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I think there's a growing awareness that the old ways of doing things no longer work. Even if it's a minority interest, this is the first time in history there's any serious interest in thinking strategically on a planetary scale.

Psychological sophistication is much higher than it used to be. There's the beginning of an understanding that old assumptions about decision making and rationality are wrong.

There's the glimmer of general understanding that politics and economics are shell-games for a new pseudo-royalty. I'll be surprised if that understanding doesn't spread over the next few decades - with interesting consequences.

Morality and awareness of human rights are more developed than ever. Politicians continue to ignore the developments, and there are still substantial elements of the population who are happy with the old ways. But there was barely any concept of humanitarian aid or human rights a century ago, and now these concepts are common currency.

Genocide used to be business as usual. What made Hitler and Stalin remarkable wasn't the scale of the genocide - except for mechanising death, they were hardly unusual in history - but that their actions were considered insane and unacceptable. Five hundred years ago they'd have been generic princelings, and nothing out of the ordinary.

The Cold War never went hot. That certainly surprised me, and it was close call. But it suggests that some basic sense of self-preservation may exist.

The Internet is a game changer, and is just getting started. It's going to become easier and easier to track, monitor and report shady deals and private government communications that aren't in the public interest. Over time, that's likely to create huge political changes.

So it's not all bad news. I'm thinking of it as a transition period, from old pseudo-feudal cultures to something more anarchic but creatively responsible.

There may well be an intervening collapse, but it's not inevitable. And when it comes to revolutions, history is good at surprises.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Mar 18th, 2011 at 08:44:40 AM EST
I added to Migs list above, but was about to pen a contrary thesis when I saw yours.

Yes there are a lot of positive developments as well, and 11 years may not be a good predicator of what happens for the rest of the century.

Also there is a risk that we self-centredly regard our crises as the worst ever, when I can only imagine what it was like to live and die through the Great Depression, two world wars, the holocaust, the decolonisation process, various genocides in Africa and the far east, and the threat of mutually assured destruction during the cold war at it's height.

The revolts in the Arab world can be regarded as a positive sign. The rise of the BRIC countries as a counterbalance to overweening US dominance.  The resilience of the EU worth something to balance against its obvious failings.

There is no doubt that the expansion of the human footprint beyond globally ecological sustainable levels poses a new threat of an entirely different magnitude.  The sheer size and rapaciousness of the human population could result in a mass extinction event including Billions of humans and most of the biodiversity on the planet. Climate change could reach a tipping point from which there is no escape for most of the world's population...

But we are some way off these Armageddon events  and may still have enough time to avoid their worst effects.  But we're getting uncomfortably close.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 18th, 2011 at 09:25:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The rise of the BRICs is a combination of the development of normal trends and the exploitation of an opportunity that has been created by the self-devouring nature of the financial systems of the US and UK, but also of Europe more generally. There is little reason that the US and UK could not continue to thrive, but for the pernicious political-economic ideology from which they suffer for the benefit of their elites. The whole world would benefit from a change of that situation.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 18th, 2011 at 10:00:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree - but then I'm the eternal optimist. Some philosopher (Heidegger?) said, and I compress: freedom is like water, it finds its way and when water meets a stone in its path, the stone says "no". And flows round it. There are only Nos, no Yeses.

However, I made a special screen for my Xperia 10 that is full of yeses.

Yeses the Saviour.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 18th, 2011 at 11:55:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not going to argue the larger point, because I think you are largely right.

However, detail discussion:

ThatBritGuy:

Genocide used to be business as usual. What made Hitler and Stalin remarkable wasn't the scale of the genocide - except for mechanising death, they were hardly unusual in history - but that their actions were considered insane and unacceptable. Five hundred years ago they'd have been generic princelings, and nothing out of the ordinary.

Condemning your enemies atrocities is standard practice, the measurement of moral standard is how you hold yourself and your allies. The genocides of native americans by USA and the genocides of the brittish empire compares to the nazi and soviet genocides in percentage of populations decimated even if not in absolute numbers. Are they generally seen as anywhere near as bad?

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Mar 18th, 2011 at 04:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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