Swan Song of the Old and New
I was born in a small city in Southwest Romania during a time of turmoil and scarcity. One year later our communist dictator was shot dead and Romania started its long journey towards democracy. The only formal thing that ties me with that era is my socialist birth certificate.
However, I grew up playing with communist toys, grazing poultry on former collective farming fields and doing what other children used to do in the late 90s: playing brick games on a game machine, taking care of digitals pets on a tamagotchi or experiencing the wonders of owning a popular yet cheap video game console clone. There was no such thing as the internet or social media in those days. My uncle used to own a parabolic antenna which allowed me to tune in to foreign TV channels. I still remember watching German dubbed cartoons like Bugs Bunny or Die Familie Feuerstein.
Most of the information which contributed to my education I gained from books, printed media and sometimes television. By the time social media became influential and smartphones started to be popular I was already a master degree graduate.
For the past couple of years I’ve been struck with some sort of ineffable nostalgia as glimpses from my childhood memories randomly started to come out during nightdreams and moments of mind relaxation. A burst of colors through shadows and lights, smells, flavors, feelings of chill, warmth, moisture or sounds reconnected me with my younger self, as I struggled to blend in a society I no longer understood.
In my judgment, the younger generations seem to be mostly obsessed with self-image since they spend so much time of their lives boosting themselves on social media such as facebook, instagram, tiktok, snapchat etc. Their social relevance is dumbed-down to a mass of consumerist mimetic monkeys.
In an interview after releasing the History of Beauty, the famous semiotician Umberto Eco claimed that throughout history whenever a civilization becomes too self-preoccupied with people’s own appearance it is a sign of decadence which ultimately leads to its downfall.
Whether it’s the beginning of an end, a global identity crisis or just a manifestation of the New, the challenges of nowadays require making a choice. There is the option to linger in the past and keep going against the wind while repudiating the inevitable or there is the possibility to ready yourself for the future and find opportunities to update and function effectively in the present.
I’ve already taken the red pill and went for the second choice. Thus I am currently redefining myself trying to reconcile my very own past, present and future through a personal metamorphosis. It’s not easy as I still long for those times when I didn’t spend so much time glued to my phone, when everything was more natural and less artificial, but I am also learning to see the perks and take advantage of what the 2020s have to offer.
However, not everyone feels the same way.
As I speak, according to https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/dictatorship-countries there are currently 52 nations (if we count Tibet as a separate entity from China) more or less under dictatorship rule.
In those places some people still believe that censorship, control of the masses and instilling fear are the recipe for success and evolution, while others seem to have “political daddy issues” because they keep supporting a strong paternal figure to take charge of their lives and destinies.
Inertia to social change is quite high as the liberalization of the world seems to have reached a stalemate. Not much progress has been made in this respect for the past ten years (see https://ourworldindata.org/democracy).
Every few years new skirmishes, clashes or armed conflicts pile up on the list of already ongoing wars taking place around the world.
The COVID19 pandemic is reshaping the world by accelerating digitalization and remote interaction. Therefore, people become more and more interconnected while face to face interaction is less and less relevant.
At the same time, this has stirred an unprecedented global medical crisis which started to overspill, leaving many economies vulnerable to all sorts of future threats.
Emerging superpowers like China and Russia took advantage of the circumstances and employed their expansionist agenda.
While China has undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and threatens Taiwan militarily, Russia has recently invaded Ukraine seeking control of the country.
Military investments seem to pay off after a long lasting arms race.
These are just other clear examples of how the so-called “security dilemma” (see the definition here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/security-dilemma) unveils to the international community. It’s always a downward spiral which leads to conflict and destruction.
You have to be naïve to expect countries to develop weapons for the sole purpose of maintaining a balance of power and then hope they will never use them. The stronger you become, the temptation of making use of that strength gets bigger and bigger. But there is nothing new under the sun. A century ago, Lord Acton pretty much said the same thing: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Remnants of the past I’d say.
As far as the internet goes, freedom of expression follows. The consumerist mimetic monkeys I mentioned above are in fact developing a global consciousness. They don’t care that much about religion, ethnicity, race, gender or other terms used to define identity. Due to exposure to so much diversity, there is much more tolerance to being different, while violence is rather preferred in movies and video games than in the real world.
The younger generations are actually filling the gap between Old and New, setting the ground for a new era. Yes, I am talking about the age John Lennon described in Imagine (see https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html).
Until then there will be lots of struggles and people will die in the process.
Nevertheless, I have reasons to hope for the best.
The international community, although flawed and messy, seems to have a more and more unified disapproving voice when it comes to values of the Old, those which risk turning us back in time.
And if you don’t believe me just watch how new media is putting on a pretty good show, easily mobilizing so many people for a good cause.