(This post is inspired by the recent stabbings in Jerusalem at the Gay Pride Parade)
From Venkat Rao's series of essays entitled Breaking Smart:
"Young or old, those who are unable to adopt the Promethean mindset end up defaulting to what we call a pastoral mindset: one marked by yearning for lost or unattained utopias.
Today many still yearn for an updated version of romanticized 1950s American middle-class life for instance, featuring flying cars and jetpacks."
was a strange show. In its strange future world, we had flying cars and friendly robot assistants. Oddly, though, daily life here was a scene out ofThe Brady Bunch
. On the surface, everything had changed. At a deeper, societal level, though, nothing had. Dad still won the proverbial bread, mom remained at home. Generally happy nuclear families with a house and a backyard.
This image of the future comes from what Rao calls the pastoral mindset. Pastoralists strive to keep up the "steady states" that they've worked so hard to create for themselves. So if "change" comes in the form of new toys, that's great. But if "change" is something that completely uproots how they've viewed life, then it's bad, scary, and evil.
It's probably wired into our primate brains to be this way. If something in our environment fundamentally changes, we perceive that as a threat. Hundreds of years ago, an uncomfortable environmental change probably meant we became lunch for a pack of wolves; or we got punished by snowfall; or our food supply got raided by another group of humans.
This same wiring doesn't work very well these days and creates a bizarre set of contradictions.
Good people are racists.
Good people are homophobes.
Good people are misogynists.
Good people are bigots.
So many good people with archaic beliefs. It's the pastoral mindset writ large. When Black Americans finally gained access to the same schools that Whites did, that was not a Jetsons-type change. Neither was the legalization of gay marriage, nor the rise of powerful, successful women in business.
But people that we normally consider to be good have bared their teeth and seethed at these apparently immoral and unnatural changes in the world. But they are good people, right? Maybe at some age (or at some point generally), our ability to easily accept new ways of life gets shut down.
I fear the day that I grow old and my pastoralist face starts to bare its ugly fangs. Because then that'll mean that I'm fucking scared.