Life Inside the Global Brain: Nationalism and Transnationalism

In a faux pas now become somewhat infamous, a hapless Flat Earther once boasted that they had “members all around the globe”. A good many people were entertained and bemused by this overt expression of cognitive dissonance and seeming stupor.

This kind of cognitive dissonance and self-contradiction is far from rare these days. It’s not only a feature of the so-called “New Normal”, but a symptom of the disintegration of the personality and character structure of Modern Man. But while it is that, too, it is also anecdotal of what Gebser calls “the double-movement” of the times or what Jacob Bronowski described as “the crisis of paradox”

In effect, though, a Flat Earther declaring a fellowship of believers “all around the globe” isn’t much different than the equally infamous remark by a US marine officer that became iconic of the futility of the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it, sir”. It’s been pretty much downhill ever since.

A great deal of the current pandaemonium and of the mayhem of the affects (or “chaotic emotion”, as Gebser calls it) is just these self-contradictions and cognitive dissonances now intensifying and working themselves out, where they begin to manifest as symptoms of “the New Normal” — that is, what I also call our own “four riders of the apocalypse” named Double-Think, Double-Talk, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. That’s another mysterious tetrad.

I began musing again on this — and on issues of anxiety and nostalgia as symptoms of our malaise — upon reading an article in The Guardian by Elif Shafak about some of the implicit ironies of the right-wing intellectuals. This is not surprising. Irony, ironic reversal, and crisis are very frequently (if not always) soulmates, since irony and ironic reversal is this very matter of self-contradiction and cognitive dissonance. A couple of books have been written about this association of irony and crisis, but I have not found them all-too insightful about why ironic ages arise in the first place.

If, as Marshal Berman also declares, in his excellent book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, that today “everything is pregnant with its opposite”, that is also just another statement about the New Normal and about cognitive dissonance and self-contradiction.

This same malaise of cognitive dissonance is also charcteristic of fascistic and neo-fascistic movements, and part of that is the nature of our current milieu — life inside the Global Brain, also a feature of the Anthropocene. The Global Brain constitutes a transnational space — called “cyberspace” — which is not only the manifested form of Einstein’s original spacetime unification, but as something even alien and antithetical to nationalism.

What the Global Brain has also facilitated is this — that people who share certain soulful affinities for one another, yet are from quite different cultures, creeds, nationalities, religions, ethnicities, can now find each other through the World Wide Web who then found their own “cybernations”, as it were — transnational communities of common interest or communities of shared affinities. Contemporary ultranationalist and neo-fascistic movements do the same — decrying “globalism” or “universalism” as its antithesis and enemy even while forming their own transnationalist communities within the Global Brain. So, ironically, Hindu ultranationalists, and Buddhist ultranationalists and Christian ultranationalists can meet up with each other in these global transnationalist communities within the shared cyberspaces of the Global Brain.

There is nothing more self-contradictory and ultimately self-defeating than the idea of a “Universal Fascism”. This same cognitive dissonance afflicts also the right-wing intellectuals mentioned by Shafak. There is quite a bit of pretense and cognitive dissonance involved here, and no one likes that their diseased pudenda are exposed behind a fig-leaf of moral virtue and rectitude. But that’s what’s happening. These supposed self-appointed guardians and upholders of “Enlightenment” values and principles are also quite adept at, at the same time, denying their validity.

Mostly, what is involved in this self-contradiction are the twin devils of anxiety and nostalgia — anxiety as regards the future and nostalgia for a supposed past simpler and more innocent Golden Era. In other words, these describe what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “trajective” and “prejective” moods correspondingly, and they are, indeed, symptoms of a culture in deep crisis.

Nostaligism, though, is quite typical of the old. It can be, then, an indication of civilisational decadence and debilitation — a sense of the exhaustion of its vigour and youth and capacity for any further real creativity. In that sense, both anxiety and nostalgia are deficient responses to crisis.

