2016/02/04

From Modernity to After-Modernity (13)

Part 2. Theoretical considerations
Chapter 4. About societal governance and societal evolution



4.5. Five polarity-plays between individuals & society

I initially introduced the idea of polarities in my presentation of “The axioms of civilization”. It explains why China projects such an otherworldliness in the minds of Westerners whose own minds unconsciously form all their judgments and ideas to the tune of dualism. Later in my presentation about Consciousness” (0102 03) I made the idea of polarity-plays, first explained in “The axioms of civilization”, the foundation of a broader approach than the narrow materialist view of neuroscience that is based on the brain-mind dualism. Neuroscientists believe indeed that the mind is a creation of the brain which then cranks out higher levels of consciousness. This idea is not wrong per-se but what is wrong is to make that idea the only thing there is to the matter. Other factors than the brain are determinant in the formation of consciousness like its interactions with systemic reality, with increased complexity, with reproduction, etc...

I was motivated to approach consciousness from the angle of polarities because I simply can't fathom dualism as the founding principle of logic. I gave an argumentation for this in “The axioms of Civilization”. My experience taught me that by rejecting dualism one frees his own mind from an ideological a-priori and soon discovers that the principle of polarities results in a refreshingly pragmatic understanding of what initially appeared to be a very complex and muddy subject indeed. In other words pragmatism relates to an understanding of the working of reality that better adheres to the facts that we observe every day as we go along with our lives and so the knowledge derived from such an approach is easier to understand and also easier to integrate in our daily reality.

Presenting the phenomenon of consciousness from a polarity-play perspective obliges us to focus on the set of interrelations it forms with other phenomena and that's when we discover that this set of interrelations is forming what is called the cycle of life. Subtracting consciousness from the cycle of life, as neuroscience is doing makes no sense whatsoever. It blinds the observer who can no longer see the interdependence of consciousness with all the other determinant factors. But it is this interdependence that gives consciousness its deep meaning and it is also what makes sense out of the cycle of life. As soon as you detach consciousness from its dependence on the other determinant factors you lose the meaning of why it emerged in the first place and how it interacts with the other factors to form the cycle of life. So when you are focusing on an atomistic approach, while having lost this holistic understanding, you are like navigating a near infinite terrain in total darkness trying to feel things around you with your toes. For sure you will eventually detect patterns around you and you will be able to derive rules from these patterns. But these rules will never procure you an understanding of what the terrain you navigate is all about or how it fits in bigger sets.

The following graph places consciousness inside the dynamic of the cycle of life and indicates that societies act like intermediaries between individuals and their species. What we have here in reality is the description of 'the polarity-play species – individuals' which constitutes the essence of the dynamic of life. In other words life has 2 polarities: species and individuals and their polarity-play is what life is all about. Consciousness is one factor at play within that cycle and its interactions with all the other factors explains the working of the principle of life. So 'the polarity-play species – individuals' is the prime polarity-play of the principle of life while the interactions of consciousness with the other determinant factors are its second tear interrelations.


The cycle of life


The graph of the cycle of life allows us to determine the parameters that are activating species. Species have two poles of energy: the strong or positive charge = societies and the weak or the negative charge = the individual atoms. The societal-individual polarity-play constitutes the essence of the dynamic of species.   In other words the species internal life and its striving to survive and reproduce over the long haul is in reality what, the play or dance of the polarities society-individuals, is all about.

To go deeper in the analysis we have first to find out what are the determinant factors of each of these 2 polarities.


1.  The individual needs first and foremost to survive. 

This is being taken care of by his computation engine. Surviving gives the individual the chance to reproduce. Reproduction is the first and most determinant factor of the life of individuals and the other factors are derived from that necessity. To survive the individual needs to satisfy his "objective needs". What I mean by that is that the individual needs air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, a roof to protect himself during his sleep, etc... Satisfying his objective needs is the 2nd determinant factor. To satisfy his objective needs in changing contexts  the individuals will find answers of two types that emerge as a result of the increasing complexity in their conextual settings (environment, climate, society...):
  • or the biology of the individuals integrates a response to the challenge posed by a changing context
  • or the species' society integrates a response.
Consciousness emerges as a societal response. I'll illustrate this by referring to the evolution of our own species.

