Gods --> Kings --> Men --> Chaos
This excess of information easily leads to subjectivism, cynicism, gullibility, fanaticism, and paranoia. In the absence of a "central clearing house" to process all of the information -- some kind of fixed, all-encompassing map or scheme that isn't just another piece of information -- then there is no way to ground any of it in a more meaningful whole. Religion used to serve this purpose, but now contemporary religion itself has fragmented into so many shards -- although it needn't be that way. With a little verticalisthenics and mental gymgnostics we can still have One Cosmos Under God. It just takes some upplied nondoing.
Upton defines paranoia as "the attempt of the human mind to reach cognitive closure in a situation that does not allow for it, either because there is too little information to warrant that closure, or -- as with the paranoid schizophrenic -- too much information to make sense of, except through delusion."
A perfect example of postmodern paranoia is the weather hysteria of the greenhouse gasbags, which serves the same purpose that witch hunting did in an earlier age. In a frightening and uncertain world, we can at least be certain about what the weather will be like in a hundred years, long after we're all safely in the grave. Note how they take something so inherently filled with uncertainty, but nevertheless convert it into a fixed and unalterable belief, when the only appropriate stance toward manmade weather change at this juncture (at least for the lay person) is one of skeptical agnosticism (which is not necessarily true of the "experts," whose job it is to argue their point of view with other experts who have differing points of view; but just don't pretend the issue is settled).
If you are not in need of this kind of organizing fantasy in your life, it's very difficult to understand the mindset of the people who do need it. It is a kind of reverse image of genuine religion, which deals with perennial truth, not a need for cognitive closure. This is not to say that anxiety-ridden people don't misuse religion for that purpose, since they do so all the time. But in my view, just as science is a journey from the unknown to the known, religion is a journey from the known to the unknown. Properly understood, it is the precise opposite of what these critics believe it to be. I don't practice religion because I want easy answers, but because I am drawn to the inexhaustible mystery of being. Ho!
Upton notes that our "postmodern information culture is perfectly designed to create paranoia," since "we are forced by it to process too much information; and this 'too much' is, in another sense, too little, since as the quantity of facts (or conjectures, or fantasies) increases, our certainty as to the truth of any fact decreases."
In reality, the mechanism underlying the paranoid process is a necessary function for the human being, because without it we wouldn't be able to make any kind of decision or judgment at all. We could never assess the available facts and arrive at any cognitive closure. We would be the opposite of the paranoid, which is the obsessive, going round and round in circles, unable to make a decision and stick to it -- to fish or cut bait. The mechanism that underlies paranoia is what allows us "to create a stable outlook, a consistent and unified worldview."
Now, as I mentioned above, the infinite number of facts in our world can also breed cynicism, since the facts can be manipulated and configured in any way a malevolent person wishes. Whereas paranoia is the unconscious closure of an ambiguous field of facts, cynicism is the conscious manipulation of the facts for some ulterior purpose. Take, for example, the prewar intelligence that made the invasion of Iraq necessary. No one knew for certain whether or not Iraq had WMD, because that's not the way intelligence works. Rather, there are only millions of facts -- or bits of information -- with which intelligence services inductively arrive at different scenarios. No one just drops a pile of raw information on the President's desk and says "you're the decider. You decide."
The left maintains that the president was cynical in manipulating this information, when it couldn't be more obvious that they are the ones who are cynically making that charge. But even worse, the blatantly cynical ones, like John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or Al Gore -- who know full well they are lying -- make the charge in order to satisfy a base that is not cynical, but outright paranoid -- which is another form of demagoguery, which is to say, pretending one is as crazy as the masses so that the masses can imagine they're not crazy. It is to give them a false cognitive closure and to provide in President Bush an object for their otherwise unbound hatred.
