Vertical Globalization and the Further Adventures of Consciousness
The whole idea of the hysterical "news culture" would have been foreign to our primitive furbears. I'm not saying that they were right and that we are deviants, but if you go back just a few hundred years, I believe you'll find that people did live within a "psycho-spiritual container" fundamentally different than ours. It is tempting for some people to romanticize that time as "normative" for humans, and to a certain extent it was, for it meant that life was lived at a much more natural pace and within specifically human (as opposed to infrahuman and materialistic) frames of reference. This is something, for example, that Orthodox Jews or the Amish attempt to resurrect today in their isolated little communities -- a sacred worldspace in which life is lived in the light of the eternal. "News," whatever it is, represents something of an "impurity" in this space, unless it pertains directly to the inherent (and sacred) rhythms of life: birth, marriage, illness, death, etc.
In fact, it is not stretching the point to say that this represents the underlying basis of World War IV, the war on radical Islam. This is the theme of Thomas Barnett's so-far brilliant book, The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century. Unfortunately, I have very little time to read these days, so I'm only up to page 63 of a somewhat lengthy book, but Barnett is a four-dimensional visionary thinker who is neither left nor right (more of a classical liberal) but very creative. The book is full of casually tossed off insights -- in my opinion, because he is operating out of a clear vision and simply describing what he sees there. As with my own vision, it may or may not be correct (some details are inevitably going to be wrong in any visionary system), but he gives us a way to see beyond the cognitively stultifying "news," think about the deeper structure of the now, and imagine "a future worth living."
Barnett's main insight is that the forces of globalization have created what he calls a "functioning core" of the world (the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, etc.) alongside an "unintegrated gap" that feels threatened by globalization and is actively resisting it -- violently if necessary. Likewise, the whole basis of the Cold War was that a large chunk of the world -- the communist world -- was an unintegrated gap that did not want to join the core, not for "sacred" reasons but for ideological ones.
Now, this whole dichotomy is distressing to a Coon, who obviously sympathizes with the forces of modernity and globalization, but who also fully understands (while not excusing) what would motivate someone from a traditional culture to violently resist it. Take, for example, our own Sectarian Conflict, which involved the identical pattern. Irrespective of the issue of slavery, the North represented the forces of globalization while the South represented an unintegrated gap within the United States that wished to remain separate and preserve a way of life that it clearly regarded as "sacred." For them, the life of the North was not worth living.
Indeed, this is what made men who would never be wealthy enough to own slaves fight and die by the tens of thousands. I am hardly a Civil War historian, let alone a buff, but I believe it is accurate to say that Southerners regarded the Northern army as a bunch of dishonorable mercenaries fighting for a subhuman cause. Because slavery has come to overshadow everything else, contemporary liberals have made it blasphemous to say that there was anything worthwhile about the antebellum South. This contemptuous attitude prevails today, in that our liberal elites -- think of John Kerry, or Chris Matthews, or primitive New York Timesman, or liberals in general -- simply cannot help registering their condescension toward the South and what it represents.
One of the things the South represents is the willingness to die for flag and country. Liberals routinely throw out the canard that the armed forces are disproportionately black and poor, but I am fairly certain that this is incorrect (I don't have time to personally look up the statistics). Rather, the military is disproportionately southern, for reasons that should be obvious if you give it a moment's thought.
It reminds me of something the immortal Duane Allman once said. Someone asked him what it felt like to be at the vanguard of this new fad of "Southern rock." He responded with words to the effect that this term was a a redundancy -- instead of "Southern rock," one might just as well say "rock rock," since its development was -- and only could have been -- a wholly Southern phenomenon: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Wanda Jackson, the Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, James Brown, T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, etc. Rock music originated in an "unintegrated cultural gap" that was generally unknown to the North. Music executives famously regarded it as artistically vacuous, if not offensive, and unworthy of the imprimatur of a respectable record label.
Now, 50 years on, the North has more or less succeeded in swallowing up this precious cultural expression, long since converting it to a mere commodity , which is what globalization does. You might even say that "Northerrn rock" represents the bland corporate substitute that extends from Pat Boone through disco, Madonna, MTV, death metal, rap and hip hop.
Rightly or wrongly, Muslims know that the tide of globalization will do the identical thing to their own culture and way of life. Thus, the unintegrated Muslim gap resists becoming part of of the functioning core.
As I mentioned yesterday, both the Left and Islamism represent pathological adaptations to the conditions of modernity and globalization. In the case of the Islamists it is self-evident, perhaps less so in the case of the Left. Scratch a leftist, and he will hire John Edwards and sue you. But scratch a little deeper, and what will you find? In a previous post entitled Political Seance, I wrote that
"In one version of history, the 'secular revolt' may be traced to the alienation and disenchantment caused by the scientific and industrial revolutions in the 17th and 18th centuries.... There was a deep sense that the organic unity of the world had been fractured -- a widespread perception of a sort of breach with the natural order of things, and with it, a collective mourning over the loss of timeless and familiar ways and customs. The romantic movement of the early 19th century was actually a reactionary and nostalgic yearning for an idyllic past, answering to the sense of loss of community and oneness with the rhythms of nature. This backward looking movement idealized the primitive and sought to unleash the subjective and irrational passions (countering the rational and objective detachment of science).
