"When ideas become the coin of the realm, and ideas can be multiplied and spread to the masses in the miraculous way of fishes and loaves, then paradoxes reign, and paradoxical will be the politics." -- Kevin Kelly
To all of you hunching in front of your bootleg clones, running pirate programs, thinking abnormal thoughts, dreaming illegal dreams (in short, to the Electromagnetic Elite of this inverted age): Join in, Brainstorm or just Lurk Around.
A Network Seance to Conjure Psychic & Social
Strategies for the Millennium
Dear Few and Far Between,
This little exercise in local thought/global action is intended to provoke and propagate tactics and strategies for getting us out of this century alive and well and rationally hopeful about the terrestrial future. As the media is depressingly quick to inform us the current odds against this are approaching the astronomical. We’ve all been subliminally accumulating the bad news for decades now but "Our Common Future", an aging U.N. report on our ongoing ecocide, summarizes the situation ominously well. The report states:
"We are not forecasting a future; we are serving a notice - an urgent notice based on the latest and best scientific evidence - that the time has come to take the decisions needed to secure and sustain this and coming generations.
"The problems are legion, but they may be listed under a few general headings:
Forests - shrinking. Deserts - expanding. Ozone layer - thinning. World temperature - rising. Plant and animal species - disappearing. Populations - exploding. Nuclear contamination - becoming rampant. Oceans - contaminated and overly exploited.
"Call them the life signs - the temperature, pulse and heart rate of the world. Those faltering vital signs of the earth indicate virulent disease which, if unchecked, will almost certainly lead to the end of life as we know it."
Bad shit indeed and the report doesn't even begin to address the human dimensions of the malaise - the millions of annual deaths from war and hunger; the widening income gaps between the North and South; the extermination of indigenous cultures; the rising incidence of crime, fanaticism and human rights abuse; et ad nauseating cetera.
Obviously "diseases" of this magnitude are going to require some pretty radical treatment. Moreover, given the historical power and momentum of the forces propagating them, countermeasures are likely to be aggressively resisted. So what can a listless bunch of middle class hackers, part-time idealists and armchair activists do about any of this? Plenty, I think, for the following reasons:
The crises that civilizations foist upon the planet, its creatures and humankind are and always have been the outgrowths of consciousness. The Inquisition, democracy, the agro-rational decimation of our lands and rainforests - all are born of ideas that seize and steer the minds of millions. Change the ruling ideas of an age and you change its consciousness. Change consciousness and you change behavior. Change behavior and you change the world. Christianity did it. Marxism did it. Germ theory did it. Drugs, sex and rock 'n roll damn near did it. (Change, you will note, does not always imply progress.) The point is simply that change is possible. And the required effort is neither particularly capital- nor labor-intensive. It's imagination-intensive. All we really need is:
- 1) a contagious set of fresh ideas that allow us to re-imagine our miseries in ways that both clarify what is going wrong and offer us crafty new strategies of redress; and
- 2) the means to diffuse them directly into the planetary nervous system for incubation, gestation and action.
Well, the second at least is easy. The means or medium for such a feat is obviously at your fingertips right now. With a little navigational prowess, you are within instantaneous synaptic striking distance of nearly fifty million minds worldwide - and pretty damn affluent, educated and influential minds at that. You are, in other words, already sitting at the controls of a rather breathtaking international publishing house and broadcast network.
Or to put it in organismic terms, you are seated at an acutely sensitive acupuncture point on the global nervous system. Apply the right psychic stimulation, ask your electro-correspondents to pass it along via bbs, fax, phone, bullhorn, whatever, and you could precipitate a CASCADE of synchronous sensations and therapeutic reactions throughout Gaia's body politic. Whole Earth's Stewart Brand noted this techno-neural opportunity over a decade ago, "The proliferation and convergence of communication channels is not just a technical revolution. It is also a political revolution."
It is also and foremost an evolutionary revolution that provides us the techno-neural means to trellis together a dispersed, populist, planetary consciousness, and thus induce the birth of the Spirit of the Earth.
