02 - Choosing stories of renewal amidst the chaos of collapse

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Dan York
Dan York
In our actions, do we feed the continued collapse of our world? Or feed the renewal?

Before you read the rest of this newsletter, I ask you to pause and read another essay first. As you do, I want you to think about the emotions you are feeling. Particularly during the first section before the photo of the Afghan people in the plane - and then how you feel in the next section down to the part about Kurt Vonnegut and story arcs. How does the text move you? How do you feel?
I’m serious. If you skipped over this, please… go read that essay first. This newsletter will still be here when you get back. (And while you are there, I encourage you to also subscribe to FutureCrunch, or at least read more.)
A Choice of Stories
Did you feel the doom and gloom of the “Collapse” section? Did you feel how grim and dark it all seemed?
It’s easy to live that story. It surrounds us. Although on the calendar today is October 1, 2021, it feels like the 579th day of March 2020.
We are so done with the pandemic. We are tired of being at home, of wearing masks, of not seeing friends and family with the comfort we had before. We are tired of being anxious and stressed. We are tired of Zoom calls. We are tired of being worried about being sick. We are frustrated with people choosing to be unvaccinated and prolonging this agony. We are frustrated with the supply chain issues that are making everything harder to get. We are worried about the changes underway in our climate - and what might or might not even be possible.
And all around us the political situation is chaos. Governments seem to be engaged in a global race to the bottom to see who can do the stupidest and craziest things to destroy their nations. From the UK to Brazil to Mexico to Ethiopia to Russia to here in the USA… everywhere is tinged with madness.
We are feeling blah and just… languishing. Our brain’s “surge capacity” (audio) is depleted after 20+ months on high alert.
We are all… so… damn… tired.
And we are seeing that narrative told about the Internet right now. The critics say the Internet is a cesspool of toxicity, misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. It is people yelling at each other and being further divided and polarized. It is conspiracy theories and QAnon. It is massive US-owned mega-corporations out to steal all your information and life. It is identity theft. It is ransomware that will take over all your computers and lock up all the photos of your grandkids if you are not careful. It is fear and gloom and doom. It is “Minority Report” combined with “The Matrix” and “Terminator” and “Black Mirror”.
It is a bleak dystopia and… we.. are… all… doomed.
The story of “Collapse” is all around us.
Promoted, of course, by cynical governments and corporations who seek to use fear and gloom to gain more control and/or revenue - and by an attention-based media economy that knows that fear and gloom brings eyeballs.
And yet…
… as that essay shows, the positive stories are all around us, just waiting to be told.
Try to imagine living through 2020 without the Internet.
That same “cesspool of misinformation” is an amazing system for communication, connection, collaboration, creation, and commerce. Every day I am grateful for the video calls that I can have with my parents, family, friends, and co-workers. There are resources on the Internet beyond our wildest imaginations to learn so much more. There is music, games, video, and so, so much more. People are connecting, learning, and thriving.
Yes, there are challenges, but the Internet can also be a phenomenal force for good.
Which story will we tell? To ourselves? And to the the wider society?
A Choice of Futures
We can choose to focus on the story of collapse. We can let that overwhelm us and occupy our thoughts.
Or we can choose a future where we focus on the story of renewal. On what people are doing to avoid the collapse. On finding the champions and fixers who are changing the world, even just in small, little ways.
A mantra that I’ve had for myself, and that I’ve tried to impart to our daughters, is this:
In our every action and in every moment, we can choose to build people up - or tear people down. The choice we make defines the kind of world we want to live in.
It’s extremely challenging to live that way. It’s far easier to tear people down. Sarcasm and snark are fast and easy, and for a moment they can be fun and enjoyable… to us. I fail at it all the time. Just yesterday I criticized a US Senator for what was probably a failure of his staff. I am not always kind. But yet I keep trying to live this way.
Just as we can choose to build people up or tear people down, we can choose to build institutions up… to build democracy up… to build organizations up… to build the Internet up… to build the climate up… to build each other up. Or we can tear it all down in a massive ball of flame.
How can we switch from telling the stories of collapse to telling the stories of renewal?
When we go to tweet out a snarky comment, can we ask ourselves if that is feeding the collapse? or feeding the renewal? is it building someone up? or tearing someone down?
When we look to write about something, can we find the positive stories amidst the chaos? NOT blindly being positive… not blindly wearing rose-colored glasses. Acknowledging the grimness… acknowledging the negative stories… but finding ways to include the positive stories as well.
As I wrote recently on Twitter:
Dan York
The challenge that lies before us is more than choosing hope over fear.
It is choosing hope *amidst* the overwhelming narratives of fear and doom.
It is choosing hope and optimism *despite* those fears.
It is choosing hope as a daily, gritty act of resistance and resilience.
I believe that we must choose hope and optimism. For ourselves. For our towns and cities. For our society. For the Internet. For our world.
For if we don’t… who will?
The narrative of collapse is far too inviting.
We must act. In our own lives. In our work. In our actions.
And we must gather with others who make those choices. We must find those champions. We must support them and join with them. Find the people serving. Find the ones telling the positive stories. Subscribe to FutureCrunch. Join the Internet Society. Find a local Rotary Club. Find a church engaged in social action. Join in with the thousands of nonprofits and businesses around the world who are working each and every day to change the world.
As the FutureCrunch article said at the end:
Ultimately, there’s no way of judging whether we’re living through Collapse or Renewal. Future generations will decide that for us. The only thing that matters is the part we play. We can choose which strand of the rope we belong to. We can add to its grand weave, in the way we treat other people, in the daily work we do, in the decisions we make about where to put our energy, in the leaders we vote for and in the words that come out of our mouths.
Hope or fear? Collapse or renewal? Building up or tearing down?
The choice is ours.
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Thank you for reading this far. Did you enjoy this newsletter? Find it interesting or thoughtful? If so, please share it with others - and encourage them to subscribe at choices.danyork.com
We have before us a choice of futures… we must choose wisely!
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Disclaimer: Please note that this newsletter is a personal project and has no connection or affiliation with my employer, the Internet Society. While I may sometimes mention the Internet Society or include links to their content, any text and content here is entirely my own.
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Dan York
Dan York @danyork

Exploring our choice of futures... for the Internet, for our society, and for ourselves. Join with me in the exploration!

[Note: this newsletter is a personal project and has no connection to my employer, the Internet Society.]

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Dan York, Shelburne, Vermont, USA