Many powerful facets here, excellent article. I bookmarked it to read again. Good science fiction speaks to some of these ideas, too. When the “other” is unearthly and non-human, is the global myth or inspiring story that humans would recognize their one-ness as Earth born humans…?
The girl’s way of thinking was frustrating to the researchers who rated her as lower in maturity than the boy. "
I was simply gobsmacked by this. I don’t know why though. It’s not exactly surprising that researchers in an academic discipline that’s in the past 100 years had to run like crazy to prove that it’s equally as valid (ie scientific) as the hard sciences. Unsurprising but depressing.
I think I’m gobsmacked because it’s a child we’re talking about, and I guess I would have hoped that that might have somehow made the wisdom of her view more easy to somehow stand out and be less threatening.
This was a great piece.
This piece is really great and, in my estimation, speaks directly to the cultural moment that we all (collectively) inhabit and must (individually and collectively) meet. My sense is that (within the context of a much larger and deeper cultural de-valuation of the feminine) we are partly seeing this effect because our tools for online communication are themselves far too reductionistic in what they enable and promote (i.e. a primarily ‘masculine’ communication style and experience of low-affect, no-context, atomic/separated, words-in-a-box, transactional exchange). Furthermore, I’d posit that the effects of this technological bias toward less ‘integrative’ or co-creative forms of communication is a deeper cause of divisiveness than we realize, because it distorts (and ‘makes grotesque’) our sense of online ‘collectivity’ as well as blunting many nuances in the expression of individuality. My sense is that this fear of being ‘swallowed up’ in the collective is exacerbated when the tools lack nuance, which results in what appears (to the person already predisposed to fear the collective) to be a grotesque ‘groupthink’ among whichever-tribe-you-happen-to-fear. Thus, to answer the very important question posed by the author, “how does the individual find their way past collective fears and scapegoating without fear of losing themselves or their values?”, we may look to consider alternative methods and modes of communication, tools and systems (online and offline) that can accommodate the subtlety required to push past our comfort zones and into a space where reintegration narratives can be collectively written.
I really enjoyed this piece. I love the idea of framing the globalism/globalization/nationalism tension in terms of narrative and psychology. It seems like a useful way to open up the imaginative possibilities. If narratives are ways to organize a messy reality into a comprehensible, fulfilling appearance of wholeness, then the stories of globalism/globalization/nationalism look more like different ways to organize ideas about political life. It’s not a giant step to think about what other stories might be available. Very useful and hopeful, I think.
Two bits that especially stand out are the comment about how individual men and women contain both masculine and feminine aspects and then also the comment about the “mass psychosis” of our current conversation. It gets me thinking about how both the masculine and feminine aspects of an individual or culture can have more or less “healthy” expressions. Though for “pathology,” it seems like toxic masculinity seems like a more pressing problem, or at least the one that’s more visible to me as a male (I’m thinking of, for example, the “The Mask You Live In” documentary). So, one the underlying problems at the psychological level could be seen as people trying to radically separate the masculine from the feminine (in individuals and society) and then also radically privileging the masculine, which makes things terrible for everyone.
That gets me thinking about the social/political equivalent as presented in the article and healthy or pathological expressions of masculine and feminine stories about interpersonal/intercultural/international interactions. As a slight restatement of some of the main points in the piece: maybe part of the problem are the pathological effects of trying to radically separate the individual from the communal, which could be seen as the basic structure of a Cold War division between the ideologies (ideals) of western capitalism (radical individualism with no room for communal expression) and eastern communism (radical communalism with no room for individual expression). In these terms today’s populist nationalism (crypo-ur-fascism?) is a slightly different pathological arrangement. There’s seems to be plenty of individualist rhetoric, but there’s also a pretty serious emphasis on submission to “the people,” or “the will of the people” as expressed by The Leader. I’m thinking here of Uri Friedman’s Atlantic piece “What is a Populist?”. And of course “the people” for the populist nationalisms are defined very narrowly with a barely veiled threat of violence, and to my eyes looks very much like Nazi discussion of “Volksgemeinschaft.” Anyway, it looks like there is an idea of “common experience,” but one that is really horrifying.
Did you have specific stories in mind? I guess that’s a big theme for almost all science fiction… Might there be some that highlight very different versions of response to the other? Maybe as a way of sketching out different poles of imaginative possibility?
Spot on, and I think indicative of the unfortunate tendency of ‘mass’ politics (or at least the rhetoric) to be unable to handle its own inherent complexity. In fact, my biggest take-away from this excellent piece at the moment is that our age seems to fear complexity itself, with the feminine and the collective and the Other and globalism all manifestations of the threat posed by the sheer amount of available data to the false security of “certainty”. As Gebser noted, we are truly at a crossroads where we can either explore integral approaches or shrink back from each other, each overwhelmed by his/her inability and lack of time to master the whole on his/her own terms…
Interesting thought. (“We have nothing to fear but complexity itself” ).
That gets me thinking about: What counts as “our age?” Is this something specific to the current moment (year, decade, half-century)? Something shaped by specifically scary(-seeming) things? Or by media forms (McLuhan-style) and online communications tools (as @natesavery suggests)? Is it related to an older tradition of mechanistic, reductionist approaches to the world (i.e. post-scientific revolution thinking)? That last is definitely closely related to creating a specifically masculine (and male) public sphere, which was developed in contrast to the simultaneous construction of a feminized private sphere (and feminized object of scientific knowledge). Maybe it’s all of the above… Did you have a specific scale in mind?
