25 April 2018

The look of the future

The election of Trump was, deep down, a last-ditch effort to prevent the future, motivated by a deep resistance to change and difference.  Trumpanzees are full of anxiety about the growing acceptance and visibility of gays, about the declining dominance of Christianity, about the millions who find that marriage and reproduction do not suit them, about the growing numbers and confidence of non-white and racially-mixed people, about technology that makes information and communication too hard to control, about the prospect of socialist (I use the honest word) reforms that will liberate the poor from the raw struggle for survival and ultimately undermine the dominance of wealth. To people who recoil from pluralism, people who want everything to be the same as themselves and the same as it always was, the future just viscerally looks wrong -- and must be stopped.

It's not always explicitly fear of the different, it's more often an endless stream of half-stated objections and pearl-clutching disapproval, and it isn't the wave of the future. Race-consciousness, religious fanaticism, befuddled anxiety about gay marriage, and suspicious hostility to science and expertise just don't go with the world of the internet and nanotechnology and stem cells.  They belong to two different universes, two mutually-exclusive realities.  There are reasons why the great technological innovations that drive national power and wealth happen in New York and Massachusetts and California rather than in states that keep trying to put creationism in the schools; on a broader scale, there are reasons why they happen in the US and Europe and Japan rather than in Pakistan or North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Airplanes are hijacked by those who fear pluralism, but designed and manufactured by those who embrace it.

Take the most insular and conservative major culture in the world today -- Islam. Wherever hard-line Islam has triumphed, it has driven away (or scared into silence) non-Muslim minorities, struggled against non-Muslim influences from the outside or from the past, and enforced conformity of behavior and expression.  Where Islam has taken root in new soil, as in Europe, it seeks to isolate its carriers from the ideas and ways of the secular pluralistic civilization around it, for those ideas and ways will seduce them away from it. And Islam will clearly have no role in shaping the future, unless it turns out that there is no real future and the world sinks back into the Dark Ages. Even in the lands where it first seized dominion, millions are abandoning it as new and liberating ideas spread via the internet.  Islam can only "stand athwart history, yelling Stop" -- in vain -- as more and more of the millions in whose brains it is rooted cast it off.

This, too, is why I can't see China dominating the future, not unless it gets rid of both its current form of government and its current attitude toward the outside world. A regime obsessed with controlling flows of information, and a "redneck" (in American terms) prickliness toward foreign influences, are crippling handicaps in today's world. There are good reasons why Japan, with its long history of receptivity to outside ideas, was the first non-Western country to modernize and remains the most advanced. The insularity of the samurai era was the exception that proves the rule -- if Japan had stayed like that, rejecting the Meiji transformation, it would be a Third World country today.

The future won't be a retreat into the small and slow and traditional. It won't be about limits and lowered expectations. It will be bigger and faster and smarter, and more and more and more.

The future does not belong to people who feel viscerally uncomfortable when they see a different skin color or a sign in an unfamiliar alphabet or two men holding hands or a radical new breakthrough in artificial intelligence. I'm sorry, it just doesn't. If we want the United States to remain a world leader, we need to make sure that those people aren't the ones setting the pace.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent! Thank you.

26 April, 2018 04:58  
Blogger Adam said...

Ironically in the dark ages, the middle east was doing science more than they cared about religion. The fall of the Ottomans and European conquests lit the fuse on the radical behaviors we see today. Now they went full retard.

27 April, 2018 04:45  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

Change is the only constant in life. Applying this concept to mankind's trajectory through the millennium change clearly has bent towards progress and greater enlightenment.

The ever present forces resisting change are working across the globe (always have) and in all cultures. Thus the setbacks and slow march of progress. I suspect the trajectory will continue, perhaps even at an accelerated pace. But will we ever "arrive"? I wonder.

A friend used to say, 'if you're still thinking and doing like you were 30 years ago it's probably wrong'. He understood.

