The fundamental question of our time is: Does a prototype exist somewhere in this world that can provide an adequate response to the human crisis?
To my mind, the answer is no, because an unprecedented crisis in humankind’s relationship with nature means an unprecedented crisis of consciousness, requiring an unparalleled response.
It’s a difficult truth to face. One of the leading mainstream mouthpieces for the status quo begins his latest column in the New York Times by saying, “Almost everybody admires the Nordic model.”
Implausibly, the esteemed ‘thought leader’ proposes an American “bildung,” a German word without English equivalent that means “the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person.”
Arising from a very progressive 19th century approach to education, Nordic visionaries created “folk schools” that made “lifelong learning a part of the natural fabric of society.”
What worked in pouring the foundation in the 1800’s for Nordic success in lessening economic disparity and social misery, and building a modern society, would require a psychological revolution to even be seriously considered in present-day America. Then again that’s precisely what’s urgently required.
It’s galling to have a leading conservative intellectual (I know, the phrase has become oxymoronic) seriously suggest that American educators “work hard to develop the student’s internal awareness.”
Why are the very media people largely responsible for turning America into a profoundly sick and dead land the same ones still diagnosing its ills and prescribing its cures?
The real agenda of the conservative’s praise of the “Nordica model” is revealed in his egregiously false premise: ““If schools do not instill a love of nation, there’s not going to be much shared responsibility.”
Nordic educators in the past may have “worked hard to cultivate each student’s sense of connection to the nation,” but we live in a completely different world, one in which the primacy of identifying with particular groups has become completely dysfunctional.
‘My country’ first and last is dead and gone.
Identifying with the nation as the cornerstone of civilization is utterly wrongheaded and destructive in a global society.
The NYT columnist cites “The Nordic Secret,” by Lene Rachel Andersen and Tomas Bjorkman, with the quote: “Bildung is the way that the individual matures and takes upon him or herself ever bigger personal responsibility towards family, friends, fellow citizens, society, humanity, our globe, and the global heritage of our species, while enjoying ever bigger personal, moral and existential freedoms.”
The pundit riffs, “Their intuition was that as people grow, they have the ability to go through developmental phases, to see themselves and the world through ever more complex lenses.”
That is not the way that mature human beings actually develop however. Self-knowing people do not “see themselves and the world through ever more complex lenses,” but awaken insight through unreactive, undivided observation, growing simpler and subtler in their understanding of themselves and the world.
Wondering if the NYT columnist had misinterpreted the Danish philosopher Lene Rachel Anderson’s work, I called her. To my dismay, she essentially agreed with him, though I came away from the conversation feeling that she was coming from a very different place.
Rachel Anderson accurately said people in America and Europe are “confused and anxious; they want to recapture what used to be, which leads to authoritarianism.”
“Intellectuals have been conveying that love for country is a bad thing,” she added, drawing a distinction (without a different to my mind) between ‘good’ nationalism and chauvinistic nationalism.
Love of country follows love of humanity. When put first, love of country precludes love of humanity.
The NYT pundit went completely off the rails: “Nordica educators help students see the forces always roiling inside the self — the emotions, cravings, wounds and desires. If you could see those forces and their interplay, as if from the outside, you could be their master and not their slave.
That is psychological, philosophical and spiritual gobbledygook. Who or what masters the roiling forces inside the self? Such a notion presupposes two selves, the one that is “always roiling,” and the “master” self that sees the roiling forces “as if from the outside.”
To the nationalist, the psychological separation of the self and the identification with particular groups (the essence of tribalism) are taken as givens.
The supposedly cohesive and permanent thing, the self, does not exist in actuality. The self is a program, an operating system in the chaotic conditioning of thought. It has become disordered and maladjusted all over the world. (Though as the saying goes, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”)
A psychological revolution means “the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person,” which entails ending the emotional center of the Copernican self, without importing self-comforting nonsense from the East like the “Higher Self.”
We don’t develop maturity by going from the simple to the complex, but by going from the complex to the simple. As individuals and a species now, we will either perpetually begin with wholeness, or sorrowfully end in fragmentation.