The end of the world: Long, mid and near view
We feel it — don’t you? “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. Everything is changing so fast, so many crises are coming one on top of another, we can sense that the world is again coming to an end, as it did for Yeats and his generation in 1914-1919. Or for the Ancien régime of Louis XIV and company in 1789, or for the Roman senate and populace when the barbarians sacked their city. And many times before and since. In the near, or short-term view, our world looks pretty scary. In the mid-term view, we have the potential to redirect events.
The variety of global capitalism that we have been living in since the Reagan-Thatcher years, called “neoliberalism”, is unsustainable. Both because of the internal economic contradictions signaled by Thomas Piketty, or Paul Mason and many others, and because of the exhaustion of resources and the ruination of the planet by unbridled exploitation for profit. And because it is unsustainable, the furious pronouncements of those trying to sustain it, from Erdogan to Trump to Ping and business moguls, are futile.
Which leaves room for struggle and for hope in the mid-term, say the next four years (length of the US presidential term) or decade. As Mason argues in Postcapitalism, the new postcapitalist society is already being born; I see the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US as part of it, and Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain and a thousand other gestures. And then in the long view, perhaps decades away or perhaps sooner — we cannot really predict, because new things and new techniques are being invented every day — we can aim for a society more in term with our values, the values of liberty, equality, fraternity that revolutionaries have demanded since before Spartakus. You and I may not to see it fully developed, but I’ll be happy to participate in building it.
It — this unequal, inefficient, unsustainable world — should not end with a bang or a whimper, but a shout.
William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
Paul Mason, Postcapitalism