Quigley’s Future Preference in the 21st Century
Of late, I’ve been trying to think about things from a very specific angle. A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished reading “Tragedy and Hope” by Georgetown Historian Carroll Quigley. For anyone with the patience and attention span to read this book, good luck. The book is thick, and the subject matter dense. Popular among conspiracy minded people due to its frank discussion of Cecil Rhodes and Roundtable Groups, there’s another concept that I’ve been trying to wrap my spongy brain around. Quigley calls it ‘future preference’. It sounds like the musculature of Western Civilization.
Listen, if you want to bow out now, Gawker has probably got some kewl articles to keep you busy. A diluted, pseudo-historical glimpse into the present via the lens of cryptojournalist is probably not the best way to spend 10 minutes. But if you’ve got the stomach to gut out dry material and random observations, let’s ride.
What happens when a culture gives up future preference for the petrified past? Yeah, yeah, I know. The internet is a silly place to ask tough, unending questions. Especially a blog. But based on my calculations, we’re bound to see Dazed and Confused remade by 2018. 25 years in Hollywood time? That’s the equivalent of 4 relapses, two career makeovers, a retirement, an un-retirement and another makeover.
In college, I took an anthropology class. A 102 or 103, basically remedial anthropology. And did terrible. So delving into culture and cherry picking is probably not the most fruitful way of taking my talents to South Beach. But like the hearty fisherman, bad knees and all, I can feel the storm coming. Nostalgia turns into staleness very quickly, which will petrify before your eyes if you wait long enough.
So let me get to my point with future preference. The antithesis of future preference is living in the moment, which can contribute to shitty life choices. So I’m gonna shake the tree from the roots and rake up the fruits. Since I’ve always been better with analogy than straight, technical definitions, let’s use New Years as a por ejemplo.
Most people who know me would describe me as hovering somewhere between a chiding prick and an absolute douche bag. I prefer ‘dickweed’ as a one word description. A lot of that comes from a naturally condescending nature. C’mon, I mean I made a fake blog about cryptojournalism? REEKS of condescension. Around the New Year, I decided to make 2011 the Year of Being Slightly Less Condescending. It’s a doable resolution, much more feasible than quitting smoking or getting to the gym 3-5 times per week or eating healthy. That’s my 2011 resolution: to try to be slightly less condescending. So far, so good.
This isn’t a vanity project, so let’s get to the point. Having a resolution in mind, I began asking friends and family their resolution. From a handful of anecdotal musings, I’d say maybe 1 out of 3 people asked actually resolved to do something. After a married couple consciously deciding to have a kid, a New Years resolution is about as deep into future preference as we go culturally (we can boast being the sub-prime capitol of Mother Gaia). Essentially, future preference is giving up a little today for the future. Remember how you used to put change in a piggy bank as a kid? Me neither.
Getting back to Quigley, he paints a picture of future preference with Puritanism as the canvas, with “energy, self-discipline and saving” the color and John D. Rockefeller as his subject matter. “Great saver, great worker and great postponer of any self-centered action, even in death,” is quote Quigley uses to desceibe Rockefeller as the embodiment of future preference.
On page 834 of the 1974 (second) printing, he sums up the concept:
We shall call these features, as a single bundle, “future preference,” and understand that it includes the gospel of saving, of work, and of postponed enjoyment, consumption and leisure.
Wow. Let that just wash over your mind for a second. THAT was the Western/Anglo-American tradition? Holy shitballs, how far we’ve veered off track. Do I even know anyone who adheres to the Gospel of Work? Probably. But I never see ’em, cause they’re always working. Zing!!
It belies the myriad examples of people wanting a free lunch seen today. [Insert Jersey Shore clip here] How people want to be famous for simply being [See: E! Entertainment prime time lineup] is silly. It’s the Kardashian phenomenon. Do you think when Ray-J and Kim Kardashian decided to launch her career as the first legitimate, mainstream porn star, they had ideas of parlaying it into reality stardom in mind?
Before Double K euphemistically got dug out by Brandy’s brother, did ANYONE know her? Ok, you Vida Guerra internet fan boys in the back, put your hands down. And……..KABOOM. She’s one of the most recognizable rumps in America, the Turkish/Armenian Trina. She’s also talentless. And to boot, she’s skated through life for putting her sexy time on celluloid. Not a feasible way to really make a living. That’s the Kardashian Phenomenon: influence people to strive towards poor life choices and unrealistic outcomes. I’m sorry, this didn’t mean to become a rant on Kardashians. If anything, it was destined to be a rant on iCarly.
Oh boy, where to begin. I should begin by stating loud and clear, this is not a television show a man in his thirties should be watching. Perverted is a word that comes to mind. Warped and twisted are two others. Still, I must trudge on to make this point. The show certainly draws people into the Kardashian Phenomenon. The plot revolves around
hot teen ass high school student Carly Shay. She lives with no parents, totally neglected beside some boob of an older brother (inexplicably) with guardianship of the teen. Oh, and she broadcasts her life on the intrawebs. As an example to a generation of kids, probably the worst idealized scenario possible.
In essence, it is a show about living in the now, in the moment. Think about it….what kid wouldn’t want to live a life with no parents nagging them, in an uber-cool loft with your pals always hanging out? NO CONSEQUENCES! WOOOO! Many people actually live in the moment, consequences be damned.
But is this a positive trend? You’re 18-years-old, and you decided to get “Fist Fuck” tattooed on your fingers. Cause that shit is gangsta! You, my friend, are not thinking about the future.
Think about it this way. If your life is absorbed with what you’re doing right now, you’re basically handing the reigns for your future to *someone else*, whoever that may be and however vague that sounds. If people did not ponder the future, plan and prepare for it, where would that leave us? Staring vapidly at the radiant glow from your IPhone, playing with the newest fart app?
I can tell you what happens. Take a walk through the mall. It doesn’t matter which one, or where you are for that matter. Pay attention especially to younger people working at kiosks (where there is no managerial oversight) and you will likely see one of three things. People on YouTube, people on Facebook or people listening to music on headphones. Or some permutation of the three, if they’re REAL net savvy. Which is actually sad, and pretty anti-social.
People ‘at work’ on headphones amazes me. Talk about forgoing the future, that’s practically forgoing the present. But it’s becoming more and more prevalent, people shutting the world and the future out. That’s not how things get done. If there’s one moral to this ramble, or a point to be made, I guess it would be this: if you don’t ever think about the future or plan for it, don’t be mad when things aren’t how you’d like. Future preference is actually important. More important than seeing the Kardashian Phenomenon continue to flourish. Without thinking of the future, you’re only increasing your chance of making terrible life choices. Consider future preference. That is, if you bring yourself to think about it.