A Ranting Essay: The Monster At The End Of The Book

Remember “The Monster at the End of This Book (Sesame Street)”? In the book, Grover warns the reader that a monster is at the end of the book, and thus not to read on to the next page, lest we bring ourselves faster to imminent doom at the book’s end. Its endearing and a wonderful story I read as a child and that I have read with my own. And its almost emblematic of our times today.

Think about today’s media. So-called ‘pundits’ (a euphemism, I think for ‘hatemongers’), spend all hours of the day disparaging behaviors they simply do not like. And  mindless, dutifully, at every opportunity, ‘regular folk’ seem to parrot those sentiments with no real interest in stimulating conversation. They speak ‘truth’ with such absolutism it leaves no room for alternative perspectives. It drives us apart in a downward spiral that seems irreversible…as if devotion to belief regardless of new input, like irrefutable facts, would be enough to stalwart these trends.

I am thinking of trends like women going it alone, drugs becoming legal, ‘third world’ interests displacing ‘new world / old world’ primacy, gay marriage, inter-marriage, climate change, home schooling, charter schools, internet of things, self-driving cars, end of male dominance, end of Caucasian dominance, gun registries, end of capitalism, genome projects and designer babies. These things all appear to be happening for real en masse.

One cannot simply not turn the page. This is life. Life moves forward unceasingly, relentlessly. The book is reading itself….and every one of us is writing it.

The End Is Here, And So Is A New Beginning

The World is indeed a changing….again…..but this time, perhaps, in fundamental ways not seen by us humans in hundreds of years. What is ending seems clear – the end of an era that has lasted 500 years, that despite its ghastly horrors wrought on continental scales, has also lifted the quality of life of more of humanity than any other in our history.

But what is emerging in its place, before our very eyes, under our very feet, is still unclear. It is still forming. It appears to be based on capitalistic ideas but with a more spiritual globally diverse DNA….less “make as much money as you can no matter what, externalize costs wherever possible, and to hell with the rest”; more “do good and try to make as much money as you can doing so”. The new ways seem to be harvesting the ideas from other belief systems the world over that are productive socially (meritocracy, inter-connectedness, stewardship, love they neighbor, think globally act locally, agency, governance) and leaving behind what has needlessly wrought destruction and dislocation (selfishness, greed, misogyny, racism, gluttony, wanton wastefulness, disrespect for nature).

This is not necessarily the next epochal form, but a near-state emergence that bridges the current and future, beyond which I am still trying understand. Regardless, it is happening slowly by some views and frighteningly fast by others.

Meanwhile, boomers+ are doing all they can to preserve the status quo at least another 10 years until they can all get out of the game and safely into retirement, supported for life by outdated entitlement programs that were never intended to support people for 20 to 30 years. They are not made to do so and forcing them to is spending their grandchildrens’ future.

One can sympathize with these boomers+, but not help them exactly. They are fighting the linear forward progression of time, a fundamental dimension of existence, the same one they rode to their own prominence a generation ago. It is a losing battle. The entire system is being undermined and derailed. It is a matter of time until it collapses.

Mega-Trends

Today’s national and global realignments are evidence of this, inevitable responses to the mathematics of emerging economic rebalancing as trans-Pacific trade exceeds trans-Atlantic trade for the first time in history,

  • aging and obsolescing public infrastructures and militaries struggling to remain viable amidst rapidly dwindling public appetites for for more debt financing,
  • off-the-charts private and public debt liabilities and tax saturation across and between domestic and cross-border new/old/third world stakeholders,
  • pending redistribution of petro-fuel power centers away from later 20th century centers (Middle East, South America, Southern Africa) to Anglo-producers (Australia, Canada, USA – again) plus Russia (Acrtic exploration should unleash even more as it thaws) in this 21st century,
  • demographic changes and pending populations implosions across Europe, Japan, China and North America,
  • climate changes increasingly manifesting at various places across the globe.

They are real. They are happening. They are the meta-conditions driving all other expressions of human change we are observing.

Something has to give and it is and all peoples are responding predictably…to defend what they know, what has sustained them in life. This is a natural expression of Life.

