The Revolution of Lowered Expectations

In which The Author discovers another security leak from the future

A few weeks ago I came across Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, in the 1998 Orbit paperback edition. It was in Barbara’s proto-Black Hole of second-hand books opposite Aberdare Bus Station. I call it a proto-Black Hole because if it gathers much more mass, it’s likely to collapse under its own gravitational field. In fact, the incipient Singularity event might explain why all the buses leaving Aberdare have started running late over the past couple of months. It’s totally in accordance with Einstein’s predictions.
I first read the trilogy some years ago, having borrowed it from Dino. I was glad that I’d previously read the Illuminatus! books, as well as Cosmic Trigger and some of Dr Wilson’s other books, as I wouldn’t have known what the fuck to make of it otherwise. Vicki F. was a big fan as well, as it turned out. As a result, his prose style and crazy humour became a big influence on Dodge This, the bizarre online Western-by-Committee which was a long-running of Aberdare Online back in the day.
I started re-reading it the night before last, and finished the first chunk of it yesterday. For a book originally published in 1979, it seems remarkably prescient in parts. I was especially struck by the idea of the Revolution of Lowered Expectations.
The whole neurosociology of the twentieth century could be understood as a function of two variables—the upward-rising curve of the Revolution of Rising Expectations, and the downward-plunging trajectory of the Revolution of Lowered Expectations.
The Revolution of Rising Expectations, which had drawn more and more people into its Up-thrust during the first half of the century, had led many to believe that poverty and starvation and disease were all being phased out by advances in pure and applied science, growing stockpiles of surplus food in the advanced nations, accelerated medical progress, the spread of literacy and electronics, and the mounting sense that people had a right to demand a decent life for themselves and their children.
The Revolution of Lowered Expectations was based on the idea that there wasn’t enough energy to provide for the rising expectations of the masses. Year after year the message was broadcast: There Isn’t Enough. The masses were taught that Terra is a closed system, that entropy was increasing, that life was a losing proposition all round, and that majority were doomed to poverty, starvation, disease, misery and stupidity.
I read that passage again last night, and it struck me that these words, written 35 years ago, could have been written yesterday. In fact, they (or something pretty similar) could equally well have been written yesterday, by Mail on Sunday op-ed columnists and Conservative Party speech-writers.
About a week ago, I heard a brief report on the BBC Radio 4 news about a fire at a coal-fired power station somewhere in England. Production had been shut down while the blaze was tackled. Two other power stations were already offline at the time, and an ‘expert’ told the BBC that a sudden cold snap this winter would put the entire generating network under severe strain.
Now, read between the lines: what the expert was really telling us was that the UK needed to press ahead with fracking, to alleviate the danger of the lights going out.
Meanwhile, the Ebola virus is raging through West Africa, leaving thousands dead and causing major transport hubs to introduce screening measures on people travelling from that part of the world. Luckily for us in the prosperous West, the likely victims are colour-coded (as Kurt Vonnegut would have put it) and easy to identify. Naturally, the far-right have already seized on this as the perfect excuse to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ to this set of islands.
The repercussions of the banking crisis of 2008, and the shortage of housing in our major cities, has made home ownership an impossible dream for a lot the young people I know. Even when they come out of university, qualified to enter the world of work, many will find themselves in low-paid menial jobs, or on zero-hour contracts, unable to plan further ahead than a couple of weeks. Similarly, for most of my friends, the middle-England obsession of ‘saving for a pension’ ranks up there with ‘playing for Wales’ and ‘walking on the Moon.’
The first part of Dr Wilson’s satire of human foibles ends with a global nuclear war. Only a handful of survivors go on to rebuild human civilisation, which in due course goes the same way as its predecessor. Meanwhile, the majority of animals on this planet – the insects – carry on going, untouched by the catastrophe going on around them.
I thought I’d share the idea of the Revolution of Lowered Expectations with you, because it’s the future nearly all of us can look forward to. I say ‘nearly all’, because there’s a small minority who will continue to grow rich by exploiting the planet and its people. I don’t foresee a sudden lurch to the Left, either, in spite of the growth of the Green movement and the Occupy movement. If anything, this country is more likely to lurch to the Right over the next few years. We’re already seeing the formative stages of the scenario which led to the rise of the Third Reich, eighty years ago. The Sheeple, rendered brain-dead by football, soaps, the lottery, and celebrity bullshit, will walk quite placidly into the abattoir.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
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