Friday, March 15, 2013

A Vision of the Future

"The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
We stand upon a precipice of unquestionable horrific consequence. We nonchalantly name this precarious moment: “the present.” That vast expanse that we call “the past” unfolds behind and beneath us like an immense nightmarish plain, stretching to infinity. The nexus of possibilities that lay before us, collectively known as “the future” is obscured… clouded by a fog of potentialities… created in part by the amazing events of the near-past.
The first decade of the 21st century has been quite a ride. Consequently, most of our visions of the world in which we live had been greatly influenced… tainted, even… by the events of September 11th, 2001. Seemingly overnight our planet's socio-economic landscape had been re-arranged into a mix of archaic tribalism and multi-nationalism. A “Jihad” or holy war had been declared against capitalism in general and the United State’s neo-empirical expansionism in particular.
For decades leading up to 9/11, a “Crusade” of western interests had descended upon the Islamic world, most notoriously (and militarily) Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Little wonder that there would be a push-back from conservative factions within Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, as well as lawless territories such as Waziristan. The so-called Arab Spring aside, ultra-conservative fundamentalism, from all of the “Desert Religions,” east & west, seem to hold disproportionate sway over the affairs of man.  
Terrorists… Crusaders… Fanatics… Infidels…
Presently, a murky, slightly sinister haze obscures a clear view of our near future, making prediction difficult and more than a little fuzzy. Terrorism and covert operations have replaced diplomacy as a political first option. Even as “terrorist cells” get their footing around the world, traditional global economic mechanisms are breaking apart. We now find ourselves living in a post rule-of-law, spy-vs-spy world.

Preppers vs Hippies

Obviously, there is a myriad of ways in which a conversation about our near-future could proceed. For purposes of forecasting the future, we want to focus on, and contrast two trends emerging in contemporary American culture. One trend is the proliferation of what has been popularly referred to as the “prepper” or survivalist movement. The other trend has been labeled the community resilience movement. These two factions pursue very different agendas, both driven by the same macro-political climate mentioned above.
The survivalist camp has been growing over the decades and includes such factions as the militia movement, wilderness survivalists, proponents of the second amendment and “right to bare arms” …and more recently the doomsday preppers. Extreme right and left wings are represented by the likes of posse comitatus and earth first! It could be argued that the radicalism of the NRA and the libertarianism of the Tea Party can be traced back to the survivalist mentality that was incubating in the 70’s, emerging into public view in the 80’s.
This conservative collective continues to grow in popularity. The recent revival in fringy right-wing conspiracy theories, what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called “Patriot Paranoia” has proliferated since President Barak Obama’s election, and subsequent re-election. The sentiment that is fed by these assorted conspiracy theories is an ever increasing distrust of the American Government. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy… the question is… how much is too much? At what point does mistrust become crazy?
It is reasonable to assume that the survivalist camp is fueled by “fear based” sentimentality. There appears to be an entropic, not enough to go around, survival of the fittest attitude that promotes a defensive posture, including the caching (hoarding) of provisions and weaponry. This mentality operates on the principle of scarcity. Survivalists feel the need to “protect what’s mine.” Again, the question arises… when does a defensive posture turn offensive? At what point do the defenders become predators? 
Coinciding with the popularity of the doomsday preppers, another movement has recently emerged. Responding to similar concerns, the community resilience movement seeks to mitigate a perceived erosion of national infrastructure. If it true that the United States is going to hell in a handbag, the “resiliencers” (we coined this phrase ourselves) seek to fill the void, created by a retreating federal government, with self-sufficiency.  
The community resiliency camp can trace its modern roots back to the 70’s, vis-à-vis the “back to nature” movement. It loosely includes such diverse factions as master & organic gardeners, alternative energy (solar, wind & hydro) or “off the grid” enthusiasts, the environmental movement and even natural childbirth advocates. Both right and left political ideologies are represented. Everyone from open source war strategist and former USAF pilot in special operations, John Robb, to Hippy media entrepreneur and futurist, Stewart Brand.
The resiliency movement is rapidly gaining ground to the point of critical mass within the consciousness of the American public. This localized, yet networked response to diminishing services, crumbling infrastructure and lack of political will to fund such services, also speaks to an increased mistrust of government. More specifically, it speaks to skepticism over the government’s ability to continue to deliver such services. “Resiliencers” operate from an extropic, “we can do anything we set our minds to” mentality. This philosophy also resonates with rural dwellers such as ranching and farming communities.
The resilient community approach is one of optimism and expertise. This mentality operates on the principle of abundance. It is an open, (dare we say) “love based” creative solution to the very serious challenges facing us all. Resiliency is also a “strength based” strategy that instills self-reliance within one’s home and community. Growing food, generating local power and providing local manufacturing all promote economic stability within the home, the neighborhood, the community and the bio-region.

Dreaming the Future

The question becomes… which movement makes more sense as we move into a shared brave-new-future? On the one hand, the survivalists seek to address active security… as in providing paramilitary protection for their community and cached resources/provisions for their loved ones. Additionally, there is a desire to protect constitutional rights… specifically the second amendment right to bear arms and fourth amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures. This position looks to be confrontational… “Keep the hell away from our personal freedoms and our god-given liberties, thank you very much.”
On the other hand, the resiliencers seek to address the passive security (self-reliance) question by building infrastructure, thereby decreasing dependence on the centralized state. They seek to meet their needs locally, not relying on interstate commerce, especially interstate freight delivery via semi-trucks. This speaks to a larger desire to end reliance on big oil… ie: international energy commerce. This position appears to be dismissive… “We no longer need your artificially propped up international capitalism, thank you very much.”
It is our assertion that in the long run, the path to community resiliency is the wiser choice. Active security is important, but at the end of the day… real and sustainable security is created by real and sustainable self-sufficiency. The immediate and essential choice before us is one of vision and intention. Before we can create a better future, we must first dream it… visualize it. This is not so much a question of how do we get there, but one of who do we want to be, both individually and as a community, in getting there? Do we move into the future with compassion and integrity? …or does the end justify the means?
Perhaps each faction has something to learn from their counterpart. Regardless, the future we choose is the future we get. Let’s all get there together, helping one another along the way. Amen.