An old joke. Two parents want to send their child, Star, to Singularity School, an exclusive private academy (one much like the one my grandchild attends). Racked by anxiety, they fill out the application form, trying to spin their child’s personality and accomplishments into the most impressive impression. Finally, they come to the question: “Is your child a leader or a follower?” The parents look at each other. Finally, one says to the other, “We have to tell the truth here. There is no fudging on this one.”
They submit, “As intelligent and industrious and clever and creative as Star is, we have to admit that our child is definitely a follower and not a leader.” Racked with despair, they send in the application.
To their amazement, a couple of weeks later they receive a phone call from the Headmaster of the school. The Headmaster says, “I wanted to let you know right away before you might decide to send your amazing offspring to one of our competitors. We are delighted to accept Star, on a full scholarship.” The parents gasp. The Headmaster continues, “ As we review the applications and the students we have accepted, we realize we have 199 leaders. We felt we absolutely needed at least one follower so all these future leaders of society have someone to practice their leadership skills on.”
As long as human beings have been around, we have sought to make improvements in our environment. If the woods around us are on fire, we run away and jump in the river.
After a while, we began to reason and draw conclusions. “Hmm…” We say, “The woods are very dry. We are a long way from the river. Last time the woods were dry, they caught fire and we had to run a long way to get to the river. Uncle Mel burned to a crisp. Let’s move closer to the river.”
We come to many conclusions about how to improve our environment. Joe says, “Let’s move into the desert. There are no forest there.” Joe misses the small point that there is no water there. Joe dies of thirst.
Ralph says, “Let’s move to the tundra. Fires seldom start in the cold.” Ralph freezes to death.
Lars says, “Let’s move into the Siberian tundra. Something incredible will happen there involving forests, fires, and explosions in 1980. If nothing else, we can keep ourselves warm coming up with cockeyed theories for decades.
At the Transition Whidbey meetings, there are many suggestions of how to improve the world. Most of the people are not entirely cockeyed optimists. Most think civilization will collapse. Most think the collapse will occur because we are running out of oil. (“We have reached peak oil” is the mantra.) Most think we need to get back to basic skills such as raising our own food. (“Re-skilling ourselves” is another mantra.) Most think the collapse can be navigated peacefully by thinking good thoughts and learning basic skills.
As I attended the Transition Whidbey meetings, wary (because of my previous experience with Cerro Gordo of gurus and gullible followers) I missed a step in the ever-evolving new age ideology. As I attended meetings, people were very polite to each other. Many people had suggestions. Take transportation. If we are going to run out of fossil fuels, suggestions included: “walk more, ride bicycles, convert your vehicle to run on batteries, ride public transportation, and so on.” As I listened to many people politely waiting their turn to talk and to demonstrate their “solution” (and not very many interested in anyone else’s solution) I realized, Everyone has become a guru. Not very many want to be followers any more.
Anarchism in action.