Peering Into the Social Black Hole
I feel like I'm in a sort of a social black hole these days. Most of the people I correspond with don't correspond back. And I have developed this strange power to shut down lively conversations with just one post on a forum or open thread.
I get more and more garrulous as most of my friends go quiet, and it feels like I'm talking to myself in the dark. Laughing nervously.
Maybe it is me, but it's more likely just the times we're living in and the weird psychological space that everyone is in right now. On top of the usual personal and family problems...I feel like all of society is quivering and vulnerable...although I suppose it's always been this way - the heroes go charging around with swords while the masses huddle.
My part time job as a condo concierge gives me a birds-eye view of a large group of modern successful urban 20 and 30 somethings and it's sort of scary. It's pretty much a Bay Street condo but it's also close to the university, so there's a separate stratum of semi-estranged children from wealthy families - few of whom seem grateful or even cognizant of living on their parents dime but what with the world they are being given stewardship of - maybe they are simply demanding their due. Who knows what the world will be like when and if they reach retirement? Our world's current level of uncertainty makes working toward any sort of end goal a shaky proposition.
We do owe our kids the best lives we can give them * and making their lives cushier now is the only way to do that with any degree of certainty.
The condo where I work also houses lots of prosperous international students and young immigrants - from Russia, the British Isles, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and the US. The last vibe you think I'd get from a group like that is that they'd be afraid of the world...but they very much are. This is a society that is loosely (and electronically) knit; shallow and distracted. Downtown Toronto is Uber and Amazon central. This is one of the most expensive places to live in North America, yet some of the suites in the building are so small that when the Matrix is built, the units can simply be sealed and flooded with amniotic fluid.
Last year I reread Elizabeth Hand's Glimmering. Her vibe in that novel is very much in evidence on the streets of the 2020s. There is a pervading sense that CoVid was just one of nature's first blows and everyone is holding their breath for the next one - grasping for a sense of context and perspective. The marketplace is like a montage of outtakes from Dick, Gibson, Stephenson. Commerce is completely online. Few of the bankers who live in the building never leave except to walk their dogs. There are lots and lots of dogs. Across society, I see everyone standing still, holding their breath, afraid to move forward. In the Meta World we're not even worthy of an acknowledgement of our existence. You ever try to get in touch with Facebook - to actually ask a question? On those rare occasions where that sort of action is even possible, getting an answer is something else altogether.
I survived the cold war and the threat of mutual annihilation. But in many ways, the world is now weirder and more discomfiting than ever. The party that began at the end of 1999 is really just kicking into gear. It's time to stop fearing the future. PreTSD should never be a thing.
We're living Science Fiction. If nobody is ready to start building our own dystopia, then we need to chart a different path. I think the threat of instant obsolescence handcuffs most creative people to some degree. I'm not talking about extinction, I'm talking about the rate of change - our ability to meet huge challenges is increasing at nearly the rate of the challenges themselves. Maybe we will be ready!
We'll get through this. The only question is whether we'll have smiles on our faces, and a strut in our step as we do it. As the challenges we face get tougher, the best thing we can do is meet them with the resilience and determination that's kept as alive and thriving this long. We need to keep looking forward with open minds and open hearts. Fascism and xenophobia are the enemies of progress. They are the real riders of the apocalypse.
* - with apologies to my children for my lack of sharable wealth