Last evening, I rented a pretty campy movie called Resident Evil: The Final Chapter — yet another installment in the continuing saga of the zombie and of the plucky surviving (and outnumbered) humans struggling to survive against chaos and armies of the undead. There seems to be no end of appetite for the living dead, and for zombie movies, zombie carnivals, and the zombie apocalypse.
Campy though it was, watching Resident Evil after reading Stephen Metcalf’s very insightful article on neo-liberalism in yesterday’s Guardian, and having just watched Vice‘s remarkable video of an insider’s account of the recent Charlottesville incident, this present pop cultural obsession with the living dead and its symbolism, along with my recent meditations on “The Shadow”, began to make profound sense. It triggered in my mind a recollection of Jung’s definition of the Shadow as “the unlived life” (and what that means also in terms of “the return of the repressed”) and so I understood then that there is a direct reciprocity between these themes of “the Living Dead” and “the Unlived Life” that also ties into Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and the fuller significance of “the Anthropocene”. The insatiable hunger and craving that drives the undead, or zombie, is not for flesh and blood but for life.
Most dystopian literature depicts a future society in which humanity has ceased to be effectively creative. “Expect poison from the standing water”, as Blake put it in one of his Proverbs of Hell in his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Another one of Blake’s very wise Proverbs of Hell, related to this, is especially poignant today: “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind”. Indeed, “reptiles of the mind” is pretty much an accurate description of contemporary man’s state of mind, as we witness it daily — the irruption of the so-called “Lizard Brain” (which is probably what the alt-right’s adopted mascot “Pepe the Frog” signifies — the Lizard Brain associated with the Shadow). You may take these proverbs about the standing water as even the essential problem of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure now functioning, in Gebser’s terms, in “deficient mode”.
This effectively gives us another way of understanding Gebser’s distinction between the “effective” and “deficient” modes of a consciousness structure or civilisational type. Effective means creative; deficient means destructive. “Effective” means “generative”; deficient means “degenerative” or decadent. The one is associated with “Genesis” and the other with the Nihil, or Ens and Non-Ens.
There’s a pretty big discrepancy between Canada’s “brand” and the actual boots on the ground reality, not least when it comes to Canadian-based extractive industries in their operations around the globe.
That dissonance between the “brand” image and the reality, the good words and base deeds, was brought home by two articles that appeared in today’s Guardian that seem, ironically, very connected. The first is “Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally“, and the second, “The Canadian company mining hills of silver — and the people dying to stop it“, which is about Tahoe Resources’ mining operations in Guatemala. And this is not the first and only case of gross malfeasance by Canadian mining corporations in Latin America.
Canada’s “Sunny Ways” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, received something of a “rockstar welcome” from G20 protesters in Hamburg this weekend. I’m completely bemused by this hero worship and the return of Trudeaumania 2.0 because, for one thing, it’s quite unearned and undeserved. Trudeau’s apparent celebrity and popularity seems based in nothing more that the fact that he’s The Not-Stephen-Harper, Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister whose authoritarian inclinations and brooding darkness about our “Sea of Troubles” sharply contrasted with Trudeau’s “Sunny Ways” approach and demeanor.
But, for the most part, Justin Trudeau’s government has done very little apart from symbolic gestures to actual earn the “celebrity status” Trudeau has been accorded, and symbolic gestures to “progressivism” without corresponding substantive policy is just perception management. So, I would really like to caution you about mistaking such symbolic gestures for substantive policy and “real change”, as the Liberal slogan promises. Trudeau is not the white knight come to slay the neo-liberal dragon, to dispel the murk and gloom of the austerity policy and rectify the massively unequal distribution of the commonwealth, nor to rebuild and restore the resilience of the democracy after its inherent vulnerabilities to authoritarianism were revealed in the Harper years.
But when even Donald Trump says that “Justin is doing a spectacular job!”, and the head of the World Bank gushes about Trudeau, too, you have to wonder what that “job” really is except something quite akin to what Algis Mikunas called “technocratic shamanism”. But just being the “Not-Stephen-Harper” politician isn’t good enough to live up to the commitment for “real change”.
“Forget austerity, here’s who is to blame for your empty pockets” is an article by The Guardian’s finance editor, Patrick Collinson, in today’s Guardian. Collinson blames the financial squeeze many are going through not so much on government austerity policies as on corporate profiteering.
Although the article is quite good, I had to post an objection in the comments to this either/or kind of thinking in regards to austerity or profiteering/privateering. Austerity and excessive profiteering (extractivism by another name) work hand-in-hand. Collinson’s article seems like a good opportunity to delve a little deeper into the problems of “chaotic transition”, unequal distribution of prosperity, and the rape of the commonwealth that we call “neo-liberalism”.
Lewis Mumford’s “Megamachine” is quite real in one sense (and quite unreal in another) — a semi-autonomous system that strives towards its ideal of full autonomous functioning, and, with the tech-revolution and artificial intelligence, is on the cusp of realising itself as such. It has no lack of “handmaidens” (Varoufakis’s phrase in The Global Minotaur) or “courtiers” (Chomsky’s description) to help it realise itself as such either.
The Megamachine has a long developmental history, and we could easily trace its maturation following Mumford’s four stages of realisation or maturation of an idea — from Formulation, through Incarnation, through Incorporation, to its mature phase “Embodiment“. But to the Megamachine (and its handmaidens) living beings are simply an irrelevancy, and human beings are as disposable and dispensible as BIC pens are And if you read contemporary economics schemes it’s as though human beings are not just irrelevant to the purposes of “economy”, but are practically considered inconvenient parasites on the body and the functioning of the perfect machine.
I’ld like to return, today, to an earlier theme of The Chrysalis and develop it further — and that is the idea of the Convivium, which should be the real end and aim of the process we call “globalisation” and the meaning of “globalism”. We would be better off talking about the Convivium and convivialism rather than globalism and globalisation. The choice of the right name for things makes all the difference, and the difference here, again, bears on our seeming inability to distinguish between higher and lower things, and our continuing confusion of the Whole with the mere Totality (which is but the shadow of the Whole) — therefore, the fatal confusion of the processes which belong to life with those processes which belong to death.
It is my contention, as you may know, that the confusion of the totality with the whole lies at root of our decadence and our nihilism, for it is a prime example of how “all higher values devalue themselves” — Nietzsche’s succinct definition of nihilism (and particularly that form of nihilism called “decadence”). Therefore, I want to speak to convivialism as life process and of the Convivium as the Community of the Whole Living Earth, for that is what the word means.