The Kids Are Doin’ Fine, It’s the Adults I’m Worried About
Things are bad and getting worse. We are already beyond the point where we can ever go back to the ‘way it was’. And we saw it all coming.
Formerly frigid tundra are turning into lush fields due to the whipsawing weather shifts. The rivers and the lakes that you’re used to, T-Boz? Unrecognizable to your grandparents. Coastal cities are sinking while the seas are rising. Our dependence on fossil fuels have gone from an interesting talking point to life-and-death
And while governments struggle to figure out how to feed the world without setting it on fire, late stage capitalism finds new horrors to visit upon us.
On the plus side, it seems like Those In Charge are adapting at faster rates than they had before.
In less than a year, Europe went from “well, we can’t respond too strongly to Russia since we need their fuel” to “we’re gonna do it ourselves" And don’t forget that the Scands have been making such aggressive headway into carbon neutrality, that it makes every other nation look like they’re standing still.
But it won’t matter.
Why? Because they are still functioning within an old narrative, one that existed before the internet, one that relied on assumptions and ‘knowing’ something to be true. A narrative that worked on timelines measured in decades and generations and written books and academic gravitas.
Memory clouds how we see the present and listening to the echoes of the past doesn’t help us hear the future.
The old narrative would say, “there was a time when upwardly mobile didn’t also mean privileged”. But the new narrative would say, “the data just doesn’t support that idea.”
Let’s go back to the ‘how to feed the world’ question.
The answer from the old narrative is that it’s an international governance issue, one that straddles issues of trade and political concerns, history and paternalism, etc, etc. And, in the end, food security isn’t nearly as important as politics and trade.
Then, a bit of research shows that food insecurity has been fueling international conflict for the last 2000 years.
So the old narrative is demonstrably foolish. Does that mean governments will suddenly pivot? Will feeding every human become what peacekeeping forces are known for? Unlikely.
But in the new narrative, that research will be whipped out on a smartphone in the midst of government discussions of what to do about food insecurity.
The old narrative said that colleges and universities supported and propagated the best and brightest. The new narrative exposes the inherent monoculture of academia and questions centuries of ‘accepted truths’.
The old narrative says, “Ban those who espouse extremist ideas!”. The new narrative? “That solves nothing so let’s find a better solution.”
Old: “More security in schools!”
New: “That makes things worse!”
The old guard scramble to find a way to let their extinct reality fit the future’s new strange shape by rationalizing the most extreme solutions. They dig through the discarded ideas of the past, ignoring proof that those ideas were skewed propaganda. They go even further, and are surprised that such proof even existed.
And they do this, not out of malice, but ignorance and the need to feel in control of the world.
The old narrative states that technology separates us, but it connects us in ways that we are still learning about. That connection is what causes the polarizations and disagreements and social movements and global zeitgeists. It also causes access to information and knowledge that would beggar the wildest imagination of any librarian of Alexandria.
The old narrative talks about algae blooms as a horrible thing. But the new narrative suggests we might find a use or two.
But, regardless of what the old or new narrative may argue, it is our kindness towards each other which has allowed our silly hairless ape to ascend to the world-breaking species we are today. And it is our kindness that will get us through this.
The kinder we are, the better adapted we are to the future.
And, here’s the twist: it seems like the kids get it. The kids have grown up up in a global world. The old narrative viewed the world as a series of nations or powers or resources. It made them more willing to discuss issues of personal expression, in ways the adults are still having a hard time grasping. After all, the kids didn’t have to worry about being the one weird kid at school when they had thousands of friends online.
The kids also never bought into the illusion that more is better. They grew up watching the quest for more result in a financial crash after financial crash.
And while that was happening, technology sped along at breakneck speeds. They can’t believe that we will never find a neat solution to a horrid problem.
A kinder, less greedy, more optimistic generation is just waiting to take the world stage. I’m not saying those of us who are of a slightly more aged vintage are useless. I am saying that those of us who refuse to toss away the old narratives are going to be in the way of a far better future.