I’ve never taken the view that the world is broken; however, many people do. I’ve never taken the view that society is going down the pan; however, many people do. I’ve always taken the view that these people were – at least until to that point – simply unaware of the horrors in the world.
That’s fine. Lately, this once-niche view of reactionary shock-of-the-new has set like concrete in to a “we live in a time of division” mind set, which everyone is buying in to without question. I read it in newspaper articles, I see it in the comments expressed on YouTube videos, and I hear it in the music, the comedy and the satire currently filling our media. It feels like we live in a squall of fear of now.
Honestly, just look around. Not at the big things, but at the commentariat. The ascendancy of Trump and the spectre of Brexit have led to a seemingly universal view that we are facing the end of human culture. It is never spelled out, but memes where happy, positive faces are contrasted against ruined lives, with the caption “Me in 2016 vs Me in 2017” certainly form the impression that this year, more than any which has preceded, is indicative of our utter ruination as a species. I disagree once more.
The wave of anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi, alt-right activism, which has recently flooded our news feeds has been deeply unsettling. However, the people who are currently shaking in their boots are behaving as if it has not always been there: hidden by the need of morons to fit in, to hide their shameful views behind the facade of being a real person. The fact of the matter is that these fuck-witted ideologies are only the sharp edge of a long blade running through the heart of all civil discourse.
Low level distrust amongst the old of the young, of the foreign, of Muslims, of the Jewish, has been bubbling up in odd references for decades: “Ooh, I’m not allowed to say that any more, am I?” is a prime example (it shouldn’t cross your mind to have said it at all, you mean). And all this throughout the supposed rise / progress of liberal social values, and a movement to a more equal society.
We have observed references to this in comedy since the death of the old comedy: casually racist granddad, granny scared of the black boy. It was meant to be funny while it was a stereotype; now it has become apparent that these people were real, and in greater number than we had supposed.
Now it has become apparent that these people were able to unite, and so exert their malevolent will on our free society. Now it has become apparent that these people, and the oligarchy, have formed an uneasy alliance. Some people see this move as a portent of our doom. I’m not sure they’re wrong.
People are scared of progress, for they see it as iconoclasm. People are scared of that which they feel is coming to take away their comfort blankets, for they see the future as cold. People are scared of finding out that the world doesn’t share the same central worldview as they do, for they fear that they are the ones who are wrong. Fear of fear; fear of the imagined; fear of the dark light of hope.
Fear is the force in our society which has led to the rise of Trump and to the spectre of Brexit. We know we are killing ourselves to live, but many would rather walk in to the fires of death than face a world where there are more than two genders. The idea that gay people are free to marry, and to live free and open lives, with the expectation of the same level of respect as straight people terrifies a great proportion of our society. This fear of hope spreads like a cancer among the already afraid.
I feel that we are doing very well as a society – Australia has legalised gay marriage for god’s sake – and that this supposedly dark period is merely a bump in the road. Too many of the people we hear from are too appalled by the crimes against civilisation which are currently being committed for us to fall completely in to the darkness of fake news and rule by those who are richest and least able.
There is an interesting trend in metal music at the moment: Positivity, Unity and Support. The lyrics of so many formerly miserable, angry, death obsessed bands has turned against this perceived tide of hate, division and mockery which they see as filling the world at this point in time. Instead, they have started writing songs calling on us all to come together as one people. Calling on us all to share what makes us human, and reject the arbitrary divisions which seem to be being imposed upon us.
Politically dark times have always been a fierce breeding ground for new art; it is almost as if the best creators need the worst circumstances in which to thrive. In the times of abundance, all we get is pop music and bland comedy. Come the darkness, come the material with which to innovate.
I studied screenwriting for quite some time, and it has taught me many lessons: Mostly about the structuring of narratives and the like, but also about the way in which drama unfolds. The classical form of cinematic narrative is that things have to move positively during the first act, until a turning point moves things in to a downward trajectory for the whole second and third acts. The fourth act brings things round from the lowest ebb to a positive direction, and equilibrium is hence restored.
Doing all of those things smoothly feels boring, so we are taught to keep putting bumps in the road. That is, if you are on a downward trend, add in positive points, in order to create tension. Likewise, if things are going too smoothly, drop in a road block: something which needs to be surmounted.
I believe that humanity is genuinely moving in a positive phase after centuries of war, pain, misery and suffering. This point in human civilisation is simply a blip to create tension. In the end, it will be seen and celebrated as one of the truly ghastly things which brought the human race together as one people once and for all. Only then can we take our species’ next step, whatever that may be.