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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/13/20

Global Community is upon us now. How did you expect it to look?

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Despite all of the wars and occupations and massive displacements of the most vulnerable people on our only planet, Global Community has arrived. It is upon us all, rich, poor, famous or infamous, powerful or helpless. Time to get over it, and get on with it. Fascism or Feudalism, whatever we call them, are obsolete and useless now.

Community isn't necessarily lions and lambs lying down together, much less a pleasant or sustainable condition. Sometimes it's more like what happens after a shipwreck, when some people wake up together on a piece of flotsam. The fact that there are still some places that seem unaffected merely shows that our ship has not gone under completely, yet. But the deck is tilting everywhere.

Global Community is now exactly what has happened.

This despite all our monumental and sustained efforts to stop it. Those with the energy and military power continue to fight, just to maintain hegemony, and they've won. Of course they have. How much wealth does it take to qualify as King of the World? