It is time to acknowledge that the bubble of perception that forms one’s reality is not a solid structure. It is fluid and continuously shifting, readapting, and, from time to time, it wobbles. The information and inputs we receive, and process, affects our sense of reality. Recently, this consensus reality bubble that most people have attached their senses to, has been fluctuating oddly. Notions of what is true and what is false have lost their footing. The things we believed in; those things, people, or institutions we placed our trust in; those things we relied upon; the sense of a solid future – all this has become fluid. And for a number of years now this has been going on – and it has begun to affect us. First, it was subtle, and entered the subconscious through the field of the collective consciousness. If you weren’t aware of it, it gnawed away in the back of your minds. And then we projected it into our media – our books, films, and art. This is the origin of the dystopian memes which have become a major part of our popular culture in recent years. Most of us were not aware of it – yet we were programming ourselves through our memes.
The current disturbances in our collective reality bubble – what I refer to as the consensus reality meltdown – is creating psychological, physical, and emotional impacts that are affecting our collective well-being. The mainstream media participates in and promotes the mutating of the consensus reality narrative through sensationalizing specific, targeted events. They seize upon a particular topic that enflames the collective imagination. In this way, the human mind is constantly forced to recall and replay our collective projected fears. Rather than averting disaster we now indulge in thoughts of survival or disaster preparation. We’ve come to accept that something’s coming and it’s going to hurt – whatever it is. In this way, we are dealing with many ‘thought-viruses’ alongside the biological ones. At times such as this, we should be mindful of what we are projecting to others – whether through our social media messages, our everyday communications, and our emotional and mental states. Everything we put out becomes as vibrational food for ourselves and others. And as they say – you are what you eat.
Many people are not yet fully grounded with themselves, and this lack of grounding may leave a person more vulnerable to the external manipulations of conditioned opinions and constructed narratives. We should learn from the trees. In their external world, they are flexible enough to allow the wind to blow through them without too much resistance. And below the ground, in their interior world, they are held fast and strengthened by their roots. A great wind is blowing through the world right now, and is rapidly transforming our lives, and how we view our lives. We may be faced with a period of much internal and external upheaval. In many ways, we have arrived at a moment of re-set.
There are many uncertainties that are now feeding a rise in dissonance, discomfort, and detachment. Again, it is important that we do not unknowingly program ourselves through our projected memes.
It is psychologically known that when an inner psychic or unconscious desire is not consciously realized or processed, then it will seek to be manifested in the external world. The inner urge (or shadow) will seek for its expression through other means – whether cathartic or destructive. As Carl Jung noted, ‘The unconscious works sometimes with most amazing cunning, arranging certain fatal situations, fatal experiences, which make people wake up.’[i] Jung was optimistic that such situations can work to trigger us into more conscious awareness; to ‘wake us up’ to our developmental potential. In other words, that which wounds us can also be a source of healing. We can only hope this may be the case. This may explain the recent wave of dystopian cultural artefacts that have arrived on our shores.
In terms of non-fiction books in the English-language world, there have been many dating from 2003 onwards that have dealt specifically with long-term ‘catastrophism’ as it is called. These include, but are not limited to, the following: Our Final Century (Rees, 2003), Collapse (Diamond, 2005), Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities (Hallam, 2005), The Party’s Over (Heinberg, 2005), The Next World War (Woodbridge, 2005), The Upside of Down (Homer-Dixon, 2006), The Long Emergency (Kunstler, 2006), The Revenge of Gaia (Lovelock, 2006), When the Rivers Run Dry (Pearce, 2006), The Suicidal Planet (Hillman, Fawcett, Raja, 2007), The Shock Doctrine (Klein, 2007), Field Notes from a Catastrophe (Kolbert, 2007), With Speed and Violence (Pearce, 2007), The Next Catastrophe (Perrow, 2007), An Uncertain Future (Abbott, 2008), Reinventing Collapse (Orlov, 2008), World at Risk (Beck, 2009), Time’s Up! (Farnish, 2009), Down to the Wire (Orr, 2009), Requiem for a Species (Hamilton, 2010), Tropic of Chaos (Parenti, 2011), Living in the End Times (Zizek, 2011), Convergence of Catastrophes (Faye, 2012), The Great Disruption (Gilding, 2012), Crisis Without End? (Gamble, 2014), After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes (Nancy, 2014), The Collapse of Western Civilization (Oreskes, Conway, 2014), The Resilience Dividend (Rodin, 2014), The Sixth Extinction (Kolbert, 2015), In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism (Stengers, 2015), Crime and the Imaginary of Disaster: Post-Apocalyptic Fictions and the Crisis of Social Order (Yar, 2015), and many more.