After the biology  of Homo Sapient had grown the neo-cortex as a new layer of his brain the individuals were able of abstract reasoning and a richer spoken language was the first tool the species developed as a result. This in turn allowed for grooming larger numbers of relations and as a result societies were able to absorb a greater headcount. This is how tribal societies emerged. Once tribal societies stabilized tribesmen searched to adapt their behaviors in order to maximize pleasure rewards instead of pain penalties and they memorized what to do and what to avoid doing. This memory acted like an early knowledge that made them aware that they could grow their knowledge base and thus reaping even more pleasure. The idea of growing the knowledge base of the tribe is how the tribe delegated knowledge production to one of them who became their specialized 'man of knowledge'. An awareness of self and the experience of pleasure by the self is what started the search for ever increasing consciousness.

An increasing consciousness expanded the human field of vision inside the whole of reality which also nurtured expanded levels of complexity in the societal set-up. Confronted with emergencies arising due to contextual changes consciousness now pushes for changes to answer such emergencies. But consciousness is a very subjective matter that strengthens itself in the mind and drives the individual to take a stand for change against the conservation of the status quo.

The satisfaction by the individuals of their objective needs, the emergence and development of their consciousness and their eventual urge for change, all this results in societal conflicts. Such conflicts may result in an individual's marginalization which will exacerbate his need to socialize that eventually will be experienced as an urge for communion with this fellow citizens.

2.  Societies are as much in need to survive and reproduce than the individuals. 

When societies collapse the individuals are dieing and a collapse of all societies means the species goes extinct. To resist collapse and ensure their reproduction societies are strengthening their internal cohesion. All species are doing this in one way or another:
  • or a species recourses to biological means to maximize its internal cohesion. This is the case of bees, ants and other species that regulate the societal organization from within their biology. Such a societal set-up maximizes the internal cohesion of societies while making it unbreakable. The set-up is indeed registered in the biology of the individuals and that why  the individual atoms can't break it.
  • or a species recourses to cultural means to maximize its internal cohesion. This is the case of the human species that inscribes its internal cohesion in its societal worldview. The sharing of their societal worldview by all citizens is instrumental to such societies to ensure their necessary internal cohesion. And it is this cohesion that in the last instance ensures that the society survives and reproduces over the future generations of individuals.
There can be no doubt that the biological route to societal cohesion ensures a stronger bond and this bond is also non-negotiable by the individuals.  The biological bond is permanent while the cultural bond depends on the willingness of the individuals to share a common worldview.

Such biological or cultural bonds are founded in the sharing by the individuals of a model of behaviors, ideas, and values that has been tested and refined over the span of the long haul. At first thought biologically inscribed worldviews must have been refined over longer time spans than culturally generated ones. In other words, it makes sense to think that, a biologically inscribed worldview must have been  confronted to the impact of systemic reality over far longer periods of time before being integrated in the biology than a cultural worldview. A worldview is a matter of behaviors, ideas, values that in the case of some human societies were codified from scratch over relatively short time spans. As I explained in "Part 2. 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.1. The context": "Not only are approximations about the working of reality not the truth about what reality is all about they are also fundamentally uneven. By this I mean that some approximations are necessarily better than others and such unevenness results in some societies reproducing over longer time-spans than others which, without any possible doubt, consecrates the higher 'quality' of their worldview in comparison with other. "
What consecrates the superiority of a worldview is its ability to reproduce a society over a longer timespan than other societies. It is indeed the quality of a worldview that confers longevity to a society and such a quality to confer longevity is directly derived from the sustainability of that worldview with systemic reality. In other words the quality of a worldview is measured at the gauge of its capacity to integrate the knowledge of what is inscribed as feasible, and what is inscribed as unfeasible, in the larger sets that contain the species' sub-set.

Reproduction, cohesion, alignment with systemic reality and the urge for conservation are factors regulating the internal working of societies. Societies have also to manage their sustainability with their exterior and the best way ever devised to protect oneself is to satisfy the urge for coexistence with outside societies by living and letting live.

The following graph summarizes the different determinant factors of the two polarities societies and individuals.



The 'polarity-play individual – society' gives us 'the 5 pillars of the societal house' and 'the 5 individuals necessities.  To each of the 5 pillars corresponds an individual necessity. These '5 correspondences' are  second tear polarity-plays that are derived from the prime 'polarity-play individual – society' which is the substance of species.



4.5.1. Societal reproduction - individual reproduction.

It is undeniably an observed fact that if, for whatever reason, a society fails to reproduce itself and collapses its individual atoms soon can't sustain their own reproduction and they die. This makes societal reproduction the ultimate of all determinant factors not only for societies but also for their individual atoms.  To push this logic a little further we also observe that when societies collapse all at once, not only do the individuals die, the species is at risk of extinction. This should be an incontrovertible confirmation of the indispensable role that societies play in the survival of species.

