In a recent conversation I said:
“A distinguishing trait of the 21st century is that it is primarily a reaction to the 20th century”
In many ways, the 21st century is an era which is trying to “come to terms” with the 20th century, what it created, and what happened during that century. This has made me call the 20th century the “dramatic century”. It was so dramatic that we are still trying to react to it.
THE “DRAMATIC CENTURY” – THE 20TH CENTURY
What makes the 20th century so dramatic? To me, it is primarily these two things:
- The problems of overpopulation.
- New means of doing things
Overpopulation has caused a great tension in the world. Its effects, I think, are far more important than it seems. Many of the problems of the past several centuries are nothing but overpopulation problems. Its now so influential the the effects of overpopulation is somehow involved in many things that happen nowadays, in government, in business, in consumerism, etc. In many cases, it basically determines what happens.
Overpopulation has caused a number of problems such as:
- Problems sustaining the multitude of people
- Problems in keeping a control of all the people
- Problems in organizing all the people
- Problems and disputes between people
- A destruction of things, such as the environment and culture
- Various social problems
- Tendencies to mass hysteria, mass panic, mass mania’s, etc.
These have given overpopulation a quality of a great burden on the world which has caused much stress and strain. In some places, it has strained society, and the government, to the limit. In fact, there are many places in the world that can’t deal with the overpopulation problem.
I often think that the burden of overpopulation has caused something like a “scramble” in many countries . . . basically, a scramble to deal with it as best as they can. It seems that many people confuse this scramble with progress, development, innovation, and such, which is really an idealized image of the situation, as if “we’re just bettering ourselves”. In actuality, its a scramble. Overall, I’d say the whole world is scrambling over this problem, in one way or another. I would even venture to say that overpopulation has now become a determining factor in the decisions and happenings of things in the 21st century.
Many new means of doing things were developed or refined in the 20th century. These appeared in many ways and forms. They include things such as:
One could say that the new means of doing things encompass so many things that, all of them together, has created something like a system. I often call this “systemism”. I often define “systemism” as a conglomeration of things that keep an overpopulated condition in control and stable. This is exactly what the new means has created. To me, the “modern world” is a form of “systemism”.
Many of these new means have been very new, innovative, influential, and amazing. They are often viewed as “great achievements” (such as the moon landing). Its given the 20th century a quality of a “glory time” when great achievements and things were done. As we will see below, many people are trying to reenact the “glories” of the 20th century.
Interestingly, the development of new means of doing things is often in response to overpopulation problems. In fact, the new means of doing things has helped alleviate overpopulation problems. I believe, though, that there is an illusion in this. Though the new means have helped alleviate overpopulation problems they do not, in actuality, solve them . . . the overpopulation, and the problems it causes, still exists. This means, more or less, that the new means do not solve overpopulation problems . . . they only temporarily alleviate them. That, to me, seems a very important point.
In some respects, the new means of doing things have greatly extended and amplified humanities effects and influences on humanity and the world. One could say that it has greatly amplified it. In this way, the new means of doing things has aggravated humanities presence in the world and upon itself. Its given humanity an “in your face” quality.
The overall effect
Both overpopulation and new means have contributed to each other and help sustain each other: population fosters new means which fosters population, etc. Its like a vicious circle, one becomes dependent on another, making the other grow, and they both grow more and more dependent and bigger and bigger. This ends up creating something like a vibrant, energetic, volatile and potentially explosive situation, which is exactly what the 20th century was. That is why it created the “dramatic” century.
In my opinion, the 20th century was so “dramatic” that it became a destructive and damaging century overall. I say this for a number of reasons:
- It has destroyed many things.
- It has undermined many things.
- It offers only one solution and way to go . . . the modern world . . . which dominates everything. There are no alternatives.
- It has created an inherently destructive system as the world dominating and only system.
But that’s how it looks, to me, from an overall perspective. If we look at it closer it becomes apparent that the “dramatic” century, and the situations it has caused, has had both good and bad effects, such as:
- It has improved the situation of many people
- It has adversely affected many people
- It has caused great destruction, such as deforestation, pollution, garbage, etc.
- It has created means to solve the destruction, at least to some extent
- It has created horrible weapons of war and destruction
- It has caused means to prevent war and destruction, through better government, treaties, etc., at least to some extent
So we see that the “dramatic” century is dramatic because it has caused incredible good effects and horrible bad effects and at the same time. Its because of this that I don’t think that a person could say that the “dramatic” century is all good or all bad . . . it is both. The “dramatic” century is dramatic because of these things:
- It is both good AND bad.
- This has had impact on a number of people that is unprecedented in history.
- This was on a level never before seen in history.
I would say that this phenomena has caused several qualities that are defining traits of the 20th century:
- The effect of the good qualities
- The effect of the bad qualities
- That we are struggling with the tension these opposing good/bad polarities have caused
The good and bad effects has had such an impact that it has caused two groups of people to appear in the society, almost like two “cultures”. This, I believe, has had great impact on the character of the 21st century . . .
