2004/07/12

The great atomization.

I wish to remember you that the articles in this blog are forming the content of a book that I plan to terminate by year's end. If you are interested by the subjects I write about and you would like to read a first draft of the book, I would be delighted to give you the web address where you can download a PDF version. In exchange, I only ask those interested to read this first draft to give me their comments, suggestions or other help in the finishing touches on the text.
______________________________________________________


Consumerism and the expansion of merchandization towards absolutely everything that relates to humans has reduced the individuals in the advanced countries to salary dependents, modern salarized slaves of large capital accumulation.
Pushed by so perceived godly edicts of expansion, the market embarked on the road to democratization as a strategy of inclusion of all individuals into its system. Once in the system, the competition for salaries makes it indispensable for humans to develop knowledge and skills adapted to the new needs of the economy. Knowledge helps each individual to thrive or to survive in the market but as an irony it is also transfering the biggest power of all, understanding, in the hands of the mass of individuals. Entering the realm of knowledge and understanding, everyone starts to develop his own ideas about everything, ideologies and common beliefs are on the wane. This "I know best" approach is like the devil's imprint into our minds and material possessions that were earlier so despised by religions and wisdoms are now what counts most.

But by far the worse that happened for humanity in this process has been the loss by the salarized individuals of the vital feeling of responsibility for their own lives, the lives of the members of their family and their brethren that was driving them to be concerned with their society and thus "to be" creative. Under stress of indebtedness salarized individuals are totally absorbed by their income generation and fast lose all sense of responsibility towards the collective. This, it seems to me, constitutes the central most important development that arose in "modern" societies. (see earlier development of the concept of modernity as the result of industrialisation)

Concerned as we are by our ideas and beliefs, totally absorbed by our individuality we are losing sight of all the parapets along the bridges, into the unknown, that drive us all towards our changing commons. Or we don't see the roads leading to the change of our societies or we don't care a damn anymore about our societies, in any case the result is identical, our societies are freezing and individuals feel incresingly lost.

The risk now for individuals is to fall from the bridges into the unknow and end up without any lights, punished for our sin, into a non stop roaming into an eternal night. This is the fall into hell.
Blind, directionless, unable to focus their "inner urge", individuals roam and roam as drunks unable to follow the "white fertilizing ray" that leads the evolution of their societies. The same seems bound to be happening to our commons that happened in the surrealist movement, a drive towards irrationality. But what happens to our commons has far bigger implications, is indeed far more dangerous than the irrationality that discredited the surrealist movement.

The immemorial binding of the individuals with their commons is fast disappearing in the most advanced capitalist-rational societies, the ones that reached modernity. What had been the natural driving force of evolution, the imprinted natural code driving us and all the rest to strive incessantly for more complexity, this is gradually being rendered inoperative. The conflictual mechanism between individual and collective, this natural mechanism of human change is fast dissolving before our eyes in the US, the EU and Japan.
We humans are well engaged on the road of "losing our way"!

The great atomization is one of the stories of the 21st century. First and foremost concerned by this story are artists, thinkers and scientists who are at the forefront in building the future general worldview of our societies. They are sprinting through the gates, towards the unknown world of knowledge and understanding, opened initially by market-rationalism.

At the reception side, new tools are giving us unrestrained access to knowledge. Open access Journals are winning over the world scientific community. They reduce drastically the costs of publication which allows for free distribution. Furthermore, new search tools let us envision a fast coming time when we will be able to search all the articles published by all the journals from around the world. For more information, see the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
On the other side, new tools are also giving us unrestrained collaboration access in generating knowledge. Wikis and RSS are allowing community efforts at producing knowledge databases (encyclopedias) but more importantly they are allowing collaboration in research and production of new knowledge. See what wikis are all about in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. See also the power of BLOGLINES' combination of RSS syndication and LINKBLOGS.

Now, think for a moment about the possibilities that will arise soon from the combination of, on one side, the power of unrestrained access and, on the other side, the power of collaborative generation of knowledge. Humanity is fast going to undergo one of the most important shocks of all its history, the shock of unrestrained knowledge.

Paradoxically artists and thinkers receive a blank check. Freedom is total, no guidance has been put in place and all the traditional ideologies, wisdoms and religions, that gave guidance to humanity, have been marginalized by the genie that came out of the sacred bottle of their "forbiddens". The traditional authorities, populated by members of the older generation, are at a loss, they don't understand the new and are left to abandon all decision making. They react when it is too late and when there is a reaction, we are taken aback by the utter stupidity of their decisions. Without any knowledge or conscience about it, we have gone back to the territory of nature where brutal competition for survival reigns. We have lost, without any knowledge or conscience about it, our societal capacity at autoregulation that our forebears took so much pain and so many centuries to develop. The only hope remaining for humanity resides, it seems to me, in the Chinese millenar wisdom accumulation but will the Chinese resist under the assault of modernity, that's the billion dollar question of the hour.

