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On The Turning Away 

And what of global political and social aims? Would it be anything close to sane to say that China’s interests are aligned with those of the U.S.? Is it rational to say all nations, facing the same simultaneous supply shortages, are not in a state of competition, forced to aggressively defend their own interests first? Of course, it’s all still developing, and yet to be determined what sort of competition will endure. But is it fair to suggest, at least in a practical sense: No, perhaps we are not all in this together? At scale of nation, state, city, community, family, as selfless and charitable as we may strive to be, in true crisis, are we not first responsible for our own?

Of course in the grander scheme, it’s my belief we certainly are together. Facing the same human trials, we have the same basic fears, desires, and intertwined fates, and so we can help each other to survive and thrive. But in the practical world of governance and policy, even as we now face the consequences of rapid wealth concentration and its associated dependencies, there’s a strong case to be made that not all cultures are equal, not all economies can be leveled or somehow combined, not all in the world will be fair and equitable. Nor should it be, as the argument says we are all degraded by lowering the exceptional and even left more collectively helpless in such an “equitable” state. But alas, at this moment in history, it may no longer matter what is “just.” It only matters what is expedient and effective, and what is optically acceptable.

“Imagine there’s no media…I wonder if you can”

A radical detox that many can’t endure. And yet for those who do, the mental landscape begins to heal, cleaner air and water, flora and fauna return to the once-desolate mind.

Truly. Imagine for a moment, a period of isolation from ubiquitous communication, news, and entertainment, where the individual is forced to draw their own conclusions through anecdotal experience and common sense. A radical detox that many can’t endure. And yet for those who do, the mental landscape begins to heal, cleaner air and water, flora and fauna return to the once-desolate mind. Now apply this same logic to a nation, forced to solve its own problems and become as self-sufficient as it can, within the constraints of its resources. You can expect in the U.S. we’d surely be left with many unmet needs, but also needs we didn’t realize we could meet on our own, forced to cut back the superfluous and replaceable. In the end, we’d know better what we truly depend on others for, and what we can and should trust ourselves to provide. It is true no man is an island, but it is also true no man can be the entire depth and breadth of the ocean. The exercise would amount to a process of finding out what is real, and what is imagined.

As for the individual, so it goes for the nation. Could it be, in the early stages of this global black swan event, that The Turning Away has already begun?

Nick Sternberg
Nick Sternberghttps://nicksternberg.com/work/
Nick is a professional outlier and regular contributor at the fringes of the very online.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Nick, with these two paragraphs alone, you have my vote for enshrinement in the BIZCATALYST360˚ Hall of Fame:
    ____________________
    A connected thought process quickly becomes neurotic without a solution. With no resolution, no stable timeline, the connected mind suffers and pines. The media-ravaged masses were already compromised, and are now in a kind of rolling meltdown with the promises of continued uncertainty. “It just doesn’t make sense!” “It still doesn’t make sense?!” “When will it finally make sense?”

    You may argue there has always been uncertainty throughout history, but this level of confusion paired with the feeling that we *can and should know the answers* is unprecedented. In other words, we have never not known so much at a time when everyone seemingly should be able to know everything.
    ____________________

    And then there’s this: “A ‘global community’ might not benefit us much as we’ve been led to believe … there’s mounting evidence that isolation might be a tactical advantage in the future if employed with disciplined knowledge and care.” It suggests that a return to some levels of sovereignty might be intelligent and constructive, rather than being necessarily racist or xenophobic. Voluntary cooperation and reciprocal trade relationships are one thing. Dependence unto unwitting beholdenness and servitude is quite another. “Put your own mask on first.” If we haven’t taken care of ourselves, we have no business taking care of others.

    When you nomination for the BC360 HOF goes to the floor, I’ll be the jackass in the front row screaming his tonsils out: NICK! NICK! 😉

    Joking and hyperbole aside, thank you. We needed this.

  2. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I must admit to thinking along similar lines as you, so reading this post was intriguing. I haven’t had cable TV for six years and I haven’t watched adult television in 13 months. I do read articles online, so I’m not totally isolated from the media.

    I’m a single mom to two young children with a full time job. When down-time elusively presents itself, I read and write.

    I frequently use the notion of, “We’re all in this together.” However, I don’t see us all holding hands and chanting. To me, it means that we are all dealing with the same issue. For the first time in our history, we are fighting the same enemy. Some countries will tell the truth. Others countries are paranoid or distrusting.

    We can’t change who we share the world with. We can’t control the way they react. We can’t control their level of honesty. We can only control ourselves. And that doesn’t mean “America”. We can’t control America. We can only control our individual selves. So let’s do a good job of that. The rest of it will fall into place.

    • I think most people I know who’ve turned away from sources they used to rely on are far from isolated from media at large, myself included. How do I stay informed without those sources? I honestly don’t know for sure but I suspect I learn more from text messages and social media than I’d like to admit. And I agree with your definition of “together” (but separate.)

      I don’t mean to demonize any nation or world authority when I say they lie with a frequency most of the public is only recently waking up to. I am probably more concerned about the rapid (and justified) social acceleration toward distrust than I am the lies themselves. The lies have been around since the beginning, and actually serve a legitimate purpose much of the time…

  3. Very thought provoking article here Nick. This to me is the paradigm of all time. The world so large has shrunk with technology. Growth is incredible. Only half the worlds population is connected via internet…I think of the ones that are not…. I learn more from personal connections and their shares from different international bases, I see the human connection. We all have different experiences, but a limited emotional bank of feelings. Phenomenal
    Thank you for this read! Have a great day Nick, still thinking here! I like that,
    PaulaG

    • It’s as if all our similarities, the trials and triumphs we share as humans were always known to us, long before the electronic age and ubiquitous communication that allowed us to dive deeper. As if we never needed to experience the world in VR goggles or even speak the language… these commonalities are innate truths. For me where it seems to fall down is when we conflate this with an idea that we all share the same interests and can (always) work together as one. It’s a prickly topic for some people, so naturally, I’m comfortable with it ;-)

  4. There’s always something bad with the good and vice versa-yes? The internet, our interconnectedness is something we only imagined in our minds-‘I wonder what it’s like to live in Scotland, or Australia… or what do the majority of Americans think about such and such topic…’

    And, now we can ‘connect’ and find out first hand from people who live in those places. We no longer rely on the media of newspapers and magazines or major contributors like BBC, most of which work to promote a certain political ideology or sensationalism. We now rely on each other.

    You’ve brought up lots of things to think about.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • The promise was always “a more connected world,” The question now emerges as what qualifies as connection, and is connection always beneficial? I for one was never wholly convinced knowing so much about goings on in the world was helpful past a certain point. In the context of this pandemic, information is about to become a known vector of harm, something the public tangibly understands; up until now this idea has mostly been a topic for media theorists and the intelligence community. I agree that smaller spheres of reliance are coming. And I think I welcome it.

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