How will they look in hindsight, these strange times we are living through? Is this a midlife crisis on humanity’s road to the Star Trek future – or the point at which that story of the future unravelled and we came to see how much it had left out? What if our current crises are neither an obstacle to be overcome, nor the end of the world, but a necessary humbling?
In the early weeks of the Coronavirus crisis and the extraordinary rupture of the everyday that it represents, Ed Gillespie and Dougald Hine set out to explore what it means to be humbled.
In this first episode, we start with Milton Friedman’s line: ‘Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”
And we trace out five key stories, five trajectories that were already lying around and that people are already drawing on to make sense of this extraordinary moment in which we find ourselves:
- ‘Back to Normal’ – this is just a pause, when can we return to business as usual?
- ‘New Normal’ – the adaptations forced by this crisis are fast-forwarding us into a new state, but will it be utopian or dystopian?
- ‘Disaster Communism’ – with economies in freefall, governments stumble into policies that would have been unthinkably radical just weeks ago – so are we all socialists now, enthusiasticly or reluctantly?
- ‘Disruptive Progress’ – is this part of a mid-life crisis on humanity’s inevitable ascent?
- ‘Softening the Fall’ – were we on our way ‘down to earth’ anyway, so that this crisis becomes a moment in which to get real about what that could mean?
This is a back-of-an-envelope map, a snapshot of our overlapping thoughts just now and a way into a longer conversation we want to have. We hope you enjoy it.
00:00 Introducing the series
03:16 Stories as maps. Is it too soon to tell the story of this crisis? Will it still be too soon when it starts to be too late? Feeling our way into this – what does it mean to be ‘mapping lava’?
10:03 Five stories on a back-of-an-envelope map – and why ‘apocalypse’ doesn’t mean the end of the world.
12:24 The ‘Back to Normal’ story. Is this the default position of power? What is the link between ‘longing’ and seeking distraction? Will or can this civilisation learn anything from this crisis? How does fear influence our decision making in a time of non-linear risk?
23:27 The ‘New Normal’ story. Are we rapidly accelerating into a world shaped by the winners of this crisis: Amazon, Facebook, Zoom & supermarket deliveries? Does the future depend on who runs the platforms? If we don’t return to old norms (e.g. business travel), does this point to a virtualised global economy, or a more radical relocalisation?
33:01 ‘Disaster Communism’ is this a ‘Shock Doctrine’ for the left? Are our politicians, as Paul Mason suggests, all socialists now, either enthusiastically or reluctantly? What do we know we don’t know? How will a centralised ‘Statism’ rub alongside a more ‘Mutualist’ grassroots renaissance? How will the precariat influence what happens next?
42:06 ‘Disruptive Progress’ is this just a bump in the road towards either a Mad Max or Star Trek future for humanity? Are we having a civilisational mid-life crisis? Is a reboot the solution?
48.50 ‘Softening the Fall’ how aware have we been of rises and falls historically? Can you recognise a paradigm shift when in the middle of one?
Cover Art: Warren Beeby