Examining 'The Way We Live Now': What do we really want?

JUNE 6, 2017

Leading up to The Gathering at the end of July we are sharing weekly blogposts written by Art Earth Tech Institute members Rufus Pollock and Liam Kavanagh. This week’s post is a follow up on ‘The Way We Live Now’ and the questions that examination lead them to ask.

Photograph by Sarah Hickson

Examining ‘The Way We Live Now’: What do we really want?

by Rufus Pollock and Liam Kavanagh

We feel as we are writing this, that there is a dawning realization around the world of the situation described in our previous post about ‘The Way We Live Now’. This leads to several questions. We know what issues we have been arguing over, but what do we really want? That is, what are the elements of a good life that we are trying to achieve? And what change, whether individual or institutional, are we seeking to make? And, finally, how are we to maintain our focus and avoid absorption only with the problem of subsistence, infighting, or backsliding into old habits.

Is now the moment when enough people are ready to act, and, most importantly to coordinate in cultural and social change – so that it actually is the time for social change? If so we must ask ourselves what are the alternatives to business as usual? Are there successful alternatives lying unrecognized are there new alternatives to be invented — perhaps made possible, for example, by our new world of information? Is any meaningful change impossible if it is not accompanied by “spiritual change” that will allow us to be better messengers for the future that we envision.

There is a widespread feeling that some tension be it the climate, war in the Middle East, artificial intelligence etc may catalyze the hoped for “great turning.” How will these issues affect the popular mindset? Are they really catalysts or are they just distractions? Are these important enough that they should dominate our attention?

Relatedly, how do we, going forward, reckon with the legacy of Marxism? It seems to be part of history and rhetoric, and will rear its head, like it or not. Can we critically engage with this movement, taking what ideas and concepts were there, and correctly diagnose the causes of its failure? The loose coalition known as the Anti-globalization movement is something of a mutation of the old radical left. Why haven’t their ideas taken hold? Is the task that we’re facing one of rhetoric and reification as much as of coming up with new approaches? If so then what is the rhetorical strategy, and how can this be shared across disparate groups undertaking disparate initiatives?

Another set of questions surrounds technology. Does the technology-enabled transition to an age of abundance and an age of information make a different world possible? What kinds of worlds? Can we choose them, or is tech diffusion too inevitable and unpredictable to be managed? If we don’t have an answer here, how do we go about finding one? Conversation on this very important topic has been stilted for some time. To the extent that we have solutions, partial solutions, or even provisional approaches to getting closer to solutions, how do we go about disseminating these?

Edited by Brigitte Arndt