Individualism has unfortunately left such a deep imprint in Western individual consciousness that this basic principle of societal reproduction has been totally lost in late-modern societies. But the principle of reality is never far behind and its inevitable re-insertion in our daily lives is unfortunately going to shatter the worldview of late-moderns. This does not mean that individualism has no place at all in societies. It just means that the ideological view of individualism, as being the all good versus society being the all bad, is definitely wrong. The fact is that in Late-Modern societies this ideological view of individualism has taken central stage which is accelerating the dismembering of Western societies.

Modernity appears as the highest echelon on the ladder of societal evolution. That means that it's level of complexity, as far as we know, is higher than it was at any earlier time for any species. That in itself does not tell us much but what is really significant is the observation by system theory evolutionists that the more a system complexifies the more cooperation and coordination is demanded from its components in order to keep the system in balance or to ensure its stability. If the components of the system don't adjust to the rising complexity within the system by increasing cooperation among themselves the system will reach a threshold when, in order to survive, it has to operate a fundamental restructuring by establishing a hierarchical control mechanism to radically improve the coordination between its subsystems and components (1). 

The central thesis I expose in “From Modernity to After-Modernity” is that the human late-modern stage of societal evolution is reaching such a threshold of complexity and disorder that it threatens to collapse the whole system of human life. By that I mean that:
  • the side-effects of Modernity are so devastating that humanity could soon lose its habitat and thus also going extinct as so many species before us.
  • the techno-dream of materialism and rationality is evolving so fast and is so much out of bound with what is feasible in the cycle of life that a backlash awaits us right in front of us.
Today in Late-Modernity we also observe that the increase in societal complexity, and the risks associated with it, are accompanied by an increase in individualism and competition. In such a highly volatile context one would think that cooperation within the community is what is most needed. But it is the contrary that we observe. Individualism has increased in such proportions that the individuals have atomized and lost all their bonds to the others. Individualism is known to foster competition but atomization fosters barbarity. This is exactly the opposite of what would be required today to stabilize Late-Modern societal systems.

Counting on the cooperation between the individuals, in such a context,  is a fool's bet. Dr. Mobus' contention could thus be right alter all that "hierarchical restructuring can be found everywhere in nature and so it seems that we should consider it as something like a law of nature" (1).

Such a hierarchical restructuring could possibly take two forms:

1. a societal restructuring resulting out of necessity from:

   A). an authoritarian restructuring of societies taking place as a societal follow-up of a deep shock taking the form of a near collapse of societies around the world. This is the fastest solution to implement. It could possibly take place after a worldwide financial crash, an abrupt acceleration of climate change that wipes out a big chunk of the world's agricultural landmass or drastically increases sea levels over a very short timespan, a deepening geo-strategic conflict that mobilizes populations or wipes-out large chunks of the world population after an nuclear exchange, a rapid fall of the world population following the activation and rapid spread of a virus, etc... 

  B). the end of the history of class wars with the complete victory of the capital holders imposing a further neo-liberal slip of the economy that definitely separates the world population in a group of ”have” and another of “have not”. As Warren Buffet ironically stated “there is a class war going on and my class is winning that war”. The path Western societies are presently engaged on is indeed a global class war. But China and its acolytes of the South are countering that approach with what could soon be seen as an uprising of “the people of the earth” or a conflict between nations counting 10-20% of the world population against countries counting 80-90% of the world population. In both cases a capitalistic class war will end up terminating the capital holders' class…

2. a biological restructuring of the brain in the form of the addition of a new layer on top of the neo-cortex which would impose human brains to see the systemic complexity of the universal set we are such tiny particles of. This is what Dr. Mobus call Sapience. It seems to me that such a vision is far out of the domain of reality. Going the way of a new mutation of Homo-Sapient brains, it seems to me, does not take into account that our species has still not exhausted all the potential of its actual brain and so a biological mutation could thus not possibly be perceived by our biology as being a necessity. The other biological path forward is the way of the ants or the bees. Incidentally my wife told me this morning that she found it ironic that scientists were going the way of the ants by going the path of implants in the brain. There is some truth in that but implants will not make us wiser; they will make us more industrious and will confine us in abstractions in the sole domain of relative knowledge which does not bode well of the survivability of this model when it will be confronted to systemic reality.