Artists and thinkers conceive of a myriad of micro changes but what results is absolute macro-irrationality. Without guidance, artists, thinkers and scientists are left on their own and the consequences of their works for society at large will only be felt when this contact happens. The most striking example of that has been the atom bomb. But one could multiply the examples of such irrational outcomes, in sciences, in arts or in thinking and it's the combination of all those irrationalities coming together that leads to macro-irrationality.
Somehow, surprisingly, this irrationality seems to take everyone by surprise. Fact is we all finally land in the most extreme confusion.

Time has come for artists, scientists and thinkers' to give sense to their productions and to re-establish some order in human thinking.
We need to construct a kind of "unified theory" of human relativity.


From a generally accepted observation iwe understand that when it's quest is let absolutely free, knowledge fragments.
What I mean is that the totality that is our universe is so large that there is absolutely no way to come up with a single explanation covering everything that could be acceptable for everyone. Statistically it is an impossibility! So we are bound under total individual freedom to roam AD vitam on the road of our personal dreams.
It's kind of a supreme irony that in the end the market's radical push for freedom of understanding, of knowledge leads to exactly the opposite of what it was looking for: the end of history or the acceptance of one unique truth, the market as the exclusive human way.
The atomization of knowledge is the absolute opposite from one unique truth.

Ideology is the outcome, in terms of ideas, of a society that is force-fed a message, a vision by institutions that are imposed upon all by an authority that uses this ideology as a kind of social super glue meant for nothing else than to guarantee the preservation of its authority. The market is the social super glue binding all individuals into acceptance of the logic of capital and rationalism that is given as its absolute ideology. The only problem with the market is it's instrumental nature that appears fundamentally indifferent to individual values, idees or knowledge. It is as if rationalism was an ideology of market instrumentality exclusively but once out of the market it appears without much of an effect upon individual behaviour.

Over the long haul the combination of knowledge democratization, that leads to growing individualism, and market indifference invariably results in the destruction of all traditional ideologies but also it seems in the destruction of the ideology of rationality. In the end, societies are left in an ideological void and individuals are feeling at a complete loss.

Going from one historical reality to the next always has generated frictions and conflicts.
Nowadays, the transition times have shorten radically and the shock of the future is becoming always heavier to assume, ALVIN TOFFLER only scratched its surface. The shock is quite more severe than anyting that had been envisaged but we have absolutely not been prepared for atomization and the individual responsibility that goes with it.
In visual arts this shock materialized in the 'everything is possible' and led to complete loss of sense. It is marketing that nowadays gives its imprimatur to what had to be considered as art. Instantly, garbage becomes art if marketing so decides. In this process, art and thought have been totally debased and rendered obsolete.

But there is still hope, for, let's remember that every time that an extreme is reached it is superseded by its opposite. Today, the opposite of "non-sense" is "no non-sense" but there is no guaranteed road, nor path to "no non-sense". That's what renders the artists and thinkers' road so much more arduous.
It seems as if Kandinsky's "black hand" was suddenly disappearing and everyone was given free of charge access to the "white fertilizing ray". But the conflictual relation, between the black hand and the white fertilizing ray, is what generates workable change. Workable because it is accepted by society at large and also stimulating for the individuals who were carrying the ideas leading to that change. The black hand and the white fertilizing ray are synonymous with YIN and YANG. If one of those terms disappeared, the other would automatically be rendered irrelevent. The mechanism of change would be dissolved and we humans would re-enter darkness.

For our societies, this would be synomymous with a deep freezing and the true meaning of such a deep freezing would be the falling out of history.

Culture is the representation of the ways of behaving and of doing by societies at a given time. For example, present day culture is our present day way of life: consumerism, mass market, merchandization of all that touches human life and dependence on salary and debt. This implies that culture is kind of a historic snaphot of the way of a society at a given time. And we have seen earlier that the way of a society at a given time is what results from the confrontation of individuals' complexifying thinking with the commons. But what happens when individuals' complexifying thinking is let loose, free of any confrontation with the commons that disappear? The conclusion is unmistakenly the deep freezing of their societies and their fall out of history, in other words the dieing of their civilization.

Civilization is the build-up of cultural snapshots through history, it is the addition of the successive cultural moments of a society. In that sense, the civilization of a given society can encompass a very large variety of cultural values and behaviors. It can even encompass what appears as opposite values: one extreme pole on the ladder of behavioral possibilities at a given time and the other extreme pole at an other given time.

Civilization dies when culture production stops!

It seems to me that in the Western civilization we are engaged in a very fast lane towards the crosspoint between "individuals complexifying thinking let loose" and disintegrating commons.

Individual responsibility teaches us that we are in dire need of a redefinition of the human commons on the scale of our entire earth. We need to construct a kind of "unified theory" of human relativity that could give sense to our lives and show us the direction towards tranquility.

The task is urgent, the end of our human history lurks... Words of an artist.

No comments:

Post a Comment