Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008: A Year In Limbo

-- by Sara

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.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand...

....And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (1921)

Things fall apart. It's the necessary precondition for change. The old order can only stand as long as its center holds. A new order can only emerge when that center is finally swept away, leaving the void in which the core of another reality can begin to organize itself. From our own personal lives to the lifecyles of great empires, these occasional transformations -- with their chaos, dislocations, and disorientations -- are the natural process by which we adapt to the changing conditions of the world.

The past seven years have been a season of things falling apart -- and by this point everybody, left and right, is feeling the cold gale blowing up from that broad, bottomless hole that's yawning open right where the safe, secure center of the American Century used to be. We're nervously inhaling the scent of something strange and unfamiliar, straining our ears toward the rising, rumbling breath and growl of that unseen rough beast. We have not seen it yet; but its shadow is looming so large now that it darkens the sky overhead. There's no more doubt in most of our minds that the hour is coming round at last, and that the world has that come before -- the America we lived in, the imperial culture we thrived in, the economy we dominated -- is slouching toward some new Bethlehem that we cannot yet see or imagine, but which destiny is calling us to serve as history's midwives for nonetheless.

There is no going back. Most of us accept that now. Our economy is based on untenable levels of debt and inequality. Our lifestyle is built on a carbon-based energy regime that's reaching its limits, destabilizing entire continents, costing us our very souls, and rapidly cooking the planet to boot. The cultural and political bonds that enable us to sustain communities and act for the common good have been severed by three decades of conservative ideology. Our position in the world is best summarized by the predicament of vain and greedy Brer Rabbit, who struggles with all four feet and his head buried in the Tar Baby while Brer Fox and his friends stand by and laugh. And nobody, but nobody, in our government seems to even be willing to admit that any of this is happening -- let alone courageously step forward and offer us a clear way out.

We realize now that we're on our own -- and that the only way through the coming chaos is, well, through it. In the long meantime that will be 2008, our task is straightforward: this is the year we will gather ourselves for change; pare our kit down to the essentials; and set ourselves to the task of choosing a leader who can set a course, lay out the vision, guide us through the transitions to come, and eventually land us safely on the other side.

In celebration of New Year's Day -- the unofficial holiday of the future -- I'm launching a short series presenting a few things we might bear in mind as we get organized for the long journey ahead. It's already mostly written, so I'll start rolling it out tomorrow.

In the meantime, there's a big iron pot of hoppin' john on the woodstove, and Dave's back from vacation. Make yourself at home as we launch the sixth year of Orcinus, and I'll be back in here with more in the morning.

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