For a Brief Moment in Time

For a brief moment in time, the world held its breath. What once was the dystopian image of a conformist future society had become reality in the first decade of the 21st century. Cities were gone, replaced by so-called urban environments, clean, green, innocuous, breathing the tranquillity of spa gardens. They had become the cherished places of the affluent bourgeois to start a career, a family, a high quality of life assured by the financial service firms and IT companies nearby. The main worry of these new affluents was the fear of loss of status and wealth and whether their children should learn Chinese or the violin, or both – at the age of three. The only job offers continuing to fill the pages of the frumpy local newspapers were for caregivers of the old and of children.

All places had become clean and nice. Gone were the times when the trains still had compartments of six seats, windows of which could be opened by hand. Now trains looked like airplane cabins on rails. Gone the times when you had to face beggars and homeless that were now either pushed out of the urban environments or being taken care of by nice social services. But the main trick that had managed to get them out of sight, at stations or in pedestrian zones, had been new park benches. Their seats no longer a continuous surface had armrests inserted that made lying and sleeping impossible. Gone too were graffiti spraying in urban passages and addicts hanging around since some smart employee of the municipal office for city marketing had come up with the brilliant idea to install special UV-light bulbs that made the skin of people look morbid and ugly. The smart use of technology to monitor crowds and to diffuse social problems was a landmark of this age.

Its conformity was astounding. The idolatry of rationality and science, paired with the constant resort to practical constraints to justify every bit of invasive activity, had brought about a citizenry whose mindset consisted of green thinking, self-fulfillment, and the constant fear of losing the social status and wealth already aquired. The children were part of this streamlining as their childhood consisted in such an amount of intake of information and pressure, that they developed ADHS whenever they were not challenged to perform cutely and achieve brilliantly. Therapy, once part of a humanistic movement, had become the means of choice in social engineering to boost performance and agility. It was happily used on the young to force them into line. And why not? As the scientific breakthroughs in genetics had given new tools to combat diseases and to screen embryos for disabilities, would it not have been immoral not to use them? So why raise any objection? In fact, was high-tech habitat management not the best way to preserve species, especially when combined with elaborate schemes in eco-tourism to sustain local communities to help them out of the debt-traps created by micro-credits lavishly granted ten years earlier?

On the farms the cows now listened to Mozart because it was said to boost the milk output. Egg production from free-range hens was a must, regardless of whether the hens turned to auto-canibalism in lack of minerals that could not be given externally because of the Eco-certification. Likewise, the idyllic pictures of farms present in all organic food stores at the best shopping spots did not show the feathers and blood on the ground resulting from rampant and enduring infighting between hens that, accustomed to groups of up to 20 animals, now had to cope within groups of 2.000 and more. The hen, continuously fighting to establish its rank inside such large groups, became the emblem for the merry-go-round of the urban elites at their workplaces and at homes.

Still, revolution was in the air. It was, as it had always been, the prerogative of the young and the smart. But this time was different. Highly educated, worshipping “hard work” and worldchanging ambition, the revolution assumed the character of web based collaboration and “sharism”, thereby breathing the fug of Victorian workhouses. What kind of revolution could that be that used the vocabulary of long forgotten hedonistic revolutions and combined it with the urgent appeal to save the world through hard labour? Voluntary labour. The young, the smart, the technophiles, who created such tools that only worked properly when not controlled by a single hand, achieved not much more than to provide the next generation of security- and surveillance equipment to governments and global corporations who were happy to use them to impose uniformity. What had escaped the attention of most of the rebellious was that governments and corporations were no longer interested to use these tools to impose control or to intimidate. In order to be visible at all rebellions had to be so modest in their goals that every rebel could equally be part of the middle management of any corporation. To run a web-based revolution required skills akin to that used in every business consultancy, so that employees of the latter could easily switch to the former and vice versa without even leaving ripples on the water’s surface.

The future was about gadgets, not social alternatives. But this had been just one of the signs of loss in diversity. It was a time in which the explosion of data, information, patents was accompanied by a record loss in natural species, languages, histories, traditions, and varieties of ways of living. It was no longer possible to anticipate or even to describe possible futures when everything deemed real and permissible was already part of semi-automated processes of data-mining. The time when the Technopol had replaced nature and wilderness and had become the new nature, the new wilderness – it was a time when the Wild had become some kind of Mad Max-dream state, in which even insanity and madness had changed their character and had become the new normal.

The tranquil spa gardens into which the affluent urban environments had changed, the banality of even the most advanced concepts of resistance, it all turned the world into some frightening limbo of end of history. Without any alternative, the actual became the endless timelessness, where nothing changed and where the only change that really took place somewhere on the planet was some uprising to become like the rest of the world. To get a gadget. To become a gadget. To feed the machine with hope and aspiration. To be part of some demonic machinery that equated spirit with mind, and conscience with social impact assessment. A time when everything that counted was work, efficiency, and data-driven feasibility.

This Janus-like duplicity of technological savvy conformity on the one hand and extreme fear of losing the cosy security of constant information input on the other had created its own equilibrium, its own stasis. Creativity, fulfillment, purpose became part of the enduring task of enhancing the productivity and predictability of the soul.

Productivity means predictability, as both are measured in the same terms. Only in refusal of being productive did people have a chance to become unpredictable. To become a true outcast you had to renounce all participation in work, leisure, social movements, creative communities, whatever. You had to disavow the quest for a fulfilled life, to abandon a specific life-mission. The alternative was the new mainstream, in which progressive and conservative criticism were just the two walls of an echo-chamber whose main purpose was to urge people to think inside the box and to work even harder.

For a brief moment in time the end of history was in sight. It was a bored, uninterested, complacent way of waiting to receive the next pill – red or blue, it did not really matter. For a brief moment in time it seemed as if time itself had stopped. But then, one day – or was it a month, a year? – global warming finally took pace as the permafrost had thawed sufficiently, and in the rapidly accelerating speed of destruction the urban environments were the first to crumble. The fall was quick and sweeping. Only years later did people understand that perfection on a mass-scale can only be achieved when viewpoints and alternatives are reduced. Blindness had been the sign of this now bygone era of light.


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