The conflict caused by good and bad effects has had an impact on society. It has created something like two groups in the society:
- The “reenactor culture” – A group of people who are trying to “cash in” on the glories of the 20th century by reenacting them. This culture consist of people who are trying to replicate and repeat the glory of the 20th century and to reenact its achievements. For example, people want to invent fancier machines in imitation of what was created in the 20th century (such as the “technology craze”), they want to do all sorts of the same or similar achievements (such as with their career or sports), and so on. All these are basically imitating the 20th century and the glory of what it did. This has made the 21st century the “reenacting century”.
- The “paranoid culture” – A group of people who have problems dealing with the conflicts and horror the 20th century has created. This culture is in continual fear and are always complaining about problems that originated in the 20th century. There is fear of war, pollution, hatred, and so on, to the point of paranoia, panic, and mania. This has made the 21st century the “paranoid century”.
These two group has split the society in two, at least to some extent. That is, people often tend to fit in one group or the other (for example, they are trying to achieve something or are paranoid about something). Its created something like two separate “cultures” in the society, living side-by-side. Usually, though, they do not oppose each other.
But these two “cultures” has caused something like a tension in 21st century society, primarily by their existence in the society and how they have become overwhelming and controlling. I would even describe them as an obsession:
- An obsession to reenact the 20th century
- An obsession of paranoia and fear
Both of these have caused problems in the society. There are a number of ways this this happens, such as:
- Problems caused by their obsessive nature. They become overly dominating and controlling. Many peoples lives are literally being controlled by these obsessions.
- Being based in the last century, many people are not living in the “here and now” and are like living in some other world.
- The “paranoid culture” brings great panic and fear into the society that is totally unnecessary and uncalled for. This stirs up conflict, and many bad feelings, that really have no basis in anything.
This tension caused by these two cultures have, I believe, even figured prominently in the 2016 Presidential election and the Trump presidency. In many ways, it defines it. This more or less is saying that all the commotion, ruckus, disputes, etc. of the Trump presidency is really nothing but a continuation of the good and bad tug-of-war created by the 20th century: there is the desire to revive the glory of the 20th century (“Make America great again”) and there is fear and panic (all the commotion about how Trump is supposed to be against females and minorities and sided with the Russians, etc.).
Some aspects of the 21st century has the qualities of someone reacting to a traumatic event. This would mean that the 20th century has qualities of a traumatic event. I do believe that there is truth to this, at least to some extent. To say it is “traumatic” is a little extreme, though. A better word might be “disruptive”, which is what I’ll use in this article. I will use the word “disruptive” in the context of:
- A situation in which there is a form of an upsetting
- Where there are problems reacting to it
- Where the problems the situation created remains unresolved
This does not necessarily mean that the situation was horrifying or a painful event.
Overall, the 20th century was a very disruptive century. This disruption had a range from minor to horrifyingly disruptive. Its caused a major disruption in society, cultures, beliefs, ways of life, and the world in general. It has upset, destroyed, and undermined many things. This disruption has, overall, been so severe that it has caused difficulties in reacting to it and in resolving the problems its created, not only as a society but as individual people. Because the disruption happens in a historical context I will call it “historical disruption”.
As history progresses a culture suffers various forms of “historical disruption” and to varying degree’s. They may be minor. They may be major. It can be caused by things like:
- Failure of economy
- New ideas or beliefs
- New ways of doing things
- Some event of nature, such as a hurricane
Typically, a culture that has been “disrupted” has to have a period of time to “heal”, so to speak, or “come to terms” with it (see below). This suggests that “historical disruption” has qualities like a mental illness. This can range from mild, such as being irritating, to severe, as something traumatic.
The “dramatic” century was “disrupted” in different ways such as:
- It was a century that has so many new things with it that many people could not “grasp” it or relate with it. This caused a lot of alienation and confusion.
- Many peoples lives were changed too rapidly and they had problems adapting.
- Many people found themselves having no choice and being forced to do things. This caused a helplessness and contempt.
- There is a fear and horror of many things that it created.
- Many people were adversely affected by it, often permanently, causing frustration and anger.
- Nobody knows whats going on or whats going to happen so it causes anxiety.
As near as I can tell, none of these problems have ever been resolved but continue in the society. What this means is that the society that the “dramatic century” created – the 21st century – is “disrupted”, to some extent, and suffers from the effects of the disruption. I think there is truth in this. It shows a problem with “historical disruption” . . .
The nature of “historical disruption” is that it seems to cause a difficulty in reacting. As a result, the “issues” remain in the people as individuals because they cannot resolve them. The reason for this difficulty in reaction seems to be because people are not reacting as individual people but as social beings. This means that “historical disruption” is a phenomena of society. When people act as social beings they follow society. When society is disrupted they are disrupted. But since society can’t react, they also can’t react. As a result, they remain disrupted.
It seems, to me, that the 20th century created a particularly strong problem in reacting because what it created was so new and dramatic that people basically don’t know how to react to it socially or as individual people. This is one of the reasons why it was so disruptive and why it was so unique. Its like humanity became a “fish out of water”. Of course, this is not what people tend to say or think.
