There is no such thing as ‘higher thought.’ That’s a misnomer humans have given the evolution of symbolic thought. The crisis of human consciousness boils down to the question: Can we cease being slaves to symbols?
Nationalism is the modern form of tribalism. And there is no greater example of this primitive psychology than America’s president, who is a product not of an Electoral College fluke, or of long-brewing Republican extremism, or some ‘anomaly’ in American history. Trump is the last gasp of nationalism, as Orban is in Hungary and Putin in Russia.
Trump’s nationalistic worldview was on fully display after the captain of US national team at the Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe, was recorded saying, “I’m not going to the fucking White House.”
The flag-hugger-in-chief tweeted: “Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”
No, the USA is not doing Great. We have lost our soul as a nation, having elected a man who treats migrant children as an “infestation,” putting them in cages where children take care of children and sleep on concrete floors. It is intentional, the result an evil policy meant to deter desperate people from
coming to America. And it is proof that we’ve lost our soul as a nation.
The distinction between “national loyalty, which is “the sine qua non of consensual government in the modern world,” from nationalism, “a belligerent ideology,” has become a distinction without a difference.
Efforts of Western progressives to preserve liberal nationalism (that is, “secular politics that allow individuals and groups to coexist while they pursue their own goals in their own way”) are also denying the global reality.
Progressives like Valarie Kaur ask, “Is this darkness the darkness of the tomb — or of the womb?” Sadly, she answers her own question implicitly by saying, “The question went viral and 30 million people joined us to watch and wonder about a nation waiting to be born.”
Yes, America has become a nation of viral bystanders watching and wondering what is going to happen. We are responsible. But to have a rebirth, we first we have to face the fact that we have died as a people. Of course, the living dead, across the political spectrum, don’t know they are dead. And those who do know don’t care.
Recently, in the journal “First Things,” conservative Catholics” proclaimed: “We embrace the new nationalism insofar as it stands against the utopian ideal of a borderless world that, in practice, leads to universal tyranny.”
That’s rubbish. Nationalism, as George Orwell wrote in May 1945 just as Germany surrendered, is the “habit of identifying oneself with a single nation, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”
There is no such a thing as a benign—even a salutary—nationalism. Nationalism has always been false; but in the interconnected global society, it has become evil.
Liberal and conservative nationalists are fighting a rear-guard battle against what they know is a fait accompli—a global society. They fear the loss of nation as the individual fears the loss of self.
Both are already history however, nationalism rendered atavistic by global economic reality, and the separate self degenerating into narcissism.
So why do symbols such as flags still have such a strong hold on the brain? As humans, we are social creatures, and social life has required stories, myths and narratives that define and delineate a particular people.
The dilemma in the global society, where the highest value is consumption (even the consumption, through tourism, of other peoples’ cultural narratives) is that the myths and stories that bound a people together are no longer coherent and cohesive.
The individual is therefore cast adrift on a sea of cultural debris. Freedom has come to mean weaving the scraps of cultural flotsam and jetsam into ‘my life’—that is, whatever suits my personality and whims. But that isn’t freedom; it’s individualistic chaos.
Many people are reacting to the chaotic social and political situation by trying to shore up their old national, religious and ethnic identities. They become more and more regressive, suppressive and oppressive in their fear of the fact—the loss of the continuity and coherence of the verities of the past.
A psychological and emotional leap is urgently required. Consciousness is not the symbolization that takes place inside the skull. It is the wholeness of nature that exists in the human being when the mind is attentively quiet.