America

This New Year, let’s resolve to face the future with care, not fear

Summary: Sometime during the past few generations we lost our traditional confidence in ourselves. Fear replaced it. It makes us weak and easy to manipulate. Fortunately our fears are exaggerated, and our history gives us reason for confidence. Let’s shed our fears to make a great 2017!

 

Doomster

Climate change, peak oil, 4GW, social decay, ecological collapse, economic collapse, pandemics of new and old diseases — the list rolls on. It’s the Crisis Crisis, with the doomsters dominating our news. Every day they make readers ask “How can civilization survive until next week?” But for thousands of generations humanity has confronted such serious problems as we climbed from scavengers to become the dominant species on this planet. It’s been a long climb.

Early Victorian London was one of the world’s greatest cities, one of the first modern cities. Its people lived closer to nature than those of today’s London. Their food was “organic”, since the agrichemicals industry — with its artificial preservatives, colorings, and other adulterants — had not been invented.

“The groaning tables on Victorian Christmas cards groaned beneath platters of food that would be condemned as unfit by modern health officials. …In 1842 a royal commission found that the average professional man lived thirty years; the average laborer, seventeen.”

— From William Manchester’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory.

Fantastic progress in technology changed people’s lives to health, affluence, and security most of us in the West enjoy today. It has spread. In Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel Moonraker, MI6’s secret agent 0011 vanished into the “Dirty half-mile” of Singapore; today Singapore citizens consider US cities to be as crime-ridden holes compared to their well-run city-state.

Alone In Fear

Alone In Fear. By fre-lanz on DeviantArt.

So why so much fear about the future?

Refuting the many doomster nightmares is like plugging holes in a cracking dam. These stories multiply, driven by our fears about the future of our rapidly changing world. Our past successes provide Americans with little confidence about the future. What will happen during the next fifty years, by 2067? Here are my guesses.

  1. Peak oil will have come and gone. Today’s progress in building new energy sources will continue. By 2067 we have adapted to a post-oil world.
  2. The age wave will have past over us. The developed world will have seen the elderly become its largest age group –placing severe stress on their economies — then die. Some nations’ retirement systems will have gone bust paying for their pensions and medical care.
  3. The global long population crash will have begun as many nations have population declines (it has already hit Japan). Societies with fertility rates below replacement will face slow cultural extinction, unless they boost fertility or assimilate large numbers of immigrants. The economic effects of population decline are exaggerated.
  4. new industrial revolution has now begun. Late 21st century industry will rely on catalytic chemistry (as does our body), producing few pollutants. Advanced power systems will provide ample clean power. The children of 2067 will find the concept of pollution difficult to understand.
  5. The Left’s climate change fears will have proved exaggerated, as the shift away from coal, slow population growth, and continued technological progress put emissions on a slower track than the IPCC’s worst case scenario (RCP8.5).

No Fear

Conclusions

We can only guess what the world of 2067 might look like. It might seem as strange to us as the world of 1950 would be to someone living in 1900.

We look back at the fears of the Victorian era with amusement. Would cities grow so large that horse manure renders them unlivable; the lights go out when the last whale is killed for its oil; the Earth be ravaged by giant war machines (such as airships and submarines)? I believe that in 2060 our descendants will similarly laugh at our nightmares, while they look to the future with fear about challenges we cannot imagine.

Humanity was born naked and ignorant on Africa’s Serengeti Plains, bereft of either armor or weapons. We have survived droughts and floods, an ice age and a supervolcano — slowly leaning and developing our powers. We have always walked into an unknown future, but our past should give us the confidence to do so with caution but not fear.

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone …. I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

— The Litany against fear, used by the Bene Gesserit. From Frank Herbert’s Dune.

For More Information

Other ways to make 2017 count:  A New Year’s resolution for America.  Resolve to begin the reform of America in 2017!

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the new industrial revolution, about shockwaves, about good news for America, and especially these…

  1. Is America’s decline inevitable? No.  — Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?
  2. Rebuttals to the big list of reasons why America will fall.
  3. Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters.
  4. Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future — Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasingly fearful public.

Fear Wolf

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Categories: America, Good News, History

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15 replies »

  1. One small point: Nations with less than sustaining native populations will still suffer cultural extinction if they let in large numbers of immigrants. They may keep their national / political identity but they won’t keep their natural culture in the face of masses of foreign immigrants.

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    • I’m curious, what do you mean by “natural culture?” If you mean the original culture of the country, you are obviously right. But if you examine the original culture, you will find it is the result of events and people from the past and that it was changed beyond recognition from prior cultures. Cultures evolve or die, this has always been true, and will be the same in the “face of masses of foreign immigrants.”

      If you want an historic example, the Romans during the wars against Carthage would have been shocked by Rome during the time of Julius Caesar and Caesar would in turn have been shocked by the Rome of Constantine the Great.

      Like

    • Pluto,

      “Cultures evolve or die, this has always been true, and will be the same in the “face of masses of foreign immigrants.”

      I disagree. These are both examples of cultural change, but they are very different. Mass immigration can radically reshape a nation in a generation or two. Normal cultural change occurs far far more slowly.

      The EU’s open border policy is reshaping their society, with effects already visible in the first few years. As you point out, Rome radically evolved from the First Carthaginian War to the death of Constantine the Great — but that change occurred over 601 years.

      As I have said so many times in the comments here, magnitudes matter.

      Like

    • Jonolan,

      “They may keep their national / political identity but they won’t keep their natural culture in the face of masses of foreign immigrants.”

      I agree. That’s why I said not just accept immigrates but “assimilate” them. Assimilate: to make them resemble us.

      “Societies with fertility rates below replacement will face cultural extinction, unless they boost fertility or assimilate large numbers of immigrants.”

