THE STORY IS BROKEN.
The Search for a new World-Story is on.
Big News, everyone!
I had a vision. Sort of. I think.
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Maybe it will sound profound. Maybe it won’t. But I feel like I have a better idea of what exactly my mission in life is now.
My vision, if I can call it that, occurred while I was at a Sun Dance ceremony in Chiapas a week ago and has to with the age-old question that all revolutionaries all must answer.
That question is: What is to be Done?
As some of you will have noticed, I’ve been offline for almost three weeks now.
I like to take periodic breaks from following the news, and from using electronic devices. Sometime I’ll leave my computer at home and go traveling, thereby reducing my media consumption in what I call a media fast.
I feel like it is good for me to zoom out sometimes and try to look at the bigger picture. I write about politics, and that means paying attention to world events, but I’m always aware of the hypnotic effect that the news media can have.
I think that one needs to keep one’s eye on the prize. The reason to pay attention to politics is because one wishes to understand what is going on in the world around them so that they are participate in creating the kind of reality that they want to create.
When I’m writing about things that are happening on the other side of the world, sometimes I ask myself if I’m doing what I should be doing. Would my creative energy be better employed elsewhere?
I’m a big believer in the saying “Put Your Good Where it Does the Most”. In other words, I don’t want to waste energy doing things that don’t yield good results.
Before the COVID nightmare began, I was less of a writer and more of an activist - I was involved in direct action campaigns against oil and gas pipelines, for instance. I was more interested in action than in theory.
Now, though, I live in Mexico and honestly keep to myself a lot more than I did before.
All this leads towards somewhat of a reflection on what it is that I want to do as a writer. I believe that I’m meant to write - that the life mission that I came to the Earth will has something to do with the art of writing.
I recently had somewhat of a revelation in regards to my life’s work.
The realization that came to me was this - THE STORY IS BROKEN.
I actually got this idea from someone named Sketchy the Clown, who ran for mayor of Toronto a few years ago.
His slogan for that campaign was “The Problem is Broken”.
The fact of the matter is that most people don’t really understand what’s wrong with the world.
In Sketchy’s words:
“Everyone’s offering these solutions… but no one’s dealt with the problem that we don’t really understand what’s wrong.”
He goes on to say:
“So what the hell’s wrong? I don’t know. There’s something wrong. The problem is the problem is broken. You can’t put any solutions out there before you find out what’s wrong with the problem. Once we understand what’s wrong with the problem, we’ve got it together. This is some deep clown mojo that I’m throwing at you here.”
Now, some of you might find this trite, but I think that it’s actually quite profound.
Think about it. If you don’t understand what the problem is, what are the chances that you’re going to solve it?
What is *THE* problem with the world?
We can, I think, agree that there is a problem, and that it is a big problem, and that something should be done about it.
Indeed, millions of people believe that we are now living in the end times, and that the apocalypse might be just around the bend.
Ordinary people, who don’t pretend to really understand politics or economics, have definitely noticed that their piece of the pie keeps shrinking, and that the future doesn’t seem as bright and as promising as it used to.
More and more people are now looking around and asking themselves who’s really running the show. A lot of people have reached the conclusion that whoever is in charge is either evil, insane, or both. In order words, many are now figuring out that the world is ruled by criminals.
If you think in political terms, you likely believe that the problem with the world is the concentration of too much power in too few hands. This is something that even conservatives and classical liberals can agree on.
But how do you change that balance of power without shooting yourself in the foot? How can power be redistributed?
Most people don’t want to burn society down and start over from scratch. They want a reconfiguration of that balance of power, but any attempt to reconfigure power is likely to be resisted by those that want things to remain how they are - namely, the rich.
So where does one start?
What does all of this have to do with “The Great Narrative”?
It is the work of a lifetime to make sense of the world. Even understanding oneself takes many years. But I think that it is important to realize HOW we make sense of the world.
Basically, we understand the world through stories. Human cognition seems optimized for the purpose of creative narratives through which we understand the world and our place within it.
