Monday, May 14, 2012

USA 2012, An Explanation

What can explain this country today?   Issac Newton + Alvin Toffler.

Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock in 1970.  Future Shock is "too much change in too short a time."   It leads to disorientation and dismay.  Remember, that was 1970.  Things were changing--in some ways, we haven't had a more intense period than 1968-1973 since.  But in general, things are changing more and faster--and future shock is a permanent condition, which I experience as moments of anxiety in a vast sea of numbness.  As fast as technological change was in those days, it seems to be much faster now.  And if not a lot faster, social change in a country with roughly twice the population is probably more intense for a lot of people. 

I first encountered Newton as a cartoon figure in a Disneyland episode on space travel.  He intoned the principle used in rocketry: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Put them together, and you've got the USA 2012.   This theory of cultural physics explains the force of reaction by--well, they aren't called reactionaries for nothing.  By the measures of 1970, change is faster, more pervasive and complete, and to this action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  So by the measures of 1970, political and cultural conservatives are more extreme, and religious conservatives are back at least in the 19th century and heading back fast towards, well, Newton. 

So in 2012 we have politicians who are to the right of Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Christian churches without a trace of the 20th century.  But the reaction is not exactly along the timeline--it's towards certainties, which are almost always divorced from complex realities.  Certainties in a time of change.

This doesn't mean that the opposing forces are Progress versus Regression.  Yes, a lot of progress has been lost and the forward momentum in some areas has been slowed, stunted, maybe stopped. But essentially this is a reaction to change--change with no identifiable direction to it, except to threaten the status quo.

Another sense of the status quo is homeostasis, the means by which an organism regulates itself and its environment as far as possible, to stay the same.  A threat to that is a threat to life, at least until the change can be assessed, absorbed, accommodated.  Which takes time.

There isn't enough time in this twitterverse.  Technology is assaulting every aspect of our lives at almost every instant, on the scale of tiny devices and global corporations than can eat us alive in the blink of an eye.  In fact, we have every reason to be afraid.   Not that clinging to dogmas and guns will help.  But it does help to explain things.

Toffler + Newton= USA 2012.          

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