"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein.... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction.... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." --John Kerry
"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." --Bill Clinton
"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." --Al Gore
"... [I]ntelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.... if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." --Hillary Clinton
I do not present these quotes for the tiresome purpose of rehashing the argument for going to war, only to show how the cynical and power hungry manipulate the paranoid and gullible in the postmodern world -- and then cynically turn reality on its head, calling President Bush the cynical one, since his "real motive" for going into Iraq was to make money for Halliburton. Can you imagine a more simplistic, magical worldview? And yet, millions on the left believe it. John Lennon once sang the vapid lyric, "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." I suppose that's true for an Islamist, but it's also true of the secular leftist who turns George Bush into the Antichrist -- who literally believes that he is worse than Hitler.
Regarding the mental mechanism underlying paranoia, Bion -- who always aimed at formulating the most abstract essence of a thing -- called it PS<-->D. There's no need to get into what the PS and D stand for, only to point out that their interplay is somewhat analogous to metabolism, in that the properly functioning mind is constantly going back and forth between tearing down, so to speak, and rebuilding. For example, in therapy you are generally confronted with one of two kinds of patient; either they will have an excess of PS, which is to say that they are in a state of fragmentation and persecution; or, alternatively, they are in a kind of dead zone of pathological certitude -- they are stuck and cannot evolve out of an impasse. The only way for the latter to evolve is for their mind to "dissolve" into PS (which they don't want to do, since that is where all the persecutory fragments are, i.e., mind parasites) and rebuild, so to speak, on a more firm foundation.
But in a purely secular world, the mind has no final destination, so that there can be no ultimate point to the PS<-->D process. It can become arbitrary, which leads to a kind of pseudo-maturity, which is what characterological cynicism always entails. And deconstruction is the essence of cynicism, since it can take any text and show how it actually means something else, essentially whatever one wants it to mean. So if you are a postmodern secular leftist who doesn't believe in objective truth, what possible grounds do you have for objecting to President Bush's use of intelligence? He's just doing what you and everyone else are condemned to do in a world without intrinsic meaning or truth.
Upton writes that this is the greatest danger of postmodernism: "that in its understandable attempt to avoid totalitarian ideologies, it is storing up in the collective unconscious, through its own 'totalitarian relativism', a deep desire for the lost Unity which was once provided by religion, metaphysics, and the intellectual intuition of God. When our exhaustion with chaos and relativism reaches a breaking-point -- which will also be the point when our ability to recognize the true, objective, metphysical Unity is most deeply eroded -- then our unconscious desire for that Unity will explosively emerge. And the one who can best fulfill this desire, on a global level -- no matter how unrealistic his promises are, since our collective sense of reality will then be at its lowest ebb -- will step into the role of Antichrist" (emphasis mine).
There are some key concepts in that passage: totalitarian relativism, the desire for the lost Unity, the exhaustion with chaos, and finally, the satanic thunderclap that signifies that man's fall is complete and that the time is ripe for the false god to come to the rescue.
James Joyce built the structure of Finnegans Wake around the cycle of the Age of Gods --> the Age of Kings --> the Age of Men --> and the Age of Chaos. The age of chaos will only be resolved with a new Age of God(s), which renews the cycle. The question is, what kinds of God?
Looked at cosmically, we are now on the cusp between the Age of Men and the Age of Chaos. The Age of Men more or less ended at some point in our lifetimes; those of us who are even half-awake can sense it, which I believe was the whole point of this beautiful but disturbing essay by Van der Leun, Will the Sleepers Awake? The vast difference between a king and a man is the unbridgeable gap between a Ronald Reagan and a Jimmy Carter -- who is not techncially a Man -- as was, say, JFK -- but a preview of the coming post-human in the Age of Chaos -- the Bill Clintons, John Edwards, and Barack Obamas.
Postmodern is post-God and therefore post-human. We can only hope that the chaos it engenders will be pre-God, in a massive PS<-->D that humanity has been aching for since it first fell from the trees. Either we metabolize our demons or they will metabolize us. In these dysluxic times, it's a god-eat-god world.
Phall if you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either shall the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish....
Hohohoho Mister Finn, you're going to be mister Finnagain! Comeday morm, and, O, you're vine! Sendday's Eve and, ah you're vinegar! Hahahaha, Mister Funn, you're going to be fined again! --James Joyce