Over the last century or so, we’ve enjoyed the greatest times of prosperity the world has ever seen. Yeah, there’ve been some recessions and some wars, and there’s certainly a lot more we can do, but overall we’re way out over the goalposts. We’ve more than doubled our collective lifespan, human rights have been preached to the farthest reaches of the earth, and technology continues to race ahead at exponential rates.
So David Bowie asks, "Where Are We Now?" After a decade of silence, Mr. Bowie has spoken on his 66th birthday. The song is a pre-release single for his new album titled "The Next Day" to be released in March. The singer is older and mellower, but mostly positive. There’s some alienation, “Sitting in the Dschungel on the Nurnberger strasse, A man lost in time near KaDeWe, Just walking the dead.” There’s some apprehension, “Twenty thousand people Gross Bose Brucke, Fingers are crossed, Just in case.” But the future is optimistic, “As long as there’s sun, as long as there’s rain, as long as there’s me, as long as there’s you.”
I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Bowie had in mind, but I’m not nearly so sanguine. An important megatrend of the past century is that people are losing their religion. There’re fewer worshippers in churches, mosques and synagogues. Those who are attending are older, meaning the younger are not finding traditional religions as relevant to their daily lives. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) wrote of a God-shaped hole in every person. Some may believe we can move beyond this need, but that remains to be seen. What if we can’t? What if religion is as fundamental to our existence as oxygen? If traditional faiths no longer meet these needs, where will seven billion people turn for their God fix? Who will they follow as the new messiah? s a science fiction writer, that brings a lot of possibilities to mind; few of them good.
Sorry, Mr. Bowie. I don’t know when, but unless these trends change, I afraid we’re heading towards some kind of breakdown. That’s where we are now.