Note — Jun 26, 2022

The Perils of Smashing the Past

Nathan Gardels makes a parallel between today’s radical technologists and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and his fellow Italian Futurists. Their 1909 manifesto “glorified the velocity of all things industrially muscular, from cars to airplanes, that disrupted the time and space of stodgy old traditional societies.” It’s nothing new per se, but clearly framed, portraying quite well our current moment, and the implications of widespread disruption.

In their enthusiasm to smash the past, what the futurists didn’t see was how the broken social pieces would seek shelter from the storm by re-forming through identity politics that ended up in the fascist movements that fomented world war. That is something to ponder in our own fraught time of fragmentation. […]

Novelists like Jonathan Franzen see a “perpetual anxiety” gripping society. Similarly, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, citing William Wordsworth, speaks of “a strangeness in my mind,” the sense that “I am not of this hour nor of this place.” […]

We live either on the cusp of an entirely new era, or on the brink of a return to an all-too-familiar, regressive and darker past. How to reconcile these opposite movements is the daunting summons for governance in the decades ahead. […]

Thus, getting governance right by moving deliberatively and fixing things is the first order of business if we are to escape the fate that befell a disrupted world in the last century.