The Act of Deception
In this public announcement, we have chosen to analyse the « Greek case », on the one hand because it seems indicative of what 2010 has in store for us, and on the other because it is a perfect illustration of the way in which news and information on the world crisis is moving towards « make-believe news » between blocs and interests which are increasingly in conflict. Clearly it is a « must » to learn how to decipher worldwide news and information in the months and years to come which will be a growing means of manipulatory activity. (GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin, N°42, February 16, 2010)
That is the passage from the Leap/E2020 report on the global systemic crisis that I really wanted to highlight in making the link to the article earlier. The increasing reliance on, and resort to, perception management practices (otherwise called “propaganda” or deception management) is only one of the most revealing characteristics of the Post-Enlightenment. An additional aspect of the Post-Enlightenment (or, decadence of the Age of Reason or Universal Reason, otherwise now called “post-modernity”) is the sense of the world as being something absurd, and not reasonable or rational at all.
Of these, the triumph of the Absurd is of a profounder character than the employment of narrow instrumentalist rationality to undermine the principle of universal reason, which is that “manipulatory activity” of perception management to which the authors of the article refer. Recently, I was reading a book by the great quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg called Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. On page 42 of the book, in which Heisenberg records the early years of Quantum Theory, I was struck by a passage that is profoundly meaningful:
“I remember discussions with Bohr [Niels Bohr] which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be as absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?”
This growing sense of nature and the cosmos as being “absurd” strikes at the core principle of the Modern Era: Universal Reason (and the principle of universality generally). Nietzsche, earlier, was already alert to the trend in the logic of events departing from universality and towards the triumph of the absurd. The resistance of many earlier physicists to Quantum Mechanics and its implications (including the resistance of the great Einstein) arose from a continuing and conservative commitment to the core principle of the Modern Era — Universal Reason — the conviction that nature and the cosmos were ultimately rational and very much like a clockwork mechanism, and that the human mind should faithfully reflect this universal orderliness. In Einstein’s case, this conviction was expressed in his succinct objection to Quantum Theory: “The Lord God does not play dice with the world”. And, in that sense, Einstein was very much one of the last great Newtonian scientists. Heisenberg’s “revolution in modern science” in this sense of nature’s essential “absurdity” is basically a negation of the principle of Universal Reason as being sufficient and complete in itself.
Now, this trend in science (and philosophy) is paralleled in popular culture, especially after the First World War. Quite evidently, it has nothing to do directly with developments in science and physics. The triumph of the absurd over universal reason has a different root source than in the realm of ideas. The word “absurd” is ancient and comes from the Babylonian word “absu” or “apsu”, which forms the meaning of our word “abyss” (and “abysmal”, which is the feeling Heisenberg describes as his “despair” above). The Greek word for abyss is “chaos” — the Great Nothingness. Chaos only means “disorder” in that sense. There is no order because there is nothing to order. Chaos has the same meaning as the formless and infinite and irrational (without limits or boundaries, ends or beginnings, and therefore without definition). The present mood of nihilism in late modern life and society is the irruption of the Absurd. It is the self-negation (which you may also call “suicide”) of the Modern Era. The trend is not being led by human beings. We are only its responders or respondees, more or less adequate to the challenge it presents to our society’s (indeed, our planet’s) continued existence. The irruption of the absurd not only has the same meaning as “nihilism”, but also of “apocalyptic,” in the sense of an unveiling or disclosure.
We come, in some sense, full circle here. Chaos and the Absurd have much the same significance as Aristotle’s description of Man as initially tabula rasa — blank slate. Given Nietzsche’s succinct formula for nihilism — “all higher values devalue themselves” — we have essentially the same description. We become again like an empty canvas. But any true artist knows what to do with an empty canvas. It’s an invitation to create. And here is where, today, all propaganda and perception management justify themselves.
In another sense, we return to the chrysalid stage — the stage of transformation which we are apt to call, in our terms, “revolution”, so Heisenberg’s description of a “revolution in modern science” isn’t just pro forma or cliche.
But… more about this in the next post on the end of universality and how we can guide events more creatively than we are at present, in which we are in great peril of annihilating ourselves and the Earth.