And on a smaller scale, here in the USA, we can be sympathetic to the defenders of the status quo – particularly the boomers+, because we understand what is going on from their perspective. These are the Flower Children generation of the 1960’s. They rebelled against ‘the system’ and then having introduced the world to new ideas, cracking the firmament, showing humanity it was possible to seek another way, exhausted their own possibilities to overturn it and bought into it completely. They did so their own way, and gave us The Internet and the 1980’s rebirth, and Civil Rights and culturally instituted diversity in government and business. And we are stronger and healthier and more creative and generally better for it. Thank you for this.

But in spite of this, our generation (I was born in 1968) has had to buy into a world view that we did not like as well…we had to or we had no where to go, as the Old Regime was reaffirmed and revitalized by the time we came of age. We learned it and became successful inside it when it was our turn. But then 2008 came, and washed away most of our winnings, took out many of us permanently from the game, and created a permanent dynamic that makes it highly unlikely that upward mobility will continue to be the norm or that we will ever be able to regain our losses. If we held on, its probably as good as it will get….and globally speaking, we are luckier than most.

Our Mission, If We Choose To Accept It

But there is a difference between ‘acceptance’ and ’embrace’. It is not clear that we ever liked it or embraced it. And it is not clear that we have as much of a vested stake in the Old Regime we do in the new one unfolding now.

Today’s young (born around and after 1985) are inventing the future as we speak…riding a wave that coincides with the geopolitical inevitabilities of epochal change. They are driving and they know it. They are not afraid of failure…in fact they prefer it, to ‘fail fast’ (they are wise beyond their own experiences) and are largely succeeding for it. But like all young turks, they will invariably hit a glass ceiling. They will need a way through, though they may be fine breaking through, come what may.

But I don’t think that will characterize them. I think they will seek out mentors to guide them, to smooth their transformation, to help them minimize the damage to be wrought by their changes….people who understand the Old Regime but are open to embracing a new one.

That is what I think the mission of our generation is…to be these guides, to help smooth the transformation, to help minimize the damage wrought by the change. We are perfectly suited to it and have nothing to lose by embracing this mission. We have already been ejected from the Old Regime and will no longer enjoy its benefits as our parents, grandparents and ancestors have. We will pay into it our entire lives but only to balance the accounts of these entitlement programs. We are sober as promised as happy hour winds down, but we are the last ones here and a bill is due to be paid.

The dark, swirling, amorphous faces of the possible paths forward, the possible futures before us, scare the living shit out of me. I cannot say I have a firm grasp of it. But I do know this…

There Is No Spoon

Everything each and every one of us does and chooses not to do today invents a piece of tomorrow, the full form of which will not be fully manifest for a while. We are all inventing the future every day and none of us knows the extent of that influence at the time it is exerted. Asserting oneself in the here and now is speaking into the cave – and the cave is speaking back….we might not be evolved enough yet, adapted yet to the future, to understand what it is saying.

Understanding the essence of things is the power to affect a change in them. Believing anything less is simply a control that still works on you. And like all controls, it can be subverted, re-cast and re-coded. There truly is no spoon.

This is not spiritual nonsense….Entrepreneurs do it every day.

They and all leaders know that the world and all existence is nothing but what we make it. So they compel us to make it in the image of their vision and we oblige. That is not intrinsically bad. It just is. In fact, it works quite well quite often.

But why is their vision of the future any better than mine or yours? And why are any one person’s words and actions in any way superior or inferior to anyone else’s in the larger context? They are not. They are in fact no different. Judgement is a human construct, requiring context and stakeholders; the rest are just expressions of energy in the universe.

Time To Turn The Page

Life is not a spectator sport. Get up and get to work. Decide what you want to be and what you want your world to become and make it so.

I am turning the page. I need to buy myself some comfort about the future. I am working with both up-and-coming and established leaders alike toward managing change, but in my small way in my small tangible part of the world. Its not the whole space…but its a fine place to start.

No one should be afraid to move forward following one’s own path or another’s that satisfies one’s understanding of his/her needs. Because in the end, like Grover, each of us is the ‘monster’ at the end of the book.

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