These are disconcerting times we are living in, and prior assumptions about the way the world works are being blasted out of the sky like so many fairground ducks. Since the virus panic took hold early in 2020, governments, corporations and their media accomplices have fallen over themselves in an attempt to force the notion on us that there will be no going back to what was considered normal in 2019. Radical change, they tell us, is on the way and we had better get used to it. There is no alternative.
Nowhere is this more clearly laid out than in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) so-called Great Reset. This radical manifesto, written by the Bond villainesque Chairman Schwab, lays out a future in which an authoritarian commissariat uses an array of high-tech systems to micromanage our everyday lives, with everything from the widespread adoption of DNA altering vaccines, universal basic incomes replacing wages, digital currencies replacing cash, and the ownership of personal property being replaced by a system of sharing and on-demand services. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn’t.
Just as our work will be done by robots, neither will we need to bother thinking too much, as much of this will be performed on our behalf by computer algorithms which already know us better than we do. Leisure, learning and socialising will increasingly take place in a virtual world powered by artificial intelligence, negating the need for us to be together in the flesh.
If you want to get a glimpse into how this planned utopia will be, look no further than this fictional sci-fi piece by the Danish politician Ida Auken, which features on the WEF’s main website. In it, she envisages ‘her city’ (which, from the accompanying images, is clearly Copenhagen), where “ … we don’t pay any rent, because someone else is using our free space whenever we do not need it. My living room is used for business meetings when I am not there.”
In Ida’s city, everything is free, including herself. She is free to take a bike ride in the fresh air (pollution and cars have been done away with), cook herself a nice meal using a borrowed pasta machine dropped off by a drone, and dress up in any number of outfits she chooses, which are also not hers. The only cost she has to contend with in this carefree life is the cost of her own personal autonomy and privacy, as government surveillance pervades every aspect of her life. But, hey, she’s got nothing to hide, so it’s a small price to pay in her view, as she says:
“Once in awhile I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me.” Nevertheless, after this brief spell of reflection she concludes, “All in all, it is a good life. Much better than the path we were on …”
It isn’t all love and light in Ida’s world, however. Sadly, she tells us she worries for the unwashed deplorables and misfits who had chosen to live outside the city in the hinterlands. With great concern, she tells us about “those we lost on the way” who – for incomprehensible reasons – “live different kind of lives outside of the city. Some have formed little self-supplying communities. Others just stayed in the empty and abandoned houses in small 19th century villages.”
I don’t know about you, but the idea of living in a ‘self-supplying’ (?) community of quaint old houses in the countryside, instead of living in a sterile rented box within a re-enacted movie set of Logan’s Run is rather appealing, and I bet the social scene is a whole lot funkier. As a matter of coincidence, I re-watched Logan’s Run (1976) recently for the first time in decades – and this time not just so I could see Jenny Agutter disrobing in an ice chamber. For those who don’t know, the story is of a future Utopian society within a vast dome where every want and need is provided for and decisions are made by a computer. The citizens are hedonists, and can pretty much do as they please, within the narrow bounds decided by the Computer.
The only downside to Logan’s synthetic world is that, to prevent overpopulation, the happy citizens get ‘recycled’ in a specially observed ceremony when they hit 30, with a crystal on their palms indicating how much time they have left. When it flashes red, it’s time to start deciding what music you want played at your recycling ceremony. Naturally, our hero Logan has a suspicion that it’s all a sham and manages to escape into the outside world which turns out to be a ruin-filled forest where once stood Washington DC. And yes, while the acting may be hammy, the interactions of the main characters a bit outmoded, and the special effects – well – special, the story strikes a deep enough chord to keep you glued to the screen.
On the other hand, the first thing that strikes you about Ida Auken’s fabulous vision of the future is how unimaginative it is. She claims that it is a just a bit of harmless fun, a kind of thought experiment, but the fact that it’s being touted by the WEF is telling. Haven’t we been having this kind of green techno-utopian hallucination for several decades already? Heck, it’s 2020 and most of us don’t live in shiny, wealthy enclaves of prosperity, we instead bide our time working badly paid jobs in insalubrious towns and suburbs that are often covered in litter and graffiti and dog mess; the kinds of places where you don’t have to look too far to find gnawing poverty, mental breakdown and spiritual despair. John Michael Greer puts this succinctly in his latest post on his Ecosophia blog, titled The Great Leap Backward:
“It’s not just that life in the year 2020 doesn’t feature the domed cities and space colonies it was supposed to, or in particular that it lacks the limitless material abundance that was promised so freely not so many years ago. It’s that life in the year 2020 is looking decidedly shabby even by comparison with life in the recent past. The grand march of progress from the caves to the stars wasn’t supposed to result in a future of grubby, violent, and dysfunctional cities, entrenched rural poverty, crumbling infrastructure, failing public health, and the pervasive crapification of everyday life—and yet that’s where we are.”