I can't see a valid reason why a societal hierarchical restructuring could not possibly answer a near or total societal collapse. But we have to be realist; human voluntarism is past it due date and so the only way forward is the way of nature. Late-Modernity and the great convergence are by now so far engaged already that there is no hope any longer that humanity could save the day. Societal inertia is inevitably bringing upon us 1A or 1B or a combination of both. And the result, from a human perspective, will be no short of a category one hurricane-slaughter of humanity. From the perspective of the universe this will look like a necessary re-balancing that eventually wipes out one species that was far too short-sighted and arrogant. But in all probability humanity will survive the slaughter but at a drastically lower headcount. And it is at this juncture that After-Modernity takes its full dimension in the form of a re-building of the societal worldview. But this would bring me too far out of the scope of the subject of this chapter. It will form the substance of my writing next winter.

Another aspect of societal reproduction is the impact of individual reproduction. It's kind of a truism to say that if the individual atoms die out and can't sustain their reproduction societies themselves are in danger of collapsing. Multiple historical examples come to mind:
  • the collapse of the Indian population from some 80-100 million souls to less than 8 million in the short span of a century as a consequence of the European invasion of the present territory of the USA (2) has weakened Indian societal organizations to the point that their present existence is due not to themselves but to subsidies and favored economic activities devolved by the invader searching to appease his own consciousness.
  • the black death eliminated from 33 to 50% of the European populations in the second part of the 15th century but it did not conclude in the collapse of European societies instead it was the source of major re-adjustments in their economic scene.
  • the collapse of the Aztec empire as a result of the Spanish conquest resulted in a radical depopulation. The only surviving individuals of that empire to be known about were those who integrated in other societies. So it is those other societies that gave them the means to survive individually.
There is also a present-day dynamic that sheds doubt on the survivability of most advanced Western countries. I'm thinking about the drastic fall of fertily rates that do not further ensure the replenishment of the mortality figures which results in decreasing populations in most Western societies. In other words the present fall in fertility rates in Northern Late-Modern societies is shaping a trend of decreasing population levels. This assuredly will have an impact on how the balancing of societal reproduction and the satisfaction of individual objective needs will unfold. The present neo-liberal trend indicates that the big loser is going to be the satisfaction of individual objective needs but nothing guarantees that this trend will continue unabated in the future. A popular reaction is indeed growing around the world that could spell trouble for the continuation of that trend. I tend to believe that nothing happens out of the blue. The fall of fertility rates are explained in the sociological literature by the fact that late modern economic conditions don't impose the necessity of offsprings to care of one's retirement and furthermore better educated populations act in a more selfish manner and are thus unwilling to "sacrifice" their consumerism for child rearing. While all that seems to be the case I believe that something more fundamental is at play here; something more akin to a re-balancing of unsustainable population levels within the very complex system composed by life on earth.

In this vision it is not really human reason that sits in the driving seat but the consciousness that is somehow present in the cycle of life that acts to eliminate humanity's present day extremely unbalanced over-population in order to bring population levels to a more sustainable level that is compatible with the reproduction of life on earth. Such a view of falling rates of individual reproduction falls squarely in the 1A scenario as exposed here above.

In the case of Europe we observe that the EU is falling on the way side of humanity's action. There is now a clear possibility that within the next decades the EU not only clould dissolve but could also leave its societies at the mercy of migrating populations in search of some stability. Combining this, with increasing temperatures and rising sea levels due to climate change, we get a very grim picture of the near future of Europe. The same kind of analysis gives the same kind of future scenario for the USA. In that respect Daegel's list of Countries Forecast 2025 is a real eye opener.


4.5.2. Societal cohesion - individual objective needs

Horrible economic conditions in the sixties and seventies ravaged China. They were a direct cause of the policies put forward by Mao Tse Tung but the resulting hardships were nevertheless automatically absorbed by the Chinese population because societal cohesion was very high. In those years Communism was a dream for the Chinese and that dream was maximizing societal cohesion.

Now this example also indirectly indicates the real potential for large scale social troubles in China in the coming years. The power, that the communist party had in the 60ths and 70ths to make dream the population, is gone. As a result societal cohesion has weakened considerably and there is not much of a chance indeed that the Communist party will be able to re-energize the societal cohesion of the Chinese society in the foreseeable future. But economic trouble-spots are there for all to see that could weaken drastically the economic well-being of the population at large.

This is the reason why such a strong anti-corruption campaign is being waged. The Chinese leadership knows darn well that restructuring their economy is going to provoke very serious disruptions that will provoke a strong resistance from its working class. But there is no escape. The economic model of the last 2 decades and a half is no longer working. 

