by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ August10, 2020
The pandemic has accelerated the collapse of the current world built by Western European and American modernism. That’s not the end of us or our civilization, but we must radically reshape that civilization to a new planetary unity of diversity with shared responsibilities.
Leadership requires new ideas and new assumptions envisioning a different world order. That will not make sense to the old order and its leaders but, though dangerous due to possible insane reaction, this does not matter beyond constraining the remnants of the old order who are confused and angry.
Focusing on our Entangled Disasters from the perspective of their feedback loops rather than individual insolvability forces us to look at the cultural changes needed to understand our failure. The complete planetary disaster of COVID-19 driven by nation-state failure to prevent mass death, incidentally sabotaging those states that acted scientifically, illuminates the planetary nation-state structure’s bankruptcy.
That linkage entangling our range of failing political systems with our climate crisis includes the economic collapse triggered by extreme capitalism. Capitalism was the crowning achievement of Western Civilization that redefined value as material production and converted people to consumers universally described by arbitrary numbers on spreadsheets.
By simplifying value as quantitative proportions, profit or loss, and everything else as numeric assets that must always grow, we have forced our planetary environment to move away from suitability for our and related species. This error is terminal just as failure to control a continuous range of lethal pandemic destroys lives, cultures, and empires as it always has historically.
Our future requires revolutionary change, not for human preferences or ideologies, but survival and planetary well being. People think and adapt spontaneously. We identify this as a type of paradigmatic shift that transforms languages into a new, more survivable way of describing reality. But that is hard, complex, and nonlinear, adding meta layers to our entanglement that is already beyond the grasp of half our population.
But time is not our friend. We have only two months to correct our pandemic failures by nation or face years of suffering and death with massive economic destruction. And ten years to replace our carbon-based, unsustainable economic form or face cultural exhaustion, economic collapse, and death from carbon loading and heat-related change.
A significant portion of our population is reacting irrationally to both the collapse of the old ways and the spontaneously emerging evolutionary steps to the new reality. People mature by accepting the paradigmatic forms in which they live. They learn the of the world and assumed patterns of existence defined by their societies. Without specialized education, they take the reality taught as the only reality.
Travel is the oldest form of specialized education in diversity and alternate ways of understanding. This experience provides the historic commonality between the more educated population and the well-traveled population who recognize diversity’s critical importance.
With an increasingly integrated planet, higher education levels, constant global communication, and decades of the shift to information as value, many people understand what is happening. But this creates a vast and growing gap between those that understand and those who can only react.
Again, time is not our friend. Previous significant reality changes worked themselves out over two or three generations, e.g., Western Scientific Revolution, the 18th century Enlightenment, and representative government revolutions. We have only about two months for the pandemic and ten years for carbon control with the two all-consuming aspects of our entangled disasters.
What needs to change immediately?
I’m suggesting a substantial shift in perspective is critical. This change in attitude has happened for many conscious, experienced, and thoughtful people, whether or not highly educated. These people are increasingly stressed and frightened while being amazed at the irrationality of parts of the population that seems unable to understand what is happening. They have too weak an understanding of the scientific tools useable for our survival. The latter condition leaves these people open to irrational manipulation by low-level opportunists interested only in short term power and greed. How to overcome this?
The failed Western model of reality was simplified and was made totalitarian in its extreme form of economic neoliberalism. This conversion wasn’t an abstract ideology but the endlessly repeated assumption that there were no alternatives to strict materialist economic systems. Ever-increasing production of goods and services regardless of asset depletion and the failures of capitalist asset distribution are all that matter. All life in neoliberalism is quantitative economics with more as better and less as worse.
That quantitative economic form defined everything, including all surviving ideologies, capitalism, Soviet com totalitarian communism, liberalism, fascism, nationalism, and democratic socialism. All assumed people as commercial agents in a purely economic world. Societies were controlled by controlling markets, and all value was either continuous gain or unsustainable loss. Everything merged into the world of neoliberalism.
Capitalist Realism was the artistic and social rule for human society. There was no alternative to the mass consumption culture. The new precariat class replaced the middle class based on debt to maintain the required levels of consumption. Until 2020, the unrecognized class of essential workers with no options but public work at the risk of medical bankruptcy and homelessness was below this. This sudden visibility, the importance of these people, and their exploitation shocked the world.
The most considerable shock was the ease of stopping the unstoppable capitalist monster. That could not be imagined without an apocalyptic catastrophe. The two months of pause, the pandemic interregnum planet-wide, destroyed the base illusion of Capitalist Realism.
What we are living through now in all societies is the sudden destruction of an unquestioned reality. Our planetary economic-political system’s foundational assumptions have shattered, and we are frantically picking through the mess for useable pieces as we reorganize.
A majority of our population immediately understood that this was a shock that opened the door to a sustainable future. The increasingly irrational panic of the ruling neoliberal and, often, neofascist elites shows the power released by the destruction of the illusion of no alternatives to death by pandemic and climate crisis. Suddenly there are new and diverse problems but also great hope.
The old elites’ illusion must be restored to maintain the old, tattered order. The level of incompetence and ignorance sees no alternative but to deny the reality of what destroyed the illusion. The pandemic cannot be real. The climate crisis is a hoax. These people who have usurped the role of collapsing nation-state leaders cannot imagine a world other than the one that gave them a winning lottery ticket.
The US, and other similarly modeled states, have collapsed into corruption driven by an increasingly dysfunctional economic-political system, making them extreme and potentially violent cases in a planetary revolution. But the individual complexities and collateral problems in these states are incidental in the planetary crisis entanglement.
Just as the need to focus on the entangled connections between our planetary disasters is critical to making sense of the changes needed, an additional focus is essential. We are all aware of this and have been for forty years. The dominant style of 21st-century entertainment is science fiction. The most common foundational assumption of the majority of those works is a planetary, global perspective.
The shattering of the old national tribalist order is the stage that allows planetary alliance. We understand this and long for it. The diversity of science fiction works now completely integrate Chinese, India, African, European visions of the problems, risks, and opportunities. These are all shared among a planetary population. The nation-state must be left behind for smaller administrative units in cities and every possible type of orbital habitat but all part of a broader alliance. Those that are not are a cause of conflict.
No wonder failing nation-state leaders such as Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin, and others parrot bizarre, embarrassing conspiracies and illusions. They are dangerously adrift in a new world they cannot and have no desire to understand. The basis of their power was an old and failed illusion.
A substantial majority of our planet’s population knows they must clean up the mess and bulldoze away the economic and political rubble because no one else can do it. The new leadership is direct form the people. The extreme time limits mean we must displace failed leadership and ignore the howls of outrage of those unable to see, from a completely new perspective, the nature of our problems.
The traditional oligarchic concepts of leadership in human society is a product of the the systems that have failed. We cannot expect those who embody the problem to save us from its disasters. Don’t look for solutions where there are only problems.