As a civilization we are in the throes of living out an “endgame.” This is not the endgame of our species or any similar dire situation – but the endgame of an era. For many of us living in the developed nations, we are witnessing the endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution. Yet overall, this endgame concerns a way of living, a social-political model that has now come to the end of its life. Simply stated, we cannot go on living as we have been for the past 150 years. Why 150 years? Well, this is roughly the time since oil was first discovered and utilized for fueling our rapid social expansion. Our current 150 years of rapid industrial acceleration has been built upon the notion of perpetual growth. Yet those people who support continued growth often forget that there are factors external to the economic system that make ‘business as usual’ near impossible – these factors include the depletion of important resources; the proliferation of disruptive environmental impacts; and a financial system that is no longer suited to the current crisis. However, there is another significant factor which most commentators leave out completely, perhaps because it cannot be ‘physically verified’ — this is the presence of human consciousness.
The modern world has witnessed a different type of consciousness emerging over the past 150 years, a post-Industrial Revolution cognitive mind. New technological innovations that helped to alter our perceptions of the dimensions of space and time in the world began to birth a psychological consciousness; a consciousness that wanted to look beyond the borders and horizons of the physical frontier. For any great epochal shift to be successful it requires a change in the parameters of human consciousness; this has always been the case. We are slowly beginning to recognize this fact and to notice a change in our psychology and consciousness. Human consciousness has already begun to shift from its older mythological patterns based on competition, conquest, and control; to a new mythology of collaboration, connectivity, and communication. It is this transition – or clash – between the out-going and in-coming models of consciousness (our ‘mythology’) that is creating the current global disturbances.
THE CLASH OF MYTHOLOGIES
Currently, our struggles are between a system marked by the inequalities of a dysfunctional global system (marked by the ‘old consciousness’) and that of an integral-ecology era (represented by the ‘new consciousness’). This is a transition period which is manifesting through resource wars and the ongoing struggle for control and management. At the same time there are many forecasts trying to predict the future of life on planet Earth without a comprehension of the ‘bigger picture.’ We are often unable to discern the uncertain, the unpredictable and the unexpected. The Western mindset has a preoccupation, or even obsession, with a linear view of history and progress. Yet the concept of a linear development of human civilizations is erroneous and misleading. Linear development does not take into account living in ways that enable all other people to live as well; living in ways that respect the lives of others and that respect the right to the economic and cultural development of all people; to pursue personal fulfillment in harmony with the integrity of nature; and working with like-minded people to preserve or restore the essential balances of the environment.
Thus, the decade ahead will be a testing time as it marks the peak clash between two mythologies — or rather, two defining eras. The outgoing mythological era is the one which has largely defined the recent century and a half of unprecedented growth and technological advancement and discovery. The model for this era consisted of the industrial extraction of fossil fuels, constructing superhighways of concrete, installing heavy cables, developing global trade zones, centralizing business into mega-corporations, etc. It was an era defined by heavy industry and machinery and was marked by high energy intensity and use. Yet it was necessary in forming and developing our diverse societies into a planetary body of interconnections. It is now transparent to us that many of the systems we have come to rely upon are in a state of vulnerable criticality. The upcoming decade involves a period of sharp, short-term risks that are economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological. As nation states contend with the old model of requiring increasing amounts of energy and materials to sustain economic growth there will be an escalation in the struggle for control of resources that will realign geo-political relations throughout the world. We saw this in Iraq and Libya; and we are now seeing this ‘endgame’ being played out with Syria and Iran. These are the ‘old narrative’ competition, conquest, and control models clinging on for the last round. We should not underestimate the covert maneuvering set to take place upon the world stage from now to 2020.
Already such nations as China and Saudi Arabia are buying farmland in Australia, New Zealand, and South America. North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are all hot-spots where aspects of this “Great Game” will be played out. The Middle East, for example, maintains vast oil wealth yet is beset by extreme economic inequality, political corruption and instability, and the need to import critical resources such as food and water. The Arab Spring protests were warning shots telling the world that the people were no longer going to tolerate these situations. What erupted there surprised almost everybody and further major destabilizations in these areas are more than likely. In the short-term we may find that the political response is to try to arrange the world into more tightly controlled and hierarchical structures, driven by nationalistic security fears. Our predominant urban lifestyles – largely dependent upon supply and demand flows with little leeway – may soon become enormous liabilities as the old mythology proves too slow to adapt to changing needs. Conditions may become unstable for a while as the world passes through a phase of resource scares, financial disruption and reorganization, destabilizing environmental impacts, and social anger. We are heading into a decade where we will literally have to rearrange the very way we think and do business. This is the ‘clash of mythologies’; furthermore, this may be necessary if we are to have sufficient “crisis” to catalyze real and lasting change. New mythologies rarely come into existence smoothly — the change of guard involves disruption as the norm. The discontinuity of the coming years will inevitably incur ‘system shocks’ and personal disruption as we are now faced with the necessity of reevaluating our life priorities and the way we do things.
It is no understatement to say that the human species has entered a period of profound, fundamental, and unprecedented change. Every evolutionary/revolutionary change requires a change in consciousness. Philosopher and humanist Ervin Laszlo claims that to pursue personal fulfillment in harmony with the integrity of nature is the sign of an evolved consciousness. This type of consciousness, Laszlo tells us, reflects a transcendent mind – one that forms relations and ties both locally and globally, both physically and non-physically. Such a person acts and behaves both as an individual and as a part of the greater connected whole. These multiple relations form a more varied, rich and complex life. They also support a person to not only have trust in what is to come, but also to actively engage with “unforeseen opportunities” to build toward a positive and constructive future. What people like Ervin Laszlo are effectively saying is that a transcendent, evolving consciousness develops through those who engage in human activity that expresses both greater individuation and a greater sense of oneness and unity.
