A reader recently noted that our situation seems very similar to the late 1930’s. In that time, the world was torn up with war. For many people, it felt like the true end of the world. It was a battle of good vs. evil, black vs. white. There was nothing to do but fight.
They were largely correct. And, they were wrong. Because once the war was over, time marched on. There have been other wars, other bad guys to vanquish. Some of the ideas that were dominant in that time are still kicking around, gathering followers even though they were discredited 8 decades ago. Accordingly, I want to help you re-frame your every day thinking. If your philosophy of life is based on the fundamental idea that this is a ‘last chance’ then you will not gain traction.
It is not.
Every generation, every single one for roughly 15,000 years now, has bathed itself in the fallacy that it was the last, best hope. That it was the only people with special knowledge; and so that whatever choices they made therefore MUST be correct and therefore MUST be enacted.
We are no different. It was a fallacy when begun, it is a fallacy now. We A} simply do not know enough to have any real assurance that we are correct; and B} have blinded ourselves with arrogance over and over again that we DID in fact know… and… were proven wrong over time.
Nothing ever ends. Every generation of our present civilization only grudgingly gives up the reins to the next one, because it is so certain that it is ‘Right’. That’s a pity, because none of this particular struggle is necessary.
You, and many others who are concerned about the present situation, are quite right to be concerned. But coming at the problem from a point of view that “Doom is just around the corner”, and that “drastic actions must occur NOW or else”; that is not a successful strategy. It didn’t work in Europe in the early 1930’s**, for example. It didn’t work in Prague in 1968. It didn’t work in the US in the late 60’s / early 70’s. I would even argue that such a philosophy actually made the problem worse here in the USA because all those hippies “dropped out” and stopped even trying. Then, in the 80’s they “sold out” and became selfish Yuppies. So take a lesson from that – preaching Doom is far more likely, FAR more likely, to result in a backlash against your stated goals, than not.
This moment in history is not our last chance, not by a long shot. We are at best in the middle of history, and as such should act accordingly. One can make a fair argument that the next century will be a painful one, no argument from me about that. But the planet is billions of years old. Humans have had communities for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s only yesterday, historically speaking, that we changed course and have run ourselves into a ditch. (When I say “yesterday”, I mean 15,000 years ago when we began to lock up food and deny it to other people. What most people learn in school as “the invention of agriculture”. It was no such thing, and that lie alone is responsible for much suffering today).
If you want to succeed, and I truly think that you do, you need to change your perspective. You need to see this problem from both the lens of ‘Right Now’, and from the lens of History. Most folks feel compelled to do a huge amount of work on the ‘Right Now’ side. It is a very understandable motivation since many problems have festered for far too long. But doing so leaves ones argument open to attack on the ‘Bigger Picture’ front. In other words, most of us are too close to the problem to see it for what it truly is. I take no pleasure in saying that. But I too have been in that position, and my actions were likewise not successful. Take a step back, and come at it again.
WE, us who know that solutions exist, we have to do better. And so we need better strategies than the ones they used. I hope that this note is received in the spirit in which I write it: with the deepest desire for a better and more fair society in every corner of the planet. All, within my lifetime. We certainly agree that the present situation is far from that. Do your work – teach other folks, build and implement new systems, what have you. But do not fall prey to feeling like your efforts are too small, or too late. Ever.
Just do the work.
In the fullness of time, it will pay off handsomely.
**I talked about WWII above. Need to make a big distinction: If we’re talking about the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, well, in many ways it really was the end of the world. My point is that our moment (at time of this writing) is far closer in parallels to the early 1930’s. The time before the war broke out in earnest. The folks who warned of coming danger were ignored. It would have all been so much better if their warnings were heeded. They meant well, I presume that they also did their very best to tell the world not to go to war…. but they failed utterly.
We are the folks doing the warning in this present era. So we owe it to ourselves to do a better job than the people in early 1930’s Europe did.