The end of a world of nation-states may be upon us – Jamie Bartlett | Aeon Magazine


(Marco V Morelli) #1

I don’t identify as a ‘techno-libertarian,’ which seems to be the ideology most associated with post-national municipalism these days, but I continue to be intrigued by this line of thought and its real-world experiments. This essay hearkens, as well, to the “integral city” idea; in fact, it seems to me, radicalizes it. Why not unleash a wide-ranging, yet small/human-scale, experimentalism in how we live in sufficient collectivities?

I’m curious, though, what kind of planetary conditions (geopolitical, as much as ecological) would be required to support a ‘world of city-states’. Wouldn’t a post-national network of quasi-autonomous cities still require some common norms and protocols? And how would those be established (enforced?), or by whom? What kind of organization would be required, at the planetary scale, to sustain a predominance of otherwise decentralized self-governing communities?


(T J Williams) #2

I also recommend the comments section on this article which - refreshingly - contains additional thoughtful observations and argument.

These are absolutely critical questions. For the moment assuming the successful passing of the crises that would compel vested interests to allow (or helplessly watch) such large-scale changes to the current state of affairs, the post-national world would have to be built on the wisdom of a new unifying myth - one acknowledging, among other things, that historical city-state systems were ultimately regulated by near-incessant war even among communities sharing a language and a basic cultural framework (e.g., Sumer, Greece, the Maya, ‘Renaissance’ Italy) and avoiding that route. There would have to be a “planetary” level to this and an incorporating value system to underpin it. Using, but transcending, history requires awareness without which it does not matter whether the level of organization is imperial, national, or local. In this light, efforts made in “this” generation to define, present, and defend the value system that would be needed (environmental sustainability, markets for people rather than vice versa, ‘neighborhood’ decision-making, etc.) should not be dismissed as useless talk.


(Marco V Morelli) #3

I hope not! It seems to me that even the act of imagining a radically different world subtly loosens the grip of the current one. But then of course it matters what kind of worlds we imagine, or how we re-imagine the world we live in.

I am growing to more deeply appreciate the value of federation as an organizational form. Federation means quasi-autonoumus units linked by common protocols. It’s neither too loose (dissociated, entropic) nor too tight (centralized, ‘too big to fail’). For example, the alt-Twitter social network Mastodon is federated. Anyone can set up an ‘instance,’ and instances can network, so you can interact with people wherever their account is located.

A federation allows its citizens to move around, do business, etc., while still having a common identity and home base. For example, I am a resident of the social.coop instance. That’s my city in the fediverse of ‘toots’ (Mastodonian ‘tweets’).

I think my point is that we can learn and model value systems in our virtual communities, which might one day be applicable in our real-life ones…especially as the distinction between these two realms (virtual and real) blurs and eventually dissolves.


(Ed Mahood) #4

Too bad this topic showed up just as I vacated (or went on vacation, or whatever). I think it is one that would be well worth considering for one of our potential seminars.

The reasons I think so is that a) it’s relevant (the nation-state is showing obvious signs of obsolescence), b) it is too often dealt with one-dimensionally (whereby I probably mean monoperspectivally; that is, from a singular perspective, as in, it’s an organizational/political/economic/cultural topic, which it isn’t), or at least that’s how I understand @patanswer’s comments , c) it is too spatially determined (be it in terms of locales, regions, or “nations” themselves, or in terms of “levels”), d) it’s a natural spin-off from @care_save’s essay series (many of the topics, issues, and concepts involved are exemplified in her own wrestling with what appears to be happening in the US right now – an obvious case study), and e) so much of our future hangs in the balance.

@madrush’s brief reflections on “federations” is certainly worth pursuing further, especially in light of our ongoing-intermittant discussion of the impact(s) of digital technology on our consciousness, as well as the various planetary implications of perpetuating the concept of the nation-state (none of which changes, as far as I can see it, if we revert to a city-level of perspective). In addition, I found it interesting that in the article and commentary the role of the so-called “multinational corporation” (which has in many, if not most, respects already superseded the nation) was conspicuous by its absence.

As @johnnydavis54 pointed out in a post on another thread, the question arose at the last Gebser conference regarding how we might recognize the integral structure of consciousness if we ever met it on the street is particularly relevant in this context. In other words, there is a real-world, if not real-life, connection that is unavoidable. After all, we can talk and theorize about such things all day long, but in the end, we need to find ways to live in the world we are making – either actively or passively.

