Caught in the Dialectic

Nat.vGlob big The Last American Vagabond

The “dialectic” is not just some academic construct used as propaganda by Communist thinkers. It is seen fairly universally these days as a tool that is useful for describing seismic disturbances in cultures and even in individual lives when measured over time. Cultures experience tectonic movements, which because of the organic (living) content cannot be expressed in the formulas of physicists, which work better for more easily predictable phenomena (usually inorganic). If the dialectic can measure political change, it can be extrapolated to apply to almost all of humanity’s communal activities.

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This dialectic has human endeavors moving along like an inchworm.

inchworm big Dream Stop

Every so often there is a foreword movement which causes the center to rise, temporarily, and the “back” of the organism to move forward occupying new ground.

Thesis

It seems that some theorized that we were in a moment when we were poised to make a cultural leap. There was some momentum generated for eradicating poverty and disease, looking to problems that might crop up in the near future with 9 billion people on the planet, attempting to equalize wealth a bit, to create new markets that would “develop” seemingly more primitive cultures, (cultures that could suffer terribly in the future without some intervention), changing our extreme reliance on fossil fuels, and finding newer, cleaner, and renewable energy sources.

This “movement” advocated that we find ways to lighten the human footprint on our tiny planet in order to make sure that we did not continue to disturb the delicate balances on which we depend (the water cycle, clean potable water, clean soil, clean air, arable land). This world view suggested that the migration of factories to less developed nations was also “organic” and, while disruptive in the short term, would lead to a spread of prosperity, global in scope, which would eventually benefit all of earth’s people and keep us from social upheaval and war (at least until we learn to travel in space). We would be trading giant culture-destroying upheavals for smaller, more persistent upheavals, if we could look beyond our borders for more planet-wide ways to cooperate.

Antithesis

Lo and behold – not everyone was on board with globalism, globalization, planet-wide cooperation. Not everyone liked the agenda of get-everyone-on-the-same-page, equalize the distribution of wealth, save the planet. Perhaps it was too big a leap, too much too fast. It left the “front” leg of the inchworm up in the air, trembling, finding no firm footing for forward movement. Humanity in affluent societies just did not like the idea of living in curtailed circumstances in the present to ensure a livable future. They did not like the way a global perspective seemed to be weakening their nation and making them more uncertain about their finances. Capitalist societies were not the only ones that were unhappy with the disruptions of globalism.

Perhaps we have learned an important lesson, that it is dangerous to become so focused on the future that you forget to give equal consideration to the present and how the transitions are affecting people’s lives. Perhaps, since there is no one force overseeing cultural change, the dialectic is inescapable. (I have simplified the dialectic here, but it is often represented as a cyclical spiral that repeats and repeats.) In times of rapid change it is probably impossible to avoid little earthquakes in unexpected places. It may even be impossible to avoid some fairly large earthquakes.

But as we sit now in the peak of the current antithesis movement (nationalism), the-we-don’t-want-change movement, those who still hold to the original “global” thesis (agenda) find their forward movement blocked by policies that will make the world more divided, less global, less clean, less equal, and less free, but which will keep wealth fixed exactly where it is and allow wealth inequality to become more pronounced (even while these folks protest that they are doing the opposite).

Synthesis

When will we arrive at the time when we actually attempt to synthesize these two opposing movements? It could be decades or even centuries; or it could be as close as the next election. There is a certain urgency in the air. Perhaps the earth is near a breaking point and we do not have the luxury of lingering in the wasteful, greedy past for long. Perhaps those on the other side are correct and there is no danger that our planet will rebel against our treatment of it. Personally many don’t want to wait and see. These people like to be proactive.

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