2017/06/05

Our present mood shapes our reading of the future.

 Does it matter if Chinese and Western perceptions about societal reality are growing further apart?  Whatever people may be thinking the fact is that this disconnect is going to have a decisive impact on how humanity's future will unfold and so I believe that those whose minds are still open and curious about the fate of humanity better watch carefully.

The decision makers and the media avoid to speak about the increasing divergence between Western and Chinese perceptions. Furthermore, amidst the atomization of Western societies, many individuals don't give a damn any longer about the rest of the world. In such a context it is not surprising that Westerners don't have the slightest idea about the thinking of Chinese people, nor about their culture, and nor do they appreciate the fact that the Chinese have rich and long traditions that are still very much at the root of the production of their daily life today. In contrast to the people from the West urban Chinese are well aware of what the people in  rest of the world think and how they live. Chinese still have this rare chance of having real news, - they are active on the web - many of them study abroad, and they have plenty of money to travel the world which they do enthusiastically. Unfortunately Western media hide these facts...

As an attentive observer I'm particularly concerned about the turn Western reactions will inevitably take once economic reality finally crashes the virtual character of Western postindustrial economies. In the years ahead the relative economic might of nations is going to be drastically tested and a global financial reset will re-impose the primacy of economic fundamentals and so the cards in the hands of the national economic players will be redistributed. Virtuality may momentarily still succeed to put the minds of most to sleep but sooner or later reality will find a way to reimpose its primacy. And when reality sets in, after a few decades of financialization that started in the nineteen-eighties, 99% of Western citizens are going to discover that their purchasing power has evaporated and that the value of their assets has deflated, or melted away, while the bulk of the assets owned by big capital holders, or the 1%, will have inflated to new highs stored legally in far away fiscal paradises and thus untouchable to their deplorable fellow citizens and their powerless institutions of governance.

How are Western populations going to take something like this? And how is it going to affect their perceptions of the other and more particularly of the Chinese whose economic and social systems, while certainly destabilized by the world financial reset, will nevertheless still have sufficient flexibility to adapt to the new given? I don't plan to argue here how I arrive at this view. It is the conclusion I reach at the end of 3 years of research and writing the series "From Modernity to After-Modernity". This series presently reaches 55 long posts which formatted in book form total some 1,500 pages (1).

There is no need for a drawing to understand that the deflation of Western assets will upset populations who in consequence are going to break more than a few things around them. Western societies will soon be absolutely ungovernable within the framework of their present ideological model of governance. That's when necessity will impose to try new models, starting with totalitarianism, to try to displace popular anger onto other nations if at all possible... In the meantime the weakening of Western models of governance and the resulting breakdown of societal order is already acting as a confirmation in Chinese peoples' minds of the negativity of those systems. This, in turn, is igniting a bonfire consuming all their remaining ideological illusions about the superiority of the West which slowly channels their perception of the positivity of their own systems of governance to a boiling point. 

In view of these future perspectives the present disconnect, between Chinese and Western perceptions about societal reality, absolutely matters. We better hurry to grasp what is at stake here. One has to be aware of the fact that this disconnect relates to the perceptions of the efficiency and the efficacy of the societal systems in presence and so we should expect future upheavals in peoples' belief systems... Now the fact of the matter is that the disconnect I have in mind here does not even begin to address the impact of larger life systems such as for example – a changing climate, – the acidification of the oceans, – the 6th mass extinction of species, – etc...  The destabilization of these larger life systems is going to amplify the intensity of this disconnect and Western Modernity and capitalism are going to end up soon being vilified by the whole of humanity. The recent news about the US jumping the ship of the Paris agreement on climate change, and the world's reactions, is just a harbinger of things to come.

To understand how societal systems are increasing the disconnect between Chinese and Westerners one has to get a handle on the formation of the individuals' deepest feelings because this is what engages the general mood of their societies. This realization downed on me while writing the series "From Modernity to After-Modernity". To be more accurate I was not without ideas on the subject before starting this series of posts but the fact of the matter is that writing imposes a thorough examination of one's thinking which lays bare the blanks in one's reasoning. This in turn forces the writer to research the subjects of these blanks in order to possibly attain logical coherence in his writing. What follows is a rapid sketch of my understanding about the paths that lead to diverging Chinese and Western perceptions.





A sketch

Citizens of any society, first and foremost, try to satisfy the needs arising in their daily lives. The easiness or uneasiness to satisfy these needs determines their actual levels of happiness or unhappiness. This in turn determines their level of trust or distrust in the governance of their society which in the end is what shapes their perception of what the future has in store and the fact of the matter is that the citizens perception of what the future has in store ultimately freezes their deepest personal feelings and convictions into unshakable beliefs. Now peoples' beliefs are like shades of gray on a line whose extremities are composed by polarities like optimism and pessimism or white and black. White is the simultaneous presence of all the colors out there and black is a total absence of colors. Black and white are exceptions while the near infinite range of shades of gray in between the opposites is more like the general norm of people's perceptions.