Just a thought.


(john davis) #5

I agree, Ed, and once again post a talk on the dramatic rise of Nationalism from the Gebser Conference. This compliments the discussion on city-states, and perhaps Carolyn’s reflections. I mentioned city-states in the discussion of this presentation. Nationalism appears to be on the rise everywhere not just in the USA.

Gebser was no stranger to fascism and sought to escape it. In our current climate it appears that there may be no place to escape to. We are up against it. The Mental is no match for this perfect storm. Neo-liberalism has been a flop and we have a huge regressive wave happening.


(Ed Mahood) #6

I had the same problem with this video link as with the other one. Is there any way to so characterize the clips that I know which one you mean when I end up at YouTube. Without at least titles, I’m lost.


(john davis) #7

Sorry for your trouble Ed. I marked this one to start at 1:27:16. Good luck. I would like to hear your response to these talks.


(Caroline Savery) #8

I think this would be a great seminar indeed, @achronon. What is the mythic role and function of nation-states? What needs do these myths meet in us? And could we meet those needs in alternative ways, that don’t draw false impermeable boundaries on the unbroken skin of the Earth and on the flesh and movements of human beings on Earth?

Though I actually use some of the mythologies underpinning the United States of America to draw attention to how out of balance we are culturally today, I think going beyond the limitations of my essays by asking “why do we need nations/what is nationality?” in this way would be really refreshing. What do you think as for how to spin-off or create linkage between this seminar and the Trumpocalypse?


(Ed Mahood) #9

Thanks for the additional help, John, I think I managed to find what you wanted to show me. I was expecting something on fascism here, but saw Andrew Venezia’s presentation on Buddhist meditation practices and enlightenment vis-à-vis intersubjectivity, or what does it mean to be integral?

The question is more relevant than ever considering how things are playing out here IRL. And while I appreciate Andrew’s passion for the subject, I think he may be overlooking the obvious along the way. The bifurcated structure of the presentation itself left me wondering how they really fit together.

But let me make something clear before I proceed. I’m a big fan of meditation and think it is an extremely helpful and powerful tool in the quest for Self and for overcoming self. There’s no doubt about the fact that meditation also contributes to neural rewiring, if you will, making these connections more effective and efficient, even if we are neither our neural networks, our brains or our brains and bodies. Just how embodied consciousness itself must be remains to be determined. I say let’s sally forth down this path.

But, my experience over the years tells me that it is very easy to get the wrong impression listening to talk about certifiable enlightenment and lineages and the like for it itimates that there are (only?) specific and exclusive ways of getting to it. He does reference Jeffrey Martin’s work and you can sign up with him as well and for a couple of grand maybe take an alternative path to well-being or maybe enlightenment as well. But if the goal of meditation is enlightenment, then, as he implies, it’s just another “view” (?.. I think that’s the term he used) and really has little to do with a shift of consciousness an sich. Both approaches however come across to me as very exclusive (if not elitist: you find your personal trainer/guru/coach/wayshower or you put your not unsubstantial cash on the table and you’re in). I am aware that I am unfairly oversimplifying, but the shift in consciousness of which Gebser speaks is unrestricted by means or method. It is a possibility confronting humankind at this point in history and it is a possibility, at least to my mind, that is much more far-reaching than any individual’s personal enlightenment. It will only happen if some critical mass of us “get it”, and it is the fewest of us who are going to drop what we’re doing go pursue it or enroll in a part-time program to get there. I’m happy for all who find enlightenment in these ways, but I also expect of those who did so to roll up their sleeves and assist the rest of humanity to make the shift. The cynic in me says, of course, that ain’t going to happen, for the most common pattern that the cynic sees is that the enlightened one can now sit back and wait for the “proper” seekers to show up and take it from there. I don’t know why the enlightened don’t get more proactive and find 10 worthy candidates and help them see the light. I am aware of all the reasons given for why that’s not the case, but it is for those very reasons that any similarities between enlightenment and integral consciousness are minimal at best.

