Following the news you cannot help but believe the world has gone insane. Depending on which end of the political spectrum you follow, there are these lunatics or those dangerous people, not to even mention the geo-political and economic crises (plural) that are constantly plunging from one into the next. Recently, some older politicians have started to warn about further escalations or there will be a war – not news, there are depending on how you count anywhere from a dozen to over a hundred of those going on at this very moment, Wikipedia has an interesting list – but they are talking about a war in Europe. A major war, between NATO and Russia.
But take a step back and you see the whole picture. There is a whole lot of fragmentation and conflict in the world. Between different kinds of muslims. Between muslims and everyone else. Between refugees and right-wing nationalist. Between gun-control supporters and second-amendment defenders. Between proponents of even more austerity and reformists calling for a change in plans. Some of these conflicts will resolve itself soon – like the one over Brexit, the UK exit from the EU – and some will stay with us for a long time.
But this division goes deeper. It has become a core part of our society. Almost every major political topic these days appears to be accompanied by an even split. Isn’t it strange how presidential campaigns, popular votes like the Brexit one, and a really big part of opinion polls show an almost evenly divided public? Isn’t that strange? How often do you see an even split in the real world?
The division of society is engineered. It has all the marks of something artificial. The philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes that the affect, the strong emotion that demands immediate release, has become the dominant driving force, replacing feelings (which last longer and are more real). Naomi Klein says that shock is a tool of power because people who are constantly in a state of shock from this economic crisis, that war, another terror attack and so on are easier to control.
But control is not the only issue here. A divided society is also one that is not united, by definition. And without unity, nothing big has ever been accomplished. Putting these arguments together, we come to the strange realisation that because everything seems to unsure and uncertain, we are frozen in the moment and nothing will change. And we see it around us. Climate change has been a topic for decades, but it is not being resolved, not nearly at the speed necessary. The peace process around Israel is stalled – again. Our financial system has seen no substantial reform despite almost destroying the world economy just a few years ago.
And psychologically, this phenomenon is well known. Being paralyzed by shock.
So let’s follow the money – because you should always, always follow the money. If you see something you can’t immediately understand, always check who profits from it. Very likely, they are in some way involved. Might not be intentional, they just might have created the conditions under which the event could happen.
In our current world, the answer is simple: Everyone who profits from the status quo not changing. Everyone who grows more rich and more powerful as long as everything stays the way it is. In a vicious cycle, politicians understand that people react more strongly to emergencies than to visions of a better future, so they focus more on those. Which gets exaggerated by the media, which turns to players in the economic markets understanding that there are new rules, which leads to another economic crisis which feeds the circle. When there is something interesting to see, you don’t need a conspiracy to have everyone on the ship move to one side to get the best place to look.
This is what most critics of the system still don’t understand. As human beings, we are still looking for the man behind the mask, for the conspiracy, for the guilty person. The corrupt politicians. The evil bankers. The top 1%. The muslims, the jews, the nazis, the liberals, the neocons.
But, as we are reminded by almost every psychologist, nobody is the antagonist of their own life story. All these people believe honestly that they are doing the right thing. The crazy part about the world is not that there are different opinions and everyone thinks that only theirs is right. The crazy part is that humanity has made a step backwards in evolution. We do not need a discussion about Climate Change. We need a discussion about how we, as a society, make decisions. Because at this time, we cannot agree on how to agree on something. Religious extremists have returned to the ancient view that the gods have all the answers, so we will find our solutions in some holy book. Lobbyists and neo-conservatives have decided that the market mechanisms work beyond the exchange of goods and all other questions should be answered by the same mechanism. A new breed of liberals still believes in democracy and that we should strengthen it as our resolution mechanism, have more popular votes and give power back to the people. An alarming number of politicians very openly flirts with the idea of dictatorship, that might makes right and that a strong leader is how a society makes its way. A few techno-liberals believe smart contracts and decentralized systems are the future of decision making. And probably somewhere someone dug up an old book on magic or magick and sees an answer in there.
The point of unity is that is is about something. A people is united if they have something to be united about. It can be in the fight against something or for something, it can be for a common purpose or a shared vision. Or it can simply be the acceptance that we are all in this place together, whether we want or not, and working it out amongst ourselves might be a good idea.
But that is a rational thought. How far we are from that. The state of shock that we are all constantly held in also short-circuits rationality. Hysteria or affect-driven action are caused by shock. People in shock do not think, they act instinctively. And if you take one more good look around this world gone crazy, you see one common theme in all of it. It is driven by emotions. By momentary, passing, short-term discharge emotions. By greed (the financial system), by pride (political leaders) and of course by the twin brothers of population control – hate and fear.
We cannot come together if we are driven by short-term emotions. To build a union, we need long-term emotions that can support it through troubled times. Affection, honour, love, respect and others like it. The media, especially the social media, could bring about this revolution. We could decide to not feed our primitive, fearful self, but our adult, rational self.
But most importantly, we need to step out of the circle.
Stop watching the news. They are just your daily dose of fear-pills.
Stop listening to politicians. They lie for power.
Stop listening to advertisement and company announcements. They lie for money.
Stop listening to social media shitstorms and viral news. They feed our most primitive emotional self.
The circle is short-term emotions. Go into a forest or into the mountains to think. Take a long walk. Turn of your mobile phone – it’s a wonderful gadget, but it does reinforce short-term interactions. Read a book for one hour every evening.
Because rational thought is slow. But rational thought brought mankind out of the caves on to the Moon. Hate and fear and greed didn’t. But they are faster, much faster. So slow down, and give your mind a chance to join in.
Because change in society begins with change in yourself.