- The Chinese leadership knows that the present model combining:
  • very heavy investments in public infrastructure
  • very heavy investments in housing
  • very heavy exports of cheap commodities
- has to be shifted to a new economic model combining:
  • very heavy rates of private consumption
  • very heavy investments in science-technology and education
  • very heavy exports of goods with a high content in in high technology
This is not something that the Chinese leadership discovered yesterday. They know that the economic model has to be shifted towards internal consumption since some time already and they have been working on just that for some years now. But moving a giant with a headcount of 1.4 billion individuals, from one model of development to another is not something that starts to be visible overnight. Let's just observe that this movement is well engaged already. But the question that arises is 'will the transformation happen without too extreme disruptions and will it be fast enough' so that in the interval social discontent remains under control. In other worlds will the Chinese leadership succeed to avoid future economic downturns or at least to limit the damages of downturns to the tune of what the population will consider acceptable?

Compared to the rest of the world China without any doubt has, by far, the most competent team of decision makers but will it succeed to flatten the historically observed cyclical nature of economies? There is no way to give a valid answer to that question other than pure speculation.

What would save the communist leadership during a bout of economic hardship is an outside threat or what would be perceived by the population as an outside threat. In such a case Chinese nationalism could indeed cement societal cohesion to such levels that economic hardship would appear bearable for the population. Nationalism is being invoked everywhere when economic conditions are going down so it would not be surprising to see Chinese leaders using that stratagem to climb the cliff of economic hardships. And the language and actions of the US against China during the present recession constitute ample ground for awakening Chinese nationalism which is so shortsighted that it is baffling to say the least.

Without any possible doubt societal cohesion is very intimately related to how the need to satisfy individual objective needs is being realized. In other words the stronger the societal cohesion the least the individuals are disturbed by a poor satisfaction of their objective needs. This was the case in the sixties and seventies in China when societal cohesion was very strong and people accepted their poverty and misery without recriminating against the communist party. This is also what is being observed today in Russia with the population coalescing around its president in the face of hardships pushed on their nation by Western sanctions. Now the weaker the societal cohesion the less patient the individuals will be to accept a poor satisfaction of their objective needs. This has been abundantly illustrated during the Arab spring that occured largely as a reaction against huge increases in food prices while youth unemployment levels were sky rocketing and the brutal nature of the political systems in place in the different countries was no match for popular anger.

Political decision makers know, for sure, the power of societal cohesion. But the fact that they are busy and far from the common man often leaves them with wrong impressions about the true nature of life in their land. And then there is the Late-Modern insanity of the complete corruption of the political decision making process that weighs so completely in favor of the big capital holders. All this indicates why decision makers are not always attentive to the power of societal cohesion and eventually project a future model of governance that wants to placate the street through force. This is what is taking place presently in Western countries where all traditional instruments of solidarity are being dismantled while the departments managing state force are taking on a whole new importance. From all appearances Western democracies have shifted. On one side they keep in place the electoral ritual as a weapon in their propaganda arsenal that they can continue to direct at their enemies but their electoral systems are completely bankrupted and have been taken over by election finance that buys candidates by financing expansive public relations campaigns. On the other side spying on the citizens is rampant and the police forces have been militarized while army forces are waiting in the wings.

All this clearly indicates that Western decision makers know perfectly well about the fact that their societies' cohesion has frayed and that violence is in front of them. But they have chosen their camp and are ready to use force to protect their benefactors.

What this indicates is that violence and disorder are not far any longer. But things could rapidly take another turn. The anger of 99% of the population can't indefinitely be contained by violence. What decision makers seem to forget is that those who handle the tools of state violence ae an integral part of the  99% and when these guys decide to side with their own in the street it will mean game over for capital holders and their lackeys. That's when another political dynamic will set in. But the situation has been brought to such a state of disrepair that those who will inherit the decision making process will be left with a dead body like what we were given to observe these 2 last years in Ukraine.


4.5.3. Conservation – change

The following quote by Alfred North Whitehead (3) gives the ultimate best possible outcome of the confrontation between conservation and change: "The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order."

The impact of the societal urge for conservation (order) on the individual urge for change (disorder) is one of the longest standing sources of conflict in any power society society. Those urges represent indeed very strong polarities and satisfying them simultaneously is a near impossible feat. So political decision makers, whose practice is the art to re-conciliate those polarities, strive to contain the individual urge for change as much as they can while limiting as much as they can any derogation to the status quo. As such politics is a game of the status quo that will only be deranged if the individual urge for change unites sizable portions of the citizenry. This principle is valid in whatever political system under which a society is governed. The only difference observed between democracy and authoritarianism lays in the manner this principle will be enforced and eventually its degree of enforcement. Authoritarianism of whatever stripe will try to enforce the principle to the letter while democracies will try to manipulate their citizens in believing that they get what they ask for while in fact mitigating as much as they can the change they enforce. The difference between those two approaches of governing is thus only in the form, or how the principle is applied, while the outcome is nearly identical.

