Historians and other students of history will look back at the 21st century and see that it passed through three phases.
The First Period
This first phase saw a rise in conservatism, fueled by quasi-taxpayer revolts and an increasing oligarchical minority seeking to control all aspects of government and business.
As this early period of conservatism rose, it became evident that the desire by many for smaller, more responsive government and less taxes would not be met. Evidence would later surface that the oligarchy, much in the manner of the 19th century “robber barons,” colluded to gather power and wealth for themselves while using the taxpayer’s own dissatisfaction against them.
Governments became, in fact, larger and more military oriented, subservient to the demands of business and the oligarchy for less and less regulation. With each increment in the reduction of environmental and other regulations came a concurrent reduction in personal liberties.
Believing there was a need for more energy, restrictions against the mining of coal, the drilling for oil and natural gas, and seeking alternative ways to obtain fossil fuels were reduced and/or eliminated. The need for more and more of these fossil fuels led to more global conflicts, as countries sought to find and secure the rapidly diminishing supplies of fossil fuel. This in turn necessitated increased military, defense, and security-based spending. Wars became the norm rather than the exception, which created an age gap, as an entire generation was squandered fighting in these conflicts.
The reduction or removal of environmental-based regulations, long proclaimed by conservatives as barriers to economic growth, led to an increase in air and water pollution levels, and the destruction of natural habitats, which in turn had a devastating impact on the planet in general. The increase in pollution levels and lack of regulations would also have an adverse effect on the general health of the world’s human population. The air quality in many cities around the world literally forced governments to shut down because people could not go outside. Infant mortality, once dropping, began to rise.
Faced with an increase in military, defense, and security-based spending, many governments had to cut back on humanitarian spending, education, and basic research. At first, this was accepted by the many who had sought the elimination of such projects.
And while attempts to resist these steps were made at the local level, they were decidedly limited in their impact. Hospitals – taken over by health insurance companies (under the mantra that businesses knew how to make hospitals work) and driven by the bottom-line mentality that suggested each hospital had to make a profit – began to close, leaving many people without any medical assistance. It quickly became apparent that only a relative few, the rich and powerful that constituted the oligarchy, would have medical care.
As businesses responded to the demands of the oligarchy, wages were reduced with the declaration that businesses could not pay living wages and make a profit. The effect of this mentality began to show towards the latter portion of this first period.
Eventually, due to the increased military spending and the falling wages of the majority, businesses began to fail. There was a sense that a Great Depression, far greater than any before, was imminent.
At the same time, loss of income and the failure of many businesses triggered a revival in debtors' prisons, where people who could not pay their bills were jailed until someone could pay their debts for them. The false logic of this solution – that people who were not able to pay their own bills would be able to pay the bills of their friends – escaped those whose only concern was the bottom line.
Responding to other latent demands of the conservatives, laws against discrimination were also repealed. Discrimination based on race, sexual and gender identity, and ethnic origin rose precipitously.
Organized religion, already in decline as the 21st century began, saw its decline rapidly increase. Along with a rise in political conservatism was a rise in religious conservatism. Those associated with these fundamentalist movements sought a stricter interpretation of their respective Holy Scriptures (oftentimes in direct contradiction to what was the commonly accepted ideas of the Scriptures), as well as the need for greater cooperation between governments and religions.
These now fundamentalist religions began to openly push a more Calvinistic view: that wealth and power were the hallmarks of a righteous life, poverty was the sign of a sinful life, and that one's status in life was already determined.
Educational systems, already under attack at the beginning of the 21st century, were slowly transformed from centers of creativity and thought into indoctrination academies, dedicated to teaching basic knowledge without additional thought and supportive of the discriminatory nature of society. The goal of the early 21st century school was the development of trained, unquestioning workers who accepted minimum wage jobs with limited benefits and no job protections.
Colleges which did not support the overall view of the oligarchy and conservative establishment quickly found themselves under attack and without funds.
Technology development stagnated as individuals capable of maintaining and supporting existing technology were no longer available. And with the loss of general research and support funds, there was no research being done on the next generation of technology or areas such as alternative energy research. An interesting side-effect to this loss of technologically skilled workers was that defense projects begun in the late 20th and early 21st century, almost all of which relied heavily on technology, were not able to be repaired as military units had no one to deal with the support function, leaving many of the weapons procured for multiple millions of dollars unusable.
Workers were quickly stripped of the rights and privileges, all of which had been gained through the workers' movements of the mid-20th century. Unions, already suffering massive blows, were quickly eliminated as the conservative central government declared that businesses did better without them. As workers dealt with increasingly inhospitable working conditions and uncaring management, there was a concurrent rise in workplace violence as stress levels increased.
Clearly, the consequences of changes begun at the beginning of the 21st century were not what its supporters had wanted or even imagined. It was a world beset by climate and environmental problems, embroiled in many different global wars, and divided by racial, gender, and ethnic identities.