On the other hand, what he had to say about intersubjectivity had more substance to it. Engaging others, the other, the Other … dealing, wrestling, adjusting, reflecting, in real-time, in real life seems to me to be much more appropriate and relevant to the matter at hand. This is necessary and needed. One of the side-effects of the Enlightenment (the historical epoch) is the concretization of the individual, rugged or otherwise, and the Ego. And this is what we need to overcome, supersede, or transcend (or, more likely, all-of-the-above). Georg Feuerstein says that “the human being is a multidimensional process that can fulfill itself only by transcending itself.” [Structures of Consciousness, 163] And Gebser himself makes perfectly clear that it’s a knock-down, drag-out, struggle; it’s the most difficult of all human tasks:

All work, the genuine work which we must achieve, is that which is most difficult and painful: the work on ourselves. If we do not freely take upon ourselves this pre-acceptance of the pain and torment, they will be visited upon us in otherwise necessary individual and universal collapse. [EPO, 532]

So much for feel-good well-being à la Gebser. It’s not easy dealing with others, but as is so often the case, the only way out of the dilemma is through. Andrew certainly encourages this, but he pulls up short of reminding us what a challenge it is going to be. He intimates, and I would say, Life is the praxis.


(Ed Mahood) #10

Good question. There is, at least for me, an obvious connection between your essay series and, say, a nation-state seminar, but how best to spin off from the one to the other … well, I need to think about that a bit more.

For one thing, the series isn’t yet complete(ly published) and the online conversations haven’t taken place. In either (or both) of these could be the “hook” from one to the other, so I think it would be good to let these happen “undisturbed” (but with an eye open for potentials). One aspect that will be relevant at any rate is the global/local dynamic, which has already irrupted in this thread.

Another thought that just popped into my head is the fact that your essay series as well as the nation-state theme both directly challenge some very fundamental (read: taken-for-granted) assumptions most potential readers have about how the world works. People get very defensive when it comes to such fundamentally core beliefs they have about their perceived realities. On both fronts one is basically saying that we’ve been living a lie, but too many (if not most) have invested a whole ton of emotional capital in those lies, and having to accept that there won’t be a pay out isn’t going to win anyone a lot of friends. As senseless as it is, messengers are still being killed.

That may be reason enough to think long and hard about how to segue from one to another.


(john davis) #11

Sorry again for the technical glitch. This talk, by David Zuckerman, is on the rise of nationalism, which I believe is relevant to this particular thread…

https://youtu.be/OXmM-qInHa8?t=1h11m13s


(john davis) #12

I appreciate your comments, Ed, about Andrew’s talk. It is not the talk for this thread but perhaps has relevance. Without adequate Models of the Self, none of our efforts to transform humanity, is worth much and I don’t see that we are even remotely close to coming up with such a Model, American Psychiatry and the big Pharmaceuticals are overwhelming us with really bad therapeutic models and dangerously mixed messages. The Diagnostic Statistal Manual continues to employ the Language of Contempt. And most of the spiritual teachers I have met who pedal enlightenment are usually well to do surbanites with a narrow focus on the bottom line, preying upon the confusions of the less fortunate.

I thanked Andrew for his courageous effort and regret he avoided, due to time constraints, a talk on Dream Yoga, which for me, is where the action is. He speaks of the Transparent Self. I am more inclined to think of us as Para-Selves in the making,a n efficient non pathological Multiple Personality ( which we all of us are made of) could function if arranged as a Mandala. We perhaps valued dynamism over structure for too long and we may need to backtrack. Most of humanity are not ready for the leap that we are invited by Spiritual Teachers to embrace. Dropping the ego is I believe a useless effort . Refining ego is a vast and painful project not for the timid. As Whitman wisely declared," I contain multitudes!" We need a deviant logic.

I am aware of the danger of trying to operationalize the Para-normal, a big risk, which we may have discussed in other threads but not to deal with this has a big effect on our politics. Politics is driven by affect. Our rigidly controlled two party system seems to me to be doomed to extinction. Gebser, I believe, wanted us to become ego-free rather than ego-less. We do not yet know what the personal pronoun ‘I’ means. It is more, much more than a linguistic device.


(Ed Mahood) #13

Thank you, John, for persisting. Contentwise, this is what I was expecting the first time around. I’m glad we got to it.