In a sense, we are very literally stories. If you think that about you ultimately are long enough, you will probably come to the conclusion that your ultimate identity is the story about yourself that you tell yourself in order to understand your place in the world. In a sense, we are all figments of our own imaginations.
In psychology, there is a word for the story about yourself that you tell yourself. That word is ego. Buddhists and Taoists teach that suffering comes from the cravings of the ego, and liberation from suffering occurs when one learns to quiet the urges of the ego.
There is also another type of story that people use to navigate reality. Whereas the ego is individual, this type of story is shared between different members of a culture.
This is what I will call The Story of the World.
My readers will be familiar with the way that I use the word “narrative” to describe certain stories that the Powers That Shouldn’t Be want us to believe about certain things. There has been much talk about the “COVID narrative” or the “narrative around the War in Ukraine”, or so on. The implication is that the ruling class, who controls the mainstream media, are making certain decisions about what they want the public to believe, and are doing certain things to push certain narratives.
But I don’t think that people are aware quite how tight narrative control is in areas other than the news media. In recent years I have learned a lot about history, and I can definitely say that I underestimated the extent to which narrative control is practiced by historians.
Recent discoveries in the field of archaeology also reveal a puzzling degree of narrative control. For many years, mainstream archaeology clung stubbornly to an insistence that there was no trans-Atlantic contact between the Americas and the Old World until Columbus. This has now been proved false, and the entire field of archaeology is now overdue for a massive paradigm shift.
I find this very interesting. It means that the Story of the World is up for grabs, and the Powers That Shouldn’t Be know it. Klaus Shwab wrote a whole book about the importance of coming up with a new “Great Narrative” in order to usher in the transhumanist nightmareland of his twisted fantasies.
I have written about this before, notably in a piece called Whose Great Narrative?, which discusses Shwab’s book. In that piece, I wrote:
The task before us, then, is to come up with our own Great Narrative – a Great Narrative for the people, which places this moment in time in its context, which tells us how we got into the mess that we’re in now, and also where we are going, or at least where we want to go.
So I suppose that my vision wasn’t exactly a new idea. It’s just that I decided to commit to really making it my beat.
It will come as no surprise to my readers that I am a great admirer of Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist of Fear and Loathing fame.
He considered his beat “the death of the American dream” and he has gone down in history because he had his finger of the pulse of his culture at the particular moment in time when he lived. His job, in a sense, was to paint a portrait of the soul of America in a time of turmoil, degeneration, and decay.
I guess there is no shame in wishing to emulate one’s literary hero, so I’ll say that I view my job as something quite similar.
But what is going on in. Perhaps I could write about the death of the Canadian dream, but I feel more called to focus on something which feels more positive and uplifting.
I am an optimist and I really do have a lot of faith in humanity. I believe that if we put our minds together we can create an awesome reality.
I personally feel that quite a lot of the problems that we have likely stem back to negative beliefs that we have about ourselves as human beings.
An individual will be happier, healthier, friendlier, and more kind if they feel good about themselves - that is to say, if they have a positive self-image. Self-esteem is a major factor in mental health and tends to lead to success in life as well.
What’s my point? My point is that if we have negative beliefs about ourselves, those beliefs could then become self-fulfilling prophecies. Calibrating belief systems can be very tricky!
My question is this: Is part of the problem with human beings that we have poor self esteem? Why would it occur to anyone to compare the human species to a disease?
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
For more than a century, one quintessential question that revolutionaries have asked themselves is “What is to be Done?”
I have thought and thought about what could be done about the political situation in Canada, and I have quite a few ideas about things that potentially could work, but I don’t really think that enough people in Canada are truly sufficiently motivated to overthrow the government.
I also believe that something has to give at a certain point. I imagine that some kind of shock will come at some point, likely in the form of an economic crisis.
It is said that with crisis comes opportunity, and it could be that the greatest potentially revolutionary moment of our lives could be coming soon.