As a rule of thumb I would suggest that the impact, of the societal urge for conservation on the individual urge for change and its corollary the impact of the individual urge for change on the societal urge for conservation, is one of the major factors shaping the direction and the speed of the process of societal evolution.

The individual urge for change is a frontal assault on the societal urge for conservation because of the looming danger that change could eventually be weakening or even destroying the possibility of societal reproduction.  We should indeed never forget that the principle of societal conservation exists for the good reason that it is meant to ensure societal reproduction.

As we have seen earlier an absence of change is no threat to the existence of societies but an escape from conservation can possibly result in the collapse of a society.

But notwithstanding the truth contained in the principle of conservation this principle does not always reflect the best interest of a society. There are indeed cases when change can mean stopping a process of conservation that is leading a society to collapse. The most dramatic implementation of such an exception that I know of is the daring change of course that China took around 1980 with its “opening and reform” policy.

China had been assiduously privileging the rule of conservation along the whole timespan of its imperial history while discouraging all change that was deemed to be too disruptive. I discussed this idea in “Part2. Chapter 1: About the formation of human knowledge.  1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+”:

Observing the Chinese civilization through its 5000 years history one is struck by how deeply its men of power integrated the notion of 'the long history' and how deeply their perception of the long history impacted their decision making. First is the continuity from animism to Chinese power societies and their civilization. Such a continuity remained also the hallmark all along the timespan of their civilization to this day. Two examples spring to mind that illustrate this idea:

1. In “The Records of the Historian” written sometime around 110 BC Suma Chien mentions the decision of an emperor, whose name I forgot, to condemn an inventor, who mastered the process of alcohol distillation, to death while nevertheless stating that he greatly admired his persistence. This invention, the emperor told, would inebriate the senses and emotions of his subjects which would end up confusing the social order. Being firmly convinced that he was in charge of societal stability and knowing that he would be unable to control, or regulate, the usage of this product the emperor mentioned that the only reasonable decision was to impeach that product from becoming publicly known. The only possible solution he thought was to eradicate the knowledge of this inventor by taking his life.

2. Joseph Needham the author of “Science and Civilization in China” wondered why China retreated from technological innovation and closed itself to the world around 1500.

3. John King Fairbank offers an interesting comment on Needham's question in his 1992 book “China: A New History”:  ”The disparaging judgment, that Ming China almost purposely missed the boat of modern technological and economic development, comes out of the context of the late twentieth-century, when technology and growth have created innumerable disorders in all aspects of life all over the world without disclosing as yet the principles of order that may postpone the destruction of human civilization. In time the self-contained growth of Ming China with its comparable peace and well-being may be admired by historians, who may see a sort of success where today we see failure.” (3)

4. But it is C. Ikehara who offers the key to understand the decision by the Ming dynasty to close China from the world: “ ...the Neo-Confucian officials of that time came to believe that developing artificial means (eg, technology, credit) and depending on them not only to keep things going but also to extend capabilities would result in short-term gains in productivity and efficiency but at the expense of loss of control…” (4)   

China's worldview had traditionally recommended moderation and a middle of the road path that justified its refusal to follow the path of Europe's rapid technological and financial change. But when observing the danger to its nation of being annihilated by the push of Western big capital to expand its reach to the whole world China came up with a last minute strategy that was pole apart from the traditional prescriptions of its worldview.”

Deng Xiao Ping, who was the mastermind of the Chinese change of course, was well aware that these reforms were a last resort gamble. He had lived in France in the twenties and had a first hand observation of the economic difference that existed at the time between the industrialized West and China. He was also well aware of the fact that between the 20ths and the 70ths the West had seen its biggest economical and technological boom ever while China suffered continuous economic degradation from the 20ths till the end of the 40ths due to the occupation of the North by the Japanese and the ensuing war.  Since taking power the communist party had succeeded to  – grow the economy at a very fast pace during the last decades building a nationwide agricultural irrigation system  – constructing a national rail network   –building up its army  – setting up an industrial system from scratch. Whatever one might think about the disastrous campaigns of the “hundred flowers”, the communes and the cultural revolution the fact is nevertheless that the communist party's policies had been very successful. 

