‘I want to recommend a book I’ve just read by Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former speech writer. After Trump’s election Ben travelled the world, visiting former politicians and friends he made in the eight years working at the centre of power. It’s very insightful and he is able to explain a lot of what is going on, how social media is able to shape peoples mind and what motivates politicians like Putin and Xi. I highly recommend it,’ Camp said, taking a sip from his pint.
‘When do you have time to read?’ Isn’t summer the busy season?’
‘There are always lulls between the onrush of crowds and I consider reading working, sampling the wares I sell.’
‘If you say so.’
‘Rhodes points out that while the XXth century was about ideology, the XXIst one is about identity,’ Camp said, ‘and this identity is constructed from inward looking nationalism, flag bearing and partisan patriotism and a revisionist history. More and more we’re pulled into a nationalistic and fascist maelstrom that is promoted by a slew of US- social media which is gobbling up all the advertising, away from print media and even TV. We know that and don’t seem to do anything about it. We always blame the Other for our societal failings. It’s the foreigner’s fault, the Jews, the brown and black migrants, or these days the liberals and socialists who is anybody not in the neo-con camp. No matter if it’s inflation, skyrocketing Real estate prices or even climate change. It’s all the Other’s fault.’
‘I guess we’re part of these Other’s then. I’m a liberal social democrat, read established print media and do not subscribe to any social media platform.’
‘We’re now the minority,’ Camp said, ‘and it’s also generational. Millenials are all connected and that electronic connectivity is their religion. It tells them how to live, what to buy, read and believe.’
‘I’ve read some articles by journalists who do not condone Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but insists that our reporting in the west is equally propagandized as the Russian media. I’m not even talking about social media and the profusion of conspiracy and opinion trolls. The Counterpunch Website and main stream journalists like John Pilger point out that Ukrainian nationalists – Putin’s Neo Nazis – have infiltrated the Ukrainian army as well as civic life in much of Ukraine for the past dozen years. He also claims that Russian speaking people of the Crimea, the Donbass and Donesk regions would choose Russia over Ukraine if a referendum were held.’
‘No doubt, our view about the whole conflict is shaped by our mainstream media which is a lot more diversified than the Russian media. We still have choices of news sources, TV channels and print media that the other side does not offer anymore.’
I stopped by Coast Books the other day and handed Camp a free-form translation of a recent article in my Swiss Paper. It deals with the concept of Utopia from the vantage of a millennial. A bit of an eye-opener I thought. He promised to give it some attention, time permitting. ‘As you can see, I’m here by myself, since nobody wants to work for the wages I can pay,’ he lamented.
‘Where have all the workers gone? he said, shaking his head.
‘To work from home or sorting packages at Amazon,’ I said. ‘What could be better than listening to podcasts and music all day long, standing at a conveyer belt, instead of working in a care home or waiting on demanding patrons in a restaurant or store.’
‘My staff quit because they couldn’t find affordable housing and this is in a small town. Unskilled workers on minimum wages cannot afford to live near their places of work like care homes and hospitals, restaurants, department stores or small retailers like book stores. Lack of affordable rentals is at an all-time high and the ludicrous real estate prices don’t help. People are renting their trailers and wood sheds to desperate tenants.’
It takes courage to have Utopias today.
(Translated from German; published 06.07.2022 in in the Tages Anzeiger)
By Joshua Beer (his real name)
Pandemics, climate crisis, wars: young people only know the future as a horror scenario. It’s high time to imagine a better world again.
Pessimistic view of the future
The future – and thinking about it – is no longer fun, because it is occupied by dystopian images: climate catastrophe, the end of democracy, an epidemic age and, more recently, nuclear death. What we lack are utopias. No fantasy worlds to escape into, but positive ideas of how we want to live in twenty, thirty years. Or even in a hundred. Instead, we hope on a small scale that the acute crises will become a little less acute: ceasefire in Ukraine, a mild corona winter, that would be nice. We do not dare to think bigger and further. Why even if the next crisis could come at any time? Surely it is already lurking somewhere. The majority of younger people are pessimistic about the future, many even long for the past. A decade ago, it was the other way around.
We’ve got music in the park, jazz fests with many different, excellent musicians, all of them super excited to be out playing again. Covid has forced most performers and entertainers into a two-dimensional digital world and lonely isolation for the past two years. ‘Musicians, maybe more than anybody else need each other to play. Zoom bands is not where it’s at. That’s why it’s fantastic to see live music once again,’ I said to Camp who was sporting sun glasses and a Hawaiian shirt for our Thursday meet at the seaside pub.
‘We are headed for a two-dimensional world as it is. Many administrative and office jobs will never return to in person work spaces and the advent of AI interactive Atavars like physicians, counselors or investment advisors will save you a trip to the clinic or the bank.’
End of Democracy
‘Is the end of democracy in sight?’ I asked Camp, after we both commiserated about the sorry state of the union down south.
Listening to the news and reading the papers there seems to be a creeping sense of going backwards towards a time when moral, social and judicial lines of demarcation were more clearly defined.’
‘As in right and wrong, left and right, straight and gay, liberal and conservative?’
‘Yes, in a way it’s a nostalgic, revised designer past that many are hankering after, when the world was more fun and everybody knew where they stood. Nobody worried about social norms and using the wrong pronoun or being politically correct.’
‘As in we had the best sex, the best music and the best drugs in the 70ies.’
‘Speak for yourself. The sex and the music are still good and I never indulged in the pot and psychedelics as you have.’