Future Shock Came of Age in 2020

The Caress of Time

Some things we just can’t get more of. Time is one of them. As a pithy (and illustrative) quatrain in the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam illustrates better than I can:

“The Bird of Time has but a little way 

To fly—and Lo! The Bird is on the Wing.”

So on that hopeful note, why would you invest even the few minutes of your time it takes to read this?

Used with permission-Thomas Bormans &Unsplash

It’s a fair question. After all, you could be watching entertaining cat videos on TikTok, right? Seriously. Why should you read Dirk’s Tribe?

A fresh perspective, perhaps? Even a measure of peace in exceedingly turbulent times? A ray of optimism? All the above. If you’re of the belief our times are painfully chaotic, you’re not alone and it’s not your imagination. That said, we’re up to the task. It’s all about perspective and (maybe) a sense of proportion, of balance. Work with me, here.

Future Shock Came of Age in 2020

Future Shock the Book

For many, I suspect the foregoing strikes them as a blinding flash of the obvious. Quite apart from the pandemic and the attendant economic upheaval, it’s hard to miss the profound dysfunction of our current  political/social/spiritual reality. Or to long for better.

 

People familiar with my writing know that change and its affects on the protagonists in all my stories is the underpinning theme uniting virtually everything I write. So most of my readers won’t be surprised to learn I tend to see paradigm shifts in most of the changes defying simple explanations. As the old wheeze goes: “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Noted, acknowledged and I’m (probably) guilty. That said, you don’t have to be fascinated by or hypersensitive to change to be aware it’s happening or to note that (these days) it borders on overwhelm. It’s not your imagination and there a reason for that. Or more accurately, multiple reasons that make perfect sense in context.

"The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind..."

Nobody asked me, but it’s actually been going on while a lot of us slept. If, like me, you read Toffler’s Future Shock and Brzezinski’s Between Two Ages and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb when they came out, you saw this coming. What was missing in all of them, however, is the unifying, contextual truth about humans as a species, both individually and collectively.

In future editions, I’ll go into all of it in detail, including of the origins of the changes we’re seeing, as we stumble into the second decade of the 21st Century. But for now, I’d like to offer a warning and a ray of hope.

The warning, first. This has been coming since the mid part of the last century, and it’s only just begun. If you’re experiencing a measure of disorientation now, take a deep breath. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re in the midst of multiple, overlapping paradigm shifts that will alter our reality for all time…assuming we survive it. (That’s not a foregone conclusion, btw). It very much depends on multiple factors, only a few of which have already occurred to some of us. My guess is, there are others of which we’re not even aware. The “unknown unknowns,” as a thankfully now-gone public figure who coined the phrase once said.

Good News, Bad News

If you recall your history from the Industrial Revolution, you will also recall how dramatically that period altered our lives. The changes sweeping through our culture today will dwarf the changes brought on by that period, socially, economically, technologically, politically & spiritually.

For the adaptable, challenge and opportunity come hand in hand. The future will belong to you as it once did for the industrialists who saw the future with imperfect but hopeful clarity.

For the resistant, dig in all you want, but there’s no holding any of this back. We can shape, adapt to it and even harness it in some cases, but the only way out is through. The dug-in resistant and backward looking are in for a very bumpy and painful ride.

Now for the ray of hope. As people who know me well also know, I’m a hopeless optimist who hiding behind a cynical front. The truth is, while humans often behave foolishly, especially when we’re ill-informed, we’re also almost infinitely adaptable. Folly and foresight often coexist side by side. Sometimes even in the same human.

But anyone who bets against species Homo Sapiens hasn’t been paying attention. Often we succeed inspite of ourselves There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which deep down, we’re social creatures, capable of cooperation and the very best of kindness. And this never more true than when we have most to fear. It’s only when we allow ourselves to be misled by liars, cheats and value-stealers that we fall short of our own ideals. As Winston Churchill is once said to have observed about America,

“The Americans will always do the right thing…after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

Whether Churchill actually said that is open to debate. But buried in this quote, whoever said is a more broadly applicable truth about humans writ large. We tend to learn by trial and error. This is feature, not a bug. We are at our best when we fear less and try more.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer and manager & the author of West of Tomorrow, Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey and Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle, among others. The sequels to the above, The Year of Maybes, Act II of Nyra’s Journey and Eryinath-5, Vol II of the Knolan Cycle are due out for publication in 2021.

Who are we, anyway?

Are we what matters most to us?

A while ago, I had a conversation with someone I would describe as an acquaintance. He’s actually a little more than an acquaintance, but doesn’t quite qualify as a friend. My acquaintance-almost-friend is an entrepreneur, fellow author and a man of undeniable intelligence. I value his opinions because they’re generally thoughtfully supported by facts and reason, even when don’t agree with the inferences he reaches.

