In Everything We Tell Ourselves About America and the World Is Wrong Charles Einstein talks about
Why we need a new story that gives meaning to the world.
Every culture has a Story of the People to give meaning to the world. Part conscious and part unconscious, it consists of a matrix of agreements, narratives, and symbols that tell us why we are here, where we are headed, what is important, and even what is real. I think we are entering a new phase in the dissolution of our Story of the People, and therefore, with some lag time, of the edifice of civilization built on top of it.
My childhood perceptions were part of this Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology, to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society. From my vantage point, the basic premises of this story seemed unquestionable. After all, it seemed to be working in my world. Looking back, I realize that this was a bubble world built atop massive human suffering and environmental degradation, but at the time one could live within that bubble without need of much self-deception.
We are like children who have grown out of a story that once enthralled us, aware now that it is only a story.
When I was a child, our system of ideology and mass media still protected that story, but in the last thirty years the incursions of reality have punctured its protective shell and have ruptured its essential infrastructure. We no longer believe our storytellers, our elites. We don’t believe the politicians, we don’t believe the doctors, we don’t believe the professors, we don’t believe the bankers, we don’t believe the technologists. All of them imply that everything is under control, and we know that it is not. We have lost the vision of the future we once had; most people have no vision of the future at all. This is new for our society.
We humans have made such a mess of things, forgetting love.
... the world no longer makes sense. We struggle to explain what it means, but no explanation suffices. We may go on pretending that normal is still normal, but this is one of a series of “end time” events that is dismantling our culture’s mythology.
The evident futility of the responses that we are capable of imagining also points to this deep ideological breakdown. The responses are all about more control. Yet control, as we may or may not realize, is a key thread of the old story of humanity rising above nature, imposing technology and reason on the wild world and the uncivilized human. All around us, we see our efforts at control backfiring: wars to fight terrorism breed terrorism, herbicides breed superweeds, antibiotics breed superbugs, psychiatric medications lead to explosive outbursts of violence.
... utter senselessness penetrated every defense mechanism we have to maintain the fiction that the world is basically OK.
What about a world where we know that our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people? We need a Story of the People that ... doesn’t feel like a fantasy.
In the turbulent times ahead our familiar ways of acting, thinking, and being will no longer make sense. We won’t know what is happening, what it all means, and, sometimes, even what is real. Some people have entered that time already.
... the new mythos has not yet emerged. We will abide for a time in the space between stories. [emphasis mine]
For me the basic outlines of of a new Story of the People have emerged.
Human beings ascended from our primate ancestors because we acquired a second source of energy besides food, we mastered fire. It's likely that consuming extra energy in this way is how other sentient species evolved on other planets too.
First we burned wood. But deforesting entire continents leads to civilization collapse as soil washes away. Switching to fossil fuels solves this problem, but creates far worse danger over time. Fossil fuels accumulated energy during times of greenhouse events, when anoxic oceans prevented the decay of falling organic matter. The hydrocarbons which store this chemical energy sequester the excess carbon which had caused those greenhouse events, which were mass extinctions.
We've wondered about The Great Silence, why there's no scientific evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.
Conceived in 1998 by Robin Hanson, the GF is the disturbing suggestion that there is some kind of absurdly difficult step in the evolution of life — one that precludes it from becoming interstellar.
And like the immutable laws of the universe, the GF is a stumbling block that holds true across the board; if it applies here on Earth, it applies everywhere.
The basic idea is that every civilization destroys itself before developing space-faring technologies. Hence the empty cosmos
We're entering the Great Filter now, destabilizing our planet's chemistry by pumping carbon into the atmosphere, thereby acidifying our oceans and raising the global temperature through another greenhouse extinction event. This time CO2 is rising far far faster than through natural cycles, and is likely to turn into a runaway greenhouse effect. It's likely that almost every other sentient species which achieved a global civilization found itself in exactly the same situation, dependent upon a suicidal fossil fuel economy, astonished that fire could be that deadly. Judging by the cosmic silence almost everyone "nearby" failed to comprehend their danger or to act effectively.
We may have less than a decade to face a challenge few sentient species have met.
In order to come into our power as planetary managers we have to change all of our institutions and cultural constructs to consume non-combustion energy sources. Since we coevolved with fire mastery, this is a challenge to take our own evolution into our hands. The challenge also requires us to choose our reproduction limits, instead of surrendering to primitive urges to overproduce.
It might seem counter-intuitive that coming into power involves giving up and replacing the power we have always depended upon, since before we were fully human. It's the difference between dying out as yet another smart animal which was still basically an animal, or ascending to mastery of evolution itself. We will never achieve an advanced civilization or a promising future without this wrenching self-transformation.
Embracing sustainable energy and a sustainable population level will be a rebirth. It’s not just an exterior choice, like choosing to use a hammer or an axe for a particular job it's a change in who we are.
To empower ourselves directly, to feel justified in reinventing all of our constructs beyond fire dependency, we can begin with the cultural tools of philosophy of language and memetics. For examples of these approaches see the song "We're Creators" (score is an attachment to that discussion) and Climate Meme.
We grow up to planetary thinking NOW or we die. The world is not OK. This time is the deadline! It won't be easy or painless. We can be glorious and triumphant, if we unite in a heroic effort to put our common future above every other meaning and value.