“Language is wiser than the one who speaks it. The living language of people always overpowers the thinking of individual man who assumes he could master it” — Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
Popular discourse very often encodes “hidden” social and spiritual dynamics long before those dynamics become fully conscious or articulate. Take the phrase “losing the plot”. Everything we’ve discussed in The Chrysalis pertaining to the “culture of narcissism” (Christopher Lasch), the end of the Grand (or Master) Narrative (post-modernity), the crumbling metaphysical foundations of the modern mind and the corresponding breakdown of the mental-rational (or perspectival) consciousness structure (Jean Gebser), the disintegration of the personality and character structure of Modern Man (Rosenstock-Huessy), or “post-truth”, “post-rational”, “post-Enlightement”, and so on, is effectively condensed and encoded in the simple phrase “losing the plot”. All I’ve done in The Chrysalis is, in a sense, try to unwrap what is more deeply encoded by the phrase “losing the plot”.
I’m rushing things into print a bit. Sorry for the overwhelm, but while these matters are atop my mind I’ld like to set them down.
There are some remarkable things happening to our consciousness and to our self-understanding in “post-modernity” — a mutation of consciousness that Rosenstock-Huessy also described as a “metanoia” (or “New Mind”). But like all mutations, some will be successful and some not successful and abortive — in fact, some will be outright thanatic and destructive, or what Erich Fromm calls of “necrophilous character” in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
This belongs to the paradoxical “double-movement” or double dynamic described by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin — as a coincidentia oppositorum. There is a disintegrative and degenerative dynamic (or nihilism) proceeding apace with a new integrative or regenerative dynamic (holism), and this is, quite literally, a life and death struggle between the nihilistic and the holistic, in the context of which a great many symptoms of pathology and morbidity appear. Jungians would say that the nihilistic or thanatic manifestations in our time are the eruption of “the Shadow” — the dark or unintegrated aspects of the psychic totality that threatens to overwhelm, and even take over, our little light of consciousness (the zombie meme). The stakes are very high indeed.
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”.