It’s been said that every nation is three meals away from a revolution. This principle had never before been tested in so many countries simultaneously as it was in the 2020s.
At first many held onto the hope that everything would soon go back to normal, but as the long term realities of the decade set in, more and more people would come to the same startling conclusion: the ‘authorities’ were out of their depth. There was no exit strategy. The situation was not ‘under control’.
In the early stages of the crisis, when the first few governments were collapsing, very few realized how the confluxes of economic, geopolitical and social variables were coalescing in a perfect storm. But when G20 nations started dropping like flies the phenomenon it became impossible to ignore. Like dominoes falling, the collapse of one major economy destabilized every country connected to it. In the age of globalization very few would be spared.
What began as a trickle suddenly accelerated as the downfall that precipitated an unprecedented shock to global supply chains. Imports ground to a halt all around the world. In countries dependent on outsourced food production and manufacturing this translated into widespread shortages and social unrest. In these environment extremist movements of all stripes flourished.
A small handful of nations would weather this storm peacefully. Rather than tearing themselves apart from within or transforming into totalitarian dictatorships, they would unify and adapt. As economic and monetary shocks disrupted global supply chains and trade, these countries would quickly reorganize their economies to replace imports with local production starting with food and essentials. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels was an important element of this transition.
To accomplish this feat every aspect of modern life was reimagined. Lawns were replaced by gardens; golf courses converted to orchards. Waste streams were recuperated to minimize losses. It wasn’t easy, but these countries pulled through, and before the decade was over, they were building regional trade networks that hadn’t existed before the crisis.
A lot of wealthy countries didn’t do so well in the second phase of the crisis; the part where real hardship kicked in. Populations accustomed to easy living and constant entertainment had a very short fuse. As shortages and rationing became the new normal and homeless encampments grew, protests would morph into riots, armed uprisings and civil wars.
Governments that were ill prepared for these challenges crumbled quickly; some into the hands of populist movements, others to military juntas. In most cases the replacement was more brutal and repressive that the old system. The underlying paradigm was rarely questioned at all.
Many regimes would extend their lifespan by totalitarian means. Emergency powers established under lockdown would prove invaluable here. Policies previously justified by public health would now be implemented in the name of national security; control mechanisms adapted and repurposed to crack down on dissidents.
It was every petty dictator’s wet dream: granular control over every aspect of human behavior and interaction. No one allowed gathering in public without permission. Every contact tracked and traced. If you’re outside you better be prepared to show your papers.
This approach was most effective when the latent fears and hatreds of the population could be rallied against an enemy. Convince a people that they are under attack and it’s easy to unify them under a flag.
Rather than rioting in the streets, impoverished youth can be conscripted into the military. Their identities shattered and remolded; conditioned to obey; trained to kill on command. Send them abroad to steal land and resources. Use them at home to crush dissent. War is after all the health of the state.
Regardless of which axis prevailed in these conflicts the result would be the same. A new totalitarian order was the universal prescription; the only cure for the chaos.
The world’s first truly global currency would replace the notes. This currency would be completely digital; coins and bank notes phased out. Every single transaction conducted using this currency would be recorded on a block chain. Unlike the original crypto currencies this block chain was controlled by a central authority and monitored with AI. Economic privacy became a thing of the past.
It was the holy grail of ruling elite, the precursor for global governance with teeth, but before they even had time to properly congratulate themselves, their house of cards was already catching wind.
As living conditions deteriorate, and fear and uncertainty prevail, certain psychological forces are always unleashed. These forces are like the incoming waves of a tsunami. Once they gather momentum there can be no stopping them.
Throughout history there have been individuals and movements who rode these waves; channeling the tides of human sentiment towards a course of action. Though the science of crowd psychology is complex and nuanced, the application of its principles is mind bogglingly simple. So simple in fact, those intellectuals typically recoil from them, while bonafide idiots wield them easily (and to great effect).
Like riding a tsunami on a surfboard, attempting to redirect the momentum of a society is highly dangerous. The crowd can lift a leader to great heights, but one mistake can leave them hanging from a lamp post. Those who manage to navigate these forces usually guard the formula carefully. Failure to do so would threaten the foundations of their power. This time around however, humanity flipped the script.
In the age of the internet the science of crowd psychology and color revolutions had been available to the public for some time now, but very few saw the utility in studying it. However as the 2020s progressed, and it became more and it became more clear that that those in power were pushing civilization toward a dystopian nightmare, a contingent of activists would reverse engineer the tools being used against them. The work of Gustave Le Bon and Edward Bernays would be modernized and tempered with a cultural code: the positive application of human instinct.
The instinctual psychology of species can be harnessed for good or for evil. In the modern era it has been weaponized by the military industrial complex for regime change, and by corporations for marketing and public relations. The same principles however can apply to create rather than destroy. Visions and values can spread like viruses from mind to mind, and from place to place. The contagion of a single idea can inspire generations towards a new paradigm.
To topple a government is surprisingly easy when conditions are right. Silver spoon politicians who’ve never served or worked a day in their life can easily lose the respect and obedience of military and law enforcement. When that happens, it is game over. The question that always comes up in such events (usually as an afterthought) is what will you replace the old system with?
