The tension between "Life Rage" and "Goodness" is the key cultural current to watch in 2008, according to futurist Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve, which fielded a quantitative that surveyed 1,105 representative Americans online study in December.
"From a visceral worry for our very survival -our planet, our culture, and our civilization, to fundamental concerns with the direction of our nation, our economy, even our institutional infrastructure," Ms. Popcorn says.
"There is a consistent undercurrent of fear, worry and uncertainty that we see increasingly manifest in behaviour that can only be characterised as 'rage' - a passionate, somewhat undirected and uncontrollable anger with 'the way it is.'"
To say that the nation's outlook is gloomy may be a vast understatement.
Starting with the most "doomsday" scenarios, 19% of those surveyed believe that we have only 20 years until the end of civilization (5% say less than 10 years).
Pessimism increases among the 45-54 year old cohort, where 22% note that the end is less than 20 years away.
Only 27% of the sample believes "civilization will last forever;" 55% believe that we still have "more than 20 years before civilization ends."
Focusing near term, the outlook is somewhat more sanguine, with a majority (61%) characterizing their "overall outlook toward the next five years" as "optimistic" (16% are "very optimistic", 45% are "somewhat optimistic").
Conversely, 20% describe their attitude toward the near future as "somewhat" (16%) or "very" (4%) pessimistic.
Causes and Effects
It appears "it's the economy, stupid." One-third of the sample agrees completely with the statement, "I am worried that our economy is headed in the wrong direction."
An additional 40% "agree somewhat" with the statement, only 11% disagree. Again, women were slightly more pessimistic (37% agree completely, vs. 27% of men), and pessimism increases with age: 23% of 18-24, 28% of 25-34, 35% of 35-44, 40% of 45-54 agree completely.
Only among 55+ does the percent agreeing completely come back to the overall average of 32%.
"Serious worry" about the safety of food and water supplies over the next 10 years rivals the economy for a focus of pessimism. Some 25% agree completely, an additional 35% agree somewhat, only 17% disagree.
The 45-54 age group leads the worry state, with 31% agreeing completely, and 38% agreeing somewhat.
There is the much vaunted "overload"
Responding to the statement, "I am overwhelmed by the pace of life today; too much noise, too much to do, not enough time," 23% of the sample agreed completely, and additional 37% agreed somewhat.
This tension directionally grows with age, again until the 55+ group, who presumably have more control over their time, yet even here, a majority (51%) agrees.
Technology is not the enemy; in fact, clear majorities across the board agree that "technology is making life easier." Some31% agree completely, an additional 43% agree somewhat. Both men (35% agree completely) and younger people (36% of those 18-34) have a directionally greater appreciation of technology.
The state of family life split about evenly among the sample overall, with 39% agreeing "I feel there are more problems and conflicts in my family life than there were in the past".
A nearly equal 42% disagreed with the statement, while 20% cited no change. Similarly, a majority (53%) agreed "I find myself working harder to make family time" while only 23% disagreed. A quarter indicated no change.
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