Friday, January 29, 2016

To Where Does the Long Arc of History Bend

Accepting change is hard.  And so much of our world is in a state of flux right now.  Change is rampant and not always for the better, but often.  Things we never imagined seeing in our lifetime —both good and bad—happen now practically every day.  The fall of the Berlin Wall, microwave ovens, landing on the moon, the Internet, smartphones, YouTube, marriage equality. Trump leading in the polls. (Definitely never imagined that one.)  And while not all of our surprises are good ones, the ones that are good are great.  When I think of the progress in my lifetime alone!  We have become accustomed to the speed of change even as we resist it.  Only a few decades ago things were vastly different.  Imagine a farmer in 1970 having to upgrade his tractor as often as we upgrade our iPhones?  

Progress on Earth is snowballing.  One has only to look at a longer timeline of humanity to see that the rate of change has increased exponentially.  In earlier cultures, significant social or cultural changes occurred at a snail’s pace over hundreds, even thousands of years.  But if you fast forward a few hundred years at a time and take a look, along the centuries you can start to see humanity evolving at faster and faster intervals.  

An upshift in the intensification of human social development can be seen to have originated around two thousand years ago during the time of the prophets (Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all).  As the teachings of these and other enlightened persons began to spread, the development of peace as a cultural objective began its incremental move to the forefront of our societies.  Not all of them have developed at the same rate of course.  Some cultures adapt quicker than others.  Some have large factions of people terrified about the state of the world today and in their fear they commit horrible actions, atrocities, genocides.  

Terrorism, in my view, is not a symptom of a planet in a downward spiral.  I believe (in my optimism) it is actually a sign that LIGHT now holds more sway in our world than it once did. Not less.  Because remember, it is cornered dogs which bark the loudest and attack the most viciously.  Terrorism, radicalism, even obstructive politics are all ‘hail mary’ passes on the political stages of the world made by those who are losing their grip on a form of wealth and power that only a short time ago was easy to accumulate in secret.  But secrets are much harder to keep in the Information Age.  It used to be that conspiracies could be maintained among large numbers of people.  Whole companies or governmental departments could be counted upon for their collective silence when things weren’t always handled ethically.  Whistleblowers were fewer, had less evidence and less support from their colleagues when it was time to speak out.  

But today with technology this is entirely different.  Whole revolutions against old world orders are now being launched on cell phones and tablets over secret documents leaked to the entire world over the Internet.  The dictators of today cannot hide, divide, and conqueror like they could in the old days.  They can’t keep their citizens from talking to one another anymore.  Even “impenetrable” firewalls and other forms of government control over the Internet that exist in countries like China and North Korea can be outwitted by a teenager sitting at a personal computer in his bedroom.  

What becomes of a world when Big Brother isn’t the only one who is doing the watching?  Dystopian futurists like George Orwell never imagined that the view would be two-way. We are watched, but we are also the watchers. That never occurred to us in our contemplations about the future. No wonder we were worried.  And no wonder “Big Brother” is feeling a little cornered.

So we are now like passengers standing in the aisle of a moving train.  It’s traveling like the wind, but we can’t feel it much.  Sure, we get jostled around a bit.  Perhaps a bit of motion sickness and travel delays.   But as a whole, humanity is learning more and more how to collaborate with one another.  We invent ways of reaching out to larger and larger numbers of people and build connections constantly.  

Now imagine the future with these thoughts in mind.  To where does the long arc of history bend when all we seem to want to do is get to know one another?