“Behind” and “beneath” all the seemingly happy glitz and glitter of Late Modernity lies something quite sinister that will bring all the vain triumphalism of the “end of history” to naught. In fact, I would say that the “end of history” was even a piece of collective self-deception in that regard – a diversion, and perhaps even a cowardly one — and of a piece with the more general Zeitgeist of delusion and denialism. There is, in Fukuyama’s celebrated End of History and the Last Man, even the occasional slip-up that suggests Fukuyama knew at some level that his thesis of the final triumph of the Modern Era and of liberal democracy was counter-factual, little more than a “noble lie” to serve the ideological and power agenda of his confrères in the neo-conservative movement, who later congealed in The Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
The “end of history” nonetheless fed the idea and justification for “the new normal” and they mutually reinforced each other to obscure the blindingly obvious — that we were in the very midst of Nietzsche’s forecast of “two centuries of nihilism”. “End of history” and “the new normal” were nothing but this nihilism of a civilisation grown weary and now in the process of devouring itself from the inside out.
The “end of history” and “the new normal” colluded to provide a kind of political legitimacy and justification for the new political formations and their claims to power — neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, neo-socialism. The new “consensus” was called “the end of ideology”, but that, too, was a piece of obfuscation designed to hide the fact that the political formations of “the new normal” had jettisoned the very core principles and rationales that defined them historically as “conservative”, “liberal” or “socialist”. Those who continued to cling to the old values and ideals were dismissed and denounced as “paleos”.
What is the “new normal” then? A devaluation of values. A self-negation. A self-contradiction. An abandonment of standards. In short, nihilism that comes wearing a mask, masquerading as the opposite of what it is. Behind the mask of civility lurks the spirit of malice: “the gloves come off” was simply this spirit of malice — this nihilism — asserting itself, the clutching, grasping hand, the iron fist that had previously worn the velvet glove.
And it came espousing a new doctrine of justification and a rationale as self-contradictory and as nihilistic as itself — “creative destruction”. “Creative destruction” is, indeed, the law and essence of “the new normal” — a devaluation of values, but which comes also justifying itself as “progress”.
However, we should understand this for what it is, in effect — a nihilism through and through, a symptom of decadence, the signs of a consciousness structure — a civilisation — now disintegrating into incoherence.
Hitherto, conservatism and liberalism gave form and direction to the Modern Era. They represented, as it were, the boundaries of the Age and its mode of consciousness. Conservatism gave form or structure to the Age, while liberalism provided its direction. This is the simplest way to understand the political question — conservatism conserves the form, liberalism supplies the direction, for society. Together, conservatism and liberalism gave structure and direction to the Modern Age, the one through the principle of conservation, the other through the principle of universality.
These values — conservation and universality — are precisely the core values that the “neos” have jettisoned, but they were the values that gave structure with direction — coherence — to the civilisation of the Modern Era. But because they have denied their own core principles (the “vital centre”), society of Late Modernity (or post-modernity) has neither coherent structure nor direction. The proof of that is the environmental crisis combined with the increasing inequality that goes by the term “democratic deficit” — the crisis of democracy.
This “liquifaction” of the Age is, in effect, the dis-integration of its consciousness structure. And the disintegration of its consciousness structure manifests as double-standard, double-talk, double-think, and ultimately double-bind. These are symptoms of a civilisation in the process of negating itself in self-contradiction. As per Nietzsche’s succinct formula for nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”, the “new normal” is therefore in effect this same devaluation of values, ergo nihilism. This nihilism is what Eric Kahler calls “the breakdown of the human form” in his book The Tower and the Abyss. “Dehumanisation” is another name for that nihilism.
This nihilism is, in effect, Nietzsche’s “abyss” over which the tight-rope walker must pass in his Zarathustra, the thin rope being the passage from “man” to “overman”, or from the “all-too-human” to the transhuman — the type that survives his “two centuries of nihilism” and succeeds in carving a new world out of the abyss through a “revaluation of values” — a new consciousness, in effect.
Hence, the “double movement” of our times — alongside this devaluation of values is a corresponding revaluation of values. That is the meaning of “the integral consciousness”, even as it manifests itself in terms of “the overview effect” discussed previously.
“Dehumanisation” is, in fact, a very ambiguous term. It can point towards the inhuman or it can point towards the transhuman, and that is, in essence, the character of the “double-movement” of our time. Kahler’s “breakdown of the human form” can lead to either outcome: brutalisation or transcendence. That’s the nature of the crossroads we have reached today for all crisis is a crossroads.
The “keys to the kingdom” is code for those values and virtues that lead from the “all-too-human” to the transhuman. These keys are not the famous “10 commandments”, by the way. Your life’s quest is these keys. That’s a pretty exciting quest, in fact.