Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In the last few months, trillions of dollars of imagined wealth has dissipated like sorcerer's smoke.  Now people are trying to hunker down out of the draught to hold on to whatever they're to be left with.

The economic pain is real - there are kids going hungry, houses going dark, and cancers going untreated.  But as we look for an exit I hope that we can seize an opportunity to imagine going somewhere other than just back to where we were before.

In the eyes of this anthropologist at least, our Earth-wrecking consumerism and the autophagic worker-consumer-producer nexus that we subsist within hasn't created impressive amounts of health and happiness.

And yet, I know from teaching my course on utopianism that we have tremendous - usually insurmountable - difficulties imagining that things could really be much different.  At some level people truly believe in the brutal inevitability of the way things are.

(It's not surprising that elites desire to create an aura of inevitability about the status quo - a lot of cultural energy is expended on this wherever people squabble over power - but it's been startling to see how successful they've been in our otherwise relatively open and diverse society.)

So will our fear and pain drive us with even more fervor toward the over-worked and over-spent materialism that is being threatened - or will the scales fall from our eyes and let us see something new?