An evolving mind would also reflect the understanding that consciousness is primary, and thus be open to ideas and impacts of evolutionary and spiritual thinking. The view that consciousness is a primary force/energy in our reality is the key to helping people expand their thinking patterns and identify with ever more non-local ties and responsibilities: from one’s family and community to the world, and eventually all living systems. It is our materialistic thinking that has become dysfunctional and which now forms the backbone to a type of social pathology which has little idea of how to measure our quality of life. These days a country’s GDP only serves to indicate a country’s economic inefficiency and says nothing about the well-being of its citizens. Negative social attributes have become rewards for our global economic system and for the modern way of life. Our social relations have for too long been representative more of an exchange of economic values and goods rather than our empathic well-being. It appears we have been living within a “topsy-turvy” upside-down reality.
IT’S ALL A QUESTION OF MIND
We all share a common psychological environment that many of us, most of the time, take for granted. We often underestimate, or even neglect, the power of destructive thought and “mental pollution” upon our lives and upon the lives of those around us. We can say that, in varying degrees, humanity unknowingly participates within a cultural hypnosis. From early childhood our experiences are established to conform to specific cultural norms; and anomalies are usually corrected, and the corrections then reinforced through various socializing processes – such as family, school, friends, etc. Thus, our “worldview” is often given to us through the medium of particular cultural filters, and so each of us is literally conditioned (hypnotized?) from infancy to perceive the world in the same way that people in our culture perceive it. This is a very powerful behavioral and perceptual socializing mechanism.
To break away from this indoctrination is extremely difficult and often beset with many personal problems arising from peer pressure from friends and family. A shock is often necessary in order to catalyze one’s own change of mind. Our beliefs, perceptions, and state of mind are central to how we understand the world around us. By giving away our right over the power to choose how we wish to perceive the world serves to empower others over us. This, in essence, is the crux of social control and is the mechanism constantly used by the old mythology models of competition, conquest, and control. Many of us are unaware of the degree of insecurity that governs our mental and emotional patterns. We focus on our immediate needs and seemingly ignore the long term necessities. Our social institutions and media continue to reinforce the immediate and short term, thus strengthening our social myopia. Our early history as a species equipped us to live in relatively stable environments within small communities. Challenges were in the short term and nearby. The human mind thus evolved to deal with low-impact, short-term changes. However, the world that made that mind is now gone – and the world we are living in now requires new skills and capacities. Ironically, it is a world that we ourselves have demonstrated limited capacity to comprehend.
It appears that we now have a mismatch between the human mind we currently possess and the world we presently inhabit. Most of the momentous technological changes to affect our cultural history have taken place in the past 150 years. We no longer have the luxury of time as events – with long-term consequences – are rapidly unfolding around us, before human behavior can adequately respond. Our so-called “modern societies” still rely too heavily upon older patterns of thinking that, it appears, reward anti-social, psychopathic traits.
In an interesting study that links brain science to investment behavior, researchers concluded that people with an impaired ability to experience emotions could actually make better financial decisions than other non-impaired people. This research is part of a new academic interdisciplinary field called “neuroeconomics” that explores the role biology plays in economic decision making by combining insights from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and economics. This new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that people with brain damage that impaired their ability to experience emotions outperformed other people in an investment game. The study suggests that a lack of emotional responsiveness gives people an advantage in economic circumstances as emotionally impaired people are more willing to take high risks because they lacked fear. Players with “normal” brain wiring, however, are more cautious in their dealings and interactions. A co-author of the study has even suggested that people who are high-risk takers or good investors may possess a form of “functional psychopathy.” Thank you – neuroeconomics has confirmed that our upside-down world is partly run by people who are social psychopaths! No wonder the old systems are failing us, and our so-called “modern societies” are suffering from widespread socio-cultural disorder, disequilibrium, and disharmony. It makes us wonder how our systems of politics and economics would be different if we all accepted and understood that consciousness is primary and that our thoughts are at the root of everything that manifests in our lives. In other words, how would human life be different if we shifted from being “functional psychopaths” to being transcendental evolutionary agents?
What this perhaps shows is that we are collectively an immature consciousness that is waking up to the injustices and absurdities of the situation. This is further enhanced by the findings of psychohistory. The study of psychohistory – a discipline that applies the findings of psychology and psychoanalysis to the study of history and political science – reveals that many wars have begun because of the psychological history of key political leaders, their system of values and process of decision-making. Psycho-historians have analyzed how the nature of revolutions may in fact be related to the influence of child-rearing practices of that particular historical period. Lloyd deMause, a scholar who has researched psychohistory for the past four decades, has outlined a psycho-historical theory of history, applying it to politics, culture and warfare, showing the connections between childhood and the evolution of the psyche and society. deMause suggests that our present human psyche, being at an infant or child level, has created a global civilization that in terms of aggression, warfare, greed and control, is likewise infantile. For example, the atomic bomb dropped over the Japanese city of Hiroshima during WWII carried the painted nickname ‘The Little Boy’, and the message sent to Washington as a signal of successful detonation was ‘The baby was born’.