Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The existential crisis of humanity.

Altered image reproduced under Creative Commons with thanks to Nakul Chugan

I guess what astounds me most is how people turn on other people.  A long time ago I was reading about road accidents and how seriously injured people can attack the ambulance staff who are trying to save their lives.  It makes sense.  Someone is seriously injured and partially concussed and their physical body, their instincts, struggle to survive.  It is a kind of convulsive reaction to anything in their environment interfering with them.  They sometimes just lash out.  They can get very aggressive.  It makes sense when you stand back and look at it.  They seem to be in a condition which is extremely self orientated.  They are reacting to any outside influence as if it is only an object in relation to them and a potential threat.  They have a quality which is psychopathic.

One of the better qualities of people is their ability to empathise with their surroundings.  It seems a function of the brain to take in information, to model it internally, and to be able to get a sense of what it is like out there which enables them to better predict the future.  When it comes to objects this is learning and when it comes to other human beings it is called empathy.  People resonate the external world inside their neurological network and the more similar the object is to them the more they know what it 'feels' like to be that object.  Much is talked about and written about love in its many guises but in a deeply philosophical sense love is that quality of resonating in harmony with the outside world.

From my privileged position of living a post middle class existence in the UK I scan all the information I have absorbed over my lifetime and I see a world in devastating turmoil.  Not only am I in what feels like a life threatening situation of poverty and assault from other humans but I see the same pattern in the society around me with the nonsensical political ideology of austerity and Neoliberalism.  Further afield I see the same pattern of insane imperialism and aggression cascading from what can only loosely be called 'the West' across the globe.  I am not blind to the achievements of humanity and the beauty in the world.  I am not blind to the fact that even in desperate circumstance the better qualities of humanity still seem to survive against incredible odds.  But I am acutely aware of the destruction and pain cascading throughout the experience of humanity.

It seems to me at this point in time that humanity is experiencing what could best be described as a collective existential crisis.  Not so much about the actual existence or demise of humanity but rather the total incomprehension of any rhyme or reason to it all.  There are people developing incredible artificial intelligence and self controlled quadcopters, discovering gravity waves and God particles.  There are people investigating mass communication and analysing the consequences of emergent behaviour of complex systems like the internet.  There are people putting their lives on the line to protect the ecology and there are people producing the most enlightened and beautiful Art.  But there are also people continuing to build the most ridiculous store of sophisticated and incomprehensible weapons from flechette missiles to nuclear bombs which could destroy the planet.  There are hordes of people running amok raping, maiming and murdering other people.  There are numskulls pawing over complex documents trying to define deals between nations in some vain attempt to improve something for somebody.  All the while humanity is destroying its environment and on all accounts destroying itself.

Sometimes I compare my view of humanity to watching a termite colony.  These termites are doing termite stuff.  They collect food, dispose of waste, build chambers and pathways, rear new termites, defend the colony from attack or damage and generally busy themselves with everything termite.  But they build a sophisticated air conditioned termite mound whilst knowing nothing of air conditioning let alone their own dependency on the thing we call air.  They probably have no concept of air.  So there is a perspective one can take on humanity that it will just do human stuff and the bigger consequences will sort themselves out.  Without even realising it we are doing whatever we need to do and the bigger picture is outside of our comprehension but everything will be alright - so long as we continue to do human.  That does include Art, science, nuclear weapons and paedophilia.  My observations of religions and spirituality suggest this is part of how people simply accept that there is an 'out there' which they can know nothing about and so avoid being distracted by conundrums which are outside their scope of influence.

I recall an adage "If God had meant us to fly he would have given us wings." and the retort that he gave us intelligence to build aeroplanes.  It is one thing to compare our interpretation of termites with humanity but there is something significantly different; we have the self awareness to project our own sense of personal self awareness into the larger realm of humanity and conscious life in general.  We do have more complexity than termites and a more sophisticated modelling potential.  So it is just possible that we can reach outside of our subjective view into an imagined objective view of our subjective behaviour.  It is possible, at least theoretically, that humanity is capable, collectively, of seeing what humanity looks like and directing our behaviour from that perspective.  On the whole it seems to me that humanity is not doing that.  There are some people that are, but on the whole humanity is still acting subjectively 'human'.

The rapid rise of the internet and the exponentially expanding communication network between minds is possibly a central issue in the possibility of realising this greater perspective.  It is possible that humanity can apply it's wisdom and compassion, its intelligence and creativity, to the whole of the globe, the ecology, the life forms and even down to the scale of a better understanding of the individual relationships between people.  For all of the demonization of numbskulls and right wing fucknuts, for all the hatred and anger at child abusers, oligarchs, hideous dictators and terrorists, for all of the negative projections I have never encountered one real human being where it is impossible to understand that at worst they are a beautiful human being malfunctioning.

Trying to dispose of, destroy or annihilate that which we deem evil in a vain attempt to become good is a self contradictory nonsense.  We have to realise that in the pursuit of goodness we are necessarily the embodiment of what we initially perceive to be both good and evil.  We are best served by accepting and understanding that we are inherently the product of the tension between light and shadow, good and evil, subjective and objective.  Attempts to behead all evil people or hang dictators or murderers are fruitless.  The essence of humanity remains the same and more manifestations of the dichotomy will spring up in their place.  We cannot force the change of humanity to something we determine is good.  We are naive.  We don't even know what 'good' is.  But what we can do is to be good.  We need to take down the walls of secrecy in the corridors of power.  We need to include, incorporate and accommodate right wing concerns.  We need to have an environment in which the people with responsibility for others are representative of the views of the collective and not dictatorial.  We need to alter the authoritarian paradigm from power over to power within.  Somehow, to make any sense of this chaos, we need to stop the convulsive thrashing around at anything that moves and to begin to work cooperatively with what we are, not what we have been conditioned to think we should be.

We need to wake up from this subjective dream.  We need to see the matrix for what it is rather than be submerged subjectively in it.  We actually need to rise to a higher level of perception and to start acting like the benign Gods we wish existed.  We need to become the unconditional loving parents of ourselves.  This is not something any individual can do alone.  This is just an observation of a possible future.

We need to believe in ourselves.