Many people seemingly seem to “agree” with the 20th century, and what it created, but I tend to feel that, even though people may intellectually “agree” with the 20th century, there is an overall “don’t know how to react” quality in their mentality. My general feelings is that most people can’t relate with the 20th century and what it created. This has created a quality of “staring into something they can’t understand” that I see a lot in the 21st century.
I think this inability to react commonly appears as a tendency for people to blindly pattern their lives in “response to the conditions of the times” much like blind sheep. Basically, the times control their lives and dictate their lives. By blindly following the conditions of the times they get the illusion of control in a world they have no control of and which they can’t relate to. I call this tendency a “yes man to the times” and I believe it is a common way for people to deal with the conditions of the 20th century.
“Coming to terms” with the “dramatic century”???
Like any disruptive event there must be a time to “come to terms” with it. In some respects, the 21st century seems like it is a period of time where the world is trying to “come to terms” with the 20th century and what it created. In actuality, “coming to terms” really refers to finding a way to adequately react to the situation. This means that 21st century is trying to find a way to react to the situation caused by the 20th century.
As near as I can tell no one is really “coming to terms” as an individual or person and no one seems to be resolving it. In other words, this “coming to terms” seems a social phenomena, not an individual phenomena. But how does a society “come to terms”? My general feeling is that a society does not “come to terms”. It seems, to me, that what is actually happening is that when a society “comes to terms” it is actually waiting for the generations that was “disrupted” to die off. This is similar to when Moses let the people wander in the desert for 40 years so the generation that made the exodus, and created the golden calf, die off. I seem to think that this is a common occurrence in society after a disrupted event (such as a war). This means that most of the people never “come to terms” with it and die with the disruption unresolved! In this way, the generations affected by it continue to display the effects of the disruption to the day they die. Some of the ways this appears include:
- An uncertainty and lack of faith
- An alienation or feelings that one doesn’t belong
- Feelings of frustration and anger
- A contempt of things
- A tendency of apathy or indecision
- A desire to reenact or imitate the glories of the last century
- A blind hope in the “new things” that are being created (worship of progress)
- Agreeing with everything (“yes man to the times”)
- An intellectual acceptance of everything
- A tendency to complain
- A tendency to panic and hysteria
- Fearing hatred and dislike between people
The persistence of “disruption” in a society
Oftentimes, the attitudes and mentalities of the disrupted generations becomes so prevalent that they become part of the culture. In this way, the “disruption” lasts for generations, even hundreds of years. This phenomena is very prevalent in cultures. It makes the past history of the culture intimately associated with the current culture. But what it does is make the culture “living in the past” and living in conditions that aren’t existing at the moment. I sometimes think that some culture have so much of these that they literally alienate themselves from the world and strangle themselves to death.
I’m under the impression that the “disruption” of the 20th century is becoming a part of the culture and, accordingly, will persist into the later generations not affected by it.
I tend to feel that, oftentimes, disruption build over disruption over time in a culture to the point that they practically blend together. I tend to believe this has happened with Western society. Here’s a simplistic “disruption progression” that I see with Western society:
- The Christian conversion and its disruption of belief and culture
- The Crusades and the religious mania that followed
- The Protestant Reformation and the religious conflict that followed
- The overpopulation problems of the 1700’s and into the French Revolution era
- The Industrial Revolution and its effects
- WWI, WWII, the horror of war, and the horror of the Holocaust
- The cold war and the threat of nuclear annihilation
- The growth of consumerism and mass communications
- The technology mania
- The forced unification of the world
In many ways, the “disruption” of Western society have a base in religion, namely Christianity, which seems to be the “first disruption”. This means, more or less, that the Christian conversion was disruptive. I believe this to be the case, and on many different levels, such as forcing belief on people, disrupting cultures, and violence. As a result, Christianity as if set the tone and has left its mark on subsequent disruption. If you look closely you will see that many subsequent “disruption” in Western society have Christian qualities about it, such as:
- The quality of “damnation and hellfire”, the worlds coming to an end, and a dark view of life
- The view that “humanity is evil”
- The belief that if we “love one another” it will often solve all our problems
- An emphasis on “peace”
- The attitude that “all the world must be converted to our way”
- The belief that the answer is in the “people”, usually referring to democracy (this originates from the belief that the people are the “body of Christ”)
These all originate in the Christian belief system and are seen a lot in 21st century society showing that a lot of the mentality of today is a remnant of Christianity.
Unfortunately, with the growth of communications, the technology mania, and overpopulation the “disruption progression” of Western society was as if “forced” upon the world. Many cultures were as if “pulled” into this conflict. This has caused a whole new set of conflicts for those cultures. In this way, many non Western societies are getting two trauma’s:
- The disruption of having a system forced upon them and the disruption this causes the society
- The disruption inherited from Western society that is not theirs
Overall, the world in the 21st century seems a world in disruption, having been upset and undermined by a multitude of things, and struggling to find a reaction to it.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen