We live in the midst of a confusion of change and upheaval in these early years of the 21st century. Well the century is a teenager so that might help explain some of the transitional chaos that we see all around us. Some think that we are in the end times and if they are Evangelicals they seem to believe that the Rapture is coming. But I don’t think we will get off that easy. I do believe that we can make these times even more difficult than they seem to be or we can try to ease the planet into a functioning global unit without necessarily giving up our national identities. But we see social and actual earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, and floods going off like New Year’s Eve fireworks all around us.
Globally we have all of the death, migration, and destruction resulting from a Muslim world that is waking up to a realization that it must beat us or join us. We have coexisted peacefully with Muslim countries for a long time although clashes have always occurred as far back as the days when the Middle East was the Western world’s anvil of religious revelation. We wonder if one religion will have to rule the world or if things will calm down among the newly devout Fundamentalists and we will once again go back to a quieter tolerance of our differences. We wonder what we will do in nations that are at odds with Muslim Fundamentalism (I am opting for linguistic clarity over absolute correctness) if we come face to face with their armies and their anachronistic rules start to be forced upon us. We wonder if the end result will be that the Middle East will reconsider its political and economic structures and share with its people some of the material comforts enjoyed in the rest of the world. We wonder if, as we move away from fossil fuels, these nations that are so dependent on them will find new resources to fuel their economies. Unless we can wrest some of the wealth away from those in the top 1% and make sure that people around the globe have ways to earn a living share of that wealth I’m not sure we will be able to solve the ways that economic differences could continue to produce social chaos.
China has always been a secretive place, but not a very imperialistic place. They already own huge swaths of the globe and until recently that has been enough. But now that China is having its own rather late version of the Industrial Revolution and the Chinese people, who have not always had an abundance of even such essential commodities as food, see their standard of living rising or at least see that there will be opportunities to make their lives more comfortable, China’s leader must keep feeding these appetites or they may have an internal revolution on their hands. Besides they may be starting to think they might enjoy being a world power. How will the rest of the nations that have practiced imperialism and colonialism for centuries convince China to stay away from military strength and land grabbing?
How will we deal with Putin, Syria, Assad, and Iran if they decide to become more and more militant? How will we spread earth’s resources, both natural and those made by man to wipe out poverty? How will we insure that education is available to all people around the globe? We are far, far away from some of these goals. How will we continue to thrive if we have to cut back on the sources of power we now use to make the wheels of industry turn? Can we take global warming and climate change into account even as we try to provide a good life for everyone on our planet? If we wean ourselves away from the fossil fuels we have come to depend on will we find enough resources to still live comfortably on a small planet with more and more people? Will we stay civilized or will we fall into an age of barbarity and struggle to survive? Will we ever be able to work together well enough to create a globe that is functional or will we fail?
I do not see much cooperation as I look around me. I see people pulling mightily to hang on to things we will most likely have to let go of. I see people looking for their main chance as Europe and America seem to be facing more struggles. Changing times do give those who are ruled by ambition and dreams of personal glory chances to shuffle the power seats and declare themselves a, or even the, world leader. Is the power in the world about to shift? How will that disadvantage us here in America? How will it disadvantage you in your corner of the world?
There is a lot going on right now and it is no great wonder that we feel nervous, anxious, or afraid. But we should also feel quite excited to be living in such a pivotal age. Yes we could win all or lose all or end up in some kind of lengthy cultural limbo. But we are smart, we are creative, we are innovative and we all want basically the same things. We want to be sure we can take care of our basic needs and those of our loved ones. We would love some peace and some peace of mind. And we would love to find our way through chaos to a new global economy that sustains us all. We would like to go out into space and find new frontiers to inhabit with our squabbles and our talents, our hatefulness and our beauty. Spreading out won’t solve all mankind’s problems as we will still contain both good and evil within us, but it will be engrossing and it will keep us from feeling that we are coming to the end of something. I think if we all turn our eyes away from recreating what is past and toward designing a future we can all feel good about then we can win another round for man and woman kind. It’s a New Year and hope should always begin a New Year. To us!
By Nancy Brisson