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The Big Question
March 4, 2007 12:00 PM   Subscribe

"We asked 100 writers and thinkers to answer the following question: Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next? The pessimism of their responses is striking: almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many think it will get worse." From Prospect Magazine.
posted by limon (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Up vs down
posted by jouke at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2007


And everyone thought Socrates was going to ruin the youth of the day. *yawn* -- the sky is always falling.
posted by incongruity at 12:14 PM on March 4, 2007


Mark Cousins killed it.
posted by phaedon at 12:27 PM on March 4, 2007


planet earth is a cage with over six billion rats on two legs fouling it and even more rats on the way. the existing modus is not sustainable. quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of rats competing for them, the competition for these resources, particularly water, will become more intense and those rats who do not wish their standard of living to deteriorate to that of an unemployed rag peddler in mumbai will find a nice part of the cage, claim exclusive ownership over its resources and defend them with force. it's a rat, rat, rat, rat world!
posted by bruce at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that the old Left/Right dichotomy has been false for a long time now (assuming it was ever valid), and I really don't see any more valid dichotomies coming along.

Politics is too complex to be dichotomized. For a while I've wanted to see a poll on actual ideological positions taken individually. So that a person could say that they're anti-abortion, but pro-same sex marriage, for gun control, but opposed to welfare, etc. Then we could analyze to see what natural clusters tend to occur. Probably it'd be best to assign a -10 through +10 scale to each position to indicate strength of support or opposition.

But to play the false dichotomy game, I think that in the US anyway we'll see the theocratic vs. secular split flare up to be the primary one. And by "secular" I mean people in favor of a secular government, not necessarially people who are themselves non-religious.
posted by sotonohito at 12:59 PM on March 4, 2007


Stupid questions based on false dichotomies that were never actually valid defined the twentieth century. What's next?
posted by koeselitz at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2007


Two clusters tend to appear -- social and economic -- and they tend to correlate strongly. At times like the present, foreign policy forms a third cluster which correlates less strongly and cross-cuts somewhat.
posted by aaronetc at 1:05 PM on March 4, 2007


Left and Right has defined the 15th-20th centuries.
posted by stbalbach at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2007


i'd call it authoritarian/repressive/monocultural vs. democratic/tolerant/multicultural.
posted by amberglow at 1:27 PM on March 4, 2007


Yeah, sure, and the apocalypse is practically upon us too. All the signs of the Last Days are upon us!
posted by Bovine Love at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2007


Yes, the world is always going to hell in a handbasket.

Oh, wait...
posted by frogan at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2007


I like Pullman's a lot: Philip Pullman, author-
The struggle will continue to be what it has always been: wisdom against stupidity. In the 20th century the odds shortened greatly in favour of stupidity, because stupidity now has the means to destroy human civilisation entirely. We need to remind ourselves more and more often that hope is not a temperament but a virtue, and act hopefully even if we don't feel hopeful.

posted by amberglow at 1:47 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


the sky is always falling

Indeed it is. Civilization isn't a given, doesn't maintain itself, and is always on the brink of descending into barbarism. It's an effort which must be continually renewed in order to exist at all.
posted by treepour at 1:51 PM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


fermionic vs. bosonic
posted by Wolfdog at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2007


My way vs. the highway
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2007


amberglow: good point, and good quote. The ability of stupidity to gain equal footing in the mindshare of the modern human is very dangerous. Just ask the Europeans who fought World War I with Napoleonic tactics and modern technology: a recipe for disaster.

Likewise, the ability of the interwebs and less expensive communication will allow the parasites and morons of the world to vie for peoples' mindshare like never before.

I somehow doubt that the masses will have the ability to filter through the crap, sadly.
posted by tgrundke at 2:35 PM on March 4, 2007


tgrundke Actually, I think we're simply seeing a beginning phase where we have no (or at least limited) immunity. A comparison to the early days of propaganda and advertising could be made. People who have grown up with advertising are less succeptable to it than the first generations experiencing it.

I think (hope) that the same can be said for idiots and political baiting. Give it a few decades and people will develop an ability to filter the crap.
posted by sotonohito at 3:22 PM on March 4, 2007


Wow, I'm glad I'm not any of you people. Try doing this little mind experiment: How happy and hopeful would you be if you never read news reports, watched CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News, or never read any newspapers, newsmagazines, opinion magazines or political or current events blogs? And what if you had no contact with any of that media, what would be different in your life or the life of our world? I'll tell you what would be different: NOTHING. You'd be the same person you are now, only a lot more happy and hopeful. And the world would be not a whit different. We all have fabulous lives in the developed world. Why we all started depressing ourselves by getting involved in opinion politics is beyond me.
posted by Faze at 3:36 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Faze, are you seriously saying people shouldn't try to get informed about the world and the people in it? WTF? In an era of information explosion and increased access???