Arguably, the most intelligent thing that revolutionaries could do would be to prepare for this moment, and to be ready to make the most of it when it arrives. But how?
Well, personally, I think that my job as a writer is to help people make sense of the world. I think that the best thing that I can do is to do my part to understand how to fix the Story of the World.
WHAT IS THE STORY OF THE WORLD?
Simply put, I am using the Story of the World to refer to a culture’s mythology. It is the story, or collection or stories, that allows members of that culture to have a certain level of agreement about why things are the way they are, and how they came to be that way.
Mythology is made up of some combination of fact and fancy, and serves to explain, in a general way, things that would quickly becomes bewilderingly complex if one really took the time to think about them.
As Ronald Wright put it:
Myth is an arrangement of the past, whether real or imagined, in patterns that reinforce a culture’s deepest values and aspirations … Myths are so fraught with meaning that we live and die by them. They are the maps by which cultures navigate through time.
As dreams as to individuals, myths are to cultures. They do not conform to the rules of rationality, but I am convinced that they are much more important than most people tend to think.
In an anthropological sense, there is no such thing as a culture without a mythology. However, the Mythos of any given culture may well be imperceptible to members of that culture, for the same reason that water is imperceptible to fish.
The Mythos of any given culture is not seen as Myth by members of that culture, but as Reality.
And that’s why paradigm shifts are resisted so forcefully: people tend to be quite attached to their ideas of what Reality is.
My belief is this: That a paradigm shift is on the horizon, and that the best thing that I can do is attempt to understand the New Reality which is coming into view.
Now, I know that this is a big task, but really I’ve been working on it on my whole life - and chances are so have you.
We’re all trying to make sense of the world all the time, aren’t we?
THE THREE QUESTIONS THAT MYTHOLOGY MUST ANSWER
According to the great anthropologist Ronald Wright, there are three questions are the three essential questions that any functional mythology must answer. Those questions are:
Where did we come from?
What are we?
Where are we going?
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of human beings would have answered these questions in spiritual terms.
For instance, let’s take a minute to consider how a medieval Christian might have answered the three questions.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE THREE QUESTIONS
What are we?
We are divine animals, both sacred and profane, prone to temptation but capable of great acts of love. We are cursed, but we are also promised redemption. We were given free will by God and we are meant to choose what is good.
Where did we come from?
God made us and put us in a marvellous garden where we had everything that we needed, but our ancestors disobeyed God and were punished. We are cursed to lives of toil and pain, but we are promised redemption and eternal life if we lead virtuous lives.
Where are we going?
If we are virtuous in this life, our souls will ascend to heaven and live forever in the glory of God.
If we do evil, we will be separated from God and suffer punishment in the afterlife.
Basically, we will each get what we deserve. True or not, it’s a comforting thought.
When one thinks about this particular Story of the World, and compare its to others, one can see both pros and cons.
Is it good to teach children that this life is a curse? Maybe the vendetta that Western Civilization sometimes seems to have against nature stems from a belief that this world is a prison.
On the other hand, the overall effect of this World-Story is to emphasize the importance of virtue, as well as a promoting the idea of Divine Justice.
I’m guessing that a society of people who placed a high importance on performing virtuous acts would be a more pleasant place in the long run than one that didn’t.
I’m also guessing that people who believe in Divine Justice are likely happier than people who don’t.
I wonder how I might go about looking into how different belief-systems influence mental health.
Does anyone have any ideas about how to study that question? What does psychology have to say on this subject? How best might we optimize our beliefs to create a society of healthy, happy, well-adjusted people?
My belief is this - the reality I experience is, in a very real way, produced by projections cast by my mind, which are in term caused by my beliefs.
If we are unsatisfied with the reality that we are mutually reproducing, we would well to consider modifying our beliefs.
SECULARISM & THE THREE QUESTIONS
Though traditionally mythology tends to go hand-in-hand with religion, the World-Story that we have in the West has not been a religious one for at least fifty years.
