Today we feel that all the expedients and stratagems we took until recently to be effective – if not foolproof when it came to resisting and tackling the dangers of crises – have passed or are about to pass their use-by date. But we have little if any inkling of what to replace them with. The hope of taking history under human management, and the resulting determination to do so, have all but vanished, as the successive leaps and bounds of human history have vied with, and come to outdo, natural catastrophes in their unexpectedness and uncontrollability.
If we still believe in »progress« (by no means a foregone conclusion), we tend to view it now as a mixture of blessing and curse, the curses growing steadily in volume as the blessings become ever fewer and farther between. While our recent ancestors still believed in the future as the safest and most promising location for investing their hopes, we tend to project into it primarily our manifold fears, anxieties and apprehensions: of the growing scarcity of jobs, of falling incomes reducing our and our children’s life chances, of the yet greater frailty of our social positions and the temporality of our life achievements, of the increasingly widening gap between the tools, resources and skills at our disposal and the momentousness of the challenges facing us.
Above all, we feel our control over our own lives slipping from our hands, reducing us to the status of pawns moved to and fro in a chess game played by unknown players indifferent to our needs, if not downright hostile and cruel, and all too ready to sacrifice us in pursuit of their own objectives. Not so long ago associated with more comfort and less inconvenience, what the thought of future tends nowadays to bring to mind most often is the gruesome menace of being identified or classified as inept and unfit for the task, denied value and dignity, and for that reason marginalized, excluded and outcast.