10 Transitions That Will Define 2020
As we round off the weirdest year in living memory, let's recount the transformations that gave it character.
1 – FROM ORANGE SCAPEGOAT TO SACRIFICIAL LAMB
In five short years, Donald Trump managed to conjure more hate than the Devil himself. By accident or design, this guy exposed the Blue Tribe's black heart, channeling the full bandwidth of their bad vibes onto his mean, orange mug.
On a spiritual level, Trump functioned as a scapegoat for liberal America's sins. So long as he was telling showroom lies or bullying the nearest reporter, the Left's bloodthirsty media pundits, academics, actors, activists, and social media mobs could ignore their own malevolence and screech at the satyr onscreen.
Assuming the ritual purge actually occurs, this unmasked scapegoat shall be driven into the desert, carrying the sins of the community with him. In his stead, a rickety old ram is being prepared for sacrifice. In the full glory of time, Biden's decomposing visage will give way to the luminous spirits of the righteous and the powerful. Those two will be the same from now on, at least in polite conversation.
2 – FROM SOCIAL LIFE TO THE NEW NORMAL
Remember when you could wander into a public library or museum at your leisure? It seems like only yesterday that stepping into a cafe or local market was a social event, with off-hand jokes and smiling faces. Universities were flashpoints of vitality, rather than cradles of neurosis. Now we're singin' the blue state blues.
In the old days, you could seek refuge in a church, or sidle up to strangers at the bar without first performing a protective mask ritual. Back then, people still had faces, and social interactions were organic. Those days are gone.
Soon enough, the relentless "mask up" and "socially distance" propaganda will segue into vaccine promotion, but the subconscious effects will remain. Many will continue to see their neighbors and co-workers as potential biohazards. Deep down, they'll harbor suspicion of the Other — and uphold trust in authority — just as they were conditioned to do.
Long after the lockdowns are (tentatively) lifted, the intuition will remain that our aloof rulers can lock us down any time, at their pleasure. And we'll have to pretend it's for our own good.
3 – FROM FLESHLY MUCK TO CYBERIAN LIFESTYLES
The best thing about the New Normal — at least for snobs and introverts — is that you never have to leave the comfort of home. Why expose yourself to other people's germ clouds?
If you don't work with your hands, there's no reason to get them dirty at the office. Just do a Zoom meeting! It really is a miracle technology. As the holidays roll around, you can even do a Zoom Christmas — pants optional! Ho ho ho!
Let's say you find your soul-mate, but don't wanna choke on the in-laws' germs. Do a Zoom wedding! If they all die of boredom, do a Zoom funeral! It's like real life — only Zoom-tastic!
You can work, shop, worship, enjoy time with family and friends, meet new lovers, or catch a live concert — all online! And since every last detail of your personal data is aggregated along with everyone else's, tech oligarchs are well-equipped to create artificial worlds we're willing to inhabit.
From inside, it's like a virtual beehive where the shoes are always on sale. From above, it looks like a billion tiny Zoom screens filled with digital larvae, each one squirming in their sanitized cell.
4 – FROM INDIE CULTURE TO CORPORATE DOMINANCE
It really is sad your favorite bookstore went under, but sentimentality won't bring it back. No dinosaur can live forever.
Fortunately, multinational corporations are functionally immortal. Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Purdue Pharma, Pfizer, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter — you know, Harris/Biden-supporters — they'll be there for you 'til the bitter end.
This year, Apple broke records as the first publicly traded company to hit $2 trillion in value. How'd they do it? Ask their customers, who never have to endure screen-freezes during back-to-back Zoom meetings.
Jeff Bezos is another prime example. Starting in the 90s, this tech icon brought us Amazon.com, the Alexa eavesdropping device, the Ring home surveillance camera, and now the AWS cloud, where the CIA keeps its boring paperwork. By mid-2020, Bezos managed to reach $200 billion in personal wealth. What was his secret? The Google God only knows.
5 – FROM EARTHLY TOIL TO ROBOT SLAVES
Three months before Covid infected the news, PBS debuted its dystopic In the Age of AI. This documentary presents the most anti-human inventions to emerge since the vibrator. Armies of automated lobster claws are coming for your job. In one interview, artificial intelligence mogul Kai-Fu Lee predicts that "50% of jobs will be somewhat or extremely threatened by AI in the next 15 years or so."
