Defend the future

The world right now feels as if I was on an elevator in which the muzak had been replaced with a noise of grinding glass and chalk squeaking on a board at the volume of a stadium rock concert.

This includes not just a sense of lack of control but also of feeling somewhat trapped in a situation that you didn’t create but that you’re definitely a part of, even if you’re just along for the ride.

The last few weeks I’ve been far from 100% and as a result somewhat disconnected. I’ve been putting whatever energy I have left into work, and I have a bunch of other stuff that I’d like to talk about, but I need to take a moment.

While it’s possible to keep what’s going on in the world as a backdrop, I won’t.

I write mostly about design, art, technology, science. We can’t all be engaged in politics all the time, and I think that it’s unhealthy that we have reached a paroxysm of news coverage with regards to it.

But there’s no design, technology, or science without humanity.

And when I say ‘humanity’ I don’t mean ‘people’.

I mean humanity.

As in “our humanity”.

The path traced by xenophobia, misogyny, racism and anti-semitism has arrived at the first station: a Nazi rally in Virginia. Literally. The same week the President of the United States talks about unleashing “Fire and Fury like the world has never seen.” What was the carpet bombing of Dresden, by the way? Or Hiroshima?

What “Fire and Fury” could possibly be beyond a nuclear weapon on a civilian city?

None of course. You can’t nuke a city to infinity. You can’t kill everyone twice to make it stick.

But this isn’t only a lack of understanding or poor rethoric. And it is related to the lack of immediate denunciation of … Nazis. This is not just because of the point that has been made that the President of the United States can’t avoid condemning Nazis because it is interpreted (correctly) as sympathizing. Yes, this is a good point if perhaps a bit elementary. But that’s not just why I mention it.

I mention it because these two things speak to how history has receded in the minds of many people. You don’t use the phrase “Fire and Fury like the word has never seen” unless you are quite simply unaware of what exactly happened in the biggest conflicts of the 20th century.

Not only is this willful ignorance not an excuse for that behavior, it is also an element that is a key part of the combustible mix that results in major conflicts.

What should we say or do? This isn’t our fault is it? No one cares, right? Aren’t we all talking to each other in our own echo chambers? Aren’t we just fueling our own outrage and anxiety while those responsible actually enjoy the fact that they kicked the hornet’s nest?

These seem like difficult questions, but they are not. They also seem rhetorical. Many questions seem to be rhetorical because we don’t know the answer to them, but some seem rhetorical because we really, really hate the answers.

The vast majority of us know exactly the answers to those questions. We just don’t like the answers very much, that’s all.

Because the truth is that even if all you’re doing is trying to keep up and figure out how to do better in this world then that’s a good start.

We are obsessed with “doing something” but most of us can’t actually do something. Contributing money, retweeting, commenting, these are good things but we shouldn’t use them to “move on”. We know we aren’t in the thick of it and so we try to appease our demons with some token action.

Instead of doing whatever and moving on, sit back quietly and think for a minute.

Think about the world as you’d like it to be. Imagine it.

Does that ideal world in your head involve lots of swastikas on the sides of buildings, bombs, and right arms raised into the sky? Are you picturing concentration camps next to primary schools?

No, right?

Is that world you imagine at war? In distress?

Do you even see race, or creed in that imagined world?

See why taking that bit of time is fundamental?

We are not in a fight over territory or some treaty that we don’t like.

We are in a fight over imagination — or lack thereof.

There’s people who are pretty scared and angry. In fact they are angry because they’re scared.

They see the world as out of their control, a place that is not obeying the rules they think it should. They are scared because whether they admit it or not there’s a fundamental element in their belief system that says that the world should “be” a certain way. Whatever their hangup is — whether it’s gay or transgender people in the military, whether it’s women who want to lead and work instead (or as well as!) having a family, whether it’s a black man being President of the United States and kicking ass at it — whatever it is…. they can see that it’s working.

They can see those fundamental beliefs proven wrong.

Reality is pretty stubborn, but humans have some practice in self-delusion. So they concoct intricate, spectacular conspiracy theories. They spend enormous time and money on things that prop up their broken worldview. They go out and buy tiki torches, pretending to be preparing a party when they are really going to a Nazi rally.

Their fascination with fire is pretty ironic, considering that their belief system can only survive in the darkness and in the shadows.

This sounds like just something one says, but it’s not.

This is important. Even the Third Reich at the peak of its power didn’t really admit all of the horrible things it was doing. It couldn’t. In fact it made enormous efforts to provide its non-psychopathic supporters with rationalizations that allowed them to look the other way.

These are ideas that don’t like honest discussion.

These are ideas that wither and die in the light.

In these ‘movements’ words are used to obscure true meaning, instead of making meaning known.

We counteract the sheer stupidity and insanity of all of this with calm, clarity and simplicity.

We defend our idea of the future by holding it, keeping it alive, and talking about it. That’s why, even if all you can do today is take one minute and think about the world you’d like to build, do it.

Think about how all of this insanity contrasts with that.

Don’t move on.

This is a darkness that originates in fallacies of history, in thoughts and words. It’s not a volcano, or an asteroid. It’s man-made.

It is something that comes from within us, and that’s where it has to be met. And that’s important to keep in mind.

Because, right now, an important thing for most people is not necessarily “doing something.”

Right now, the first step each of us must take is to look this thing in the eye and not move an inch.

Many others have sacrificed everything to get us here.

We defend the future every day by imagining it.