There’s a belief in New Age circles, that people choose their own life circumstances before they are born. Bill Hicks would put it this way, that we choose which ride to go on, on this visit to the theme park of life. From a karmic perspective, it’s about choosing the next life-lesson for your evolving soul. And the Sufis talk about remembering ‘the one thing worth doing’ — remembering your own particular purpose in this life.
Your life circumstances involve your personality, your childhood environment, your economic circumstances, and the nature of the historical era, and the place, in which you are born.
All of us alive today share in common one very important part of our circumstances — we were born in the most interesting of times. I mean this of course in the sense of the Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. The residents of Pompeii, the voyagers on the Titanic, those who witnessed the Fall of Rome, the victims of The Inquisition — all of these folks lived in interesting times. So interesting, that every succeeding generation has been emotionally affected by those episodes.
But all those pale into insignificance, on a global historical scale, compared to what’s happened, and what is yet to happen, in my own lifetime. I’m reminded of the closing scene in Blade Runner, where Roy Batty offers that poetic soliloquy… If only you’d seen what I have seen with these eyes. I’ve seen battle cruisers on fire, off the shoulder of Orion… When I meet up on the other side, with folks from other eras, sitting around the campfire, I can offer such a soliloquy.
I was there for the rise of the first-ever global superpower. Indeed, I was conceived very close to the date of Pearl Harbor, which was the seed event bringing the US officially into World War 2, a war from which America emerged with 40% of the world’s wealth, 40% of the world’s industrial capacity, control of the seven seas, and a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Bruce was Born in the USA; I was in some sense born with the USA (imperial phase), in the same batch of newborns.
And, at the moment, I’m witnessing the fall of that first-ever global superpower, which had a run of only about seven decades, an amazingly short run compared to the precedents of Rome and Britain. The harder they come, the harder they fall, one might say.
That’s the theme of this era, the era of my lifetime: rise and fall, and peak events. A peak event is at the same time the culmination of a rise, and the beginning of a decline. Not only was I there for the rise and fall of the first and only superpower, but also for the peaks of liberal democracy, of the consumer society, of hippy liberation spirit, of capitalism, of the Internet, of the nation state, and of the growth paradigm.
That growth paradigm is a big one. It started 10,000 years ago, and I was there for its peak in 1950’s California. And it didn’t just start declining, it went over a cliff all at once in 2008. Being there for that one, was equivalent to being there when agriculture was invented, each event a bookend for a majorly important episode in the human story.
Climate is a another big one. Most of the time the Earth is in an ice age. About every 100,000 years there is a brief inter-glacial period of about 10,000 years. We emerged from the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. A steady but staggered descent toward the next ice age began about 3,500 years ago, and in 2007 the final rapid descent to the next ice age began (see climate analysis, below).
We can compare the magnitude of our shared peak experiences, by looking at the length in years of the corresponding era:
10,000 years: Current Inter-Glacial Period : 8,000 BC – 2100 AD
10,000 years: Growth Era : 8,000 BC – 2008 AD
601 years: Capitalist Era : 1407-2008
364 years: Nation State Era : 1648-2012
203 years: Era of Liberal Democracy : 1798 – 9/11/2001
140 years: British Imperial Era : 1805-1945
73 years: Soviet Era : 1917-1990
67 years: USA Hegemony : 1945-2012
63 years: Consumer Society : 1945-2008
28 years: Yuppy Era : 1980-2008
16 years: Open Internet : 1994-2010
14 years: Celtic Tiger : 1994-2008
Only the first of these eras was given to us by nature. The rest all have to do with human-generated economics and politics, in the context of a finite planet. And it is pure coincidence, if coincidences exist, that the length of this inter-glacial period is exactly how long it took for us, with our growth-oriented cultures, to exceed the carrying capacity of our planet.
The recent storm of rapid socio-economic declines (nation state, capitalism, liberal democracy, etc.) are all orchestrated events, based on the knowledge that the growth paradigm could no longer be sustained, and that major global dislocations were on the horizon, due to rapid global cooling. A major system transition was unavoidable, so the deciders decided to take control of the transition process. If there’s to be a new world order, they want it to be their new world order.