Not long after the film aired, public health experts kicked off the beta test for mass unemployment.
Back in 2018, Kai-Fu published his eerily optimistic AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. In it, he warns that many cognitive gigs will be axed by automation, including telemarketers (hello, robo-calls!), customer service reps, basic translators, accountants, tour guides, teachers, and eventually, medical doctors. (Incidentally, he says CEOs, criminal defense attorneys, PR directors, and psychiatrists will remain in demand.)
He also says that antiseptic robots will rapidly replace factory workers, assembly line inspectors, truck-drivers, fruit-harvesters, cashiers, dishwashers, restaurant cooks, and even waiters. (Pro tip: nursing home caregivers, physical therapists, hair stylists, and dog-trainers should still enjoy job security.)
So what are working people gonna do once we've become obsolete? You can be sure the experts will think of something fun and fulfilling, and not at all humiliating.
6 – FROM RIOTS TO MOSTLY PEACEFUL PROTESTS
Mainstream media is totally sold out. That's why the social media sleuths who follow underground media — like the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Drudge Report — were the only ones sharing news about white males shooting unarmed black men.
As the 2020 election heated up, these tireless gumshoes uncovered cut-up videos of Ahmaud Arbery gunned down while jogging, George Floyd crushed under a cop's knee for 8 minutes, and disturbing audio of Jacob Blake shot in the back. Social media caught fire like a UU church sign proclaiming BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Protests were organized in America's city centers. Yes, there were a few ... incidents ... in Atlanta, Ga., Minneapolis, Mn., Kenosha, Wi., Portland, Or., Seattle, Wa., New York City, Chicago, Il., and Philadelphia, Pa., among other locales. Videos show black-clad anarchists setting whole blocks ablaze while inner city kids looted anything not nailed down. When skeptics called these gatherings "super-spreader events", courageous medical experts declared that, actually, racism is more dangerous than the coronavirus.
In response, spin-doctors on the Right began circulating alternative facts. For instance, the full jogger video shows Ahmaud Arbery attack his shooter first, George Floyd's coroner report suggests he'd just swallowed a fatal dose of opiates, and cellphone footage of Jacob Blake clearly shows the unarmed man leap into his SUV, presumably to arm himself, before being shot. These suppressed facts, decoupled from sympathetic story-telling, gave rise to a separate worldview.
As the election season winds down, such incidents have ceased to be of use to the media. But because the full range of facts now fall into two distinct sets, America's psyche has been split down the middle.
Some might say there are good people on both sides. But we all know, in the mind's darkest recesses, one side wants their enemies barbecued in concentration camps, while the other would love to see oppressors wiping robot ass in the gulag. And who knows? Maybe Silicon Valley will create a simulation where both sides can see their dreams come true.
7 – FROM CASHIER TO COVID COP
After the recent replication crisis in psychology, I thought classics like the Milgram study and the Stanford prison experiment were headed for history's dustbin. You might get a few college kids to electrocute strangers or take a game of cops-n-robbers too far, but that doesn't mean it's human nature to be an asshole.
Then the pandemic hit, and our leaders set out to prove an authoritarian personality lurks in the average goober. Health experts deputized normal citizens to police their neighbors. "If you see something, say something." Suddenly, half the world was primed to squash an invisible evil. Cough droplets formed a lethal mist in the atmosphere, and the new public health police accused maskless farmers in the Midwest of killing old folks in New England.
And woe unto the nakedface who steps inside a coffeeshop. The only thing more ridiculous than hearing a maladjusted barista bark "Excuse me, sir! Where's your mask?!" is seeing a surly hayseed scramble to put one on. This lunacy is everywhere — in gas stations and hardware stores, in restaurants and watering holes, in classrooms and even outdoor venues. The over-enunciation of the plural "masks" is absolutely maddening.
"Those anti-lockdown protesters weren't wearing masksks..."
