The cognitive revolution, which made all 7.7 billion of us “fully modern humans,” with the capacity for diverse languages, cultures, art, science and technology, occurred about 100,000 years ago in East Africa.
The cognitive revolution was not consciously brought about, but the insight revolution can only consciously occur. It is not a goal in the usual sense—an objective achieved by thought—but it cannot happen without the diligent work of many individuals awakening awareness and igniting insight within.
Indeed, as the crisis of consciousness intensifies, and imperils the Earth and the future of humanity, the first task of the living generations, whether they have children or not, is to ignite insight within the consciousness we all share. That’s essential to change the disastrous course of humankind.
We are not separate from the world, but in actuality each one of us makes up the world. By seeing the world in terms of fragments, as the vast majority of people do, we contribute to the fragmentation of the Earth and humanity.
Just as the ecological crisis and the crisis of consciousness go hand in hand, self-determination and democracy are also imperiled by thought-based consciousness. “We are learning how to write the music,” one cognitive scientist said, “and then we let the music make them dance.”
In a global, data-driven society, people can only flourish inwardly, and peoples can only flourish democratically, when the individual is self-knowing and humanity, not ‘my nation,’ is sovereign.
The mainstream media has been and continues to be complicit in the erosion of the human spirit and democracy. “The failing New York Times” (failing in a deeper sense than Trump means), mirrors academic irrelevance with columns such as “Why Trump Persists,” by Thomas B. Edsall.
Straining credulity beyond the breaking point, Edsall praises nonsense like that espoused by Karen Stenner, a political psychologist and behavioral economist:
“Communities with a good balance of people who seek out diversity, complexity, novelty, new and exciting experiences etc., and those who are disgusted by and averse to such things, avoid them, and tell others to do likewise, tend to thrive and prosper in human evolution,” Stenner asserts.
“Finding the right balance,” she adds, “is vital to both societal cohesion and human flourishing.” But, she warns, “We may have tipped the balance too far in favor of unconstrained diversity and complexity,” pushing the boundary beyond “many people’s capacity to tolerate it.”
A little knowledge of evolution, plus a complete lack of philosophical reflection, generates risible ideas like that. We’re way beyond balance. Only an academic could imagine that “unconstrained diversity” is to blame for America’s descent into right-wing extremism.
In a minimally healthy body politic, the pendulum swings from center-right to center-left and back again. When the pendulum breaks however, it remains stuck in the extreme right or the extreme left.
The pendulum has been broken in America for a generation. It’s stuck in right-wing extremism, and nothing but a war and/or a psychological revolution, will keep mob rule from driving us deeper into the abyss.
In some countries, such as Russia before the Revolution, the pendulum broke on the left, and Leninist-Stalinist communism emerged.
But in America, the pendulum broke in the Republican Party during the Clinton years, manifested generally in the warmongering years of Bush-Cheney, and was temporarily halted by the Obama Interregnum before reaching full flower with Trump and his mob of 40 per-centers.
That has nothing to do with human evolution, except to attest that we haven’t psychologically changed in thousands of years, and remain essentially tribal creatures.
We therefore return essential questions. Despite living in an interconnected global society, why do the vast majority of people, on the right and the left, remain identified with a particular group, be it “my tribe” or a nation?
Why does consciousness based on symbolic thought, with its dead weight of tradition and accumulation of useless and destructive memories, remain so dominant, generating the darkness that is synonymous with human consciousness in our age?
In the final analysis, the evolution of ‘higher thought’ both gave us the capacity for true consciousness, and is a tremendous impediment to it.
The responsibility lies with the individual—literally the undivided human being—to awaken insight through self-knowing.
That, not laws or ‘collective actions,’ is the first safeguard against surveillance capitalism and the annihilation of self-determination.