There is nothing more dangerous than armed men with utopian dreams. Sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease. History provides many cautionary tales. To avoid the trap of oppressed rising up to become the oppressor the paradigm that facilitates this dynamic has to be questioned.
The vast majority of modern governments, businesses and organizations utilize a social structure called vertical collectivism. Vertical collectivism is top down system of organizing human groups which amplifies power by stacking layers of authority in pyramids. The result is a highly stratified society where those on the bottom have little or no say, and are left to fight over scraps from above.
Vertical collectivism is apolitical. Capitalists companies and Communist regimes both use it without contradiction, as do republics that call themselves democracies.
The vertical model was born of military strategy. A general or warlord alone can only control a small army, but by using subordinate officers in layers of rank, a single individual, or a small ruling class can dominate millions of people and vast territories. This is why a state is often defined as the monopoly on violence within a region.
Vertical collectivism didn’t spread to every corner of the globe because it improved peoples’ lives. In fact modern anthropologists acknowledge that the transition to this way of life was associated with reduced life expectancy and a decline in virtually all measures in health (up until very recently). Vertical collectivism spread like a cancer because it is brutally effective in the in the context of war. Every culture that it encountered was either crushed on the battlefield or forced to copy the model to survive. The dawn of civilization as many euphemistically refer to it is a story of conquest and colonialization that began approximately 10,000 years ago and continues to this day. This was not however, the beginning of the human story.
For over 300,000 years long before the first empires of Asia and Europe began to absorb surrounding tribes humans organized themselves using a very different model. Rather than building top down, stratified societies that concentrated wealth and power in the hands of an upper class, these cultures organized horizontally.
Organizing horizontally didn’t mean that there were no leaders. The authority and instincts are far older than humanity. Like all social animals, our species is hardwired to follow those who demonstrate courage and intelligence. However in horizontal societies disparities of wealth and power were significantly smaller. The leaders and councils responsible for group decisions were not insulated by armies and law enforcement conditioned to obey without question. Defense and order were maintained by an armed citizenry, bound by a code of conduct. This dynamic forced leaders to be directly accountable to the population. Their power was rooted in their ability to communicate with the people, build consensus and chart a course of action to the benefit of all.
The fact that horizontal societies required leaders to work with the public in such a personal way had one obvious disadvantage: it limited the size of the group. After all, why would someone voluntarily follow someone far away that they never met?
There is however, a way around this limitation. By forming federations horizontal societies can expand their sphere influence significantly. An example of this adaptation can be found in the Iroquois confederacy which unified 5 tribes for hundreds of years in the region that came to be called New York. Each member tribe in the confederacy had their own culture and internal governance, but a set of shared values enabled them to cooperate economically and militarily. If one tribe was attacked they quickly mounted a common defense.
Many historians believe that Somalia federal system was based on the Iroquois model. One significant difference however, was that the Iroquois had no central government. There was a central council comprised of representatives from each tribe, but this council had no power to enforce its will. Each representative was tasked with building a consensus that would resonate with their people.
A modernized adaptation of this Iroquois model gained traction in the mid 2020s as the gears of globalization ground to a halt. While governments proved incapable of solving the most basic problems, decentralized networks were replacing the system from the ground up. They would start by organizing local food production in their communities and gradually expand cooperation to other sectors.
Their revolution was driven by an idea worth spreading. Not only was it possible to live on this planet without destroying it, this way of life was more abundant and fulfilling than the alternative. There was no need to wait for governments to act. Humans are perfectly capable of organizing themselves.
Those that succeeded became epicenters of a new renaissance; attracting skilled workers and artists from all around the world. Some of these travelers would put down permanent roots. Others would return to their homeland to plant seeds of their own.
From the fragments of fallen empires new nations would be born. From the ashes of dying cultures new cultures would rise. The great collapse of the 2020s was not the end of the world. It was the end of an era, and the dawn of a new one.
Time to Flip the Script
Remember how we said this story has multiple endings? We’re going take one of them to a literal extreme; and we’re going to do it in the real world.
Now if you’re living in a crowded city center, maybe pushing the boundaries starts by planting a garden in your front yard, organizing a community compost, or speaking out against a war. However it’s important to understand that in the era we have entered the stakes are rising, and the trajectory we’re on needs to be altered significantly. This implies fundamental changes in the way we live, not just gestures in right direction.
Those who piece together the clues get through the filters, and pass quarantine will at some point find them standing here.
You have to decide what kind of story you and your family want to be a part of. In some cases this might involve immigrating to another country. Others will be more inclined to stay, and fight to change the outcome at home. One way or the other you’ll want to be in a place where you can grow food and you’ll want to be set up to do this without agrochemical inputs or fossil fuels.
You also don’t want to be reliant on the grid. Utilities can and will go down. Some will be shocked by how long they can stay down.
These are not the kind of lifestyle changes you want to make at the last moment, or put off until you can do something large scale. It is far better to start transitioning to a new way of life right now. Do what you can with what you have. Join forces with others to amplify.
The learning curve for this kind of transition can be steep. There are a lot of practical skills that we should be taught in school but are not. Most kids when they graduate… don’t know how to build a house, or grow a garden, or even how to make bread.
The best way to learn this stuff isn’t really in a classroom anyway. People learn best by example, anchored with hands on experience.