How preoccupied are you with the future? I am a Virgo and my personality card in tarot that I selected when I first began tarot in 2009 is the Four of Pentacles, which I was unaware is another earth-based, conservative type of card. Whether my point of birth or card have any bearing at all, I have always been concerned about how my actions and choice of words will be perceived in 10 or 20 years’ time.
This topic has been brought to the surface for me today – Sundays often get unintentionally devoted to this kind of philosophizing – in part because of reading new press from The Guardian about Margaret Atwood’s upcoming third work in a trilogy, MaddAddam (the other two are Oryx and Crake of 2003 and The Year of the Flood from 2009). The Guardian article led me to a 2009 broadcast in which she discusses the second book and the various factions in a dystopia backdrop. I have read this book and found it very intellectually stimulating with the concepts of science gone awry and the organized theosophical structure of the ecocult that has somehow survived a plague.
Atwood has a way of having work released just in time for what is happening in the media cycle, this time apparently at least in part focusing on surveillance culture and apocalyptic fears (I am not entirely sure since MaddAddam is released September 3rd; ironically for me, my 30th birthday). In the interview with Emma Brockes published August 23, 2013, Atwood refers to her research:
In fact, the only experts she consulted for MaddAddam were hackers, who she turned to for advice on how characters might pull off secret communication in the age of spying. What’s interesting, Atwood says, is that with snooping potential as it currently is – and in light of the NSA eavesdropping revelations – you can “watch people revert to older technologies, as a way around some of this.” Like what?
She grabs my notebook, scribbles something down and theatrically tears it up. “It’s the only safe way. Then you rip it up and burn it. Don’t even flush it down the toilet, it’s too risky. We have ways of opening up those toilets.” As a character in Year of the Flood says of digital technology: “If you can see it, it can see you.”
Depending on who or which faction grabs the reins in the future, let’s say from a 2030 perspective, the present time period will be characterized by the battle for basic protectionism of all kinds from water resources, labor rights, to privacy, to transportation. While consolidation of power and resources has been occurring perhaps for as long as civilization has been organized, with the exception of a period in the West of 1945 to the early 1980s, something in the shock of the 2008 crash and liberalization of information being freely available on the internet suddenly made average people wise to the s0-called “soft kill” instruments employed against their livelihoods the world over. One of my friends and I a few nights ago tried to project which faction we see winning the narrative of the future and have concluded that actually the “green extremists,” the corporations with no known leader or guiding hand, and the general consumer as we know them now will all persist and end up growing in communities around each other. Much like the three-speed economy that has been publicized in Australia, a US example would be something like the “Breakaway Civilization” described by Catherine Austin Fitts: a major portion of our collective wealth is being allocated to developing an advanced economy and arrangements that the majority of the people will never be able to keep up with. I can sense that transhumanism ideals in chasing technological upgrades will seize most of Asia and much of the US and Canada, with a tiny elite guiding these movements, there will be more illness from the pollution and other environment damage harming the average person, and meanwhile a plucky, steadily growing green faction will be seen as a disruptor of the overall order of things in the coming years. It has recently quietly come into academic discourse that there is a new “Green Scare” on the rise (see: Green is the New Red).
Last year while living and working in Montreal, I met two girls from a green commune of sorts in Massachusetts who had been working there for room and board for years, and while I recoiled at the idea of no monetary pay, I can see that in some ways the corporate/evil elite ideal is to have “green” people eschew private property and hierarchies because this can leave institutions and value ripe for the picking for them.
Regarding surveillance, another major bee in our bonnet now (though it has been structured and well funded at least since the 1930s when labor organizers began experiencing all kinds of harassment or worse), there is not much one can do about this, and I would argue the associated fatalist attitude about it prevails in our lack of pride in how we present ourselves in the digital world. Germany appears to be the main country with a constituency that demands some controls on this, but as Atwood mentioned, the very nature of the digital world involves a larger-than-intended audience. The favorable consequence of this that I see coming is that we will see a resurgence of local arts and items with intrinsic value, but these things may not be things that can be exchanged for large monetary compensation. In order to be satisfied with our lives, we will have to find our own methods of measuring what is valuable to us that are not authenticated by external definitions. In other words, don’t let markets fool you into thinking something is worthless even if its dollarized value is near zero; this is a major part of the deception of the present era. A car may be “worth” $20,000USD, but it took two years of savings to pay for and actually takes you to places you’d rather not go, for example (and in some instances – not everyone would feel this way).
In the US, UK, and elsewhere, I very much fear a resurgence in ethnic tension, which I feel is more manufactured than the result of even true fundamental differences in social and economic class (but certainly reinforced by these latter two classifications). I urge all people to harness skills of diplomacy and to develop their abilities to speak in an academic, articulate way. While we never want to stamp out unique regional or social class dialects, these expressions from a group can be used against them, not only from outside threats, but through popular culture and “inside” – such as the mainstream hip-hop/thug vernacular or cliches and maxims maintained and proliferated through country music. In the future perception game, this is the most dangerous area in terms of how historians will represent people in the future.
Lastly, I have noticed that in mainstream pop music, the amount of words in the lyrics has been greatly reduced to just a couple of sentences amidst an EDM (electronic dance music) soundtrack. For many decades, though people are more educated now than they were in the past, the number of words in everyday use has been falling, and as a result, I think articulation resurfaces again in this area. A great threat and a great theme of this time period is the lack of an ability to coherently present one’s case and compete with extremely lengthy legal and contractual verbiage that has maintained its Victorian language but grown in scope like Moore’s Law.
The ideal is to be somewhere between one who survives whichever order is in place but to be on the ethical side of history, even if that means the suffering side. Even if one is killed by the proverbial “bad guys,” historically it seems that within five or ten years, the majority of the society follows the convictions and path of justice of the victims and institutionalizes them into progressive law. There are memorials, holidays, and protections built and celebrated in the names of the good generally, but wicked practices, though ongoing, at the incidental level have quick rise and fall scenarios.