So, the world will come to an end on the 21st December. Again. Disciples and believers will ascend to some mountain top in France and watch as the world proceeds to come to an end in other ways entirely.
The internet is a wonderful thing. It empowers us writers and we can self-publish, self-market, self-sell and become rich and famous. It has empowered the oppressed masses in the Middle East who can at last embrace democracy. Or can they? Do you ever get the feeling that we are being released from a prison to find ourselves in a larger one? Successful self-publication is theoretically possible, as is democracy, brought about by the internet and the power of the people. But, where does that leave us? In a world that is still controlled by the same people that controlled things before? Agents, publishers and autocratic governments? Is this all self-delusion? Self-publication can be seen as a metaphor for the frustration of the oppressed that yearn for democracy yet, when the people get it, they find that it’s just hard work and no better than the world that preceded it. Then they find terrorists lurking in their number. And what is democracy? Chaos. The chaos of capitalism.
We all need capitalism because our jobs, lives and pensions depend on it. We need to be assured assured that money put into a pot will grow without us doing anything except wait for the cheque. But, money only grows because it is invested in people who turn raw material into valuable things and selling them, making a profit for themselves, employment for the masses and money for us for doing nothing except providing the money in the first place. And growth will continue forever, won’t it? Look again. Each western country reels from the catastrophe created by our banks, acting in our interests, because growth is not positive. Alarm, panic. Recession. Unemployment. Starvation. Look at the Great Depression and you will see what I mean. See what it led to; the rise of fascism. The rest, you know.
In the past, the investment was in our own industries but now the centre of gravity has irrevocably shifted to the emerging economies. Who says that continuous growth is a given? On reflection, it is an unsustainable madness that is at the very core of capitalism. How can we continue to grow and grow? Where can that end? A depleted earth, dry and over-populated? Every mountain has a summit and I submit that we have probably reached ours in the west. Growth will happen in China, Brazil and India. We will watch and wonder why it’s not happening to us and slowly, we will decline. Can we contemplate a future with no economic growth? It’s never happened before but capitalism as we know it is relatively new and the first to get to the top of the mountain are the first to fall off it.
I further submit that the present world of belt-tightening is something that we should get used to. The internet should allow us to live with less. Why have a car when you can order one when it is needed and have it delivered to your door? Why own a house when it is more flexible to rent one and move on when it is necessary to find work? The global village allows that freedom and, furthermore, needs it. If we live with less we will buy less. Think recession again. Think of a house as a place to live rather than as an investment. Think flexible working. Think living with the minimum to ensure health, happiness and security. Think of a world beyond the peak of capitalism where growth is not a given. Think of a world where our lives are not dictated by bankers.
That brings me back to the internet and people empowerment. There has always been a divide between the ruled and the rulers. The idea that social media has blurred that line is an illusion. It simply makes the powerful retreat into the world of sound bites and New Speak. Of course, we don’t believe everything we’re told because we’re informed and are not stupid. But, as we, the people, become more empowered, the powerful might need to empower themselves in other ways and as more and more information becomes public property, the greatest prize must be concealment, and this is a wall that governments can build around themselves to fend off the advance of the proletariat. More prisons within prisons.
So, I submit that the internet is a two-edged sword. I suggest that the world we see now is one we should get used to. We have to live with less. The prophecy that the world will end on the 21st is therefore probably correct, although, I suspect that naming the day is a trifle dramatic because it has already started and the process will take years before we realize it has happened.
And what of writing? Always worth doing. Actually, I plan to use the above hypothesis in a set of short stories that are intended to be parables for the 21st Century. I’ll post the prologue soon. Watch this space.