The move into the 21st century instead began to look like a movement backwards in time, echoing the rise of Nazism in the early and mid-1930s.
The Second Period
The second phase of the 21st century would be labeled by some as a time of creative anarchy.
The beginnings of this phase were marked by what became known as the 4th or “Greater” Faith Revival. Frustrated by the failure of the organized church and religious groups to respond to the increasingly discriminatory nature of society, individuals began leaving organized religions. Faced with the need find comfort in a time of need, individuals began meeting, often in secret, in the homes of believers or other non-traditional venues, such as coffee houses or book stores.
Echoing the days of the early Christian church, these small groups began ministering to the poor and needy, the homeless and sick, the persecuted and forgotten. These groups flourished because they offered solutions that the current power and social structures could not solve or ignored completely. While at first these groups were defined in the traditional sense, they quickly became places to study other faiths and find ways to utilize the common points of all faiths to change the role of society outside traditional thought. It was recognized that faith was an individual's relationship with God and that each relationship was unique.
Groups increasingly shut out of traditional political, economic, and social structures began forming their own political, economic, and social structures. These groups no longer willingly supported the traditional organized structures. An underground economy, first begun in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, utilizing “bitcoins” and micro-banks, supported these small groups.
Despite the seeming chaos, these small groups, founded in faith and a belief in the people, began making changes that supported everyone, even those outside their small group. These changes in turn began to weaken traditional structures, both political and social.
In addition, from almost the start of these small groups, it was understood that there was a limit to the size of the group. And once that size limit was reached, it would be necessary to split into two or more groups to maintain the innovative and creative nature of the group. This limiting principle proved a necessity for the future success of the movement.
Utilizing the new underground economy, people found ways to do what the oligarchy had long been doing, and that is to avoid paying taxes. Conflicts between the oligarchy and their political representatives arose as the political representatives sought ways to fund governments and the members of the oligarchy refused to pay. This led to multiple funding crises in countries around the world.
The graduation of the classes of 2020, the “classes of vision,” provided the critical mass necessary to transform the small underground groups into the basis for a world-wide movement that transcended traditional social, economic, political, and geographical boundaries. This paved the way for the third phase of the 21st century to begin and flourish.
The Third Period
In this third phase, small groups, formed in protest to traditional processes, began developing ways to work together. Democracy became more localized as these groups used the social media communication methods first established during the Arab Spring of 2010. These methods allowed groups to communicate and work together without the need for centralized governments.
This was typified by the change in government operations in the United States. Recognizing the efficiency of the small group approach, members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate began operating out of their home and district offices, with Congress meeting as a large collection
of town and group meetings. While there were still government offices in Washington, D. C., the bulk of the government business was conducted electronically. This in turn made government more responsive to the needs and interests of the local population and less to that of the oligarchy that had risen to power just a few years earlier.
There was also a shift, fueled in part by the underground economy but also by the change in the way government worked, in overall government spending.
Big companies, long considered the essential role-model, could not adapt to the small group mentality of the new economy and began to collapse or were replaced by more responsive local industries and businesses.
Agriculture became increasingly “community supported agriculture” with less reliance on fertilizers, insecticides, and other chemicals to bolster production.
The third period of the 21st century saw a major decrease in military, defense, and security spending. As small groups began working and communicating with each other, there was less and less of a need for a continued military presence in each country. With money no longer being spent this way, additional funds were directed towards increased spending on humanitarian and research efforts.
Healthcare became universal as individuals, having gone through a time where there was no healthcare and faced with serious healthcare-related issues, saw the need for a universal system. And surprisingly, the cost which so many people proclaimed would rise dramatically, was reduced to virtually nothing. Concurrently, great strides were made in the area of medical research, achieving goals long thought impossible to meet.
The third period of the 21st century saw the promise of space exploration, first achieved in the late 20th century but cast aside due to limited funds, again become a reality. A truly permanent presence in low-earth orbit around the globe was established and exploratory manned missions to the other planets, and beyond, were begun.
The transition to the 22nd century
As Earth’s population moved into the 22nd century and beyond, the boundaries of the earth's gravity that had for so long, figuratively and actually, bound mankind to its surface, there was a renewed human spirit that transcended political and geographical boundaries.
There was an increased focus on faith as it became evident that, without faith, the outcome of the 21st century might have been something terribly different.
And while there were those who would continue to proclaim that it would be better to be bigger, the evidence showed that there was a greater sense of security and stability, of health and happiness, in the small group model.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, people sought ways to establish peaceful communities by withdrawing from society. Such communities were always doomed from the beginning because one can never truly escape from society. But as the 21st century came to a close and the 22nd century began, people found a way to come close to those Utopian goals. And while there were and will probably always be differences between individuals, both in small groups and across the planet, the understanding of how to work between groups to resolve differences without violence, destruction, or warfare, helped humanity achieve a lasting peace.