One of the most fascinating aspects of David’s talk is its down-home Gebserianism (a horrible term, I know) … but the guy knows his Gebser. I also like his approach, since it resonates well with my own, namely what happens when I stop looking at Gebser as (just) another theory and I take him out into the world to see how he fares. What keeps coming up is that he can hold his own quite well. As David said himself, “This is a tough time to be a Gebserian,” but that shouldn’t deter us from being that, or anything else we think we need to be right now.

The parallels between then (Gebser’s 30s’ experiences) and now (our own) are marked and relevant, but as Jeremy noted, but did not specifically clarify, all developmental curves are never straight lines. There will be ups and downs, ins and outs, surges and backflows, you name it. As I noted in one of my other posts, I agree with Gebser, that this may be the toughest challenge we’ve ever faced. And while I understand (I believe it was Kimberly’s comment) that we should be careful about feeding all the apparent deficiency that abounds, I believe it is even more important to acknowledge that it is there before moving on. There’s no need to get hung up on it or to dwell on it, but we should make clear – to ourselves and to each other – that we did in fact witness another instance of it.

What is more, I found his suggestions about what to do about it all very helpful:

  • Examine your own practice and clean up your act. Precisely. This is a variation of Gandhi’s admonishment to be the change you want to see in the world.
  • Listen more, talk less. Exactly. I learned long ago that everyone will tell you unequivocally where the shoe is pinching, if you let them talk long enough, but you have to listen to hear it. Once you know, you can act.
  • Interface with other people. And the emphasis is on “other”. We tend to want to wait – like the enlightened ones (to whom I was probably more than unjust to in another post) who feel like masters waiting for the student to appear – instead of engaging whomever it is we are dealing with at any particular moment. This is certainly not meant in any proselytizing sense, but rather there is no reason why one can’t talk in Gebserian terms (when it’s helpful of course) without ever mentioning Gebser at all. It’s not about Gebser, it’s about using means at one’s disposal to get to what’s true.
  • Question the discourse. This may be the biggest and most important item on the list. We allow too many discusisons, exchanges, conversations to be reframed in unproductive ways. To me, this is a charge to simply call bullshit when you see it, though it probably needs to be handled in a more refined way.

Fortunately, as the last part of the group’s commentary showed, there are a lot of other, non-physical, and still-to-be-explored factors involved that take these seemingly simple suggestions beyond the level of “mere” interpersonal communication.

Even though I personally share David’s pessimism (or, perhaps outdo it with my own innate cynicism), there is still that glimmer of hope in there somewhere.


(T J Williams) #14

Thank you, John, for the link and everyone for the insightful commentary above. (Welcome back, Ed!)

Zuckerman’s thoughtful talk gave me another “doughnut” moment. This time Gebser, Ingold, Spengler, Yuval Noah Harari, Duane Elgin, Albert Murray, civilization analyst Ernest Gellner, and (believe it or not) Sloterdijk came together in a harmony of difference worthy of Kamasi Washington and the following question suddenly made one possible tie-in obvious:

The resurgence of fascist nationalism, or other versions of tribalism showing up in America and the world, in the context of the kinds of awareness reinforced by the first pictures of our planet hanging in space fifty years ago, is about a continuing ‘clash’ not of civilizations but of consciousness: the definition and defense of the exclusive “us” versus the definition and defense of the inclusive “us”. Nation-states are themselves the result of this clash, and Spain is not the only place where it is apparent the issue has not yet been settled. The larger context, of course, is the many fault lines between efficient (or proficient as brought up in one of the Sloterdijk video conferences) structures which leave room for non-threatening interpretations of differences among people and deficient ones which do (can)not. As Ed said, emotional investments in notions of security are quite powerful; let the messenger of change tread carefully!

And purposefully.

As in, it’s time for at least a conference to sort out the myriad of topics that have come up since August, to decide which will be discussed in formal threads and which are to be on-screen. So… what is everyone’s availability? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


(john davis) #15

Wow, TJ, I want some of that! And what happened right before that “doughnut” moment?

I agree that we need a pre-conference conference to sort out the myriad topics and how we are to approach this. Some might want to improvise on the spot, some might want to deliver a paper. Could this be running parallel with Carolyn’s essay project ? I think we have a lot of ideas in various stages of completion and we might find some connections between contributions that have already been offered . I agree with Ed’s comment that it may be too early to tell.