Also, the following have all been popular books and/or films in recent years: Oryx and Crake (2003), The Road (book, 2006; film, 2009), Children of Men (book, 1992; film 2006), The Age of Stupid (2009), The Year of the Flood (2009), The Book of Eli (2010), The Hunger Games (book, 2008; film 2012), MaddAddam (2013), Snowpiercer (2013), The Giver (book, 1993; film, 2014), Automata (2014), The Maze Runner (book, 2009; film, 2014), Divergent (book, 2011; film, 2014), Mad Max – Fury Road (2015), Ready Player One (2018), The Testaments (2019).
Recent years have seen a wave of both A and B-movies dealing with post-apocalyptic survival, post-oil and post-water scenarios, ramshackle communities, individualist survival, and the list goes on.
These memes and ideas present our collective mind with the thesis that continuous improvement and progress is not an automatic given. In fact, societies can very easily collapse and fall into ruin. They show us that a regression in human nature is likely after such an event, with people likely to turn cannibalistic (The Road), totalitarian (The Hunger Games), or tribal and barbaric (Mad Max). Many of these catastrophist books and films share a common thread in that social order breaks down in the absence of social control and consensus values – that is, ‘collective conditioning.’ Further, that stronger, authoritarian regimes are needed to maintain a post-collapse form of strict order. New forms of order and control are essential to manage limited resources, material goods, and human survival. Suppression and repression are the ever-present themes within dystopian narratives.
The potential for this dystopia meme to be realized is already within our current civilization. It may come about through a cascade of interlinked processes that include systems of energy, environment, economy, population, food and water, immigration/migration, and geopolitics. What is also being planted in the now fluid consensus reality is the inevitability of some form of impending disaster and a fatalism concerning the future. Another consequence of the dystopian, or catastrophic, meme is that powerful technologies – usually related to governance and security – may be the only solution for our continued survival. We only have to look at China to see how this theme is unfolding rapidly.
It is interesting to note that the award-winning cyber-punk novelist William Gibson once commented that he omitted certain dystopian ideas from his novels as he did not wish to be held responsible for helping to bring them about! Our dystopian fantasies may be more than mere performance entertainment – they are likely to also be part of the projections (the collective shadow) of the consensus reality mindset once it begins to go into erratic fluidity, or meltdown. As the philosopher Franco Berardi recently remarked,
‘Art, poetry, narration, music, and cinema trace a landscape of imminent darkness: social de-evolution, physical decay, and neuro-totalitariansim…The art-scape of the new century seems crowded with dystopian imaginings, depressing descriptions of the present, and frightening scenarios of the imminent time to come.’[ii]
The danger here is that our dystopian memes may in some way be manifested through our collective dreaming as the ‘frightening scenarios of the imminent time to come.’ The real pandemic is in the mind.
A Pandemic of the Mind
The Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing pointed out that our species has a strong in-built capacity for self-deception, and that we have literally ‘tricked ourselves out of our own minds.’ Modern western civilization, though outwardly highly developed and technologically advanced, is inwardly still immature, and psychologically under-developed. We have not fully learned how to take back our own minds. Or, to put it another way, to decondition ourselves against disingenuous programming – those opinions, ideas, and perspectives – that are fostered upon us from external sources.
Today, in an age of global communications and social media, a collective mental programming can easily become a pandemic. Our institutions – such as politics, economy, and military, etc. – are carriers in the same way as the media is through TV, books, films, and artwork. Most of us don’t realize the potential for collective instability to be carefully managed as a ‘new normal.’ As R.D. Laing famously said, insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. The madness of our world has become so pervasive that it has become normalized. We have become conditioned to the illogical and inhumane way our world works and programmed to accept a mutated reality.
The current disturbances we now see in the world are what Jung referred to as symptoms of the ‘totalitarian psychosis.’ They are also timely reminders of the critical role that our mental states play in formation of worldly events. Never before in human history have we had the possibility to manifest the human psyche on a global scale. It is therefore critical that we bring this psychic energy under balance and control. Jung hit the nail squarely on the head when he stressed that we become enlightened by making the darkness conscious. In other words, he was saying that the very thing that is a destructive force can also be a liberating one. The very thing that puts us to sleep can also wake us up.
And wake up we must.
[i] Cited in Levy, Paul. 2013. Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, p192
[ii] Berardi, Franco. 2015. AND: Phenomenology of the End. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e), p146