      Like

    • Good point. I didn’t really internalize “assimilate” in the post – most likely an affect of my cynical opinion of modern immigration.

      Like

  2. I meant the naturally occurring culture of any time within a population – which is also hopefully geographically consistent with a nation state – as affected by normal, not forced, assimilation of remnants of immigrant cultures.

    One thing, however, the Romans of times of the Punic Wars would not have been shocked by the culture of Gaius Julius’ Rome, though they would have been horrified by the politics, especially there being a Caesar. The same could be said for the Romans of Caesar’s times reaction to the culture of Constantine’s Rome.

    Roman culture didn’t change that much until it’s very end days. That is part of the reason Rome, though based upon an utterly untenable economic model, lasted so long. Though one could also say that Roman culture’s unchanging nature was part of why it fell so utterly when that economic model collapse under its own weight.

    Like

    • I agree that the Romans of the Punic Wars would have found Caesar’s Rome reasonably familiar, I did mean the politics of the time rather than the city. But I think that you are oversimplifying and romanticizing the rest. For example, the politics of Caesar’s time were, in large part, a logical outcome of the Punic Wars.

      Let’s use a different example that is closer to home. What would an average citizen of 1962 think of the actions of the US in 2012? So much of what they valued at that time has been tossed away, but what they valued then is no longer relevant. The world never stops changing and we never stop adapting to those changes. Frequently our adaptations cause the changes in the world around us.

      Like

  3. “How can civilization survive until next week?”

    Sometimes it does not. It took a millennia and half to match and exceed roman accomplishments across the board and it took several centuries to recover from the Greek Dark Ages.

    “We look back at the fears of the Victorian era with amusement.”

    Did they? As far as I can tell the prevailing climate was one of relative optimism. There may have been concerns about coal supplies, social issues and the likes and the more forward looking individuals figured out that warfare was going to get really ugly. But overall it was the age of Progress and was seen as such then.

    Like

    • Marcelloi,

      “Sometimes it does not {survive until next week}. It took a millennia and half to match and exceed roman accomplishments across the board and it took several centuries to recover from the Greek Dark Ages.”

      You are comparing two different thing: the time in which a civilization collapses (“a week”) with the time required for recovery. A valid comparison is the time it took for Rome to collapse — several centuries — with the time required for recovery — several centuries.

      “Did they? As far as I can tell the prevailing climate was one of relative optimism.”

      Again you compare apples with oranges. I discussed their fears. You point to their net (“prevailing”) attitude. Different things. Also, we can accurately list the fears of an age. How do you determine the “prevailing climate” of their age — or ours?

      Like

  4. “You are comparing two different thing: the time in which a civilization collapses (“a week”) with the time required for recovery. A valid comparison is the time it took for Rome to collapse — several centuries — with the time required for recovery — several centuries.”

    I assumed “a week” was a rhetorical figure. Yes, bar some apocalyptic catastrophe civilizations do not collapse in a matter of days. Yet the time does not have to be massively drawn out, in the roman case it took less than fifty years from being able to marshal the resources to launch a major invasion against their main strategic rival, sasanid Persia, to being overrun by barbarian groups and watching Rome being put to sack. It can be argued that they had been in decline since the third century, though current historians seem to make much of the 4th century recovery (your mileage may vary) but even so it is still pales to the amount of time it took to bring things like roads, sewers, water supply etc back to roman standards.
    Point being, progress cannot be taken for granted: sometimes history shifts into reverse gear, gains made are undone almost certainly not overnight but quite possibly within the span of a human lifetime and it can take a much longer time to pick up the pieces again.

    Like

    • marcelloi,

      “in the roman case it took less than fifty years from being able to marshal the resources to launch a major invasion against their main strategic rival, sasanid Persia, to being overrun by barbarian groups and watching Rome being put to sack.”

      That’s the first I’ve heard of the “50 year collapse of the Roman Empire” theory. Can you give a cite or pointer to a historian explaining it?

      “Point being, progress cannot be taken for granted: sometimes history shifts into reverse gear”

      I assume you are kidding. If serious, it’s quite a strawman reply. Who disagrees with that?

      “but quite possibly within the span of a human lifetime”

      Examples of collapse in such a short time, with recovery taking far longer? Certainly not Rome, which declined for centuries — at varying speeds (sometimes slowly, sometimes steeply, with recoveries along the way).

      “it can take a much longer time to pick up the pieces again.”

      Yes, I agree. Doesn’t everybody? Please reply to quotes. It reduces the number of these rebuttals to things not said.

      Like

  5. “That’s the first I’ve heard of the “50 year collapse of the Roman Empire” theory. Can you give a cite or pointer to a historian explaining it?”

    If you go by the likes of Peter Heather “The Fall of the roman Empire” and similar works they argue the empire had largely recovered in the 4th century but the pressure from stronger barbarian groups and the need to keep a watch on a likewise stronger Persia overmatched it at the end of the period.
    The extent of the 4th century recovery is debatable, but in 363 Julian could march on Ctesiphon at the head of a large army. Fifty years later Rome had been looted and barbarians went around as they liked.

    Like

    • Marcelloi,

      Thanks for the reference! He’s a genuine historian, with an interesting theory. Historian’s revisionism is an inevitable aspect of their business, as each generation attempts to press new wine out of well-squeezed husks. This one looks especially bizarre.

      That a strong Emperor could draw on the strength of the still-strong Eastern Roman provinces to invade Persia in 363 tells us nothing about the strength of the western provinces (the Eastern empire survived for almost another 1100 years) — especially since the expedition was eventually defeated (and the emperor killed). It provides no evidence refuting the massive evidence about Rome’s slow decay since its peak in the early second century — decay affecting almost every aspect of Roman political, social and economic life.

      Still, it is another perspective on this interesting history. Thanks for posting it!

      Like

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