A suggestion about how to encourage symbiopoetic possibilities. I would like to start a meeting with a clean start question.

For this conference to be really useful for you, this conference will be like what?

Then we listen carefully, and I volunteer to take notes and be sure everyone who participates gets a chance to speak. This only takes a few minutes and it greatly increases the probability of a direction to emerge. And at the end we can ask what has been learned. I would like to be the secretary of this meeting.

And most important-what kind of support does each person want from the group?

I have a big concern. About group dynamics I am amazed how many meetings I attend or observe end up without a direction, inspite of the brilliant insights developed. I mentioned earlier that I wondered if we have over valued dynamism over structure? So many meetings I have been engaged in seem to go nowhere, becoming just more of the typical post modern drift syndrome. Theory without action is a terrible drain.

I worry if we continue to conflate structure and agency we will continue to let culture gobble up everyone.

This conference would be most useful for me if we could coordinate Dreamer(s), Realist(s), and Crtic(s). And I would love to do a short demo on Action Plans!

Of course others may have a different way of doing this conference and I am all ears! I’m definitely available.

I’m glad you like David’s talk and appreciate your feedback.

And forgive me for using a few Clean Language questions, please ignore if you are not in the mood, but is there anything else about that glimmer of hope?

And whereabouts in there?

And does that glimmer of hope ( in there somewhere) have a size or shape?

Just curious…


(john davis) #16

I prefer we not put this off for too long. The weather in Manhattan today is ominous and strange. Dark skies and lots of wind after days of unusual warm weather for this time of year. I worry.

I believe we could have a zoom event sponsored here by Marco. I imagine Ed and TJ and Marco perhaps Carolyn would be involved. We can initiate some proposals and sort out what we are most drawn to. We have already met each other in other forums and study groups and have the advantage of familiarity with each others work so it is easy for us to make this happen. I appreciate that we have discipline and the capacity to flow.

My days and evenings are flexible. Perhaps we can coordinate this to happen soon. My experience is that the fewer people are invited the more likely it will be to happen. We could then be more open and inclusive as a loose identity has emerged. Small is beautiful because I like each person to have plenty of attention and too many people can bog us down. Lean and mean.


(Ed Mahood) #17

Not really, that’s what it is: a glimmer.

Well, I said, “in there” because the hope was in what I was thinking about the presentation, both of which were not in me anymore: I retain the glimmer – sometimes in my head, sometimes in my heart, and otherwise flowing back and forth between – but the hope has been projected into the world.

It’s small, otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a glimmer, it’d be light or a radiation or something. And for now, it’s definitely tetrahedral.


(john davis) #18

and when you retain the glimmer-sometimes in your head, sometimes in your heart and flowing back and forth between…what kind of flow is that flow back and forth? …does that flow have a size or shape?

And for now, it’s definitely tetrahedral…and tetrahedral…is there anything else about tetrahedral?
~ ~ ~
And as we discuss meta-theory it is also vitally important that we develop some good phenomenological investigations. I find most phenomenology pretty sloppy, hence my passion for asking Clean Questions on occasion. It is a wonderful way to get situated. Without situations there is little to do. And we are more than Human beings we are Human Doings. Without our hands we would not have language. We are typing with our hands and using our eyes (i’s). it is the proprioceptive-kinesthetic interplay of these inner and outer interfaces that make worlds communicable. This is what I imagine Gebser means by concrescence.

Unless we get better at reporting our embodied perceptions of abstract ideas I fear our technology will hurt more than it helps. To become more meta-reflexive and action oriented we will need to be much more skilled at self-modeling. Practicing CL on zoom persuades me that I/we can get better at this investigation…enhance our sense of agency…our first person accounts can enrich our third person observations…and with all of that it is nice to know that Ed has alreaady entered the fourth dimension…


(Ed Mahood) #19

Upon reflection, I’m not sure “flow” is a good word: sometimes it glimmers in my head, sometimes in my heart, but I never feel it “move” from one to the other, it just sort of manifests either there or there. It’s always small – yet sometimes perhaps almost too intense for a glimmer – but tetrahedral …

Flame-like, but not flickering.


Well, put, John. The older I get, the more convinced I am that what we do, how we act (and react) is much more important than who (we think) we are, or what we say. Oh, sure, we provide a lot of feedback to others verbally, but I’m always on the look-out for how those statements line up with what I see/hear of/feel them doing. Our speech, if you will, describes us, but our actions define us.

