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Discussion: Coronavirus and the Zeitgeist

March 24 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

***Note: Please only RSVP for this event if you are a regular and active participant at The People’s Colloquium. We’re still getting used to ZOOM, so we want to start off this venture with familiar faces. We’ll likely make a video recording of the discussion available (technology and hosting permitting) for new and curious folks.***

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
– Eugene Ionesco

I believe that asking the right question, even if it does not provide a satisfying answer, is more valuable than having the right answer to the wrong question.

So far with the coronavirus epidemic, it seems that there’s a belief running through much of the commentary in the media that we’ll return to the way things were, one day. You know, the way things were a month ago—or even last week. That day might be several weeks from now; it might be several months away; or maybe a year off. In the meantime, all that we need to do is flatten the curve, practice social distancing, wash our hands, get money to the people, infuse liquidity into markets, and wait for a successful anti-viral or vaccine …

But, let’s look back at recent historical events: to November 4th, 2016; to September 14th, 2008 (the day before Lehmann Brothers’ collapse); to June 28th, 2007 (the day before the iPhone’s release); to March 19th, 2003 (the day before the evasion of Iraq); or to September 10th, 2001. Of course, this only scratches the surface when listing events that have defined our era, though these are certainly some of the big and important ones. Such days marked a transition point, a crossing of the rubicon, if you will, from which there is no going back, for the following events fundamentally determined the technology, economics, culture, and politics which formed the zeitgeist that shaped who we are, our place in the world, and the roles that we play.

The question I want to ask is—and I believe this is the right question—Will things ever go back to the way they were after this epidemic passes?

Though satisfying answers may elude us, in my estimation, it’s not too early to start discussing what is to come.

A little background on why I find this question relevant to The People’s Colloquium. Our nonprofit had its beginnings in 2011 and it rode the wave of a zeitgeist: one that had to do with the great recession, which in Portland gave rise to a do-it-yourself attitude, a belief in community and helping one another, and a turning-away from big institutions like banks and universities which had shown themselves to be flawed if not predatory. The belief was that the grass-roots would eventually grow into a new ecosystem of education, as well as cultural and economic exchange—an ecosystem that would grow to occupy the place that the old dreary forests of yesteryear had loomed over and cast a shadow. In retrospect, looking back at the years that have passed, I do not believe that The People’s Colloquium could be what it is today without the events of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

In fact, our whole city and nation might be looked at with similar eyes—and it is with such eyes that we might also look toward the horizon of what is to come. Much more could be written on the topic. I could begin to share my own thoughts on the matter in detail, but I’ll save this for the discussion. Instead I would like to propose the following questions for us to address during our conversation:

– How do you personally forecast the future?
– What trends do you think are important? Or unimportant?
– What is the zeitgeist that is likely to form from the current epidemic?
– What does existential risk, more generally speaking, tend to do to us as a species?

Please also share media and resources in the comments section below in preparation for our discussion. I intend this discussion to be somewhat open-ended, though broadly future-oriented.


March 24
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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