Violent Revolutions Require Belief in a Better Future
As I have written on numerous occasions in the past- we live in a world that is, for the lack of a better word, dystopic. While we can always argue about whether the world was more or less fucked up in previous eras, doing so does not change the basic fact. Having said that, people cope with the general suckiness of a meaningless existence in a number of ways.
One of them involves believing in the possibility of a better future.
Deteriorating socio-economic conditions almost always result in violent uprising, revolts and revolutions because people believe that a better system is possible. Predictions of unrest based on bad socio-economic conditions are therefore based on the unmentioned belief that people believe that a change for the better is possible.
But what happens if people believe that a change for the better is not possible?
While there always have been pessimists, their numbers as a percentage of the population have been relatively small. While there are many reasons for that, the single most important reason for an endless supply of optimists throughout human history has been high birth rates.
Every birth provides the sociopaths in civilization another person whose enthusiasm and naivety can be used to scam, abuse and exploit them.
The very small percentage of people who benefit from the scam known as civilization have used this fact and historically poor means of interpersonal communication to keep things going. While betrayal of the young has often caused extremely destructive revolutions, wars and uprisings- the underlying scam has not been destroyed.
However the last 40 years have seen two changes that fundamentally change the situation in ways never seen before in the history of human civilization. Effective and widely available contraception has caused birth rates to plummet all over the world. Even conservative Muslim countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran) now have fertility rates that are close to western countries. The world just doesn’t produce any surplus boiler fuel anymore. Then there is the effect of the internet on patterns of human communication, belief and association.
So how does all of that affect the nature of public reaction to deteriorating socio-economic conditions?
I believe that low fertility rates combined with vastly improved and accessible communication technology creates a far more cynical society. It changes the general tone of society from one of optimism and belief in a better future to widespread cynicism and misanthropism. People increasingly have no interest in the stability or future of a system that is obviously deceiving and exploiting them. While they many not come out and openly revolt against a system, they so something far worse.
They disconnect from the system in non-obvious ways.
Such behavior takes many forms such as people not interested in marrying and having kids or working hard for an employer. People increasingly, and rightfully, distrust various social and economic institutions- from schools, universities, the health-care system to democratically elected governments. While the “elites” in such societies might see that as evidence of their control it is anything but that.
What they see as subjugation is actually disengagement to an extent without any precedent in human history.
Unlike violent revolutions, it appears benign and seldom creates headlines. Disengagement manifests itself as decay and progressive breakdowns that make the system increasingly fragile and susceptible to small disruptions. In the end one or a series of otherwise unremarkable disruptions will take it down and almost nobody will care.
After things fall apart, even fewer will have the optimism or belief necessary to rebuild it.
What do you think? Comments?