Raymond Tallis’ The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being argues both strongly and convincingly that it was in fact our opposable thumb that separated us evolutionarily from our simian cousins. It was the hand, our hand, that opened the door to being human. He offers a less detailed, and more entertaining, examination of some aspects of this phenomenon in Michaelangelo’s Finger which examines “pointing”. Human beings are the only species on the planet who point meaningfully (which also relies on a visual connection interestingly enough). As I noticed with my grandson, it is absolutely amazing how early in our life-trip we react to pointing and know we’re being made aware of something outside ourselves. It is a silent form or direct communication that precedes any form of specific, meaningful oral interaction.

In many languages the hand and what we can do with our hands form the bases for words that deal with understanding and comprehension: we grasp an idea, try to get a handle on something, we seize upon the weakness in another’s argument; in German greifen (lit. “to grasp”) plays a similar role: begreifen is “to comprehend”, Begriff (lit. “that which is grasped”) is the primary word for “concept”, but as well we can die Flucht or die Initiative ergreifen (lit. we can “seize (take) flight or the initiative”. Most materialist theories of language development try to go via the vocal chords and the oral/audio route, but none of them are very convincing.

And, as Gebser also points out, it was homo faber – (hu)man, the maker – who accelerated their evolution. Tools, the making of tools, knowing that tools are tools (here Tallis’ Hand is exceedingly helpful in understanding what this means for us in consciousness terms) all involve the hand. It was through our tool use that we first gained power of any kind over nature. In German, machen (“to do, to make”) is the verb from which the word die Macht (“power”) derives. It doesn’t get more Magical than that. As he says, all power has magic roots. Your observation about “concrescence” resonates well here. we can’t do anything with anything till we get a handle on it.


(john davis) #20

I couldn’t agree with you more. Ed,. I have read Tallis and find his focus on ‘pointing’ deeply important. Our capacity to point to each and to what is in our shared environment crucial to activating cooperation and coordinating performances. A conductor raises her baton and the orchestra and the audience get quiet and pay attention to what the conductor is paying attention to. This produces a meta-attention, a degree of self and group awareness that makes possible a wide range of social cohesion and cognitive development.

Our capacity for shared attention is fundamental to basic communication and it is shattered by the new technology and media. The quality of our attention is piss poor. Thousands and thousands of years of human evolution has set up these exquisite abilities to hold an ensemble of multiple sensory systems in sync with others, through largely analogical processes ( pointing, touching, smiling, gesturing, moving, tonality) all of this delicate and nuanced communication and meta-communication, is obscured in our mono-phasic, digitalized, dominant culture.

I see it in the vacant stares on the streets, the disconnected faces glowing in the light of their devices, the lack of sensory acuity, the multi tasking has taken it’s toll on our public discourse especially. We are easily manipulated by nefarious forces that can manufacture distractions and sedate large portions of our society into a zombie trance state. These are low level addictive trance states, not to be confused with the high quality trance states produced by efficient magical and mythical practices. Great poetry and artistic performance emerge out of the capacity to hold the audiences attention, and direct attention in ways that make for coherence. Entering trance states consciously is a very high art form. Most people are basically turning into couch potatoes, in front of the laptop, hooked up to gadgets. These are external crutches that distract and divide a person, preventing healthy self reflexive and meta-reflexive development.

I use Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling to pay attention to what the other is paying attention to. Our of such an investigation we can become aware of what we are aware of and we re-direct attention artfully to what a person is not paying attention to. This practice can activate high quality shareable trance states. As I have worked for years with the elderly, the hearing impaired and the disabled, I have used these rather simple questions to facilitate communications in person’s who were basically deemed outcasts. I have been surprised at how powerful listening with the third ear can be.

I am reminded of a story an anthropologist told. He was in a population where he didn’t know the language. He met a man on the road who was deaf and mute. They shared no language and no culture and yet they made an attempt to non verbally communicate through mime and movement and they achieved the transfer of complex information. The anthropologist learned that the man was vising a woman in a neighboring village who was suffering from a form of cancer. All of this communication happened without words or culture! We have evolved out of these face to face encounters with strangers and we do this with animals and birds too!

,