So the medium is at hand. That leaves the fateful first question: The Message - the right meme, the right psychic stimulation, the right stuff. A large vague order, you note skeptically, but we do have a few very earthy criteria by which to judge and possibly germinate 'rightness'. A few desiderata for a righteous CASCADE:
- It should spread ideas that describe social reality in a way which:
- - is arresting and untainted by partisan or politicized vocabulary;
- - can be intuitively or experientially recognized by the elusive 'average person';
- - increases the strategic inspirations and tactical impact of individual or grassroots activism;
- It should promote eco-awareness, social justice and sheer planetic pleasure with techniques that allow humans to occasionally feel, really FEEL, the force and reality of our primordial unity.
- It should spur human evolution by promoting democracy, local diversity, and full adult status for all members of the race (i.e., by decentralizing political, economic & spiritual power; strengthening individuals & their local communities; and enhancing the compass & observance of human rights).
- It should promise relatively quick results, say, dramatically evident social and ecological healing within four or five years.
- And it should be sexy, funny and generate rather than consume energy as it spreads.
Tall orders again, you scoff, but the intellectual pieces for such a grand and innovative synthesis have been at hand for decades now. We have just been keeping them in different linguistic and academic boxes. The academic divide between the social sciences and the life sciences as well as the lack of historic interaction between Western and Oriental languages isolate their complementary insights and hide a major source of potential synergy.
Japanese "Ki" thinking, for example, would finally allow Western living systems theory" to clearly conceptualize both:
- a) a psycho-social economy of consciousness in human systems -- in other words, a way to visualize how and where we spend (or squander) our most precious resource; and
- b) the common 'physiology' and life processes of large corporate organisms like multinationals, organized religions, government bureaucracies, militaries, etc.
The first of these can serve to radically redefine ideas like ‘quality of life' and explain why our material/technological environment is evolving so much faster than our psyches or socio-political systems.
The second also helps to make sense of grassroots activist's widening perception that they are wasting their energies combating only the local symptoms of industrial/military/despotic dis-ease. Many are beginning to realize that they are not battling the activities of isolated or rogue organizations. They are facing patterns of pathology generated by a virulent strain of huge corporate organisms - aggressive collective bodies that put their own growth, profit, or societal control above all other human or planetary considerations.
Local citizen groups are just now beginning to seek a political equivalent of 'broad spectrum antibiotics' to deal with this threat. And it is to this effort that Nancho is largely dedicated. Organized as a think tank/clearing house, Nancho hopes for your help in generating and disseminating ideas to change consciousness, combat our social plagues and get human evolution going again.
As mentioned above, properly understood, Japanese concepts of "Ki" or social attention offer us peculiarly powerful tools for this task. In changing consciousness, new words or categories of perception are enormously important. As the following passages from Howard Rheingold's "WORDS CAN WARP YOUR WELTANSCHAUUNG" make clear:
"Thinking about untranslatable foreign words led me to an altered state of consciousness. It was like looking at the mundane elements of everyday life through a new kind of lens, which revealed to me dimensions in my familiar environment that I simply had not seen before because I didn't know how to look. That is precisely where the magic of naming the world, as first practiced by Adam in the garden of Eden, can exert a subtle leverage. Finding a name for something is a way of conjuring its existence, of making it possible for people to see a pattern where they didn't see anything before...
"As I looked at the way people around me used words, and began to survey the anthropological and linguistic literature, I realized that certain words are like linguistic viruses - patterns of meaning that seem to propagate themselves throughout linguistic communities via mysterious, unofficial, ad hoc channels, because a semantic niche in that community is crying out for a precise term.
"People think and behave the way we do in large part because we have words that make these thoughts and behaviors possible, acceptable and useful. If you want to change the way people think, you can educate them, brainwash them, bribe them, drug them...or you can teach them a few carefully chosen new words."
And that is what this whole Nancho circus is really all about - discovering, defining and spreading the words and ideas necessary to our age and the hopeful aging of our children. Your imaginative participation is cordially, even desperately, invited...