26 November 2018

Stephan Schwartz, Four Mega-trends

Stephan Schwartz is a neuroscientist, popular science and science fiction writer, and "trendspotter". Excellent interview with him on Thanksgiving's Ian Masters program [ https://www.backgroundbriefing.org/ ]. He identifies four major trends predominant in today's America and the World:

1. Being born white no longer confers economic and social privilege and power;
2. Being born male no longer confers dominance (for the first time in about 5000 years);
3. Western cultural and political values are no longer determinative in the World;
4. The rise of a sort of neofeudal aristocracy of wealth and technology, that is separating the world's population into a miniscule elite of corporate quasi-state owners and a small managerial elite, on the one hand, and a serfdom of workers and underclass on the other.

Me editorializing: The first three can be positives, long term, but the fourth, coupled with the literal existential challenge we face with the Climate Catastrophe, will be the test of whether human civilization can endure, or NOT.


He makes the case, incidentally, that the rise of Trump and Trumpism, which is a symptom, not a thing in itself, can be mostly attributed to FEAR, and that primarily derived from trends 1 and 2, and to some extent the other two as well. White males, in particular, fear the loss of their perceived status and power in the context of these large scale trends.

He also makes a convincing case that one of the causes of the pervasive fear that is fueling right wing populism worldwide is an inchoate, even unconscious sense of dread arising from the threat of the Climate Catastrophe. People know, on some level, that we are in for a rough time over the next however many decades; that it's real, and that there's no escape from some really serious consequences. Yet rather than reacting rationally, and demanding mitigation and remediation, which is what a rational actor would do, many people react out of fear and even panic, and lash out with hatred, vilification of the other, and all the usual nationalist and fascist trends, not because they make any sense, but just because people are scared shitless, whether consciously or not, and have no idea what to do.

This is a huge challenge, but also an opportunity, for progressive leadership.

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