Lest We Forget…
October 11, 2020
One of my favorite Youtube channels is Whatifalthist. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Youtube lately, as I’m sure a lot of people are, enthralled with the content and appalled by the horrid advertising. The time when professional advertising comes to youtube, if advertising must come, cannot come soon enough for me. But that’s a topic for another day. This article concerns a video from this channel appropriately titled as follows:
Why is the World Crazy Now?
Youtube Channel: Whatifalthist
This caught my eye because, as you know, if you’ve been reading these articles, I like to bundle up technology, economics and history to make the world a better place, or at the very least, these articles more interesting. But 2020 seems to be a cathartic year for humankind and something about all this feels somewhat familiar. It’s hard to explain, but if you take a different point of view from the “normal” perspective and make one simple assumption as follows:
The world has always been crazy, it has just been a matter of degree and awareness.
My field is the media and one of the most obvious drawbacks to today’s media stream is its “nowness”. We in modern societies find ourselves perpetually drawn into the world of right now.
Not just immediate gratification, which is bad enough, but immediate everything! The individual of today, no matter what age, race or gender, can barely grab the next breath before being swallowed up by CNN or Twitter. We feel frustrated and insecure in a world where we should be satisfied and content, but we’re not. We are constantly being bombarded by bad news and fear, boogie men and pandemics. But believe it or not, this is nothing new. This has been the driving force behind civilization since, well, civilization.
Human beings, no matter how intelligent we think we are are emotional beings. Our instincts for fear and self-preservation are as much a part of us as our fingers and toes, but for some reason, for all our vaunted ability to think, we still rely on primal instinct. An instinct, that almost all forms of media can tap into and manipulate, good or bad, right or wrong, true or false. And the most powerful emotions, at least in the short run, are the negative ones.
“Emotionally satisfying that your one enemy, hopefully with a name of only one or two syllables is the one to blame for all the world’s ills….in reality these are all players struggling in a harsh world beyond their control…”
Whenever every field tries to understand the present to predict the future…they always emphasize the importance of their own field.
Technologists tend to trumpet their own favorite technology while forgetting single technologies usually run out of steam after a generation or two. Economists tend to look at economic factors while ignoring they are entirely dependent on the political and social factors around them.
This I know first hand. Historians too have their biases but they also have one big advantage. Historians see the world over a long period of time, seeing what makes the present differ from the past, but also, how it is so much the same. They too will have their biases; they too will see only what they’re looking for, but at least they have the broad canvas of thousands of years to draw their conclusions.
According to Whatifalthist, there are Four Root Causes of what is happening today based on the cycle of history repeating itself. As the saying goes..”Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it”. Remember, these events which we consider today, have all happened somewhere, sometime before in human history. Keep that in mind. Even item 4, which seems specific to the US and this specific time, isn’t. Ask Egypt, Greece, Rome…the Romanovs, the Mongols, Exxon …well you get the idea…
Four Root Causes
- Population Growth
- As population grows, more competition for resources
- Governments inflate currencies causing inflation
- Inflation helps the wealthy and connected/negates wages of working and middle class
- Corruption becomes endemic to protect the privileged
- Politics become more partisan and extreme (generally negative)
- Governments try to get an edge on neighbors/Wars become endemic
- These issues CAN be managed but only after some cataclysmic events
- Decline of traditional religion
- Humans have to believe in something
- Every topic and policy becomes a new front in the culture war
- Politics and social issues take on the guise of religious fanaticism
- There just isn’t much to believe in/Inability to truly understand human nature creates false morality
- Few goals to chase other than money/gratification
- The Information Revolution
- Not unique to our era/Printing press vs Internet
- People in poor areas know how poor they are
- Broken social groups/humans need real human relationships/loneliness and anxiety
- Greater irrationality and desperation
- The decline of Western hegemony
- US Golden Age as an aberration
- Rise of China
- US withdrawing from World policing/painful period of self-examination