Of course, just saying so won’t alleviate the conditions of life in “the New Normal”. Nostalgia and anxiety are quite irrational forces and usually don’t respond to reasoning in any case, so the hideous things usually have to play themselves out and finally succumb to their own self-contradictions and cognitive dissonance, or find a way to transcend themselves. This is where we touch on the real meaning of “faith” as the power to endure and transcend. The faith of “a grain of mustard seed” or of “the lilies of the valley” has very little to do with belief, does it?

The popularity of these right-wing intellectuals is due to the fact that they have tapped into these moods of both anxiety and nostalgia, which can be a quite deadly combination of affects, which can also prevent and inhibit the necessary future from arriving at all.

But the fact that, in the Anthropocene, we have one foot in the nation-state and another in cyberspace and in transnational communities within the “Global Brain” is probably certainly a key element of our present cognitive dissonance.

But that means, too, that in many ways present self-contradiction, cognitive dissonance, and matters like “symbolic belief” may also point to the crisis of consciousness posed by the re-emergence of what McGilchrist calls “the Master” mode of attention, also coincident with the crisis and disintegration of the “Emissary” mode. This new conception of human nature has also risen to prominence with the Global Brain and the Anthropocene, to my mind, illustrating the meaning of that remark by the German poet Hölderlin, that “where the danger is greatest, there lies the saving power also”.

Which is why I think we should pay more attention to what Iain McGilchrist is saying than to what Jordan Peterson and the like are saying. If we are not to fall totally to pieces, as we currently seem to be doing, we’ll have to rely more and more on new inspirations arising from the more holistic vision of “the Master”. Any resolution of our current malaise must come from the Emissary’s admission that it is quite impotent and incompetent alone to resolve the dilemmas, crises and impasses of the “New Normal”, and that no “12 rules of life” are going to restore it’s coherence or it’s hegemony over what is to be considered “human nature”.

As to what “human nature” is, well… McGilchrist’s “Master” has other ideas about that.


17 responses to “Life Inside the Global Brain: Nationalism and Transnationalism”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I certainly hope Iain McGilchrist gets his new book out before he or I kick the bucket! It’s been quite a while in the making (which probably means it will be very, very good). While *The Master and His Emissary” pretty much dealt with the spaces of consciousness (the inner and outer) his new book will emphasise the times.

    This conjunction of the spaces and the times should paint a pretty interesting portrait of neurology and consciousness.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Groups like “Extinction Rebellion”, understandably frustrated, do a lot of good in trying to refocus attention away from too narrow a concern with issues of national self-interest to the bigger problem of planetary and biospheric health.

    The exaggerated concerns with national self-interest at the seeming expense of the bigger picture (planetary health) certainly shows up that problem of “the deficient mode of the perspectival consciousness” that concerned Gebser, too. This is narrow focus on national self-interest is certainly a case in point.

  3. Júlio [Ebrael] says :

    A video on the Society of the Ants, presented by BBC, could give us lights on this matter much better than all modern essays. Global Brain will lead us to the Era of the Human Super-Organism… or to self-extinction of our subdeveloped species.

    As follows: .

  4. Benjamin David Steele says :

    I’ve been thinking about nostalgia and anxiety for a long time, especially in terms of the reactionary. And I’ve been thinking about the doubling of the mind even longer.

    With the latter, people don’t say what they mean, assuming they know what they mean. The real issue, whatever it is, remains hidden by design. This is what I’ve explored as symbolic conflation.

    I try to keep up with your views. But you are familiar with writers I know little or nothing about. I’d like to read what kind of other specific examples you might share involving all of the above.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Apart from Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, I can’t think of any book I’ve read that deals specifically with these issues I’ve raised here. They seem come from my observations, and then I read to compare these observations with what others may have concluded about them also. Still, when I think about “nostagia”, as I’ve done above, the title that usually comes to mind is George Steiner’s Nostalgia for the Absolute, which I read many years ago and can now recall only the title.

