I had a recent soul search that involved half a bottle of Vodka and the Styx album, Cornerstone. Apart from really ruining any chance I had at a meaningful relationship with the racist neighbor, I learnt that my ability to dance and shriek violently along with Dennis De Young only improved after several glasses of potato-wine.
It was while I stood in the cold night air, bathed in the light of an indifferent moon that I realized everything would be alright. The fire was lit, the meat was a few turns from being cooked, and all around me there was a sense that the world was marching towards an inescapable “next”.
That’s good right?
Well, that was what I thought for a moment. In the cool night while barefoot on the grass, I felt the winds of change bringing some kind of beautiful future into view. That was it, we just needed to ride out the unpleasantness of the next few years and a fourth age of revolution would be born. The future was going to be something wonderful because it existed, for now at least, exclusively in my imagination. I just had to wait and it would come.
I think a lot of people are holding out with that kind of quiet hope occupying their hearts. We see the horrors of the news and attempt to reconcile it to our lives with a message of, “this is not forever” and, “things will get better.” That is a good way to think. There is a latent positivity to thinking that way which stops a lot of us from writing our own prog-rock concept albums involving screaming children on loop. I like positive thinking. I see it as a habit – the teaching of the mind to view the world with a little bit more color than what it rightly deserves.
We use positivity as a buffer between ourselves and our fears of change. Change is coming and there is very obviously little we can do about it. As a result, a lot of media are preaching the good sermon that when things are done, they will somehow be better.
Though, shortly after staring at the sky on that autumn night, blinking half-drunkenly at the same indifferent moon, I wondered whether I had confused the idea of something new for something better.
If an answer had not been forthcoming, I wouldn’t have written this much already.
I think positivity is as much a help as it can be a trap. Note: it is not that positivity is bad. As mentioned above, optimism in the face of uncertainty is a great way to plunge into the future with a desire for success and joy. We need that. We will always need that. But just how I should have cut my vodka with fruit juice (or bloody anything for that matter), we need to understand that positivity for change can also blind us to the mundanity of change.
The unpleasant truth, a thing that only some are beginning to realize, is that change is real and here and it isn’t necessarily better.
Eventually, the working-from-home professionals will forget that they once hated their commute to the office. The morning stress of driving in to work will be replaced by the at-home-stress of having to check in digitally every fifteen minutes. These same people who hated working late will be expected to work extra hours in the day simply because, hey, things are easier because you are not at the office and you get to wear stretch-pants. The new life’s pro’s will become slightly shaded by its cons. The punchline is that change will bring with it the abolition of things we once hated, but also promulgate new things to hate. We will ignore these glaring inconveniences because, hey, things are different and that must mean they are better surely?
Try these predictions on for size:
- Social media is only going to become more pervasive. As the percentage of stay-at-home-small-scale-industry finally increases, so too will thousands of entrepreneurs desperately vying for your attention online. You won’t be able to move on Instagram for sponsored posts by this craft brewer, or that boutique clothing store, or another skinny girl selling thrifted wares. The new economy that is rebirthing this rugged individualist generation is also creating new headaches for the rest of us just trying to get through the day without someone wanting to sell us something.
- Virtuous brand identity is going to become paper thin. As eco-friendly industries begin to step more and more into the spotlight, the average consumer is going to become more jaded by the idea that what they are buying was made with the environment at heart. The irony is that complacency with environmental awareness is becoming the new norm, as the average consumer expects their products to be made from sustainably sourced materials and labor. The problem with this emerging zeitgeist is that “eco-friendly” as a label is going to lose its marketability. It is simply going to become the new norm. What is worse, as small businesses learn that their initial eco-friendly consciousnesses is not feasible in a see-sawing economy, a lot of them are going to take steps to cut corners at the back end to make room for virtue-signaling at the front. The irony is that people are going to stop checking the source of a product as eco-friendly branding will be taken for granted and therefore not something worth investigating.
- People are going to be expected to work a lot harder at home than what they did at the office. With all the pleasantness of working from home, there is going to come a whole shit-heap of intra-corporate admin that companies will deem “necessary practice” to allow more employees to work from home. If there is one thing that will not change, it is a corporation’s inability to foster a healthy working environment for its employees. As a result, with the new-found freedom working from home may give a lot of people, for the vast majority of these pajama-panted professionals, they are going to have to do some egregiously invasive admin from head-office. This will be so the company is satisfied they are working from home as they would have at the office. The day-to-day nuts and bolts of their job may not change, but with the administration they would be required to perform that higher-ups may circle-jerk their forward-thinking practices into a flaming pit, some may start missing the morning commute.
The times of change are upon us, and it is great that the things of yesteryear that we did not like are finally going to be blown off the face of the earth like the ending to a Spanish novel. However, if this article is to have any point, let it be this: we don’t want to be involved with change, we just accept it. It is not wrong to embrace change, in fact the ability to morph and adapt is something I hope to see more of as I age. But the thing we must not get lost in, is this idea that the world is edging slowly towards some kind of utopia without our involvement. Change, especially when it is out of our hands, frees us to be complacent to whatever it brings. That person working from home, who has to check in every half hour or risk a written reprimand? They have accepted change for what it is, and not for what it could be.
The sad truth for a lot of people is that on the deepest level they will relinquish their control to change. We believe the future will be positive almost out of lazy hope. We want it to be positive because in the subconscious recess of us all we really do not want to face it if it isn’t. Facing an unpleasant future requires effort, and foresight and things we are not brought up to do outside of the system that raised us. Therefore, when the future comes, no matter what compromises have been made, we convince ourselves that it is somehow better because that is where we find our comfort despite the changes being fundamentally same.
Change. Yearn for the bright tomorrow that is yet to come. Please, don’t stop believing in the Positive Next. But you are going to have to work for it to be genuinely bright. When your boss starts making overtures at digital check-ins, don’t accept them: complain, make threats, feel the full value of your new world and do not compromise an inch. Fight against the new attempts of the world to take things from you. We have been given this blank slate, and with it the reason and ability to truly fashion a better tomorrow. This is going to take work from us, it is going to demand a self-awareness to address the sinister new invasions of our self-worth. Things got as bad as they did in these last few years not because of governments, and corporate greed, but because we accepted the changes they made.
We are legion and so is our power.
There is a future out there where the new normal does not feel like the old one: it can be better.