27 April, 2018 05:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Thanks!

Adam: Very true (Middle Eastern history was my area of specialization in academia), though I would argue that the great early "Islamic" civilization was really more of a Hellenistic revival under Islamic rule. Certainly its decline was due to concerted attacks by religious hard-liners -- a warning for us as well.

Rational: I don't think we will ever "arrive" because no matter how advanced we get, further progress will always be possible -- thank goodness.

27 April, 2018 05:48  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...


27 April, 2018 05:52  
Blogger Jason said...

I like the take off this post. I disagree somewhat with the idea that Trump's win was an attempt to prevent the future. On the surface I think that's true. Consciously, the backwards ass numbnuts of this country voted for Trump to prevent change possibly but I think the result is to actually accelerate the changes in this country. If Clinton had won, she would be a stable leader maintaining a neoliberal agenda a.k.a modified Reagan politics. Trump is doing away with Reagan's legacy and upending the political norms of the last 38 years. Trump is tearing it all apart which is going to force a fresh perspective to take over. The extreme polarization will have to give somehow but without the use of logic and rational discussion I don't know how the resolution will come about. It feels like a cold civil war right now but it wouldn't surprise me if it turns into taking up arms against ourselves.

27 April, 2018 06:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jason: Oh, the Trumpanzees wanted change all right -- and it was still all about preventing the future. They wanted to go backwards. And as the examples I used in the post illustrate, I'm talking mostly about social change here. The "change" they wanted was to reverse the decline of religion and the gains of gays, ethnic minorities, women's self-determination, and on and on. Trump is "tearing it all apart" in the sense of staffing the government with crooks and incompetents, but that's hardly "a fresh perspective" or an opening for one.

27 April, 2018 06:44  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Things change, it's a fact of life and those who do not change with the times are going to be left in the past.

27 April, 2018 10:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RN: :-)

Mary: Actually they can stay in the past for all I care -- I just6 don't want them to drag the rest of us back also.

27 April, 2018 17:50  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

There is a guy in my neighbourhood, that I can tell is a "Trumpanzee" ... we have talked some, he keeps up with all news, etc. He told me the other day, how these late evening talk shows (like Kimmel, etc) are alwayz hammering Trump ... but I told the guy that Trump brings that on himself actaully, but what he sayz and does ... and ALL presidents get late show criticism actually. He couldnt see why I would support Sanders a couple years ago, I told him I voted for him when the 2016 primaries were in swing ... he thought that I was a conservative ... and he is REALLY opposed to gay anything, even marriage ... I told him my wife and I supported it for years ... yet he couldnt understand why I go to target shooting, pro- gun or whatever ... telling me, I should be against that, etc, if I'm liberal ... I told him, that I always looked at defense as being liberal. Too long story, but I dont even try to talk to him anymore, he is on a one way street, and just likes to talk to me ... question, question, question, to have political debates or whatever. He asked me what I thought about Stormy Daniels and Trump in the news ... I just told the dude ... I dont give a shit if he's in bed with Stormy or Paul Ryan ... I want to focus on American issues.

I have no problem with fundamoralists, and am NOT out to attack them, as some may think ... my issue is ... how they are out (as historically they are known for) trying to force their shit down everyone elses throat ... the liberals dont try to force them and deprive them of their liberties ... it's fundi's that force their shit on everyone else. Adam on the top, made a good point too. Nice vid of music at bottom ... I'm outta here.

28 April, 2018 09:49  
Blogger Kay said...

I know what you say about the isolationist period in Japan is true. It would have stunted them if it was not compelled (forced) to change.

And here we are now in America having people believing that science is false facts, that the media is false facts, that the intelligence community is having a witch hunt, that it's OK to be racist and to shut out everybody who doesn't look like they're from Norway. Sigh... when will it end so we can move forward?

07 May, 2018 22:46  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I see Trumpism as the last gasp of the ignorant and isolationist element. In every country there are people who are baffled and frightened by the outside world and by cultural change, because they're different from what's familiar. The question is whether they get to drag the rest of the society down with them.

08 May, 2018 08:12  

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