Back in the days when I was a student at university, my fellow students would amble down the hallowed halls of academia muttering things about “nature versus nurture” to themselves and others. They had probably never thought about the question at all until some professor raised it as an intractable controversy in social science theory and philosophy. In some ways, “nature versus nurture” has been the core controversy, and root dilemma, of social philosophy.
In fact, it has deeper historical roots than contemporary social theory and social philosophy, and consequently contemporary politics. But the tendency to cast the question in such a way is a stark reminder of what Gebser considers one of the chief deficiencies of the mental-rational consciousness — the tendency to think in mutually exclusive dualisms.
One of the major stories of the “new normal” is the expansion of economic rights and freedoms parallel to a contraction of the sphere of political and civil rights and freedoms. Democracy is being recast and redefined as an economic system, rather than a political system.
This isn’t just an accident. It has been deliberate policy. And it reflects the reactionary mood of Late Modernity.
“Be true to the Earth!” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Appreciating the Earth itself as being one political unit seems like a very difficult task for some people, if not most people. The term “environmentalism” isn’t really adequate to account for the fact that post-modernity really means that the entire planet has become a singular political unit in its own right. The reactionary mentality of our day — the ego-nature itself — is really overwhelmed by that development, which we call “globalism” or “the overview effect“, which for others is a profoundly transformative experience.
I don’t know if anyone has taken note (probably someone has) that the word “trump” (although ostensibly related to the word “triumph” in some derivations) is related to a number of words meaning “to fool, to cheat, to deceive, to fabricate”, and so on. French “trompe l’oeil” means “to fool the eye”, which Wikipedia defines as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.” It was once used as an objection to perspectivism in art, so “gaining perspective on something” can be quite amibiguous!
“The Arts, and all things in common” was William Blake’s chief political formula for the Good Society. For Blake, individuality was a matter of creativity and the Imagination. The individuation of Imagination, expressed as creativity, was the inviolable birthright of the individual, the basis of its authenticity. True individuality was creativity, and the individual was distinguished, not by what they managed to hoard by way of private property, but by what that creativity contributed to the Commonwealth, or what we today call “Public Domain”. Protecting the Imagination and its creativity from predatory interests was the defence of individuality.
But actually, “commonwealth” is a better term than “public domain”.
Have you noticed it? Everyone is now out to “rig the game”. It seems to be part of our “end of history” survivalist psychosis. Rigging the game has become the game itself. “Risk-taking”, rather than the risk of innovation, has come to mean, more, flirting with the limits of propriety and law, or even overstepping them. “Rigging the game” is another aspect of hubris, and my question is this: how can a society survive in which everyone is out to rig the game?
If you want to understand the implications of Nietzsche’s “death of God” (actually, Nietzsche thought of it as the murder of God) and its consequences in “two centuries of nihilism”, there is already an existing example of that in “the death of the Great Spirit” (“Wakan Tanka” in Lakota Sioux, or “Gitchi Manitou” in the Algonquian languages), the consequent shattering of the Sacred Hoop, and the effects this had on the aboriginal consciousness and society — that is to say, the shamanistic or magical structure of consciousness. “Wakan” can be translated as “great” or “powerful” or “sacred”, while the words for “spirit” (tanka or manitou) can also be translated as “mystery”, so these names can mean, in English, “Great Spirit” or “Great Mystery”.
In broader terms, the Wounded Knee massacre (1890) was the last desperate gasp of the magical structure of consciousness represented in the Ghost Shirt Society and the Ghost Dance. It was the day the magic failed, the “death of the Great Spirit” , and the Sacred Hoop was broken. The day the universe changed, as it were.