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Doomsday is canceled

Hope – A defense of the future
Forfatter: Kristian Leth
Forlag: People’s Press (Danmark)
Filled with fear for the future, Kristian Leth tries to tell an alternate story of how the world really is.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

The first decades after 2. World War I was the dominant development trend to rebuild what had been destroyed and to secure peace. As winners of the war, the United States and the Soviet Union grouped in the West and the East, respectively, in their respective spheres of interest and territories. With neoliberalism and expansion of markets, the general notion of the future society changed, initially in the West. Consumerism embedded itself in the images of tomorrow's society and became more and more global. The decolonization was replaced by a neo-
colonialism, and new centers of power transformed an east-west dualism into a global polycentric power hierarchy. The notion of capitalism in sustained economic growth more and more clearly posed existential challenges such as global warming and declining biodiversity, while the center-periphery problem triggered migration.

The interdependence was further clarified with the internet and social media. Financial empires had grown larger than many states, and popular communities had become marginalized as the market's gradual colonization of consciousness, which had slowly made us all isolated players in a global market.

A settlement with pessimism

Kristian Leth portrays in the book The Hope how, one night while bedding his daughter, he was gripped with a sense of anxiety about what the future would bring when her daughter expressed a meaninglessness with life. Yes, the doubt in his response had undoubtedly nourished her anxiety, he writes. Over the years, the media's changing stories of the world's misery had crept in on him, leaving a unified impression of apocalypse, that doomsday is near – a result of the alarmist interpretation of status on world developments. 

Kristian Leth's father, the author Jørgen Leth, and friends in the circle had the media's constant impression of doom, but such an impression Kristian would not pass on to his daughter. Something had to happen.

Maybe girls in developing countries have not started going to school? Isn't poverty on return, and the number of conflicts far fewer than before?

He embarks on a two-year exploratory journey, in an attempt to retell the story of the world. Filled with the media's many single statements about the state of the world will be the reading of the messages in Stephen Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature the welcome to soothe the pain on top of the senseless pessimism that the author could not resist. Were the girls in developing countries perhaps not starting school? Was poverty in the world perhaps not returning, and perhaps the number of conflicts in the world had also fallen dramatically? Also interviews with a climate expert, a statistician, a scientist and a historian could support "why there is more reason for hope than for black vision".

It is well known that an awakening can be associated with pain. Unfortunately, there are still too few to the point that they dare to orient themselves out of the almost all-dominant social imagination, which is, among other things, inhabited by the belief in sustained economic growth with its consumerism. Danish sociologist Rasmus Willig and Norwegian philosopher Johan Arne Vetlesen have in the book What should we answer? given nine commandments of what we should say to the outside world when asked how on earth we have come to a situation where uncertainty about the future is enormous and also gives way to the senseless pessimism that put Kristian Leth in disrepute.

What can we do?

«The world has agreed that the environment must be saved. Both governments, communities, cities and technology manufacturers are working towards the same goal: to secure people and the planet in the future. ” In addition to reading Pinker, Kristian Leth finds solace in the Paris climate agreement. "The world is less dangerous now than before," he writes. The book is full of that kind of nuanced statement in an attempt to find an intellectual stand in support of, yes, meaningless optimism. There is no room here to mention the UN's adoption of the 17 World Goals in 2015. Nor to mention UNESCO's work for a necessary change in our thinking as a prerequisite for a change of lifestyle with new institutions to support the transition – to replace the system of international institutions that have supported the systemic crisis civilization is in.

Still, there should be respect about Kristian Leth's therapy work, which he calls himself the process he has been through. Awakening also takes time. Making Mexico the exception in a "tale of a generally unheard of peaceful period in our history" testifies that two years of awakening are not enough, at least not in Kristian Leth's case. Iraq, Libya, Syria, the wars in Africa and Israel / Palestine should not be ignored. 

But one thing is the therapy work in the form of a writing process. Something else is to be able to direct a changed practice and be associated with the movement that will make another world possible. That hope alone is not enough – action is needed! If "hope" is not merely part of the mainstream future society, "hope" must be accompanied by a pursuit of a practice "out of the box". How does Kristian Leth show here the way for his daughter? 

avatar photos
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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