"Up to this time, one's personal identity had been based on such objective standards as a clearly defined role within an organic hierarchy or merger with a large extended clan. With modernity, this gave way to an uncertain identity that had to be forged for oneself in the world. The philosopher Charles Taylor (see his magisterial Sources of the Self) calls this 'an epistemological revolution with anthropological consequences,' as it led to a new kind of human being that had never before existed on a mass scale: the modern, self-defining subject in a world devoid of intrinsic meaning.
"Virtually all modern ideologies, movements and philosophies are somehow aimed at addressing this problem of alienation, of recapturing the broken unity of the world. Communism, nazism, European fascism, the beat movement, the hippie movement, the free love movement, the environmental movement, the new age movement -- all are futile attempts to turn back the clock and return to a mystical union with the 'volk,' with nature, with the proletariat, with the instincts. You can see this phenomenon in today's leftists, who clearly long for the 'magical' 1960's, which represented a high water mark for a resurgence of romantic merger with the group, free expression of the primitive, and idealized notions of recreating heaven on earth....
"We can see how contemporary liberalism fits the bill as a bogus cure for modern alienation. For example, multiculturalism devalues the concept of the individual in favor of the ethnic group, while socialism in all its forms favors the large and powerful mommy state that unites us all.... Leftists are uncomfortable with the painful idea of competition, but replace it with the notion of individual expressiveness. Everyone's natural impulses are beautiful, and we must not judge them, much less try to elevate them. Deconstruction throws all objective meaning into question, so no one has to have the disappointing experience of being wrong or denied tenure, no matter how stupid one's ideas. The burden of personal responsibility is attenuated, because one's being is determined by accidental factors such as race, class and gender, not one's owns values, decisions and actions. Skillful knowledge acquired by intense effort (or just being born smarter) is replaced by an obnoxious, hypertrophied adolescent skepticism that knows only how to question but not to learn. It is grounded in a sort of bovine materialism that is not the realm of answers, but the graveyard of meaningful questions. The primitive is idealized, because it is within everyone's reach."
I apologize for the length of this post. Believe it or not, it is all a preface to Anonymous' next two questions, "Does anybody else actually exist or am I just a waking dreamer, dreaming the world and all of its inhabitants into existence in order to actualize my fractured consciousness?," and "For that matter, do I even exist or am I just a scripted player in a wider dream?" My rambling overchore was prompted by another comment left by Anonymous yesterday, who clarified his reasons for asking these two questions. He spoke of a common spiritual transformation in which you might say that he is beginning to "reverse figure and ground" and recognize the reality of the vertical:
"The first time this transformation really hit me was when I was walking down the street. I began to see the people I passed as manifestations of something great. As infinite 'bubbles' of potential divinity within the sea of material manifestation. As pockets of verticality infused into an otherwise horizontal world.... Of course, I didn't actually 'see' this with my eyes. The visual component of the 'seeing' experience was unchanged. But it was as if I were able to perceive a deeper truth, beyond what my could eyes could detect.
"A few weeks later... I received an influx of what you would call 'O' or intellection or grace.... This experience is best described as a pure knowledge or realization that 'I' alone exist. That all other people and experiences are actually just a different perspective on the same experience that is 'I'.... Since this realization, I wake each day, and I fundamentally know that both my psycho-physical self and the physical world around me is just a hollow shell of What Is True.
"It has been tempting to indulge in this realization by dropping out of the 'shell reality' altogether.... Candidly, I am somewhat concerned that this new perspective is dissociative, delusional, fixated, narcissistic, solipsistic or otherwise pathological."
Now, the important question is, how do we tie all of this together before Future Leader wakes up?
As I mentioned at the top of this post, one of the original purposes of this blog was to "reverse figure and ground" and consider the news of the day from the standpoint of eternity -- which is actually what all religion is designed to give you a framework to do. Another way of saying it is that religion is all about thinking and living within the vertical, while not denying the horizontal but sacralizing it.
On the other hand, the forces of modernity -- globalization, the advance of science and technology, the loss of tradition -- seem to involve a tide of pure horizontality that severs man from his vertical roots. How to reconcile this with our Coon nature?
One can be a strong advocate of globalization (as I am) and still see its downside. On the one hand, it has produced this bland and shallow dominant culture of vulgar secular leftist materialism. But at the same time, for a Coon, life has never been richer. We have instant access to all art, all literature and philosophy, all music, all sacred writings, all films, basically everything, in a way undreamt of in the past. And yet, most people just fritter away this liberty on McDonalds, The New York Times, American Idol, video games, and other banalities.
If man is to survive in any recognizable form -- if we are to create a future worth living -- I passionately believe that our horizontal globalization must be matched by a vertical globalization. Since this post has gone on long enough, I will discuss this further tomorrow. Suffice it to say that the relentless horizontal daydream of globalization must be supplemented by the night logic of wideawake vertical dreamers in order to create a future fit for man. Religion must play a part in this future, but not the primitive religiosity of the Islamists or the postmodern barbarism of the Sam Harrises and Daniel Dennetts of the world, whose hollow ideology is merely a parasitic shadow of the vertical.
You might say that globalization must be accompanied by celestialization.
Speaking of pathological reactions to modernity, a wonderful article on the religion of radical environmentalism, A Necessary Apocalypse.