We are without question seeing the end of an era–perhaps the end of a collection of eras: the industrial era, the era of capitalism, and the anthropocene are all on the verge of collapsing. In the stages of grief humanity is feeling, many sense the darkness of ending but are lost in denial. This is not just the anti-vaxxers or the climate deniers, but also the entrepreneurs who think simply greening consumption will be enough, or the technocrats who make pleasant noises that scientific progress and invention will surely sort things out.
These people have blinded themselves to the speed with which we have already used up the planet. Without resources we have no shiny trinkets to sell no matter how recyclable. Without resources we can create no mechanisms by which to enforce our will upon the climate and all life. Scientific advancement will necessarily slow, not due to a lack of intelligence, but means.
We have been pushing our problems onto the future for too long trusting children or grandchildren will wave their magic wands like Harry Potter wizards and save the world.
What The World Needs Now
The biggest breakthrough our planet groans for has nothing to do with jet packs or androids. The biggest breakthrough must be one where we revolutionise our culture, overturning our current ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting with ourselves, each other, and our living world.
Central to this will be a sort of spirituality that challenges us to enlarge both our hearts and our imaginations in order to embrace the inter-relatedness of all life. I’m not speaking of anything spooky, just a conscious anima mundi whereby we make a choice to recognise and understand that the well-being of all living beings is our own well-being. With that vision we must evolve our sense of compassion and responsibility such that we build a renewed foundation of values, which we support through ritual, meditation, and creative expression. These sorts of activities help to bond communities in their commitment to understanding and enacting those values.
We must honour and promote all that is prosocial and life-affirming. This is where we will find utopia.
The materialist vision of the future was always bankrupt. When we learn how to be content with ourselves, we will need so much less of the trappings of our current lives. When we learn how to accept ourselves as limited and flawed beings who nonetheless embrace the wonder of our lives, we will no longer need to indulge in the anxiety that comes from the felt need for status or domination. These two changes alone would finally make possible an equitable society, one where democracy could finally and truly flourish.
Both A Particle and a Wave
Critical to this utopian endeavour would be to mature as interdependent beings: interdependent with one another and interdependent with the web of all life.
Once we relied more collectively on our living world, our communities, our friends, our families, and on our marital partners. Our circle of support has become smaller and smaller until we are held hostage by what few relations we have left. One lover does not have the right to enslave the other. Parents do not have the right to enslave their children. The loyalty of friendship can turn sour through a gripping dysfunction. Governments and corporations can clench us firmly within their fists until we have no choice but to be their captives. Individual relations can become burdensome, but through a web of relation we can more readily receive the sort of support that empowers each and every one of us.
Whole societies do not have the right to hold certain of their members locked into roles and behaviours simply to feel secure in an easily understood and controlled culture. No one should expect to know another simply by looking at them. No one should be able to claim status simply for the circumstances into which they were born. We do not live in a child’s shape sorting ball: square peg goes into square hole, circular peg goes into circular hole…then what do we do with the fact that so many of us are secret tesseracts?
We must embrace the mystery of diversity while acknowledging that we are all one. We need to overcome a desire to privilege one person over another, and simply hold every one in the compass of our goodwill. In this way we find both freedom and connection without putting anyone in the way of ego corruption through too much attention or power.
The Shape of the Future
I can foresee a future where we will have to make some hard decisions or have them made for us. We will have to learn how to share with all of humanity and all the living world. We will have to significantly reduce our numbers. We will have to decide which technologies we are going to keep and which we are going to let go. We are going to have to learn how to live simpler lives.
I can easily imagine a world where we rely on trains, bicycles, and even horses, but only a very few cars. I can see cities emptied of humans and being converted into materials and farming space. Perhaps we will keep internet communication, but we turn into a world of small villages.
Work would change from what we do for money into what we do to maintain the well-being of our planet and ourselves. As such work is a community activity. Together we decide on what needs doing and volunteer to have jobs assigned us as needed. We will also have regular jobs to do with everyone’s emotional wellness, the wellness of our community relations, and our peaceful interactions among nations, including the animal kingdom (and perhaps even plant).
A high level of skilled socialisation is critical to our future survival.
No matter what we do now future generations are going to have to cope with extreme weather events and be responsible for preventing complete ecological collapse. This sounds dystopian, but if we change ourselves, we can learn to live in such times with dignity, grace, and great love. Fulfilling lives will be possible. We must start building this future now.
In love and kindness,