Interesting that political rhetoric might be burrowing deeper into reductionism even as actual science is getting a lot better at thinking about complexity and integrated systems.
I’m not familiar with Gebser at all, but I see that name a lot here on IC. Looks like I have some homework. Is there a part of Gebser that is especially applicable?
Just hopping in here quick. I’ve gotten sucked into a rabbit hole of technical work and haven’t had time for in-depth replies (will catch up w/ PMs and other topics soon), but I wanted to link to this overview of Jean Gebser’s writings, from @achronon.
The “mythological” has a very rich and specific meaning in Gebser’s view of history and “ages.”
The reason he’s all over this site is because we did a big book club on his magnum opus, The Ever-Present Origin, last year. Looking forward to organizing some new reading groups soon…
Excellent! Thank you for pointing me to that resource. I look forward to catching up to everyone! (As an aside, it’s cool to see how the book club is creating some share vocab here).
I’m thinking (in this context anyway) of “our age” as roughly the post-WWII electronic-media, information-overload of our recent past and present - and, yes, wherever McLuhan would put the dates works for me. Your question is a very good one, and reminds me of Yuval N Harari’s most recent TED talk, also on the topic of national vs global politics. (Link below for the interested - when you have an hour…)
At one point, Harari responds to the suggestion that this time is “the” age of “post-truth” with the question “And when the hell was the age of truth?” LOL
Ah, Jean Gebser. So little time, and I am still so wet-behind-the-ears… Right now, Chapter 3 of The Ever-Present Origin is the ‘if you only read one’ place I would send the fellow novice. It is where he lays out his main points about the “structures of consciousness” we have used and use to interpret our cultural worlds. Well, really, interact with our cultural worlds, as ‘interpret’ smacks of “a specifically masculine public sphere”…
Edit: The link Marco provided is strongly seconded.
I’m finally catching up with the comments on this piece–forgive me for not jumping in earlier! Thanks for the great feedback, I’m glad this piece resonates with all of you, and the discussion so far has been very interesting. Some comments are very much in line with what I’ve thought about this issue, and some I hadn’t thought about before, but are entirely relevant to the discussion (e.g., the ideas of individual/collective with respect to the Cold War). I think it was Dave who mentioned the idea of a “healthy” masculine/feminine–and yes indeed, there are very healthy expressions as well as toxic ones. I tend to shy away from overly-subjective expressions about either term, as it is easy from a feminist perspective to fall into the idea that the masculine is somehow entirely “negative”. A colleague of mine may have summed up one of my main themes by suggesting our society is “yanged out”–a reference to yin/yang, where the emphasis has been too heavy on the active, rational masculine to the detriment of its opposite.
The Cold War reference makes me think of negative expressions of the collective–the loss of identity and individual freedom, which archetypically may be seen as being “swallowed up” by the Mother–the creator is also the devourer. Both capitalism and socialism have their benefits, when they are in proper balance. But capitalism out of balance is a very negative masculine (an “every man for himself” view), and socialism out of balance is a negative feminine (everyone lives for the state).
My related research looks at death beliefs and how they affect this topic–whether we see death in a collective sense (like the ancient Greeks–everyone goes to the same place regardless of how they lived) or an individual sense (salvation, immortality of the individual soul, ethical behavior affecting reward or punishment) also influences the way we think about “masculine” and “feminine”. But I’ll save that discussion for another piece.
As I typed that, I kept worrying about the terms “healthy” and “pathological.” There is an uncomfortable normative judgement in those terms. Especially if “negative” is the opposite of “healthy.”
I was thinking about the little I know about the history of psychology/psychiatry diagnosis. Maybe someone else out there has a better handle on these distinctions-- I have a sense that there’s been a general shift from an older assumption of “healthly”=“normal” (unhealthy=deviation from the norm) to an idea about what healthy means that’s more focused on experience. So “unhealthy” is a state of affairs that brings harm or distress to the person (or people around them). From that perspective, a normative judgement about the current mainstream perspective on masculine/feminine individual/group logic/intuition seems appropriate-- they definitely causes lots of harm and distress.
But I like your vocabulary about “balance.” It doesn’t carry that judgemental shading (it’s more balanced? ).
And, I look forward to reading about how this connects to ideas about death. The ultimate frontier for mythologies!
Thank you for this writing; I’ve enjoyed read it.
“Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers during their Power of Myth conversations that any future myth has to be a global one.The time has come to write our new myth story; one which embraces the truth about who we are as people, the power of connectedness, and the real threats to our humanity.”
This is most important. And what would yours be? Any created must first find the centre enlightenment. To reach this one must remove oneself for a time from the constraints of time: wander until lost for some direction. Outside the morass there is mass. This is a play on words: when we remove from the mass we find our “mass” — our body and centre enlightenment.
For us to do this as society, would require a Christening (Christ in the wilderness for 40 days). No one can become a healer and hero without the dark in ecstasy and terror. Then we become the only One on Earth. To build towards oneness one must become this. Afterward we return with this solidarity and provide the experience and it is, then, without severance.
There is no better and more necessary place to be except in the dark, when you’re all yanged out.
A pregnant pause. A hibernation.