Indeed. The second noteworthy thing about Auken’s fantasy is that it seems not to be much more than a tired old set of bullet points dressed up as first-person prose. This shouldn’t be surprising, I’ve done enough editing work for corporate executives in the past few years to know that the bullet point list is considered the pinnacle of artistic expression. Often it is sanctified and enshrined by the silver screen of the PowerPoint presentation, or suspended in space beside a glowing globe as a backdrop to a TEDx talk.
There are other questions one could ask about the sci-fi 2030 Utopia envisaged by Auken, such as where do all the high-tech resources come from that enable the functioning of society? Who mines the cobalt and lithium for them? Who decides what is permissible and what is not permissible in the absence of democracy? Where does the energy come from given that every honest assessment of ‘green’ energy indicates it can only provide a small fraction of the amount we currently get from (albeit rapidly depleting) fossil fuels? Why are no positive human qualities, such as genuine empathy, integrity, courage, self-awareness and love mentioned, while mindless consumption and a craven need for unaccountable authority is? And who exactly does one protest to if one receives a letter a week before your 30thbirthday telling you to report to your local recycling centre?
Funnily enough, I’ve encountered the mindset of the Great Resetters before when I lived in Copenhagen and worked as a newspaper editor, which I wrote about here. During the 2009 Climate Conference I spoke to the then environmental chief at the city council who told me, without any trace of irony, that if everyone on the planet lived like Copenhageners then there would be ‘no environmental problems’. And yet, when I looked around, Copenhagen was like any other rich world city: filled with cars, covered in concrete, and with a level of consumption and material privilege that was one of the highest anywhere in the world. The level of disconnect was clear.
Are these really the geniuses we are up against? Most senior members of the WEF, such as Chairman Schwab, are just that: seniors. Nearing the ends of their lives and having lived for so long in a luxurious bubble, these doddering has-beens are little more than corporate aristocrats, surrounded by sycophants, yes men and private security details. Could it be that these geriatric dreamers, facing corporeal collapse, are merely projecting their desperate narrative of control onto the world at large? They push out fresh faced and naive politicians like Ida Auken to be their spokespeople, confidant that their message will be lapped up. The young and/or impressionable, who stripped of their own indigenous cultural narratives or befuddled by the techno smog of war, then blast out these scripted solutions via their Twitter accounts and through opinion pieces in their captured media platforms as if it were the Word of God.
Unable to see people as anything more than unimportant meat robots who can be pushed around, organised, injected, and got rid of at will, the wannabe masters of the universe have become blind to the idea that those outside their bubble might have the basic intelligence to see that their Great Reset won’t actually be all that great for them. In fact, if they want to know what the unintended consequences of their revolutionary wet dream might look like, they should just ask a Cambodian older than 45, or anyone who has read up on the Russian revolution or Mao’s Great Leap Forward. When it comes to the odds of the Great Reset succeeding, history is firmly against them.
But, in the absence of a knowledge of history, these senile elites should perhaps be careful about the forces they unleash as they circle the plughole of their own irrelevance, for as Yeats warned in his poem The Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
And yet, there are plenty of other ways to live in the world other than as a lab rat in a technocratic experiment brought into reality by the fevered minds of a senile elite. The challenge is to create a totally different narrative that is at odds with the one being forced upon us, a kind of parallel society that allows for the ongoing development of our potential. What this might look like is anyone’s guess at this stage, but imagination is boundless, as is creativity, and the less centrally controlled it is, the more likely will be its success. In fact, the more alternative realities that are created, the more chance there is that one of them will be useful to the human project. Ecology loves diversity.
So, no, I don’t think I’d like to be part of the Great Reset thanks very much, and neither should you.