Things fall apart.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”Yeats
We Mavericks are rarely lacking in conviction. The way we form our opinions tends to convince us that if we differ from others, then it must be because they are wrong and we are right. Well formed and researched opinions are not the only ones delivered with passionate intensity. In an age of increasing emotional polarisation the real deep thinkers and experts have a tendency to go underground.
My Doctor friends have abandoned social media after futile attempts to persuade newly expert friends, who watched a few YouTube videos, that they have not really grasped the concepts it took the medics decades to learn.
Friends who are scientists and technological experts increasingly remain silent on social media, as superstision, ignorance, and rank barbarism is left to roar.
An artist friend charmingly described the internet as having ‘Alpha rhythms’ (as opposed to algorithms) and his accidental change to the term is very revealing. He who shouts loudest and has the biggest following is the Alpha in this jungle of empty sound.
And so it is we come to an earlier line of Yeats’ poem.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”
When moderate and rational voices are drowned out by orchestrated conspiracy theories and fear, the centre is at risk of not holding. We Mavericks have prided ourselves for years on thinking outside the norms and it is tempting to take great pride in the shattering of the centre and to celebrate it as the beginning of a newer and more constructive way of working and thinking.
This may be so. But without a caring and empathic society – a centre ground built on consent, what follows when the centre does not hold is destructive, not creative. Just as with the fall of the Roman Emperor, new civilisations and ways of organising society will arise – but not in our lifetime or our children’s lifetimes if the past is anything to go by.
Things fall apart
While the arc of history is long, the immediacy of suffering is already present. It is no good telling someone who has lost their home due to lockdown or climate change that in a few hundred years something better will come along.
We Mavericks have much to offer in shaping the changes that are to come. We can stay outside and by the critics we have always been. But the world, and the systems our society operates is buried under the weight of criticism – much of it entirely merited. We need to do the most unconventional thing for any Maverick – something that may prove to be beyond our capabilities.
We need to create an alliance that holds the centre enough to minimise the harm that change is bringing. From technology to politics to climate change, it is all happening now. It is not academic, or predicted, but present in the here and now.
Shall we carry on as if nothing has changed? Shall we gloat in our cleverness in predicting this? Or shall we settle down to the work put before our hands and minds and work out how to build collaborations, co-operations, organisations and structures that will help ordinary people through?
If we are to make any difference, we have to find a way to stop being the smart one and start being the useful one. It is does not mean abandoning our knowledge or our skills, but focusing our behaviour on something more likely to help people collaborate and build.
New leaders will emerge. Some of them hungry for power and money with no interest in the world that is yet to come beyond consolidating their own position. But there is space for others to rise who can build a better world through technology and through engaging with people and their needs.
No-one is better skilled to do this work than Mavericks since we do not feel the need to recreate what was. We saw quite clearly what the problem was. But are we ready now to do the work to create a whole series of solutions?