But Deng Xiao Ping was well aware, in 1980, that the economic distance between China and the West was such that, if China was not reducing the economic differential West the west in a snap, it would be eaten alive by Western big capital holders with the very real possibility that the Chinese nation would end up being dismantled. The question on the minds of the Chinese leadership was thus a question of life or death of their nation.

In such a context the traditional rule favoring continuity certainly appeared no longer valid and without any discussion change imposed itself to all. The leadership knew that the reforms were a last resort gamble and that there was no guarantee that the gamble would be successful. Deng Xiao Ping summarized this feeling in one of his last speeches when he said that if the reforms were to result in moral depravity and cultural decadence this would be a sign that the reforms have failed.

One has try to understand the particular state of mind that resulted from such a context of urgency to appreciate what China accomplished during these last decades of reform. The general state of mind of those in leadership was absence of doubt, will power, tenacity, energy, and absolute determination. They knew very well the urgency of their mission as well as the risks involved not succeeding to accomplishing it. 
Today China has certainly caught the respect attached to economic might but the historical judgment is still out there if its reforms succeeded to satisfy Deng's criteria of success. Deng's indirect definition of success is not only important for China. It will also determine the future fate of the world. A China that succeeds to reconnect with its traditional worldview will offer pragmatism as a model to the entire world while a China that does not succeed to reconnect with its traditional worldview will inevitably fall in line with Western ways and as a result internally the country will atomize and externally it will absorb Western dualism and participate it what it does best: conflicts, violence and wars.


4.5.4. Systemic reality – consciousness

The rise of consciousness has had world changing effects. Suddenly the individual mind:
  • or starts to take care of functions that in earlier stages of evolution were regulated instinctively
  • or starts to take care of new functions to answer higher levels of complexity.
This is when the mind of the individual starts to reserve for itself the power to chose between life and nothingness and societies are gradually pushed on the path to atomization. What I mean by this is that once the consciousness in the mind of the individual atom discovers its decision making power it stops to automatically adhere to the eventual norms, values and decisions taken by the molecules the atom is associated with (family, associations,…) and it stops to adhere to the norms, values and decisions taken by his society. What we observe as a consequence is that the context is changing  in radical ways. The individual polarities have become more autonomous and gained the power to believe, decide, and act as they want while their societal worldview is melting like snow under the sun.

It is at this point that we discover the vital importance of how the mind handles complexity. In other words will the mind be taken on a ride by an abstraction it believes in or will it succeed to confront the complexity it generates with systemic reality? If it is being taken on a ride it could end up wasting  – its sanity  – its life  – the gene pool in its body and if it confronts the complexity generated by its consciousness with systemic reality it will eventually  – save its sanity  – preserve its life  –  preserve its gene pool. A good example of being taken on a ride, that immediately comes to mind, is the way the abstract principle of “the reason at work within capital” controls the minds of Modern humans. Suddenly humanity forgot about itself and its need to survive. It is as if the minds of the individuals had been hijacked by that principle and had forgotten about systemic reality. The present obsession with technology and the acceptance of the resulting demise of the human mind illustrates how the mind of otherwise smart people, like scientists, has been taken over.

But things are becoming even more complicated than that. The facts show indeed that for most individuals the mind does not take decisions; it is more like a sponge that absorbs and follows the societal culture of the day and as a result nearly all the individuals follow the flock. So we have to fall back on our analysis of cultural mutations when we saw that “a group of individuals, for whatever reason, can launch a new idea or a new behavior that eventually catches the attention of others and starts a craze. It may also be that a group of interest invests some money to 'manipulate' peoples' opinions or consumerist desires.

So how does the autonomization of the individual, that results from increased levels of consciousness, interact with cultural crazes?

Simple. The individual loses the “moral ” restrictions that the worldview earlier imprinted in his mind and he feels now absolutely free to follow whatever new craze arises as a result of public relation or propaganda campaigns. In other words without anybody was aware of it capital, finance, and propaganda have been taking over societies and driving humanity on the path of a future of their own choice. In this scheme capital is the decider and propaganda its accessory. This is a very troubling conclusion. It basically indicates that a super majority of individual minds have abdicated to confront their consciousness with systemic reality. I think it is quite obvious that this is the mechanism that led humanity to where we find ourselves today in Late-Modernity.

Consciousness is an individual characteristic that results from the dance between the brain and the mind which are the polarities of the individual. Systemic reality is the global context wherein takes place the dance between reproduction (conservation) and increased complexity (change) which are the polarities of the principle of life.

From this it appears, without any shred of a doubt, that the conscious individual is permanently testing the boundaries of systemic reality while adapting the levels of complexity to what systemic reality tolerates.

