By Mike Meyer
While Trump and accomplices are still in the process of being cornered and brought to justice, or at least tagged forever as criminal, it is time to start building a new planetary culture starting with America. However the Trump disaster works out the old national culture, struggling for the last thirty years, is in tatters. This could be a new American culture to, again, lead the planet.
There is a lot involved in aggressively restoring a failed culture. Not all of what was the United States culture, for decades the lead planetary culture, is failed but a large section of it is and the remainder is no longer cohesive or even compatible. The damage is extensive.
Dealing with political culture is the most difficult and the most fragmented. It probably will not survive in its current form. It may survive as a loose alliance of metropolitan regions but the danger of very large, 18th century style nation states with the potential of a single authoritarian gaining control is just too risky to be viable in a multi century climate crisis.
The increasing importance of metropoles or metropolitan regions as direct and local democracy, providing the single layer of government, is showing us the future that the majority of people want. Facing the climate crisis on a closely networked planet will require a planetary alliance to coordinate action, resources, and migration of refugees. But those are best handled as planetary projects governed in metropolitan regions or administrative areas rather than large national or even planetary government.
To illustrate how this could evolve we could start with the eleven cultural ‘nations’ that make up the current US. Primar urban metropoles are easily identified for almost all of these:
This map shows how the US really has 11 separate 'nations' with entirely different cultures
In his fourth book, " American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America,"…
Efficiency in dealing with the climate crisis will soon make the current multiple layers of regional government unsustainable. This is particularly true as the national, as opposed to local or urban governments, are increasingly prone to being taken over by reactionary and criminally dysfunctional factions. The Trump regime is the largest and most dangerous example of this.
In the US local and state governments have approval ratings in the 60s and 50s, respectively, for the last few years while the federal rating is close to single digit. Urban and local governments are the most positive.
The question quickly becomes why these higher levels of government are needed. The most obvious reason is to support the late stage capitalist oligarchy and its primary industries the military and fossil fuels. These are the largest sources of carbon pollution, corruption, and resource destruction. Their days are numbered as this cannot be allowed to continue if our species is to survive.
The political culture is too volatile to predict at this time. We can visualize how it may change but we will all have to wait and see. But there are many other parts of redefining human social culture that need drastic change and these are volatile but more available to change.
Restoring Truth for Survival
Redefining North American culture must address the criminal destruction of truth in both public and private conversations. This destruction has allowed unlimited presentation of false statements to be presented as ‘alternative’ truth. Lies are, again, deadly, for our species.
The reality of the climate crisis requires coordinated and consistent action based on current scientific analysis and projections. There is no room for unnecessary confusion and the sabotaging of environmental restoration projections. We are facing millions of deaths over the next fifty to eighty years and to hold that to a minimum planet wide will require brutal honesty at all times.
This means that scientific consensus decides truth on anything scientifically measurable. This is simply the first step. All scientific facts can be challenged but that must be all empirical requirements. That does not include shouting and hand waving while making absurd and unprovable claims.
To get beyond that we will need to put some teeth into recreating public discourse. I don’t see how to do that without changing the very broad definition of free speech. There are traditional and legal limits on public speech although libel and slander are very weak in the US. That can always cut both ways unless the criteria includes truth as the primary standard.
As I’ve said in other places, true speech is now more important than simple free speech, we now need to figure out how to make this a functioning standard for public discourse. This was once the case but something happened.
The Acceptance of Untruth
None of these cultural changes are either easy or simple. The problem with truth is, I think, directly rooted in capitalist advertising. No, this is not a new realization. Advertising is allowed to lie. But where do you draw the line?
Could it be that the two century long rise of capitalism and advertising could have something to do with the 21st century presence of people willing to claim lies as truth? The rise of totalitarian propaganda now indigenous to Russia and the US among other authoritarian nations is now completely out of control.
In the past our economy was based on endless material production so playing fast and loose with language and truth was justified. That is also no longer possible. We need to end the mindless and constant fostering of material acquisition because it is killing our planet for us and our related life forms.
Puffery, as it is traditionally called, is a lie. Perhaps this is the second step. You don’t need this new bright shiny object. And it is not totally benign and harmless. It is not even the best of whatever category of goods it purports to be. Pseudo scientific claims should be subject to criminal complaint. Public claims based on blatant scientific falsehood should be universally criminalized.
This is a massively entangled social, economic, and cultural problem that has been exacerbated by the descent into late stage, predator capitalism over the last forty years. Truth now has no role in American culture if it, in any way, limits the sale of goods and services. We are now being forced to address this and to directly pay the price of it with our climate disaster suffering. It will not go down easily and some (or many) will die refusing to change.
Determining Types of Truth
The collapse of agreed standards for truth are the product of failed social standards. As noted above truth is first and foremost a scientific statement and subject to current scientific concerns us. That only applies to our physical reality and empirically measurable information as data.
Truth needs to be defined for all other aspects of human experience. We instinctively and traditionally maintain a distinction between relative truths and universal truths. Such relative truths are relational and can never be distinct from specific situations. Universal truths are not specific truths but ideas that are the basis for ethical actions.
These extend far beyond language or the limitations of sentient selfhood and represent the links to universal structure and archetypes. This was once the domain of classical religions and, before that, culture origin myths. That is still true to an extent but we can no longer be limited by the failure to understand that these have always been and will always be the product of sentient awareness and presence in the universe of which we are components.
At this stage we need to work to qualify all statements as to functional relative truth. In years of teaching world history I called these small ‘t’ truths while the universal archetypal truths are big ‘T’ truths. Perhaps stating it that way can begin to limit the confusion.
Yes, this is simplistic but makes a simple but important distinction when we communicate. Don’t confuse a purely relative, small ‘t’ truths with universals that are mostly beyond our direct understanding.
There is a logical link between relative, small ‘t’ truths and mindfulness. That is, after all, simply paying attention to what people think, say and do as illustrative of their concepts of truth.
In the post modern human societies mindfulness is the practical focus on relative truth that produces awareness and compassion. Compassion amplifies mindfulness as awareness. This is the essential substrate to universal truths in whatever form they are visualized.
These are first steps and are not, in any way, exclusionary. What an idea.