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All hail the Golden Age…

July 11, 2013

Well, as the political and social and economic bullshit continues to pile higher and higher around us, I truly begin to wonder – in a very fundamental way – what this century really holds for North Americans.

That the American dream is coming to an end – at least in the short-term – is obvious to anyone who takes five minutes to look at it. The grander historical process, that deeper zeitgeist that plays itself out at a level most of us never really see or understand, is a historical pendulum that is now swinging back to what I can only call a more conservative time. Not that I think there ever has been a golden age of justice and equality in America – any reading of history will tell you that – but there had always been since the forming of America an idealism that was deemed worth striving for.

That idealism is now – on the grand stage – dead. There is no longer any real support for public education, the minimum wage, voter protection, women’s reproductive rights, environmental protection.

There are many levels to history, from the immediate small consequences of daily actions to very grand macro shifts that move over decades and sometimes even centuries. We identify these movements as ‘eras’ or ‘ages’ and give them labels like ‘Roman Empire’ or ‘Renaissance’ or ‘Enlightenment’ – but we rarely take the time when we look at these words to think about how they are labels that apply to centuries of time.

This century – this 21st century – will be one of those centuries that will demarcate the end of one ‘era’ and the beginning of another. The grand American experiment with democracy, the move to equality (however reluctant), and the distribution of wealth and public services, have now been commodified and sold back to us as consumer product and illusions of ideals.

The most superficial review of current affairs – economic, political, social – illustrate the statistical reality of this. The most definitive review of planetary temperatures ever compiled shows us that not only is the planet getting warmer, the trend is accelerating mush faster than we ever anticipated. Scientists are now using terms like “run-away” climate change to describe what will occur this century. The floods in Calgary, and Toronto, and the record heat wave in the Maritimes all attest to this change.

The American political elite – a motley crew of crooks and scammers at the best of times – have now almost completely bailed on the American people and seem quite content to fiddle and fornicate while the country falls into destitution. The gap between the rich and the middle class is now larger than it has been since the Great Depression; wealthy elites like the Koch brothers and the Walmart clan are calling for the end of the minimum wage, and virtually everywhere there is a ban on unionizing.

There are new restrictions on voting already being implemented in the very states that the Voting Act was there to protect. The incidence of racist acts of violence is again creeping up, and abortion is about two years (or less) from being banned.

And in Canada, while we think we react to our American cousin by congratulating ourselves on our open and fair society, any person of colour will tell you that this is mostly self-delusion. Any woman outside the big cities will tell you how easy it is to get an abortion (virtually impossible), and the gap between the rich and poor and middle classes also continues to grow. Canadians are per capita the largest polluters in the world, the second largest consumers of water (after Americans), and the largest consumers of petroleum products.

So, how do we stop the Orks? Can we stop the Orks? Is the Lord of the Rings a tale of fantasy, or prophesy?

Some think that the period is the last great gasp of traditionalists in the face of the modernist multi-cultural globally oriented world. I have a learned friend who argues that the forces of globalism are now the dominant era, and that, in fact, what we are seeing is the last reactionist responses of the pre-Enlightenment Era traditionalists. He argues that racists, and sexist, and religious politicians are like the guilds of old. The last bastions of antiquated thinking.

Another friend counters this with the notion that no, we are indeed entering a dark period in history, like that period after the collapse of the Rome – that Dark Age when the majority of people were reduced to eating grass. She believes that we will be forced to retreat to the family farm – with the books and holy scriptures and agricultural knowledge of our combined wisdom – and we will be forced to create small communities of like-minded people to be the protectors of wisdom until the storm blows itself out. This is why, at a fundamental level of our consciousness, she believes the grow/eat/live local movement is gaining momentum.

We know – deep in our hearts – that the current international capitalist system of goods production and distribution is unsustainable. That it will end, soon. There will be those that will be prepared for that reality, and there will be those who are not. The sooner people realize that it is in their own benefit to buy local food, produce goods for local needs, and live more sustainably, the better off those communities will be when the shit truly starts to hit the fan.

The optimist in me wants to believe her. The historian in me is more pessimistic.

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