As an undergraduate at university, my chief area of interest was the history of propaganda. I was particularly interested in how propaganda affected, or interfered with, consciousness and perception such that “false consciousness” (ie delusion) could become a social problem.
Even after I graduated, I continued in my studies of propaganda. Around 1999, though, I began to feel I had taken my studies about as far as I could and felt I wasn’t making any further progress in my understanding. I came to the conclusion that I needed to expand my horizons and deepen my understanding of the matter by situating the phenomenon of propaganda, as a technology of social and psychological manipulation and control, within the broader historical context of the history and philosophy of science and technology. So, in 2000, I returned to university to further my studies in the history and philosophy of science and technology as these pertained to culture and consciousness.
In his book Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate, Marty Glass highlighted five essential features of the Kali Yuga, or Dark Age. These five are 1) The Fall Into Time; 2) the Reign of Quantity; 3) the Mutation into Machinery; 4) the End of Nature; and, 5) the Prison of Unreality.
Although, arguably, the latter four are consequential from the first — the Fall Into Time — they are all implicated in one another as inseparable aspects of one and the same process which we could broadly refer to as samsara or samsaric existence, and in those terms also, aspects of what William Blake called “Ulro” — the realm of Shadow or Maya, which Blake calls “the Sleep of Ulro”. Ulro can therefore be taken as Blake’s own symbolisation of what is called the Kali Yuga or “Dark Age”.
While the Fall into Time is the leading edge of the Kali Yuga, my concern today is principally with one aspect of that fall, and that is “the Mutation into Machinery”, or, described differently, the mutation of the human form into a mere “automaton of reflexes”, which could also be called “post-conscious”. This would be the final triumph of the “Sleep of Ulro”.
It appears that the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last week was part of a larger project called “The Summer of Hate”. The rightists seem pretty cognisant of the this being the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” (1967), and so even this year has symbolic value as a target — the destruction of all the values that defined the counter-culture and The Summer of Love, ironically by trying to emulate it.
Is there any further evidence of the “Shadow” at work than this choice of theme — “The Summer of Hate”? That broader “statement” about the fellowship of hate, or the solidarity of the haters and the righteousness of hate, hasn’t received as much attention as the “Unite the Right” event itself, an event that makes the term “Right” now virtually synonymous with “Hate”, and a belief that hate is more powerful than love or compassion.
When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors (and later my supervisor) steered me in the direction of propaganda analysis. He had been a resistance fighter in Belgium during the Second World War and had been mightily impressed by the power of propaganda to mobilise the energies of the nations for collective mass suicide. Having lived through that period, he came to see the propaganda weapon as the chief danger and threat to the realisation of any kind of human or humane social order.
So, I dived right into the question of propaganda with a sense of mission, both here in Canada and in Germany, where I eventually went to continue my studies and most especially to research the social legacy of the Nazi propaganda system in terms of its current impacts on the German language.
I recently spent another enjoyable afternoon of coffee-drinking and conversation with Chris Kutarna, co-author (with Ian Goldlin) of The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging — anything from the meaning of the “zombie” as cultural meme, to Game of Thrones, to contemporary politics (local and global), to the limits of Cartesianism and dialectics (and thus to perspectivisation or the “point-of-view” consciousness and mode of perception). Always stimulating, these conversations over coffee help me articulate what is my “Holy Grail” in terms of any prospective “New Renaissance” or “Age of Discovery” — that is to say, that which remains to be “discovered” (rather than simply invented) and why we must move from a triadic or tripartite logic to a four-term or quadratic logic. My “Age of Discovery” thus involves the realisation of holonic awareness and perception.
There have been a number of such “Ages of Discovery” in human history — the “discovery of the soul”, the “discovery of the will”, the “discovery of the mind“. The discovery of a new “dimension” to our reality was always coincident with the disclosure of some new potency or faculty in the human form and configuration leading to a radical reconstruction of perception and to the meanings of “truth”, “human nature”, or “cosmos” — literally a “new Heaven and a new Earth”. This is what Gebser refers to as the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure and the self-revelation of what was previously a hidden dimension or domain.
I had never heard of James McGill Buchanan until I read, in today’s Guardian, a review by George Monbiot of Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s recently published book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I have yet to read and assess MacLean’s research and argument, but I wouldn’t be really surprised at the revelation of a “stealth plan” for, and prospects of, “totalitarian capitalism”. That was already the conclusion of political scientist Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and The Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Nor are Maclean or Wolin the first to express fears about totalitarian capitalism, only the most recent. There is also Jane Mayer’s related investigation into Dark Money. Totalitarian Capitalism has been anticipated in any case by other names such as “corporatocracy”, “plutocracy”, or “techno-fascism”. This has been a growing threat.
How likely an outcome and endgame is it? I would say very likely. It would be the logical culmination of Jean Gebser’s anticipated breakdown and collapse of the mental-rational/perspectival consciousness structure barring some unanticipated intervention and disruption of this dynamic.
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.