The Compression of Time and Space on Society

Throughout history technology has compressed time and space.  It was a slow but steady process that leaped into hyperdrive in the last hundred years.  The world has suddenly become a much smaller place with things and people far away now near and present.  Counter-intuitively, it’s also made the world a much larger place with more to explore and experience than ever before.

Every improvement in communication technology has made the sharing of information easier, quicker and available to more people.  Every improvement in transportation technology has brought distant places closer and easier to get to.  The people and cultures of the earth are no longer complete strangers to one another.  They can no longer be divided into Greeks and barbarians, civilized and savage.  It is more obvious now than it once was that we are interdependent and that the welfare of each cannot be made certain unless the welfare of all is enabled.

It should be clear that for you and me to flourish, for our nation to flourish, the earth itself and all the people on it must also flourish.  Otherwise we will self destruct, maybe not now, but soon enough.  It should be clear, but it isn’t.  The unfettered glow of instantaneous world-wide information has become a garbage dump of the good, bad, toxic and irrelevant.  The ability to travel anywhere on earth in one day or less provides little opportunity for adjustment and reflection.  Massive migrations of people from one place to a better place used to each be confined to a predictable region, now it’s a globally integrated phenomena that will eventually redistribute skin colors and cultures in uncomfortable ways.

In our nation it’s caused large numbers of people to retreat from the compressed larger world into an even more compressed smaller world they hope will provide sanctuary from unwanted predatory change.  Recent years have seen the rise of would be leaders whose lust for power and position is their driving ambition.  They promote themselves as the only ones who can build the desired sanctuary.  They can’t but it is easily sold.  Their worldview is oddly the smallest and most compressed of all.  Their sole purpose is to get and keep power for the duration of their lives with no genuine concern for the consequences it will have on others now and in the future.  Dictators of one kind or another are the most obvious examples, but they exist at every level of society and commerce.

Two examples come to mind.  “The Villages” in Florida are reputed to be a community designed and built as a sanctuary from the larger world and all its troubles for those who an afford it, mostly white, mostly far right wing in their politics.  It is a tiny world of like minded people somewhat oblivious to the reality that the food they eat, water they drink, and all the services that support them come from outsiders whose own welfare is essential to the continued existence of the private world of Villagers.

The other example is Kevin McCarthy.  Politicians have big egos or they wouldn’t run for public office, and yet higher office is a seductive temptation, with most also having a vision of how their service can help make for a better world for them and their constituents.  On the other hand, it appears that McCarthy’s sole ambition is to possess the position and power of Speaker.  That’s it. There isn’t anything else.  He has shown he is willing to adopt whatever ideological facade will help him become Speaker.  His tiny world consists only of 218 votes.  The well being of the nation and the world is of no interest or consequence.  So it appears.  As it is, it looks like he will be blocked by other Representatives who also live in tiny worlds of their own and have no intention of letting an opportunistic outsider like Kevin get what he wants.

Villagers and McCarthys have always existed, large and small.  Destruction, violence and societal collapse are always the result.  It didn’t matter as much when time and space had not been so compressed, but it does now.  I don’t know what the solution is.  The Putins and Bolsonaros of the world will never go away.  We all live in bubbles of one kind or another.  We all have boundaries that create barriers to infringement on our time and space. My hope is that enough of us will more fully understand the importance of our interrelationships and decencies, more fully value the welfare of Mother Earth, all her creatures and resources. We live together on a little blue marble hurtling through space.  We can destroy each other, but the little blue marble will continue on without us, grateful for our absence. 

© Steven E. Woolley

2 thoughts on “The Compression of Time and Space on Society”

  1. This is a timely piece. I have concerns about how Congress will proceed when they do decide on a Speaker. I fear we are in for a chaotic time.

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