The new majority in the US House of Representatives celebrated the 1st anniversary of “January 6” by holding a series of inconclusive votes for speaker of the house. Only after midnight did they manage to come to a conclusion; a Pyrrhic victory for the far right wing of the party. A victory which will certainly come at a cost to US, and by extension to world, efforts on healing the damage done to the biosphere.
The slightly modified Games of Thrones quote; “They would see this country burn if they could rule the ashes” seems apt for the times.
The opinion pieces tell us the last similar hiccup was in 1923. They muddled through then and we will now. History tells us it will be alright. But will it?
Look back those one hundred years – it’s not that long ago. My mother was 3 years old (She passed away in 2019). A few miles away Adolf Hitler led an attempted coup in Munich. It failed and he went to prison. There he wrote “Mein Kampf” and it, among many other factors, led to World War 2. There is no point by point equivalence between 1923 and today but the echoes of grievance, brutality, nationalism and racism certainly resonate.
Einstein’s famous E=mc2 was already published for 18 years and physicists around the world were trying to realize that limitless energy. Which led to the detonation of the only 2 atomic bombs ever used in warfare and the end of World War 2.
It is very tempting to look back and come to the conclusion that although things were terrible for millions of people we did muddle through and are now in a much better place. We have progressed.
It is even more tempting to conclude that the next hundred years, although they may be terrible for millions of people, will overall be OK. We will progress.
Will we? Really? Many people have predicted the end of history, but maybe this time we do need to think about it. I see 3 things that are likely to make history irrelevant:
- Population – Quadrupled in 100 years (Tripled since I was in primary school)
- Exponential rates of change – Which physically cannot continue within the boundaries of the biosphere
- The very existence of nuclear weapons, and the reliance on fallible humans to prevent their use
The last 100 years were terrible for many. Just as World War 1 was not the war to end all wars, so WW2 has spawned other conflicts. But arguably we live in a “better” world.
If we now look forward another hundred years, within the possible lifespan of my grandchildren, what will we leave them? It really depends on what we do now. Looking back at the post WW2 years I would argue that rather than muddling through we were in fact guided by some well-intentioned, astute, leaders.
Where are these leaders now, when we need them? They are certainly here. We just need to find and elect them. And to elect them we need stories and storytellers to move people in the right direction.
There is much whining, in the US at least, about the skewed power of low population states, the electoral college, a politicized supreme court, out of date constitutional concepts, the power of corporations and corporate media etc. etc.. But all of that is “easily” corrected in a democracy. If instead of the tiny margins between the parties there had been a landslide toward fact, empathy and concern for the future then we could see a clear road ahead.
This is why a I keep harping on Ǝ!Ⓑ and all the stories that flow from that realization. I will try to expand on it in the next few posts.
For now let’s just say we need to do a lot better than January 6 of either 2022 or 2023.