I think scared might be the appropriate term.
Momentum, appears to be another thing. In the sense that an oil tanker at full speed has too much momentum to realistically change anything.
I have no idea how bad the people in charge think things are, but if I can see that the world is fucked, I’m pretty sure they do to. These are not stupid people. They may be selfish, and they may be ridiculous, but they are not stupid (which unfortunately, might answer this question a bit too quickly). They may be clinging on to old and useless paradigms, but that’s all they’ve known. That’s all everyone has known.
If they do see the various crises (climate change and running out of resources most critical, but the economic collapse of the system the most loudly shouted about), and I’m pretty sure they do, then they must be terrified. The only reason they can’t acknowledge this in any real way, and start looking at new ways of working, is that it would be ‘political suicide’. The U-turn is the most lambasted move in politics, despite the fact that it is often a sensible course of action. ‘This isn’t working out, let’s try something else’ is not an option.
That’s obscene. And in it lies the core of the problem.
This means the only way you can solve an issue, as an elected leader, is to carry on doing what you’ve already done.
Ideology trumps reality, because it has a tendency to last longer. This is precisely its problem. The world is changing, but the big ideas don’t seem to be keeping up with it.
At least, not in enshrined power. Institutions require more than bricks and mortar. They are embodied ideas. Once you embody an idea in concrete, you can only move on by smashing it.
That is not an option to the people on the top of the pile.
I genuinely think there are a lot of people up there doing their best to fix up the mess that’s out there, but nobody knows how.
Some problems are too big to fix. Needs and interests are far too convoluted. Everybody is concerned for themselves, and nobody can see a big enough picture to step outside of that for an instant.
Despite all of this, the answer is that everyone is deluded, and there is no faith in the future any more. Everything is cynical delusion. That’s what money is, and that’s what we’re obsessed with.
Our economy is something that we’ve created, built on absurd assumptions of invisible hands and infinite resources. It’s been there long enough that everyone believes it without question. Even as it falls apart, nobody recognises it as a fundamental problem in itself. The problem is seen to be within the system. It is not the system itself.
But the system is fucked. And no matter how cynical or stupid we are, if we don’t recognise this, we’re all just as fucked.
Illustration by Henry