Thursday, April 23, 2015

Teeming humanity and hyper-social reality

At times, especially upon a peak into the news, it feels like the world has gone mad. But looking back, it becomes obvious that it has always been the case. However, this time around it's with a difference. I am the last one to bring forward scientism or biologism to explain humanity, but now it seems, to a point, justified. Social facts exist externally, i.e., beyond the control of the society's members. Compared to Durkheim's times, the latter-day rising interconnection of the humanity and its increasing density start bringing about a hyper-social reality: we start living as one global entity with new realities even less within our control than before. There are too many of us now and humanity start behaving like a hyper-chaotic system, acquiring certain characteristics of a physical entity with the critical mass of components having reached a certain saturated level.

With increase in numbers, the quality of the system changes. There are too many of us, the chaos, that has always been there as in any other system, has taken on a different level.  Overall, the interaction is more intense, magnified by technology. Inside, we start feeling crowded, annoyed by our exposure to the different: it particularly comes to head where the population density is high and the influx of foreigners is highly visible. There are more explosions of violence, state-sanctioned and glorified like drone attacks or democracy export wars, or spontaneous and publicly reviled like rape and xenophobia. Perhaps, the only reason keeping it all from building up into another world war is, not Ban Ki-moon benevolent, Mona Lisa-like semi-smile, but another fear, that of the nuclear deterrent. 

Governments and bureaucracies, the supposed rational actors that have never been such, even as far back as in Weber's, are too part of the chaos and subject to it, and also, consisting of live perceiving feeling actors, reacting to it emotionally, psychologically, irrationally. Do we need GM crops to feed all? Do we need mass surveillance to keep it all stable? Will "green technologies" actually save the envrionent from the exponentially growing excreta of the "thinking mold"? What do we need to keep in line with the growing demand for energy to sustain our increasingly unsustainable lifestyles and those aspiring to have those too? Those questions are answered with quick, unreflexive institutional knee jerks, reflexive spasms of bureaucratic systems, rather than any meaningful strategies addressing the underlying causes.

In the meantime, the corporate world and its driving engine, the global financial system, keep growing and operating according to their own logic, largely inconsistent with the highest good of everyone and everything else concerned: people, society, nature. Turning everything into the only language it can understand, that of the bottomline, money. The former "externalities" assumed to be subservient and subdued to the needs of economy -  humans, society and environment - are given a monetary value that can later be traded, exchanged, made into financial derivatives, all to support to the constant expansion of credit, i.e., the fractional reserve banking system clocking up trillions of digital money out of keyboard clicks and electromagnetic signals on server hard drives. 

This drive to monetarise everything, express everything through money, was presciently described in Yevgeny Zamyatin's 1927 novel We, where the entire society works to build a kind of super-spaceship, the Integral, that, when launched, will fly across the universe and calculate it all, "integrate the grandiose cosmic equation".  These days, even human emotions, dutifully recorded by everyone into the various apps of their smartphones, are smartly monetarised to create mega-profits for the likes of Facebook, Amazon and their creditors and investors. Billions of human souls' minutest moves all channeled into one powerful stream to propel the wheels of the world's banking - at least, we have one organised, rational, purposeful response to deal with

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