Transitional times or the end times?

People power

By Graham Peebles

Given the violent turmoil raging throughout large parts of the world and the devastating impact of man-made climate change, many fear humanity and the planet are on the verge of destruction.

The religiously inclined, particularly those sitting on the far right of the spectrum, point towards various passages in the scriptures which they believe accurately describe these times and proclaim them to be “the end times”.

This is apocalyptically understood, through the prism of doctrine, to be not simply the annihilation of a sin-drenched humanity which, according to the “judgment of the just”, deserves its fate, but the obliteration of planet Earth itself.

Such doom-laden interpretation of events cultivates fear, suffocates hope and fails to recognise the good among the black flags and chaos.

People power

Fortunately, there is an alternative, sunnier view of the present time, a common-sense albeit controversial vision that creates hope, not fear and despair. It is a quieter voice which remains largely buried under the worldwide blanket of anxiety and insecurity. It says these are not “the end times” but transitional times; that we are not witnessing the “end of the world” or the slow demise of humanity, but the final cries of a crumbling civilisation in terminal decline. A civilisation built over the last 2,000 years or so in response to certain conditioning influences promoting specific values and ways of living.

That there is great resistance to change is clear. Those who have benefited most under the present socio-economic model, fearful of lost privilege, seek to tighten their grip on power and silence those troublesome radicals demanding social justice, freedom, environmental responsibility and democratic participation.

The responses of regimes to social revolutions throughout North Africa, and the violent suppressions of protests in Turkey, Brazil, Thailand and Venezuela, are examples of governments’ unyielding brutal response to the united cries of the people. They are cries that have echoed throughout the world over the past 30 or so years, in an unprecedented movement of popular activism to claw back rights and liberties, confront government corruption and demand social justice, as well as confronting corporate development plans and environmental abuse.

Huge numbers have marched, demonstrated and rallied: “people power” is perhaps the brightest spark of optimism in the world and is one of the clearest signs of the times – times of change, of transition, of action and of opportunity and hope.

Perennial values rediscovered

Sitting at the decaying heart of the present socio-political structures, aggressively dominating all areas of contemporary life, is neo-liberal capitalism (or market fundamentalism). A product of the ideological environment of the time, it has cultivated materialistic values that promote individual success and ambition, and encourage greed, selfishness and social division.

Deep within the festering ground of inequality and division, the seeds of conflict and turmoil, watered by despair and exclusion, flourish. Nations, regions as well as individuals are forced to compete against one another, feeding nationalism, separation and conflict. Ideologically driven division has fuelled totalitarianism and extremism: political, economic, social and, perhaps the darkest and most dangerous manifestation, religious – as current events in Iraq reveal.

Die-hard devotees of the individualistic values of division – from which ideologies of all kinds have flowed – proclaim them to be the outcome of human nature. Sown into the genetic fabric of mankind, they are inevitable, have always driven and always shall drive humanity and, consequentially, neither materialistic values nor their elite exponents can be challenged, let alone changed, so the argument goes.

If one looks beneath the chaos and surface detritus, if one connects the diverse movements, developments and actions, the embryonic signs of a new time, of peaceful potential and of unity can be seen.

These believers, many of whom profit handsomely from the system, have sought to close down the intellectual space, to stifle debate and tarnish dissenting voices as naive idealists who lack the strength of character to compete with the high-octane sharp shooters.

Life has been defined in increasingly unimaginative material terms that insist on conformity, encourage the pursuit of pleasure, champion selfish desire, dismiss wonder and mystery dismissed, and ignore the unexplained.

Nowhere is this more evident than in education. As Noam Chomsky says, “the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions”. Institutions – both state and corporate – that know well the dangers of independent thinking and imagination.

The nature of modernity itself needs redefining, the purpose of life re-evaluating, a new civilisation built. If one looks beneath the chaos and surface detritus, if one connects the diverse movements, developments and actions, the embryonic signs of a new time, of peaceful potential and of unity can be seen.

They herald a new and just civilisation, one rooted in altogether different values to the existing, ideologically-driven paradigm, ones based on perennial values of peace, solidarity, freedom, justice, tolerance, cooperation and understanding.. Nothing radically revolutionary, but ideals reassessed, rediscovered, understood and pragmatically applied to our society.

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