I have been reading the newly published The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Oxford scholars Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna in preparation for a meeting I will be having with one of the authors in a few weeks time, during which we will be hashing out some of the issues pertaining to chaotic transition. I took an interest in their book and in their work because Age of Discovery attempts to interpret our time also as a chaotic transition — as implied by the reference to “New Renaissance” in the subtitle — which they interpret as representing a convergence, or coincidence, of “genius” and “risk”.
I found the book a little uneven, as one might expect from a book written by two authors who might themselves be code-named “Risk” and “Genius”, or who may have specialised in one or the other aspect of that polarity. And I don’t think it probes those issues of risk and genius, and what this means in the context of chaotic transition, deeply enough. Here at The Chrysalis, what they call “risk” we call “disintegration” or “havoc”, and what they call “genius” we call “re-integration” or “consciousness mutation” or restructuration. So I want to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the book in its approach to the meaning, and full depth, of “choatic transition”.
Speaking of “Churn”, yesterday’s announcement by Canada’s Liberal government approving the Line 3 and Trans Mountain (Kinder Morgan) petroleum pipelines (but squashing the Northern Gateway) has lit a fuse. I recieved, this morning, a declaration from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) vowing resistance to the pipelines and calling for aid, which I here reproduce in full.
“Churn” is just as good a word for our chaotic transition as any, and perhaps easier to absorb. The churn is affecting everything — rationality, truth, social relationships, language, and so on. Canada’s Liberal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, recently used the phrase “job churn” to describe precarious employment and job opportunities for the young in the future. What Morneau refers to as the churn is what I call the crucible. Precarious livelihood is only one aspect — albeit a big aspect — of the Churning.
I was reading an article by Thomas Frank in today’s Guardian: “How the democrats could win again, if they wanted” in the course of which he used a term unfamiliar to me in the context of political ideology: “triangulation”. It piqued my curiousity, given what we’ve been exploring about the tripartite logic of the mental-rational consciousness structure, expressed as dialectic, the pyramid of perception and the point-of-view consciousness structure. That is to say, that the ratio of rationality is a ratio of the three spaces — length, width, depth. Franks was asserting, largely, that the Democrats lost the election in the United States because of their penchant for “triangulation”. It was, for me, one of those Aha! moments, since this is exactly what I’ve denounced as “Third Way” politics of the kind practiced by Tony Blair and “New Labour” in the UK and which is passed off these days as “moderate” or “centrist”, but which is, in fact, elitist in those terms.
The Anthropocene is a giant egregore, or, to put that another way, a giant golem. The ideal of the Anthropocene is the perfect automaton, in fact, which advances in artificial intelligence may well soon achieve — the Anthropocene as a self-organising automaton. It is, in a way, the realised form of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.
It is in that sense, also the realised form of near complete human self-alienation, a massive “projection” in that sense that grows in power to the same extent as the human form is depleted and emptied. And therein lies the grave danger and peril of our times that Walter Benjamin recognised in his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction“,
“Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, is now one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art”
Let me conclude the previous post on the breakdown of the dialectic with some additional paradoxes and consequences particularly as they pertain to “inverted totalitarianism”.
Orwell’s “Newspeak”, in 1984, is very clearly a case where thesis and antithesis come to mean one and the same thing: “Freedom is Slavery”, “War is Peace”, “Ignorance is Strength”, and so on. Ironically, there is a latent kernel of a paradoxical truth in this that is, nonetheless, opaque to the perspectivist consciousness, and again even here it needs to be born in mind that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. Newspeak would be totally ineffective if it was transparently all lie. It’s deceptive power and its duplicity lies precisely in its “truthiness” quality.
I have frequently brought up Nietzsche’s prescient remark that the triumph of liberal institutions would simultaneously be their self-destruction, and how this was one of the main dynamics in his anticipation of “two centuries of nihilism”. We have called that here “self-negation” — also called “a Cadmean victory“: a victory that brings about one’s own ruin. (Think Agent Smith’s “victory” over Neo in the final film of the Matrix series as a Cadmean victory).
Some folks have a hard time trying to understand how the victory of liberal institutions can simultaneously be their self-annihilation, although this dynamic is unfolding before our eyes today to great consternation. And this is one of the chief paradoxes of the Age of Paradox in which we live and, in those terms also, one of the main currents of the present “chaotic transition” (or the post-rational and post-truth).