Perhaps, in time, we can all learn to love compliance. In that case, I suppose the theory behind Stockholm Syndrome will survive, too.
8 – FROM BOYS & GIRLS TO TRANS ADOLESCENTS
If you judge a book's importance by how much hate it attracts, Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters is the most important book of the year. It builds on recent research that found an explosion of girls who — under the influence of social media friend-groups — decided to become boys together. It's like they got matching BFF tattoos on their souls.
Despite everything we're told to affirm — or else — Shrier contends that grown-ups encouraging children to permanently alter their biochemistry is misguided. Case studies suggest that, for most kids, gender dysphoria is just a phase.
The author correlates her own trans research with huge increases in teen anxiety, depression, anorexia, autism, cutting, suicide, and other forms of self-harm that Boomers never imagined. In tandem with these trends, a 2017 Harris Poll found that a full 8% of Millennials now identify as "non-cisgender, not strictly heterosexual". What accounts for this massive increase from previous generations?
Shrier argues persuasively, and respectfully, that adolescent gender transitioning has become a way for troubled teens to gain acceptance and positive attention. The problem is — after seeing huge suicide rates, even after surgery — this doesn't seem to be a healthy solution.
Trans activists screamed bloody murder. "If you don't affirm a child's gender, they'll die!!! That's just Science!!!" In response, Target pulled Irreversible Damage from its shelves — at least until the death angel passed over.
Given this obvious ethical crisis, where are all the brave doctors willing to speak out against the consensus? Probably drinking their shame away with closeted Covid-skeptics.
Personally, I think the trans issue is blown out of proportion. Since the 50s, permissive parents have allowed birth control, rock n' roll, TV sets, McDonald's burgers, psychedelics, full-contact football, and 24/7 screen-time. All these fads alter a kid's brain and overall biochemistry. So who cares if a few prog moms and licensed medical experts are encouraging confused girls to inject testosterone and have their vaginas turned into penile simulacra. That's just their lane on the super-highway to The Future.
9 – FROM DIRTY APES TO TRANSHUMAN GLORY
Back in 2000, only big shots had a cellphone. These days, every schmoe and his granny has a touchscreen computer in his pocket. Soon, the same will be true of VR goggles. Once the brain-computer interface has been perfected, most of us will basically live in virtual reality.
As usual, the wealthy will inhabit an elaborate paradise, flying from one pleasure to the next in artificial Elysian Fields. This privileged class will be held in thrall by cyber-erotica and an intense communion with sentient neural networks. Meanwhile, their physical needs will be attended to by wall-to-wall automation — sort of like Pee Wee Herman's house — until they undergo the final transition into silicon-based lifeforms.
The pathetic masses will content themselves with high-resolution shooting sprees and fully immersive tactile porn, not unlike today. Grown women will forego marriage and children to nurture agent-based AI kittens. If the history of elite cruelty is any guide, this virtual conveyor belt will terminate in a purring meat-grinder, where the poor and obsolete will be processed into robot fuel.
My advice? Learn to code. Fast.
You might ask, "What happens when everyone checks out and the physical world becomes a barren landscape dotted with tumbleweeds and man-eating Roombas?"
A better question would be, "With graphics this good, who's gonna care?"
10 – FROM FREE SPEECH TO SURVIVAL
Say one foul word about any of this, and you're done. As we transition to top-down control — whether it's a Google technocracy or a Chinese century — you'd be well advised to keep the nay-saying to yourself.
Confucius say, "Raised nail get the hammer."
If you're freaked by the onrush of The Future, just chill out and take a virtual walk. I hear Cyberia's nice this time of year. Or maybe set up a Zoom session with your trusted psychiatrist. Before you can say "Two plus two equals five", an Amazon Rx drone will leave happy pills at your doorstep. If you've gotta open that mouth of yours, it better be to take your meds.
Like it or not, the entire globe's gonna morph into this imaginal state of perfection. So, going forward, the most important thing is to look happy about it — and I mean all the fucking time — because there are cameras everywhere, and that frowny face is bad for business.
Everyone wants to be real, but trust me, you're better off just wearing a mask.
Originally published in ColdType — Issue 217 — December 2020 (pg. 18-22)
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