Globalism and Evolving Consciousness
This post should be considered a continuation of the previous post on the Iraq War as global watershed event, and of the comments which I later appended to it. In some ways, it also continues a theme I introduced much earlier in The Parable of the Toothbrush about the naivete and myopia with which people have hurled themselves into the crucible of economic, “free market” globalisation without appreciating, or being prepared for, the consequences of that decision.
That naivete can be attributed to “the culture of narcissism” and the human condition of narcissism, which is the ever-recurrent theme of The Chrysalis. If human folly knows no limits, it is because of the narcissistic condition, which seems to be the inevitable fate of creatures which become self-aware and are endowed with self-reflection. Invariably, this “reflection” of the mind, which always suggests a mirror image, comes to be seen as the truth and as being the reality itself, whereas it is merely a reflection and is derived via reflection — that is to say, the self-image. Ideology becomes confused with consciousness (in actual fact, ideology merely censors awareness and dictates perception). The authentic self becomes eclipsed, denied, or is re-interpreted through the prism of the self-image, as was the case with Narcissus, who eventually perished from his unbreakable fixation on, and fascination with, his self-image (although it must be stated here again that Narcissus was not aware that the image in the reflecting pool was his own, and that this is the issue with what we still call, today, “projection”).
Or, to quote Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (not much different from Nietzsche’s remark, “Fundamentally, we experience only ourselves.”)
The self-image, which is the ego-nature, is also called “the mortal self in time” because it has no permanence, being a thing cobbled together from selected fragments of experience, simple associations, and often very self-contradictory beliefs, beliefs passed on unquestioningly from authorities like parents or society-at-large. It has built its house on shifting sands. All it is, really, is a belief system, and this belief system or construct then becomes confused with the core identity, and as being the seat of the identity. Its very “foundations” are merely untested and unproven (and typically false) assumptions about oneself and the world-at-large, and its uneasiness (malaise or Angst) with and about the world is largely owing to the fact that it senses itself as being ungrounded as well as impermanent form — as transient and temporal process. It has its little “point-of-view” and its little “line-of-thought”, which means it is simply a perspective construct. It is what I have taken to calling, after Castaneda’s usage, “the foreign installation” or the occupier. Its identity is merely an assigned social role that has become confused with the true individuality — or what is truly indivisible within the human frame and form. This is the true self or “unknown” self.
We can distinguish, even if only for the sake of argument, between a “local self” (the ego-nature with its narrow perspectivising perception) and a “global self”, which is the true individuality or consciousness, and which is “aperspectival” (Jean Gebser’s term, or what Seth calls “multidimensional”, which has the same significance). This way of description between local and global has the merit of not being dualistic. The local and the global are not opposites, since the local is contained within the global matrix and is an aspect of it, or a “node” in the web of world-wide relations resembling Indra’s Net. The relation local-to- global corresponds, of course, to the relation particular-to-the-whole, or the integral.
In my former life as a representative of the global ag-food industry, I was struck by the naivete with which most people (mis)understood “globalisation”. The political controversies about “free trade” continue in Canada (as I imagine they do elsewhere), but without real understanding of what “globalisation” implies or means. Most people who supported the neo-liberal agenda of “free market globalisation” and the removal of barriers, fences, and walls to trade (and, of course, the attendant deregulation of corporate behaviour), failed to understand that it is a reciprocal and dialectical process. They imagined they would be selling their goods and services “outwards” from their unchallengeably unchangeable secure little locales and outposts into something bigger “out there” called “the globe” or “the global market” In fact, once the barriers and fences were removed, it was their secure little local outposts of hominess and provincial or national identity that were overwhelmed by the globe, not vice versa.
Suddenly, globalism was in their face, and they didn’t like it one bit. But to embrace market globalisation meant also the globalisation of their own locales and their unchallengeably unchangeable local sovereignties and identities. They wanted globalisation without tears, and without experiencing that conservative’s horror called “cosmopolitanism” — a very unlikely segregation. Marshall McLuhan became famous for his term “The Global Village”, but in the global era, it is every village, or oasis and reservation of quaint national folkways, that submits to be globalised, and that becomes itself, a global crossroads.
This inevitable double-movement in which the “without” would also become the “within” — a single global economic space that ignores distinctions between the global and the local — was not appreciated, nor its consequences understood. Particularly conservatives who embraced and espoused global economic liberalism but simultaneously embraced social conservatism fell into a trap and a dilemma of their own making. Now they have become resentful and even reactionary, but still cling to their self-contradictory “principles” — the conflict between globalisation and local ways and traditions that are now under stress. It makes for that strange duplicitous and self-contradictory rhetoric of contemporary conservatism that bespeaks a loss of integrity — double-think, double-talk, double-standard, and double-bind.
That old saying, “to have one’s cake but to eat it too” is particularly appropriate in this context. So is another old saying that “time makes hypocrites of us all”.
There is also another saying that is particularly appropriate here, and it comes from Nietzsche: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become the monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” If you substitute “global market” for abyss, my meaning is clear.
This is the most perfect expression, too, of the full meaning of “globalisation”. What is being “globalised” is all local spaces and perspectives. Yet the same people who have embraced and supported it from supposed “rational self-interest” and perceptions of personal advantage, also resent it and rage against it equally as a solvent of all local self-determination and local sovereignty.
It’s just another example of that strange tendency of Late Modernity, where the rational pursuit of self-interest has become indistinguishable from the irrational pursuit of self-destruction.
Globalisation, far more than an economic dogma or even coercive military and police action, is the exertion of a constant pressure on local identities, local perspectivism, and even consciousness, a stress or pressure that has become an irritant and a cause of deep resentment everywhere as people are exposed to strangers with their strange customs, strange ideas, strange looks, strange ways. Even as they tear down the fences, they just as quickly try to erect them again in an absurd vaudeville act, or in carousel-like fashion. It’s the karmic law of action and reaction, yet they aren’t willing to take responsibility for, or even recognise, the consequences of what were and are their own decisions.
Al-Qaeda is just as much a reaction to globalisation as much as the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik (at least, Breivik had the sense to recognise that). The fanatic and manic defence of local sovereignties, loyalties, and identities against the dissolving pressures of globalisation, which gives to neo-liberalism and globalism its nihilistic dynamic, or what is now called “creative destruction”. The “global soul” or citizen, who thinks globally but acts locally, has as his shadow and counterpart, the global terrorist, who thinks locally, but acts globally.
Those who recognise this double-movement in globalisation are wont to divide them into distinct formal names: “globalism” for the creative dynamic, “globalisation” for the destructive and nihilistic one. There is some merit in that, although it doesn’t alter the fact that both tendencies belong to what Gebser earlier called “an essential restructuration” of consciousness, and the dissolution of local perspectives (however “narrow-minded” such perspectives may be and are) is part of this essential restructuration. The process is not just an economic one, but also a psychic one. Failure to recognise this is why the process is often uneven, violent, unjust, and hypocritical.
The restructuration of human consciousness and the human form (identity) is never a smooth or even welcome event. It is usually attended with great violence and destruction (as Seth affirms). But this restructuration of human consciousness in the global or planetary era is the other aspect of what we call “globalisation”.