To be sentient is to be conscious and to have awareness of the world around us. To be sentient is to be possession of one's senses and to comprehend their messages. Consensus is the condition of thinking and acting in unison on a particular issue. Consentience, therefore, is the condition of feeling together. It is a sort of telepathy, but it seldom exists among individuals. This is the telepathy that binds the collective unconscious. It is Zeitgeist. Consentience appears when this power rises up out of those murky depths into our waking minds and speaks to us from there. It exists when many organisms think, feel and move as a single entity with a common purpose, without any need for overt or expressed communication between their various parts. Debate is discarded and only action remains.
Consentience is both glorious and dangerous; exhilarating and frightening. Much evil has been done in the world when evil became the highest good in the land and no one could stand against it and hope to live. Yet how much good could be done if evil were banished from our minds and all obstacles fell away before us? This world will be largely a good world. But it will be a goodness that is measured in comfort and security and leisure. Not creativity or originality or vigour. And goodness of this kind almost always will carry a price....
We stand on the edge of the greatest human century our kind shall ever witness -- the last great Western Renaissance. But it stands on the edge of oblivion. Après nous, le Déluge.
Peace and security will be the marks of the new age. Consentience will be its foundation. And that foundation is being built here, on the Internet, among other places. For the first time in the life of our species, every part of our world is in contact with every other part and all human beings -- high and low, rich and poor, near and far, of whatever faith or language or nationality -- may know the thoughts and feelings of their fellows and all may know each other as they really are. The Internet is an essential ingredient in that world and here we may get a foretaste of what that world shall bring. It is also here that we are learning about Consentience, about what it means, about how to experience it. Those people already online now and those people coming online within the next few years will have a distinct advantage in the next century and will understand first what Consentience is all about.
The first consentient generation will be the one born immediately after the chaos of the turn of the century, the one that comes of age in the late 2020s and early 2030s, just as the Baby Boomers fade from the scene. But the work of building that world will fall to Gen-X and their younger cousins. They will be put to work then, at last, and they will practise what the Boomers have only preached.
The concept of nationality will fade away and nations will diminish in importance as something resembling world government is established. We will build a circumpolar federation, from Anchorage to Vladivostok, the long way around. Its origin and core will be Europa. And it will spread out from there across the planet. Outside its bounds, the old nations will linger on through history, but their sovereignty will be meaningless before this empire's unified might.
Within its bounds, democracy shall become a quaint formality. Sovereign power will be vested in the planetary government, while legislative authority will devolve to provincial centres. There, matters of regional and cultural significance will be debated by politicians who are nothing more than extensions of their bureaucracies and represent parties holding more in common than in variance. Even now, legislative assemblies in the West seldom witness the clash of ideologies so much as the petty bickering to be heard at staff meetings in boardrooms everywhere and their latitude or freedom of movement in decisions is curtailed by international treaties. Old multiethnic nations will be broken down further still. Russia will yet fall apart. Do not be surprised if the Prime Minister of England must someday make an appointment to meet with the Prime Minister of Wales. Or if the King of Flanders marries his son to the Queen of Catalonia. Or if the Governor of California becomes more important than the President of the United States. As Consentience takes hold and deepens, democratic institutions will wither and shrivel.
And what will life in this world be like? Surprisingly pleasant and care-free. Especially if thinking is not a strong suit....
Within the federation, the people will live long and in comfort. They will be housed and clothed and well-fed. Entertainment will be a big part of their lives. Sporadic endemic violence will continue to be a major problem as fewer people are able to distinguish between their fantasy worlds and the real world around them. Critical thinking will become less and less important. Consentience implies reliance on instinct and intuition over logic. The population will be much older, on average, and numerically fewer. Women will dominate in all aspects of public and private life -- this will be the century of glory for women everywhere, more than any other of the past. Or future.
Outside the federation, the developing world will industrialise and take on the work of producing all the goodies that keep the people within the federation housed and clothed and well-fed and happy. Their population will not shrink, but grow and press against the borders. The warming climate will visit disasters and plagues upon them. The North will cope with this change, but part of its coping strategy will be to focus only on the needs of its own people and to keep others shut out. The South is to work and produce, not to enjoy. And therein lies the rub. For those who have known no struggle to win their comfort and their ease, they love their comfort too much to defend it.
In the 2080s, a sea-change will blow through the South and it shall stir and awaken. In the 2090s, the conqueror will appear in their midst who shall unite them and break down their petty nationalisms. Beware this man, for he shall overthrow our world and conquer the North. Beware him! By 2120, all shall be overthrown -- America, Europa, Russia. The land will be conquered and occupied by strangers with strange ways. Its wealth will be seized and carted away. The climate will turn cool again, for awhile....
And then what? ...
Created: August 1996. Last updated: 12 Jan 1997.
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