Doomer or Optimist?

When getting into a group discussion on what the future might hold, often one of the first comments made is “Oh, the world is always changing, what’s so different today?” As the discussion proceeds, I usually get “Oh, you’re just a ‘doomer’. Both comments are probably true on the surface, but if you’ve read and thought about the first posting on this site, the mega-drivers of change, and have done a bit of homework, you will now realise the changes taking place constitute a major disruption to our established world on a scale which happens only once in hundreds, sometimes thousands of years.

The last time this scale of change occurred was arguably about the end of medieval age and the beginning of the industrial age. Yes, the world is always changing, but the difference now is that many established pillars of our industrial society are under threat, and in some cases, crumbling as the world begins to de-industrialize. Established religions together with beliefs and practices, places of work and the types of jobs available, (or not available), most governments and local bodies supplying long-regarded ‘entitlements’ such as infrastructure and social systems (education, health, police forces etc), the political and financial systems, are all now facing very considerable difficulties to deliver what has become expected of them.

Articulating all this over a drink of whatever nature, with friends who haven’t been made aware of the mega-drivers of change now in play, earns the title of “Doomer’.

The challenge of course is to figure out how to handle the changes needed in all societies (remember the change factors are worldwide), while retaining a worthwhile lifestyle based on the societal values we want to retain. Re-designing a new social structure while the old one is crumbling, is not going to be easy, as no-one has come up with a formula for making this happen. Trying to retain the industrial age which has been based on low-cost available fossil fuels, will most likely work for a little longer, (if we forget about global warming) until the coal, gas and oils become too expensive to produce, for most existing uses. However the increasing number of people now unable to financially support themselves because of changes that have already happened in their locality, are becoming increasingly restless, leading to extreme political polarization.

The fact that established political infrastructures, anywhere, do not have answers, only adds to the problem.  Unions which once kept ‘Labour’ parties going are becoming fewer where de-industrialization is occurring  and have therefore less money and political clout. If things keep going the way they are, business-oriented political parties will no doubt face the same challenges. The democratic form of government we have enjoyed for a long time is coming under increasing pressure to deliver answers in these changing times, answers which no-one has.

So what else is there that has the potential to sort out the evolutionary changes needed for us all to live worthwhile, if probably, somewhat more frugal lives?

There-in lies the problem we have. No-one can be sure about what might work, as we’re talking about the future, and by definition, that hasn’t yet happened. We now have to do what our world has always done: we have to evolve. We have to try out new ways of doing things, discover things that will work and go with them, and discard what wont. That’s the only way we have of finding a good way forward. Trying to retain or regain what we once had, will only see our societies break apart and people grabbing what they can, often with force, to survive. The Middle East is demonstrating for us what that leads to.

We can accept that our social structure is undergoing fundamental change without being ‘Doomers’ if we make greater use of our frontal cortex; do away with some of our existing beliefs and parts of our cultures that no longer fit these hugely changing times. Let’s try out new ideas that could help us in the future, live worthwhile and fruitful lives.  We might not always have the ‘stuff’ we’ve become used to, but with luck, we’ll still be able to enjoy ourselves.

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