But we have seen that consciousness resides mostly in the minds of the men of knowledge while the large majority of citizens are subconsciously driven to follow the flock. So the men of knowledge are the ones who are really testing the boundaries of reality and history shows that they were ready to test these boundaries to the maximum of their capacities including with the use of all kinds of hallucinogenic methods like the ingestion of mushrooms or plant mixtures that eventually lands them into a trance that illuminates their minds with the truth about the absolute universal reality.

It is often in times of extreme urgency that humanity discovers where it went astray. The interplay between consciousness and systemic reality indicates without any possible doubt that the introduction of increased complexity in our societal systems has to be checked to confirm its absorbability by the principal of life and by humanity. If for whatever reason humanity can't exercise this precautionary principle our systemic reality will take care of it by sanctioning any breach of what it deems feasible as it is inscribed in the larger sets that contain us. There is no escape route from systemic reality. It may leave us in the illusion for a certain time that we can do this or that but in the end it always comes back to re-balance any excesses we may have engendered. Before High-Modernity change was operating at a slower pace and the levels of increased complexity were easier to manage so the risks of divorcing consciousness-complexity from systemic reality were less likely. But this did nevertheless not spare most societies and most civilizations from the deadly consequences of an in-balance and as a result they collapsed.

So the question that should keep us awake is the following. What kind of mechanism has to be put in place, and at what level, so as to avoid a divorce between consciousness-complexity and systemic reality?

It seems to me that the answer lays partially in what I wrote in “Part 2. Consciousness. 2.3.2. Knowledge formation and acquisition of knowledge”:
  • knowledge has to submit to the precautionary principle that establishes the necessity of conformity to a series of foundational principles.
  • to possibly satisfy this precautionary principle it is an imperative necessity that the different dimensions of knowledge are being integrated.
I gave an extensive presentation of this thesis earlier so if you are interested to read about it please follow the link here above.


4.5.5. Co-existence - communion

The 4 polarity-play exposed here above concern he internal dynamic at work within any given society as if it were a closed system. But societal systems are not closed systems so we have to integrate the dynamic between a society and its exterior or its neighboring societies.

A conflicting relation with a neighboring society intensifies the perception by the individual atoms of danger lurking from that society. Faced with such perceived danger the bonding between the individuals intensifies which in turn solidifies the cohesion of their society. Such a bonding in nationalism has been observed throughout history. This variable must be well known by United States' decision makers, for, the country seems unable to live for any length of time without inventing an enemy for itself. Re-coursing to increased levels of nationalism in the face of a perceived threat is an easy way to distract a population from the real problems of a country while increasing its societal cohesion. This is like throwing a stone and killing two birds at once. Politicians have been playing with that kind of lever since time immemorial but such a game burned scores of them while often inflicting much misery upon their populations.

Strengthening societal cohesion through nationalism results in the acceptance of higher levels of cooperation  and weakens individualism. This frees the space for communion to blossom which, in turn, has a powerful tonic effect on societal cohesion.

Because the level of individualism within a society directly impacts the level of communion and cooperation we conclude that:
  • the lower the level of individualism the higher will be the level of communion between the individuals and so the higher will be societal cohesion. This is the path to maximization of a harmonious societal coexistence.
  • the higher the level of individualism the lower will be the level of communion between the individuals and so the lower will be societal cohesion. This is the path to minimization of a harmonious societal coexistence.
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NOTES


1. In relation to that point Dr. George Mobus states the following in a December 05, 2011 paper titled “Sapient Governance Depends on Sapient Brains Possessed by the Governed! ”:
“Hierarchical restructuring can be found everywhere in nature and so it seems that we should consider it as something like a law of nature in this regard. The law might be generally stated thus: As complexity emerges in a system (to respond to complexity in the larger embedding system) a point is reached wherein the system must restructure to enhance a hierarchical control network in order to improve coordination and avoid the diminishing costs of increasing complexity. ”


2.  The historic literature on the subject shows wide variations in the estimate of the original Indian population size as well as in the count of those who survived the assault by white European invaders. This is something understandable seen that the descendants of the invaders don't want to acknowledge the barbarity of their ancestors. But the fact remains that serious researchers unanimously conclude that the indigenous populations were indeed in the order of 70 to 100 millions at the moment the first whites set foot on the American continent.


3.   Alfred North Whitehead (15/02/1861 – 30/12/1947) was an English mathematician  who became a philosopher. In 1924 he was invited to teach philosophy at Harvard university.

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