Yesterday, the British people decided to leave the European Union. The campaigns prior to the decision were fierce and deeply emotional.
I wouldn’t pretend to know whether the decision made was “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, and generally believe that binary thinking like that belongs in the realm of emotions, not in rational discourse. “Like”/”Not like”, toward pleasure or away from pain — those are the choices of emotions, our animal self, they don’t belong in the domain of reason.
The decision was close. That in itself is interesting. Just like the other day in Austria, where — with only a small margin — the more moderate candidate won the presidential elections, and not the one appealing to the nationalist wing. And the participation in the Brexit referendum was high (above 70%), which indicates a strong emotional investment of the population — at least people are engaged.
All decisions have consequences, and we are now going to see what happens with this one.
Empires and coalitions of tribes come and go
History is full of examples of the rise and fall of empires (Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Roman empire, the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations, the Osman empire, the Muslim empire in India, the British empire etc.)
Things keep falling apart and assembling themselves in new structures.
Sometimes, bonds have to break for new ones to arise.
Nature does that all the time.
Lotus flowers grow in dung.
A mere 150 years ago, a man sat in a Brauhaus in Bavaria scoffing at the idea of Germany. He might not have liked the Prussians, the Swabians and some of the other people that eventually became the German people. He identified as Bavarian, not able to grasp a psychological schema beyond that. Another man screamed in a Brauhaus in Germany only a couple of generations later, conjuring dreams of global expansion of the German people, and took the idea of Germany too far.
Neither could see the eventual logical integration of all the peoples of the world.
While Bavaria to this day insist on its special status, today there is not only Germany, but already a European Union and a United Nations — however dysfunctional these organizations might appear as governing bodies, or however long those particular forms of organization will prevail.
We are stretching the Spectrum
There is a spectrum of identification, from individual, to family, to tribe, to tribes of tribes, all the way to everyone on this planet and all of life (and ultimately universe).
At the moment, our collective awareness is expanding the spectrum on both ends:
- On the one end we are in the process of individuation, of becoming individuals. With global mobility, shifting job markets, and new lifestyles we are breaking up default family bonds — being an expat myself, I left my family and default tribe, only to connect to them consciously again after finding myself as an individual. The United States, as (originally) an immigration country is a good example of that: Many came to the country alone, which gave rise to the “me” generation, perpetrated by the Century of the Self, when Madison Avenue discovered that making individuals feel special and unique can be exploited for mass consumption (a great book to that end is “The Revolt of the Masses” by José Ortega y Gasset who predicted our current mass society as early as 1930).
- On the other end of the spectrum we are moving toward grasping a planetary unity: We have had pictures of earth from space for nearly half a century. There is no denying that pale blue dot hovering in space. Astronauts talk about the Overview Effect, the quasi-spiritual experience of fully realizing that there is no point in borders, that nations, ethnicity, and any other arbitrary group designations are indeed just that — arbitrary. And from high above the earth, they are not just arbitrary, but appear ridiculous and obsolete. It is slowly sinking in that our current systems of governance and trade are still based on flatland (and at best maritime) metaphors and operating principles — that new systems will be required to pay tribute to this new awareness — and that maybe the old ones have to fall apart before we can create them.
More uncertainty than ever
As a result of this expansion of the spectrum and the consequent shift in individual and collective psychology, there is more uncertainty than ever before.
In the face of uncertainty we tend to yearn for safety, and follow those who pretend to be certain about creating it — the reason demagogues are on the rise across the world. In love with themselves and their ideas (in the least to give themselves an identification), they conjure up images of strength and power, images of past or future glory (from the Brexit decision fueled by the idea of past glory of a powerful British empire, to the tagline of “Making America great again!” that is currently enticing many of the US population to lean toward voting for walls to be erected around their country, to the preachers enticing young men to kill themselves as long as they take some infidels with them — for the glory of a future life in heaven).
Grasping for certainty is the psychology of frightened children, and it behooves us to have compassion for our fearful brothers and sisters.
This shift is not an easy one. The more stable our identity, the harder it is to be willing to explore it anew. From little on we are taught noun thinking. That things are things, are “this” or “that” — including ourselves, our individual (or tribal) identity.
To be adaptable in the face of change requires psychological tools that most people have never learned.
So it is easier to follow a projected father figure, preachers of an imagined god, someone who seems to know what they are doing — or at least screams loud enough that this illusion is created.
The wave of evolution cannot be stopped
We are continuing to evolve. There is no going back.
Eventually, there will be individual sovereignty and a planetary society: whereeach individual is honored and respected, has all the resources to unfold themselves to their highest potential, and every individual lives in service to all of life (it is that, or we will manage to drastically reduce human population on this planet and start all over).
Our current challenge is to uplevel the consciousness of people on this planet.
Currently, all stages of evolution are present concurrently across the world:
- Reptilian thinking — Only I matter
- Mammalian thinking — Only I and my family (or blood relations) matter
- Tribal thinking — Only I, my family and my tribe [insert tribal definition here, e.g. “Brits”, “Americans”, “Germans”, “Christians”, “Muslims”, “Hindus”] matter
- Planetary thinking — Everyone matters, all life matters
Evolution is moving forward no matter what. The wave is already building.
Every wave has a backdraft.
Separatist movements are on the rise in a variety of countries: recent nationalist and racist idiocies of demagogues in countries like the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, Austria, India, ISIS or now Brexit, are all part of the backdraft.
Eventually the wave will break.
There are already the first drops in freefall, the few that realize the inevitability of forward movement and who are attempting to build new systems (like these guys, who I just came across this morning).
Currently alone or in small groups, eventually, they will be joined by the rest of humanity.
As Schopenhauer said: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
At the moment, we seem to be moving from ridicule to opposition when it comes to a planetary society.
The good news is that eventually, we will look back and marvel at our ancestors and how they had nations, how they bickered and wasted energy and resources on such ludicrous concepts; how they spent more money on weapons of mass destruction than on education. One day, it will seem silly even to the most retarded of our fellow humans.
Someone once said that an “optimist is someone who lacks information.” In light of the present dynamics of our world, it is easy to be a pessimist. But if we expect things to only get worse, why bother to do anything? Most of humanity’s accomplishments were created by optimists.
When it comes to our evolution toward a planetary society, I am choosing to be an optimist, so much so, that I think we can make it happen within our current lifetime.
Our current systems falling apart might just be the first step in that direction…