We can’t say we weren’t warned that someday change would overtake us. I remember decades ago seeing a table displaying the rate of societal change that showed a sleepy, slightly upward trend in the number of changes that occurred over time.
Then, in forecasting the future, the line took a sharp incline up until it was straight up.
Straight up! Meaning we were about to enter a time of accelerated change that was, most likely, far beyond what we mere humans were able to absorb.
I don’t recall but the chart may well have come directly from Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock,” published in 1970, or was presented as a graphic of his prescient analysis. Toffler defined future shock as simply, “too much change in too short a period of time.”
I have been wondering for some time now how much of a factor accelerated change is in the current “chaos” – at least in my opinion – of our time. For many, our time is one of uncertainty and insecurity.
Technology and the now technological age has and is touching every part of our lives. Technology has eliminated some jobs and created others. Technology has overhauled our patterns of socialization, our habits of keeping up with news, our access to information, or way of managing our daily lives.
Wars, recessions, the ravages of Mother Nature, increasing individual and country debt and endless political conniving for power have eroded the effectiveness of government to manage competing demands.
Financial struggles of the many and increasing concentration of national wealth in the hands of a few seems to have set in motion competition among the many over perceived scarcity. We all can think of multiple examples of finger-pointing at the “other.”
The past certainties of secure jobs, common beliefs and values and our model of democratic government, are disappearing into what seems to be an unpredictable future. We are questioning just about everything.
We are struggling to regain equilibrium which seems out of reach for many. Is it any wonder there is a war between maintaining the past and moving into the future?
The search for equilibrium
When I think of shock, I think medical emergency. A body going into shock is in danger of shutting down. The heart rate accelerates to a point of inefficiency, sort of like running on a treadmill – working very hard but getting nowhere.
The heart’s not doing its job and the circulation of the body just hangs out without sending blood out and returning it to the heart. Vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, lungs can’t survive. If they go, so goes the body.
Many things can cause shock to our bodies; hemorrhaging from severe injury, anaphylactic shock due to severe allergic reaction and severe dehydration are common causes.
Each one cause has a remedy which must be instituted immediately, such as stop bleeding and restore volume. While the appropriate emergency measures are being done, it is important to warm and calm the person going into or in shock. Imagine how cold the victim feels and how frightened he or she is.
Just how do we warm and comfort all of us whose lives are disrupted by rapid change and a seemingly loss of our institutions’ ability to manage change?
Shifts are occurring leaving behind things that were a meaningful part of many lives. It could be an occupation lost to cheaper labor in a foreign land. It could be a skilled occupation lost to technology.
It could be a value shift to recognize certain human proclivities that offend deeply held beliefs. It could be cultural presence that differs so significantly from our way of life that we no longer know our neighbors.
It could be all the above and so much so that we no longer see ourselves fitting in the world today.
So, we scatter. Some of us work to restore the past and some of us stay focused on the future. Some politicians try to please all sides. Policy makers, even some politicians work to reconcile the past and future. Others pretty much threw in the towel to “every man for himself.”
And, the chaos grows and leans to the power of the moment.
Among all of this are threads of gold. Recent elections are showing a trend toward balance in our government. Most people are rejecting tactics of power plays and personal attacks.
The recent tax bill allowed for support instead of punishment of wind and solar power as primary job creators. Women are stepping forward in the face of power to demand dignity as well as equal rights.
Forums to bring people of differing views together are growing.
Still, we have a long way to go to restore equilibrium. We know that our values of freedom and individualism have historically been denied to some groups of people. What was never there cannot be restored – it must be created.
Fortunately, our country will survive longer in chaos than a body does, but eventually, the structures for hope, meaningful work, mutual respect and effective leadership must be created or restored.
We must restore our faith in the institutions that provide the bridge between the past and future. We must restore our faith in each other.
The alternative is to give up striving for our values and principles found in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. There are a minority among us who wish such a fate would befall us and prove that the idea was unworkable from the beginning.
They’re wrong. We will regain our balance of the past – what still works – and the future – what no longer works. The past and future shouldn’t be fighting since there is not one without the other. We shouldn’t either since we are not one without the other.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.