      • Benjamin David Steele says :

        I forget what we’ve discussed before. Have you read either Corey Robin or Mark Lilla?

        I’ve come across Steiner’s book, but I haven’t read it. Other books that look potentially interesting are Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia, David Lowenthal’s The Past is a Foreign Country, and Janelle L. Wilson’s Nostalgia.

        I’d like to read more about this sometime. My sense is that nostalgia is centrally important to why our civilization is the way it is. My context, as usual, is that Julian Jaynes brings it up. This widens the scope of Robin and Lilla’s reactionary mind.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    My friend Chris Kutarna has written up a pretty good summary assessment of Gebser’s structures of consciousness and the task of integral consciousness. It is posted to his website

  6. Scott Preston says :

    I have been thinking that the recurrence of tetrads and tetramorphs in my current readings is probably a signal that consciousness is slowly accommodating itself to the reality of a four-dimensional cosmos, as incipiently formulated by Einstein’s achievement in spacetime integration, and not as an abstract idea but as a lived reality. This is, I think, why I now keep coming across such tetrads

  7. Charles says :

    There is a thought “nostalgia is the beginning of decadence.” The world is not ending or what does one mean by saying the “world?” The reductionistic way of being in the world is ending for good reasons. It is dysfunctional.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      There is a thought “nostalgia is the beginning of decadence.”

      Know what I hate about statements such as this? They’re too far-reaching, i.e. all-inclusive.

      If we weren’t intended (or built, if one prefers) to experience nostalgia, we wouldn’t experience it. But, of course, there is a marked difference between experiencing nostalgia and pining for another time.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    I’ve been reading Ken Wilber’s The Atman Project, a title and book which I was unfamiliar with until a few days ago. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of Wilber, as some of you know, but I wanted to learn what he has to say about the Atman.

    In any case, while I’m still early into the book, I did notice that Wilber has a 12 phasic description of the human life cycle — an archetypal number that also recurs frequently, that brought to mind Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Twelve Tones of the Spirit” as well (whether this is also where Peterson gets his 12 rules of life is unknown, but might also be worth comparing with Wilber’s phases.

    This illustration of Wilber’s Life Cycle phases that I found on the internet is reversed from the one in the book (this one runs counter-clockwise, and Wilber’s run’s clockwise), otherwise, it gives you a good idea.

    • Scott Preston says :

      There seems to be some inner compulsion to coordinate and synchronise human life with the cosmos, or vice versa. Here again, with Wilber’s 12 phases there would seem to be a correspondence with the 12 signs f the Zodiac, but also matters like the 12 disciples, the 12 high gods of Olympus, the 12 winds of the Medieval Compass Rose, not to leave unmentioned AlAnon’s 12-steps, Peterson’s “12 rules” or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “12 Tones of the Spirit” and so on. O yes, also Jung’s 12 major archetypes of the collective unconscious, also now being thought of in “marketing 3.0” and 12 brand categories of “spiritual branding”.

      Have to look into this further.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Here’s a different illustration of Wilber’s 12 stages of the life cycle corrected for orientation clockwise.

  9. Scott Preston says :

    Quite a few sci fi movies transpire within totally artificial environments — spaceships or space stations, or environments like the Matrix. This gives the sense of what it is like to live inside the Global Brain. Dreams of domed cities are similar. In fact, I’ld say Jensen’s “Dream Society” is just such an artificial environment as depicted in sci-fi movies.

    What kind of mentality develops within such artificial environments?

  10. Scott Preston says :

    The idealists behind the World Wide Web and the Global Brain believed that it would liberate the mind from such artificially manufactured environments — the kinds described by Chomsky and Herman in Manufacturing Consent. In some cases, this is true — it broke the monopoly of the “gatekeepers” of the cultural or national narrative, and people did discover that the “master narrative” wasn’t exactly true.

    This has been a quite unsettling experience for some people, especially older people

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