While the media enjoys trumpeting any number of game-changing events, the game doesn’t really feel any different.
Rapid innovation and change define both the last and this very new century. Capitalism’s most cherished belief is that these forces bring with them inevitable progress. We have more, things go faster, we live longer, we are more connected, the connected are more informed, the collective is more intelligent – so the story goes.
We look to the news to keep tabs on the innovations and changes important to us. But in the manic flow of the 24-hour news cycle, can we divine any event that has changed the course of this year, or heralds more long-term consequences for this generation? What have these present times wrought?
This was the question The Mark itself attempted to answer in its recent series “Nine Game-Changers of 2010 So Far”. But I’m not convinced the game is really any different.
A few more Hollywood stars made it clear that they are overpaid douche bags. The internet continues to be a leak that neither tinpot dictators nor empires can plug. Demonstrators committed senseless acts of vandalism in downtown Toronto. The police responded with the usual combination of lies and excessive force. Tiger Woods reaffirmed that it is still a man’s world. Prime Minister Harper provided further proof that conservatives cannot abide the cold, hard reality of facts, data, and statistics.
Nowhere here or elsewhere do I see any game-changing event or agent. All I see is more confirmation of the general trajectory of capitalism and its machinery. The world will continue to warm. The ice caps will melt. The polar bears will die. The seas will rise and choke on our affluence. The Pentagon will continue to try and hide the truth of war from all. Supra-international organizations will continue to circumvent national sovereignties. Perhaps sooner rather than later a mushroom cloud will appear over a major city.
The game is not changing, but perhaps the stakes are becoming clearer to us. We have put everything on the table. We have created risks that only come with highly advanced industrialization, yet our mechanisms for dealing with these risks are largely rooted in the 17th century – nation states, corporate mercantilism, vast standing armies that need to be fed and given purpose. And the clock is ticking.
It is unlikely that either God or time is on our side. The game itself is a game wherein those who are most free to break the rules are themselves the rulers.
It is and always has been somewhat unfashionable to be pessimistic. Pessimism bumps up against the cherished myth of progress – that we can invent our way out of this mess; that we can use new media to reform the old world.
Yet I see no signs of game-changers, only the telltale signs of a game that is coming shiftily, not to its conclusion perhaps, but to a grand accounting. This game we call capitalism, or modernity, or post-modernity, is really a game of truth and consequences.
We may never really know the truth of our situation. But pity the generation that discovers the full measure of the consequences.