For purposes of this blog, history really begins at the point where we go from being an agricultural economy/culture to….whatever comes next, usually industrialization. And when we go from that second phase of economy to what we are now….that change happens faster and harder than the first. And what we’re going through now? I see the flames coming outta the engine of the Batmobile my friends! This set of cycles, these ‘interlocking rings’ of tech, economy and culture are going on everywhere not just the US or Europe. To be sure, how other places do this doesn’t have to replicate our experience, but may be informed by it. Iceland went from an almost Medieval culture at the start of the 20th century to building modern cities, poof, from whole cloth thanks to the economic miracle known as the codfish! (See, Cod by Mark Kurlansky, one of my favorite books of the last few years!)
But it is quite sobering how much evil and suffering have occurred throughout the world in the same relatively short time. When I read accounts of the First Battle of the Marne in WWI, I wind up feeling like we just handed monkeys machine guns and artillery and let them kill 100,000 people and wound another 400,000….in a week. Even more sobering….that’s merely the tip of the iceberg of horrors in the last 150 years. You know the names of the more famous horrors; do I have to spell them out?
Plus, there’s nothing to say that things won’t even get worse. That’s the danger in times like this; the ‘solutions’ we think make sense may indeed damage things, well, I won’t say ‘beyond repair’, but such that fixing them will be exceptionally difficult. Once we get behind bad ideas they entrench just as deeply as good ones.
But if there’s one thing I have confidence in, especially in America, is that we will work out things and the flaws of the old regime will be things we make fun of in the future. I think it’s because we really don’t value the past all that much. I know a lot of people that view this as a flaw, but I generally don’t! There comes a point when we’ve peaked out with the old ways even though it’s hard to see. I’ve long believed that everything becomes its own parody.
And, sort of amazingly, even older things get better than they were. We’re far better at growing food than we were 150 years ago, and we’re better, more effective manufacturers than we were 70 years ago. So, while we ride the wave of change, remember that we will find a way to build on what we’ve done. The “information economy” we’ve been building for the last 30-40 years I view as kind of developing a ‘central nervous system’ for us as a culture. But what brain will form from this?