We tend to avoid politics as a result, out of mutual respect, despite agreeing that our society writ large is in need of overhaul. We’re even inclined to agree (more often than I would expect) on which segments are most in need of overhaul. But as always, the devil is in the details. The following observation my acquaintance made illustrates.

“Government regulation of lending and financial services is out of control,” he opined one evening as we waited for a literary reading to begin. “There is so much regulation that I can hardly turn a profit.”

He went on to detail how laborious processing even a small, short-term loan was. The excessive disclosures and reporting requirements mandated by the government. To be fair, it’s not his imagination. His franchise (and others like it) are over-burdened by regulations, some of which make little sense and do in fact limit his profits. Not to mention complicating even routine transactions in his financial services business.

But an inconvenient truth underpins many over-regulated businesses today. Like it or not, a lot of such businesses are “over-regulated” for a reason. Are there exceptions to this? I’m sure there are. But in most cases, over-regulation is government’s response to business practices that are inherently exploitive, if not downright predatory. Somewhere along the way, those businesses went beyond “profit planning” to profit optimization.

And while my friend would deny (truthfully, I would be willing to bet) that he did not himself engage in the financial services abuses that led to the over-regulation, he is nevertheless heir to them. Accordingly, he feels he is being unfairly treated by a government. I get it. But later, as I was driving home, I was reminded me of something Anais Nin once wrote:

“We do not see things the way they are, we see them as we are.”

I suspect those protected by that over-regulation might disagree with him. And I’m one of them. Now, if you’re bracing for an anti-capitalistic rant, relax. Not that I don’t see problems with capitalism—or with socialism, it’s most popular alternative. But all the arguments both for an against all the “isms” out there often leave me wondering if we aren’t, chasing butterflies while letting all the elephants get away. Work with me, here.

The Insidious Effects of Tribal Wisdom

In my opinion, to see the larger picture, it may prove helpful to exhume and examine a few assumptions we’re inclined to take for granted.

Growth is good. Hardly an election cycle goes by in which the economy under the adminstration of (you fill in the blank) politician comes under scrutiny, often measured by GNP, GDP, unemployment numbers and annual growth rate. The underpinning assumption, of course, is that more is better, because (theoretically) all can share in that growth. The problem with this notion as a guiding principle of action is that unlimited, unregulated growth is not sustainable long-term.

“Greed is good,”  opined Gordon Gekko is in the 1987 film Wall Street. It’s a notion shared by many tacitly, if not explicitly. The ultimate motivator, we’re assured by it’s proponents. But what is greed? As defined by Merriam-Webster, greed is:

“a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed.”

And because the results of greed are tangible, greed it has become an informal, tribal litmus test of worth. The problem, of course, is because the results are tangible, so are the results. It makes a virtue of vice, advantaging for the most part, the wealthy/prominent few at the expense of the many.

“That government is best that governs least.” Often attributed to Jefferson, this aphorism actually comes from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. It’s a seductive notion, for anyone who’s ever found his/her freedom of action limited by social proscription in any form. But the underpinning assumption Thoreau makes is that all individuals are fundamentally capable of ethical self-regulation. Anyone who’s ever been assaulted bullied or ripped off knows that’s demonstrably false. Governance, then becomes (at best) an imperfect balancing act.

 

Nobody asked me, but...

I believe we’re in a maelstrom of change sweeping away most of the reliable signposts by which we’re accustomed to ordering our lives,  both individually and collectively. The reward systems and the philosophical underpinnings that have served as organizing principles  since (at least) the Industrial Revolution are increasingly less relevant to our current reality. 

And the answer does not lie with any “ism” with which we’re familiar. Capitalism,  socialism and American “exceptionalism” (to name just a few) are increasingly less useful in crafting our future because all of them are rooted in a reality that is dying. 

What is needed now is a wholistic look at our values and the reward systems that we have taken as intuitively obvious for too long. They aren’t anymore. Greed, profit optimization, and the ununbridled pursuit of wealth cannot provide a path to a sustainable society because the vision of unlimited, unregulated growth in a closed system is a self-destructive mirage. We are witnessing that truth driven home in the climate change some still seek to ignore.

A clear-eyed look at our today and tomorrow may lead to the possibility of the need an entirely new paradigm. Is it possible that we need a paradigm that asks, not by “how can profit from a given situation, but “how we can craft a future together that rewards initiative while also safeguarding our collective future?

A future of all those living and yet unborn, irrespective of ethnicity or species. We must become the collective stewards of now and the guardians of our children’s’ future. As the old Native American aphorism says,

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

D.B. Sayers is decorated Marine officer, former corporate trainer and manager turned full-time author. His works include: West of Tomorrow, Best-Case Scenario, Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives and Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle. Eryinath-5 the sequel to Tier Zero is due out in 2021, along with The Year of Maybe, sequel to Best-Case Scenario.