively from, say, year 2500, a time-span 30-50 years either side of Year 2000 won’t matter greatly. However, it might be seen as a turning in the tide of human history.
What are we saying goodbye to? Some issues are enormous, fundamental and longterm, such as male dominance, social victimisation, belching chimneys, forest destruction or urban sprawl. Meanwhile other critical issues play a smaller part, such as disposable packaging, youth crime, water shortages, family breakups - or TV dinners garnished with gunfire and screeching tyres.
Some things definitely must go because they seriously affect our survival prospects – military overkill, dangerous agri-chemicals, rapid population growth or rampant market-speculation. Many matters are debatable – such as alcohol-abuse, risky scientific research or xenophobic nationalism.
In some cases, bad habits will simply shift – single-occupant gas-guzzling automobiles will eventually be replaced by a whole new transport strategy. Dehumanising, grimy cities could become pleasant, human-scale cityscapes fit for people to live in.
While these are big questions, they are details. Really, we’re looking at an all-encompassing, fundamental change in the nature of civilisation on Earth. Here are some likely longterm scenarios to contemplate:
a transformation of the world’s landscape, in which cities and villages integrate with nature, great forests are planted, and new agricultural and land-management systems are established, with people in the fields and a re-enchantment of nature;
an economic market system recognising the whole and full costs and benefits of economic activity to people, to nature and the planet as a whole – powered by changed personal and social values toward property, prosperity and profit;
a globalised and yet regionally- and ethnically-varied world where the identities of cultures and localities are enhanced and exploitation has given way to appreciation and collaboration;
a stabilised or reducing population accompanied by humanising social developments, making world communities friendlier, homelier and happier;
a rebalancing of social power involving greater general participation, consensus-building and responsibility in decision-making and the running of all aspects of society, the economy and the natural world;
a world where an atmosphere of truth, trust, genuineness and creativity prevails, with good sense and proportion.
We might say goodbye to such things as war, secrecy, faceless social alienation, polarised politics and public powerlessness. Closer in, perhaps it’s goodbye to endemic stress, tobacco, burgers, caeserians, serial killings, muggings, brown seas, smog and marginalised minorities. Can we continue living with both obesity and starvation happening on the same planet? These are possibly the passing nuances of the Twentieth Century. All this sounds utopian, yet it might also be realistic and necessary. Times change.
Many of today’s accepted norms might one day be judged as crimes against humanity and nature. While there might be ‘godfathers’ to such crimes, we’ll each and all have to own up as guilty parties, each in our own sphere of life. We all allowed it. Finger-pointing, scapegoating and punishment might also have had their day.
All this is decided by the choices we all make, now and in future. What kind of world shall we create?
The Illustrated Guide to the Millennium
© Copyright Palden Jenkins 1998, 2012.
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The Illustrated Guide to the Millennium was partially written in 1997-98 and never published.