by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ December 30, 2019
Major paradigmatic change is very much like revolutionary war. We are decades into technology driven change that has many layers. While the changes to the superficial social layers and deeper economic layers through the 20th century were exciting and increasingly troublesome, their extension across multiple generations was often hidden under normal generational change and the boom-bust of capitalist economics.
The superficiality of youthful experimentation normally meant that age, employment, and families buried most of the changes. The norm reestablishes itself by culture and does this with great strength among those in the cultural elite. They, after all, have had the privileges and with those privileges come the responsibilities to preserve their heritage to pass on to their children.
This process dates to the beginning of our species although the changes were, on average, minor across many generations. The rise of human civilizations made this more intense with the hotter dynamics of urban life affecting the small total population in the new urban environments.
Given the last two hundred years of rising urbanity in Western Europe, East Asia, South Asia, and the Americas that new ‘hot’ urbanity has become the standard with the explosive rise of internet based communities. These new, revolutionary virtual communities have usurped the traditional channels of human communication.
Big communities in cities had long been made up of small communities based on ethnicity and/or employment. Adjacent to these were specialized communities, commonly, of newer religious traditions, artistic forms and political affiliations. These were clustered into the urban political structure shifting as specific local conditions changed with new opportunities and new immigrants.
All of this followed a logical and recognizable pattern that came to compose the modern nation state. This is the system that we are watching implode in the early 21st century.
But even that implosion is occurring in different forms on multiple, interwoven layers of our societies. The traditional generational changes are broader and more intense and many of the communication channels have changed to the point that communication between generations is not just conflicting but missing entirely.
The most difficult communication problems occur between people and groups that assume they are speaking the same language. This was famously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, among others, speaking of America and England as two nations separated by a common language.
We now have something much larger than a generational change although that is incorporated into the paradigmatic shifts that we are experiencing. I would suggest that the changed social skills from Millennials to our newest (Gen X), with their surprising ability to politely communicate with older generations, is because they have had to grow up with two distinct languages, their own and that of their parents and grandparents.
The distance between these languages are now great enough that communication is reduced to the point that conflict is also reduced. The traditional struggle of parents dealing with the 20th century buildup of this, usually summarized as “those damned kids”, was conflictual becomes an issue of how much effort they are willing to put in the move through the paradigmatic conceptual changes to increase communication. Most people are not willing to do what is needed to learn what is a very foreign language.
In the broader population this is reflected in extreme political polarization. Because the modern nation state, with some form of market economics, is an antagonistic system unless mediated by adherence to some level of social democratic principles, the insertion of basic paradigmatic change produces a type of extreme generational change across the older age groups.
This revolutionary war is not, inherently, violent but subversive and structural. With the newer generations it often a, vaguely, polite war of flexible and transparent borders between different universes mediated by the native social media generations. With older generations it is a Cold War of frustration at the failure of expected communication exasperated by the failure to understand the media rules.
You can exist in one or the other but not in both simultaneously. The force of change is directional in that going back to the old universe and its language is tiring and results in the loss of things that we now need to make sense of our world. This is well known by people reasonably fluent in two very different languages who are able to say things simply in one language that can barely be stated at all in the other.
The most important of these losses that have begun to intrude on public awareness in ‘translating’ back to the old universe is the inability to ‘articulate’ the planetary perspective. This, I think, is the most critical change in the approximately ten thousands years of human civilization. The maintenance of our human civilization and, perhaps, even our species survival will be dictated by our ability to work at the planetary and larger systems level and that is what requires a major change in our perception of ourselves, our planet and our quantum mechanical universe.
As should be expected this is generational in the rise of the primary youth focus on the extinction rebellion. At a very personal level this is both the power of Greta Thunberg, Time’s Person of the Year, and the complete inability to understand what she represents. She can handle polite but limited communication but her frustration at the failure of representatives of the old paradigm to even communicate at a simple level shows at times.
At the everyday human level this illustrates the difference in understanding between the old and new and the most dangerous form of conflict resulting from this change. What is seen as political polarization destroying the nation state as an entity of shared standards is the transparent barrier that is filtering out the old concepts of nationalism and government. This could become violent but probably only on the scale that we are now seeing in mass, leaderless, demonstrations.
The distinctive and new characteristics of this are leaderless groups functioning at a fully virtual level. An important part of this is a different concepts of privacy that extremely different, thought no less important in their new forms, for the newer generations than the old. Personal privacy has disappeared except for the right to control and manage the value of personal information. Privacy as secrecy is the old while information as asset is the new. In that new world life and the management of those information assets are public and often transparent.
In this world it is not privacy as complete secrecy but protection of our personal assets (information) that must be protected from suppression by hostile groups. The most hostile of those groups are the traditional governments of the old nation states and, secondarily, the traditional oppressive organizations based on exploitation of the population and our planetary environment.
The potential for different levels of violence in this conflict is obviously tied to specific cultures and their individual levels of structural failure. Sadly the oldest examples of the modern nation state are most prone to disaster. The US and Great Britain have both plunged into political dysfunction each due to its unique history in becoming radical, predatory capitalist systems. Both have strong reactionary elements of racism and extreme nationalism fighting a scorched earth policy for their respective ruling elites to retain power and control.
Our path to survival and, potential, wellbeing is to move the population as quickly as possible to the new paradigm that allows a natural discussion from the planetary perspective. The irrational noise of reactionary nationalism, racism, and exploitive economics must be filtered out. Our planetary future is the new information flow that we must be completely focused on to achieve.