Several years ago I read a book titled “Hurtling Toward Oblivion” by Richard Swenson, M.D. He is a futurist, a physician as well as a specialist on the implications of social change. I heard an interview with him back in 1999 and was so interested in what he had to say that I immediately ordered his book. At the time of the interview, I was driving the 5 from San Jose to Los Angeles and cruising in the farm belt of California looking for a decent radio station. The big Christian radio station was on and the show “Focus on the Family” was playing. I normally don’t listen to this type of programming but this doctor was a different head spin. He wasn’t about religion but about the rapid advance of progress and the undeniable trends taking place across the globe. He really was accurate on the implication of social change and what was considered progress. I advise all my readers to get this book and read it gradually to digest what he is writing.
Among many of the ideas in this book (you will think hard and long after reading it) is the idea that when the creator created, there was no “reverse” switch. Progress has been taught to go in one direction. It cannot help itself. It thus keeps giving us more and more faster and faster. There is no going back. Each new level of progress not only “supersedes the former, it supplants it. Thus we can’t go backward because there is no pre-progress state to return to.” Along this line of thinking goes modern-day leadership that tries to have us return to the 50’s or 60’s. How about the 1800’s? Maybe 1200’s? Think how ridiculous this sounds.
If we examine the history of human societies over the past two hundred years, each recession or depression was TEMPORARY. Each was resisted and eventually overcome by the process of progress. Even in corrupt or oppressive governments, powerful social forces arise to resist this condition. If you gave people a choice of living under oppressive regimes, 100% would favor some sort of freedom and prosperity. Modern day progress is fairly recent, only about 200-300 years old but it is exponential. It has been relentless and addictive. Once something is discovered, it cannot be “undiscovered”. Once known, it cannot be “unknown”. Knowing is irreversible, discovering is irreversible.
Where is the glitch? There are several. The idea of having more has an invisible track running right along with the positive side of progress. These are the negatives that are pretty much ignored while we progress through more. More has become normalized. It is widely accepted to have more but the people who do not have more feel deprived, perhaps even victimized. Hence, read today’s headlines. Progress is the notion that life continually improves. Progress proliferates whatever it creates and gives us more and more of everything cheaper and cheaper. The rate of growth may slow but progress itself does not decrease. The dark side is the invisible side of progress–the oil spill wiping out pristine beaches and wildlife. The carbon emissions from trucks and autos that dirty the air we breathe and cause asthma and other chronic breathing conditions. Dr. Swenson drums home the invisible negative forces that are also getting stronger as we progress on the road. We hardly notice the negative affects as we cannot see them until they hit us.
He speaks of lethality which is not intimidated by progress and cites many examples of the unexpected happening in people’s lives due this invisible track running right along side of us. “Even as the positive is growing at an astounding exponential rate, we see that the negative is also growing at an exponential rate, although admittedly not as dramatically as the positive”. Because it is not dramatic, its power is underestimated. Hence, we are shocked to hear of someone’s death or cancer diagnosis. The examples in his book will make your hair stand on end. These are every day occurrences. It is important for us to understand how to think about these two commodities, good and bad. If the negatives are sufficiently dangerous, “they cannot be offset by the positives no matter how beneficial the positives are.”
Bottom line is “live ready”. It is important that we begin to calculate this way for there are no exemptions for ignorance.