The Last X-Mas on Earth

The economic and military capabilities of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are exponentially rising. Find shelter.

Story by Nina Verdelli - nina.verdelli@gmail.com Photos by Icarus Blake

Man Falleth Photo ©Icarus Blake

The Mayans were right about the end of the world, partially, at least. December 2012 marks the end of a world, and, specifically, the end of the world that we used to know. What will come next will be different; politically, economically, socially, and artistically, for better or for worse.

After a long period of hegemonic supremacy of the West (starting with the fall of the Berlin wall), we are now witnessing a shift in the balance of power. A few days ago, in its latest report “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds”, the US National Intelligence Council forecasted that, in less than twenty years, the international arena will be radically transformed. The economic and military capabilities of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are exponentially rising. Thus, the US will have to adapt to this new multipolar international arena, wherein Europe will no longer be the number one ally. The old continent, indeed, weakened by its internal monetary crisis and by the absence of a common financial policy, is losing relevance. What about the oil-rich countries? Well, the Middle East and North Africa are now coping with the consequence of the 2011 Arab Spring, and God only knows what will come out of it. The only thing we can be positive about is that the vertical world, wherein the West dictated and the Rest obeyed, is ending.

The End Photo ©Icarus Blake

The end of a top-down power structure is perceivable even within societies themselves, at many levels. There will always be a division between governors and the governed, leaders and followers, and creators and users. But what before seemed an insurmountable void is now being filled up. The social media revolution has helped this strive for equalization, by providing individuals with the possibility to participate or, at least, to voice their opinions on a public, shared platform. Is it just a coincidence that movements fighting for democracy, such as Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring, have been facilitated through the use of Facebook and Twitter? Probably not. “This is the participation age”, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated a few months ago. She couldn’t have been more incisive: by rendering their views public, people contribute as influencers in the formation of the behavioral norms that will characterize the future. In fact, the way people learn and communicate is now much more horizontal, where authoritative and non-authoritative sources exchange information and opinions. Even the creation of artistic content is likely to endorse a bilateral, rather than univocal, direction. Artists and the public will form interactive synergies, as opposed to never intersecting dichotomies.

Upside Down Photo ©Icarus Blake

The symptoms of the advent of a new era are already entrenched in everyday life. An example? On December twelfth, Pope Benedict XVI launched his first tweet. One of the most conservative men on earth is now using the most modern means of communication. Another? After eighty years in print, in 2013 Newsweek will adopt an all-digital format. Its last print edition will be the December thirty-first issue. Many other newsmagazines will soon follow in these footsteps. The epoch of press, started with Gutenberg in the second half of the XV century, is fading away. This list could go on forever.

Curiously enough, this year the Oscar for Best Picture was won by “The Artist”, a black and white, silent movie set during the Thirties. Upon closer inspection, however, it appears obvious why. “The Artist” talks about change, specifically, about the introduction of sound into the cinematographic industry. The reactions to this novelty are essentially two: some actors enthusiastically embrace the new mean; some others remain nostalgically affectionate to the old silent system. The former became celebrities. The latter got marginalized. Today, during last the Christmas on Earth, it is time for us to choose. Are we going to capitalize on or reject change? No judgment here: whatever one decides is legitimate. But remember: once we’ve chosen, there’s no going back. The die is cast.

Ostrich Photo ©Icarus Blake

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