The countryside is on fire, The Guardian has published another article about replacing meat with mould grown in vats, and the World Economic Forum wants to block out the sun with a Brazil-sized raft of space bubbles. This isn’t the Great Reset; it’s a mood. A vibe.
Walking the dog at dusk on Tuesday through local woodland, I noticed wilting hazel saplings, poplars shedding foliage, dry yellow leaves crunching underfoot like it’s September. The ground is bone-dry. The wheat in neighbouring fields has ripened a month early.
The seasons are, as Shakespeare wrote, “out of joint”. Though Britain is no longer sweltering in unprecedented 40-degree heat, the weather has intensified an already simmering apocalyptic mood. Some are sublimating this into panic about second-order issues (health and safety is a popular choice), or arguments about whether or not panic is justified. Others are swimming in the bin with a cocktail in hand. But the vibe is everywhere.
In modern terms, “apocalypse” has come to mean “the cataclysmic end of everything”. But this is a long way from the ancient Greek understanding: to uncover, to disclose or lay bare. From this perspective, apocalypse isn’t the end of the world. Or at least, not just the end of the world. Rather, it’s the end of a worldview: discoveries that mean a previous way of looking at things is no longer tenable.
In our case, it’s no longer just cranks and prophets coming to the reluctant realisation that our current way of life can’t continue. This suspicion is percolating into the mainstream — along with a raft of increasingly unhinged responses. The Dutch farmers’ protest, now spreading across Europe, is the latest focus for the concatenating derangement this revelation has triggered.
It’s the most recent flare-up in a running battle between interest groups whose livelihoods depend directly on the continuation of our extractive industrial order, and a knowledge-economy class whose livelihood does so only indirectly. For the people who make or grow things, build things, or move things around are both heavily reliant on cheap energy to do their jobs, and easy targets for well-meaning green regulations. From farming regulations that strangle small producers, to rocketing fuel costs and travel restrictions for logistics firms unable to invest in low-emission vehicles, environmental rules take the heaviest toll on smaller businesses, adding pressure to living standards already squeezed by inflation and the pandemic.
This adds pressure to middle-class living standards already squeezed by inflation and the pandemic. And the resulting sense of being picked on finds its enemy in the knowledge class, embodied in the WEF: a kind of trade union for its richest and most influential members. This cabal of wealthy suits concerns itself less with stuff than ideas. And of course they have big ideas for saving the world: the WEF’s own stated Great Reset vision views post-pandemic chaos as a “unique window of opportunity” to “shape the recovery” in the name of “a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being”.