In light of this, in my series "From Modernity to After-Modernity" I devised the following conclusions:

1.  the worldview (2) shared by the citizens of any given society shapes the nature and form of the different components, or sub-systems, of their societal system. Now the fact of the matter is that the management of the public institutions, or the governance of a society, also directly impacts the performance of the economy , of the execution of the social contract, and of the unfolding of daily culture which are all sub-systems or components of the societal system. The interplay between these sub-systems, or components, then generates the societal context in which the citizens act their daily lives:
1.1.  the economic system gives the total production of a society
1.2.  the social contract gives the model of distribution of the total production which, in turn, shapes the individuals' deep views about their society (3)
1.3. the individuals' deep views about their society gives shape and form to their daily ways of doing and thinking and this is what constitutes a society's culture.

2.  the societal context, in which the individuals act, is directly responsible for shaping their perceptions:
1.1.  the level of easiness or difficulty to satisfy the needs arising in people's daily life results in their happiness or unhappiness
1.2.  happiness gives way to trust in society and its governance which results in contentment while unhappiness gives way to distrust in society and its governance which results in suffering
1.3.  contentment gives way to an optimistic vision of the future while suffering gives way to a pessimistic vision of the future (4)

3.  only a very very tiny minority of citizens, the thinkers or the men of knowledge, are able to modulate their personal moods independently of the working of their societies. For the very large majority of citizens the societal system is directly modulating their contentment or their suffering and this inevitably sooner or later leads the people to posit a judgment on the efficacy of their systems.  I'm afraid that, with time passing, the judgment of Western populations is going to contradict more and more vehemently the propaganda projected today by Western power.

4. in their productions real artists unconsciously reflect the degree of happiness-contentment or unhappiness-suffering experienced by their society's population. In this sense we can say that a  community of artists forms something like a network of sensors measuring the collective mood of their society. And while surfing on that mood a very small number of these artists eventually detect the seeds, of a new paradigm in the forming, that are riping in the present and will sprout the maturation of such a new paradigm into the worldview of tomorrow's new historical era. Great art does not only detect the seeds of a paradigmatic change it also imagines the contours of the narrative of the future worldview and it shares these contours for all to see. In that sense we come to understand how great art encourages the viewer to adapt her/his present views and actions so that they might flow on the waves that generate the arrow of time. Real great art says something about life, about society, that has the capacity to touch the feelings of future citizens that's how only such great art makes it through history while all other artistic productions get eventually forgotten.






"Imagining" the future.

I would like to illustrate, my conclusions in 1-2-3-4, by means of pictures and in my following posts I shall thus let images do most of the talk. But before jumping in the "imagining" let me warn you that the conclusions here above bear witness of incredibly vast differences in the artistic sensitivity and in the daily life that is on view in both the West and China... The fact that 92% of Chinese think that their country is on the right track while only 20% of Americans believe so of their own country; this fact augurs indeed of radically different readings of the future.
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Notes:

1.  "From Modernity to After Modernity" :
- book 1: history
- book 2: theory
- book 3: divination 

2.  a worldview is a concept that is part of a trilogy that gives their substance to societal beliefs. In short in "From Modernity to After-Modernity" I lay out the following:
- first the true nature of the reality, in which we are such infinitely small particles, is inaccessible to humanity presently and perhaps eternally.
- while inaccessible reality nevertheless bothers the minds of the individuals which causes them to suffer from increasing levels of anxiety
- individual anxiety weakens societal cohesion which societies answer by sharing narratives about reality with their citizens. The sharing of such narratives about the world, in turn, quietens the anxiety of the individuals and as a result societal cohesion increases. I call such societal narratives worldviews.
- the worldviews of societies are directly derived from the axioms of their civilization and they shape the path in which their culture evolves. It is this trilogy that gives their substance to societal beliefs about "what reality is all about".

3.  Check this video of experiments with chimpanzees by Frans de Waal.  

4. The following series of articles illustrates a radical divergence in the present mood of Chinese and Americans:
- Rising distrust in americans-chinese-survey in Asia Times
- Beyond Distrust  in people-press.org
- How Americans View Their Government  in people-press.org
- Confidence in Institutions. Gallup polling.
- Confidence in government falls in much of the developed world. Pew Polling.
- Economies of Emerging Markets Better Rated During Difficult Times. Pew Polling.
- Do Chinese citizens trust their government?  in Quora.
- The Chinese people’s trust in their government in East-Asiaforum.org
- Chinese governance seen through the people’s eyes in East-Asiaforum.org
- Government for the People in China?  in The Diplomat.
- Few in China Complain About Internet Controls.  Pew Polling.
- Committee of 100 Releases 2017 U.S.-China Public Perceptions Survey  in pr news wire.


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