We should put blinders on?
posted by amberglow at 3:45 PM on March 4, 2007


Your girlfriend vs. me (re: hotness).
posted by papakwanz at 3:47 PM on March 4, 2007


Reasonable vs crazy
posted by adamrice at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2007


We should put blinders on?

I don't think we should go to that extreme, but I do think that the mainstream media tend to focus on the negative, on conflict and that a steady diet of that kind of thing might tend to depress you or give you an unrealistically grim view of the world.

So . . . maybe we shouldn't use blinders, per se. But filtering, and not devoting too much of your headspace to every little spectacle that the news cycle coughs up -- these are healthy responses to information overload.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:09 PM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


We should put blinders on?

Uh, yes? Look at it this way, amberglow, there are millions of novels and movies out there that you've never read or seen. How is your life different for not having read or seen them? What is "the news" but another kind of fiction, narratized out of distant events by artists who call themselves journalists (not that I mean to make the conventional complaints about "opinionated" journalists. I have nothing against journalists.) If anyone's evil, its the the crystal ball people, the unlicensed astrologers, the county fair fortune tellers, the pull it out of their hats prognosticators who compose 99.9 percent of our opinion journalists -- these pissers into the wind who pretend not to know that virtually every prediction ever made by a human being has never come true. That to accurately predict the future is the most unlikely feat ever to be successfully undertaken by anyone. That reality is so utterly randomly determined, so absolutely beyond our intellectual grasp, that the only thing we can accurately predict about the future is this: It will be a big surprise.
Look at your newspapers and opinion blogs, kiddo. Where they are not telling us what happened last night, they are making predictions about the future -- or they are reporting on people making predictions about the future: predicting disaster if we follow this or that policy, or promsing wonders if we elect thisperson or follow this diet, see this movie, or address this foreign policy issue. And, as we all know, all predictions are false.
So, yeah, stop watching the news. Or stop caring about. Look to our own life. Prepare for your own death. No matter who is elected, or what happens to the climate, every man, woman, and child on earth today will be gone in 120 years. Take it easy.
posted by Faze at 4:13 PM on March 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


A lot of the news is about how our government does things, and how they're planning on voting on things, and spending our money-- both locally and nationally. It's our civic duty to know about these things, and to be informed participants in our democracy.

Why are we even literate at all? Why have public education? Seriously.
posted by amberglow at 4:21 PM on March 4, 2007


Look at it this way, amberglow, there are millions of novels and movies out there that you've never read or seen. How is your life different for not having read or seen them?
My life is lessened for not having read the good ones, at least.

Being willfully ignorant is the worst possible answer to the problems facing us today--both macro and micro.
posted by amberglow at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


And putting your money and life and health and education and food safety, etc, into others' hands--and then not even bothering to pay attention to what they do with that responsibility is abhorrent. You might as well be an ignorant, illiterate serf or slave.
posted by amberglow at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2007


Dualism versus Holism.

(Yes. That's a joke.)
posted by jimfl at 4:35 PM on March 4, 2007


Haves and have nots. Every previous measure of human inequality will be surpassed during this century.
posted by gum at 5:29 PM on March 4, 2007


Faze, concern for the future is, my own life. I'm planing on being there for some of it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:32 PM on March 4, 2007


the mainstream media tend to focus on the negative, on conflict and that a steady diet of that kind of thing might tend to depress you or give you an unrealistically grim view of the world.

Ha! You're hearing about a tiny fraction of the grim things going on in the world. Our news generally reports only that which affects our empire, new (U.S. -- via CNN, et al.) or old (BBC). The comfortable new-world life is the illusory one. Enjoy it while you can. Or, you know, chip in.

every man, woman, and child on earth today will be gone in 120 years

Yeah, who cares what they experience in the meantime.
posted by dreamsign at 7:34 PM on March 4, 2007


No matter who is elected, or what happens to the climate, every man, woman, and child on earth today will be gone in 120 years.
Speak for yourself.
posted by Flunkie at 8:12 PM on March 4, 2007


Everything - and I do mean everything - is going to be JUST FINE.

Current trends notwithstanding.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:21 PM on March 4, 2007


So, yeah, stop watching the news.

"hitler, shmitler ... we have our lives to live without worrying about him, no?"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:51 AM on March 5, 2007


So, yeah, stop watching the news.

Faze, if you think the news is bad, wait until you find out what's really going on the world!
posted by limon at 6:17 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Spiderman vs. Bonesaw
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:03 PM on March 5, 2007


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