The deciders seized the helm on 9/11/2001. That was the day the gloves came off, and the rules of engagement were discarded. Standard official policy now includes torture, arbitrary detention, targeted killing of civilians including US citizens, and military destruction of non-compliant nations — all without any kind of accountability or legal process. To anyone in the 1950s two things would be unimaginable: (1) that all this could happen, and (2) that we would accept all this, and that many would actually believe that it is for their own good.
In all of human history there has never been such a Perfect Storm of peaks and declines, such a confluence of historic shifts. Are you here by coincidence? Or, in the parlance of Hitchhiker’s Guide, did you choose to book a lifetime seat at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe? And if by choice, did you come just to watch, or to play an historic role?
This brings us to one final era:
10,000 years: Domesticated Humanity : 8,000 BC – ?
The timeline of humanity extends for more than 100,000 years. For the past 10,000 years, since agriculture, the mainstream thread of humanity has been in a herder-sheep paradigm: a few rule makers, and everyone else rule followers. For at least 100,000 years before that, we made our own rules, and were the masters of our own societies. We succumbed to domestication sometimes by conquest, and sometimes by economic seduction. Once the yoke was attached, it never came off, although ownership of the various herds, and the nature of the rules, would change from time to time.
The defining New Age belief, is the belief that the Age of Aquarius is about to dawn. Along with that we’ve got the Mayan Calendar, where the end of the old age is scheduled for 2012. And then there are all the neo-spiritualists, who say a transformation in human consciousness is going to occur soon. These are all allusions to a possible alternate future, a future other than the one planned by our current herder chiefs.
A New Age is possible, and it can only come about by a shift in the consciousness of humanity — a shift from herd mentality to liberated mentality, from living within the box of rules, to making our own rules. Will such a shift occur? Will humanity escape from the yoke of domestication? That is the question of the age, and of ages past. The deep species yearning for liberation and empowerment, for a return to our true nature, has never died within us. We are Born Free, but the conditioning of domestication starts early and runs deep.
We don’t even remember what empowerment looks like. We confuse prerogatives with power, not realizing that the prerogatives are merely the carrot flip-side of the stick. We confuse choice with freedom, not realizing that the choices on offer are the chains that bind us. Real empowerment is about creating our own space of choices, and defining our own prerogatives, in an ongoing collaborative endeavor with our fellows.
We have been conditioned to identify ourselves with things over which we have no control. We can have no effect on global affairs or on the political process. Our only role there is to identify with a flock, such as progressives, or conservatives, or environmentalists, each flock being herded from above, and balanced against one another by design. The media entrances us into the world of The Spectacle, where we can never be more than spectators, vicariously identifying with this or that character or theme.
The real world is the world around us, the world of our friends and neighbors, the place where we live, that we can see and taste and touch. The place where we can actually speak and be heard by others, where we can actually participate in life. It is in the real world, in our communities, that we can take a stand as a species against the forces of domestication and control. By working in our communities, we can create our own new world order, based on local autonomy, and sustainable regional economics.
Imagine for a moment that everywhere was destroyed by a calamity, except for your own community, which somehow survived with only minor damage. How long would it take you to begin talking to your neighbors, and gathering your friends and family, to figure out how you’re going to survive? Not long I think. When faced with the problem of managing our own local survival, we would quickly put our difference aside and begin working together creatively. That is what empowerment looks like, and it begins with a shift of consciousness, from The Spectacle, to the local. It is about unplugging from The Matrix, and facing the realities of the world of the real.
You may be here by accident, or you may have booked a place to watch the perfect storm. I’m here to witness the liberation of humanity. The fact is that ‘the everywhere’ (the global systems) have been destroyed by a calamity (the engineered financial collapse). We may not realize it yet, but ‘the real world’ (our communities) is where we need to be pursuing our survival.
The herders have corralled us into a corner, where our only remaining path of hope is the path of liberation from the herders. This is your wake up call.
2012: Crossroads for Humanity:
Climate science: observations vs. models