The World-Story now taught in public schools and universities is now a secular one.
It is a combination of secularism, scientism, and statism.
What are we?
We are bipedal hominids inhabiting a planet. We are biological organisms possessed of cognitive faculties which set us apart from animals in some ways, but there is no way to prove the existence of a soul or any type of individuated consciousness existing apart from the electrical activity of the body.
Where did we come from?
For some reason that no one understands, the universe started somehow in a dramatic event called the Big Bang. It is believed that the Big Bang was accidental, although proof is never offered for this.
Somehow, at some point, all the energy produced by the Big Bang cooled down and stars and planets somehow all started orbiting around each other because of the laws of physics.
At some point, something called abiogenesis happened, and biological life sprung into existence from inanimate matter.
How, you ask? Don’t ask me! Ask a scientist! Don’t expect too much from them, though. They have ZERO idea, yet are somehow convinced that the only way that life could have possibly begun was by accident.
They are so convinced of this totally unproven hypothesis, in fact, that they have even gone so far as to create a very detailed scientific theory of evolution, which takes the “Whoopsy-Daisy Theory” to truly staggering conclusions.
Apparently, because of something called natural selection (i.e. death), all biological organisms haphazardly emerged from the primordial soup in the total absence of any intelligence or conscious effort on the part of a sentient being. The magic that produced trillions of species in all their myriad glory, did so through the magic of random mutation. How do we do know that the mutations were random, you ask? That’s the best part! We don’t!
I’m honestly offended by this sad excuse for a mythos. As creation stories go, it’s pathetic. You might as well say: “Hey kid, here’s the deal. The universe started somehow for no reason and things are the way are because that’s the way they are. You’re going to die someday and so will everyone else. Then one day the Sun will explode and that will be that. Eat your broccoli!”
Furthermore, the glaze of scientism is applied on top of an underlying layer of statism.
If you took under the hood of the Secular-statist-scientism World-Story, you will see that it really boils down to our rulers programming us to accept their power as legitimate, natural, and unavoidable. It is a narrative designed to disempower us.
Underneath, the secular-statist-scientism World-Story really boils down to Might Makes Right. Basically, we are told:“Listen, there are winners and losers in this world. We’re the winners, you’re the losers. Sucks to be you, but them’s the breaks, so you better do as you’re told if you know what’s good for you!”
In the more prosperous societies, there is also the possibility of social advancement, which tends to make the pill go down easier.
Where are we going?
Houston, we have a problem. This part of the story is broken. Until recently, it wasn’t, but now it is.
Until recently, if you lived in a country like the U.S.A. or France, the answer was simple - things are going to keep getting better and better forever.
Technology will keep advancing, innovations will “lift millions out of poverty”, we will gain God-like powers over disease and death or, who knows, maybe we’ll colonize Mars or something.
This is what I call the Buzz Lightyear theory of History - that we’ll keep going “Up, up, and away” “to infinity and beyond!”
There’s just one problem. The world doesn’t work that way. What goes up must go down, and a lot of people are looking around and asking themselves where in the hell the world is heading to.
The Myth of Progress has played a key role in the World-Story of the West for a long time, but people seem to have started having their doubts.
THE MYTH OF PROGRESS
In a previous piece, I wrote about Ronald Wright’s amazing book “A Short History of Progress”:
How then might we understand the Mythos of modern civilization? What answers does our culture offer to Gauguin´s questions? What is the central Myth of our culture? Liberalism? Capitalism? Democracy?
None of these fit the bill. Remember, the defining characteristic of a true Mythos is a quality of being unquestionable. Liberalism, capitalism and democracy are widely discussed in political discourse, and innumerable critiques of all three are endlessly debated. We must look deeper. We must look for something which is not up for debate.
Ronald Wright places himself in the company of anarchists such as Jacques Ellul, Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, and Paul Cudenec when he names the Myth of Progress as the central Myth of Western civilization.
