The 1990s were full of crazy ideas. The ‘end of history’, the ‘clash of civilizations’, and the ‘coming anarchy’ could not all be true, right? But they were all true. We are, as another 90s prophet argued, ‘back to the future’. The 90s are back, baby. Well, kinda. Let me explain.
The 90s followed the end of the Cold War. The eclipse of bipolarity and the rise of unchallenged American hegemony produced a lot of utopian delusions. These delusions are only now shattering as geopolitics returns to haunt us. But the end of unipolarity is like the end of bipolarity: a geopolitical change that produces lots of new hope and despair. Some of this is undoubtedly true. Some prophecies come true. But why?
The reason is simple. Reality gives rise to certain appearances that mask its form while revealing its content. We try to grasp the truth but find ourselves swimming in seas of delusion. How can we hope to see the danger coming when all we have are hints and faint mysteries? Clarity is missing in this confusion. There is nothing left. All is lost. The optimism of the 90s is met with the pessimism of the 20s. But it was the 90s that was truly lost. We at least know there’s something wrong with the world — we just don’t know what yet. I wonder if we’ll figure it out — before it is too late.