Docudharma is subtitled, “Blogging the Future”. I’ve written before that, to me, that phrase means that this blog is dedicated to the construction or at least discovery of the Next Big Thing, the next world-view, the post-post modernism that will become the world we live in, the culture we inhabit, after the worn-out hand-me-down culture that we call “late twentieth century America” is finally tossed in the hamper. Of course, Docudharma is not unique in this venture; much of the blogosphere is committed to it, if not so explicitly.
However, I want to suggest that we cannot blog the future until we understand the present, and I don’t think we understand the present yet. I don’t think we know what the first decade of the twentieth-first century “meant” yet. We know it was a disaster. We know it was a cheat; a cheap trick. We know that because of George Bush and 9/11, in that order, the decade that was supposed to bring us flying cars instead brought us faith-based everything. We know that something went wrong.
But I don’t think the narrative that a country tells itself about where it is, is, yet. We don’t have a story for when we are.
As evidence for this, I submit that it is easy to name the movies, the songs and the novels, that best summed-up the seventies, the eighties, and the nineties. Shampoo was the seventies. It was the Seventies. Wall Street was the 80s (not least because it starred two of the worst famous actors in film history — both sons of actual actors). And, although set in the seventies, Almost Famous, released in 2000, sums up the nineties. You want to know what it was like to live in the United States of America in the 1990s, you watch Almost Famous. Of course, there are other and maybe better answers.
The point is that this exercise is easy.
But what movie captures the first decade of the twenty-first century? I don’t think we know yet. I don’t think we have a clue. And this is not merely because we’re still in the midst of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Rather than suggest an answer, I will gesture to a reason for why we have no answer.
In the 2002 science fiction movie titled Minority Report, Samantha Morton plays Agatha, a young woman who has lived her life in a state of near-suspended animation. A person with the ability to see the future, Agatha has been kept by the government in a sort of drug-induced hibernation. She has been allowed to do nothing, 24/7/365, but see the future.
One day, Agatha is freed by John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise. Upon waking, she asks of him, in this otherwise forgettable movie, an unforgettable question. “Is it now?”
That question, “Is it now?” in all its haunting enormity, is the question we don’t know how to answer. The whirlwind of misplaced significances, idiotic proclamations, intentional misinterpretations, and cultural near-homelessness, or at least vagabondage, that has so far made up life in the new century, has not been sufficiently figured out and set down. Until we do that — until we have a story to tell ourselves about what happened to everything in the first decade of the 21st century, we will not know how to get whereever it is we are supposed to go.
Before we blog the future, we must understand the recent past, in order to have a foothold on the present. We have to be able to answer Agatha’s question to John? To put it more precisely and more terribly, we have to know, “Is it now yet?”