“Our practical faith in progress has ramified and hardened into an ideology — a secular religion which, like the religions that progress has challenged, is blind to certain flaws in its credentials.
Progress, therefore, has become ‘myth’ in the anthropological sense.”
Hmm. Progress as a myth, eh? What does that mean? I mean, things are always changing, aren’t they? Maybe a definition would help.
Wright defines Progress as:
“the assumption that a pattern of change exists in the history of mankind … that it consists of irreversible changes in one direction only, and that this direction is toward improvement.”
Aha. Now I get it.
If there is one thing about which both communists and capitalists can agree, it is that technological Progress must proceed at all costs. Economic growth must continue. The system depends upon it, and so humanity must serve the Machine. That alone is imperative.
During the Conquista, ruthless profiteers dressed up their plunder as “spreading civilization” or “civilizing the savages” or “saving souls”. That sort of talk has become unfashionable, but if try to stop a pipeline or mine, you will find out that a lot of people still hold with conviction the belief that: “YOU CAN’T STAND IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS.”
So, basically, wherever the state does is in the name of Progress. Because the future proceeds inexorably from the past, the future is contained within the past, and it can always be claimed, retrospectively, that whatever happened was meant to happen because it did happen. It’s quite fascinating how this word-magic works, and I think that this shows the magical consciousness-altering power of narrative.
So where am I going with all this? What’s my point?
Well, I suppose my point is that the system relies upon controlling the perception of the masses, and that the Powers That Shouldn’t Be exert tremendous effort in maintaining control of the various mythologies that are out there in the collective consciousness.
It was Orwell that told us that:
“‘Who controls the past… controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
Does it follow then that the people who control the World-Story rule the world?
Edward Bernays thought so.
WHO TELLS THE STORIES RULE SOCIETY.
Over two thousand year ago, Plato spoke a truth that has stood the test of time.
It is this: WHO TELLS THE STORIES RULE SOCIETY.
I find this reassuring because it implies that artists are more powerful than people tend to think. It gives me hope to think that a new way of seeing the world could spread.
If enough people come to see the world in a new way, the world has changed, but what we call the world is basically imaginary.
I believe that the problem with the world is, in a sense, us. For whatever reason, human beings are forever doing things that cause unnecessary pain and suffering.
Is the problem us or our beliefs? Why are we forever sabotaging ourselves?
To what extent are our difficulties caused by our culture? Are we harming ourselves by trying to adapt to society in ways that run contrary to our nature?
To what extent is the problem human beings themselves and to what extent is the problem the cultural framework within which modern humans live?
DO YOU HAVE IDEAS, OR DO IDEAS HAVE YOU?
My argument is simple - our culture needs a frame shift.
We need to audit the code of our cultural operating system and figure out which of our beliefs serve us and which do not. We need to get on the same page about what that is.
Really, I believe that culture is our most powerful weapon, and that we would be well-advised to play to our strengths.
I think that instead of thinking about revolution as destroying the political system that we oppose, we should think about our activism as an effort in creating the type of culture that one actually wants to be a part of.
Personally, I believe in the power of ideas. I believe that the world, in a very real sense, is made of ideas. The world’s economy works because people understand and accept the idea of money as a medium of exchange. All forms of social organization are manifestations of ideas. And I believe that the pen is mightier than the sword.
I believe that we are coming into a rare moment in time when people are going to have to rethink a lot of things really quickly.
If we have our own World-Story, one that is more compelling than that being peddled by the transhumanists and techno-fascists, we will surely attract the interest of others who are, like us, doing their best to make the world make sense.
People do need to believe in something. As operating systems are to computers, so are belief systems to humans.
If we have good answers to the important questions of our times, our ideas will catch on.
My proposal, then, is for the anarchist movement to put some real effort into coming up with three very solid answers to the three questions.
I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I think that I’ll wrap up there for now. I feel that this piece has been somewhat all over the place, because I have a lot to say on this subject, but I hope that it is has been interesting.
As always, your comments and feedback are appreciated.
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