A Reality Better than Real
This posting is about social insanity – a common situation that has never gotten the attention it deserves. It is so common, I suspect it is normal – as religion is normal.
An outline is easy enough. People and groups develop alternative realities of their own. These can operate in two different ways – to enhance Reality (with a capital R) or destroy it. In the last two hundred years or so, the destructive variety has predominated.
This happens as a result of a feedback mechanism, something common in all complex situations. The result is a reversal of values. Good becomes Bad, and Bad becomes Good. This can happen very easily, because our minds perceive opposites as being identical. And we can end up valuing behavior that would never permit in our right minds.
We end up destroying ourselves – and greatly enjoy doing this.
Group insanity operates differently from individual insanity. I speak from experience here. My ex suffered from schizophrenia, and the last time I saw here I was never so shocked in my life. She had wasted away into a shadowy ghost - and not too much later, killed herself. I could not imagine how much she suffered. But did she experience suffering herself? I wonder.
Our subjective emotions can be far different from our objective ones. In fact, this is where our language breaks down, and doesn’t allow us to speak of this very important fact – that what we seem to be feeling is not what (at a different level) we are actually feeling.
And, in contrast to what I originally assumed, this works the same for individual insanity and group insanity. Groups can also be out of touch with their actual feelings. Bear with me while I think this out.
What I seem to be talking about are the conscious and unconscious minds – and for groups, the collective unconscious. Our conscious minds are controlled by our unconscious minds – not the other way around, as we assumed in the Age of Reason.
This makes it imperative that we understand our unconscious – both our individual and our collective. How to do this?
First of all, we have to acknowledge that our unconsciouses (the plural form of unconscious) do exist. We have lost this awareness – which means we have lost most of our awareness about ourselves, individually and collectively. The worst thing that could possibly have happened to us – has happened.
We did this with the best of intentions – to avoid the pain of realizing where we were. But the result (as is often the case with any avoidant behavior, which is what most of our addictions amount to) was disastrous. We lost touch with Reality.
Does this mean we are doomed? No, all we have to do is back up in time (using our conscious minds) and feel what happened to us, and why we acted as we did. Note that I did not say we had to think about this, but feel about it – pay careful attention to our emotions (which are most of what we are).
This is not such a strange activity – we have been doing it for thousands of years. This is what the arts are – an exploration of our (mostly unconscious) selves. This is the place to refer to an article in the NY Times Philosophy and the Poetic Imagination. This is also why we have lost our interest in Poetry – because it makes us feel too much. Instead, we have ended up not feeling anything – dead.
I am listening to HitlerLand – yet another book about Nazism. But this has a different approach – how American journalists experienced the rise of Hitler. This back when the newspapers and the wire services supported many such journalists. And the Public was eager to read what they said. Quite a contrast to today – when none of this is true.
One thing they all agreed on was that Nazism was group insanity. One of many that was sweeping the world back in the Thirties. These are often collectively referred to a Fascism – but this ignores parallel developments in the Soviet Union, Japan, and China. And even Cambodia. The whole world went crazy destructive – and the result was WWII.
What happened after WWII (which was well-documented) was something that happened under the radar screen - massive self-destruction – which we seem determined to ignore.
A massive social breakdown occurred about 1980 (with the end of the Sixties) – and interestingly enough, with the coming of the Computer. This is often called Globalization – and is something I intend to pursue. Stay tuned.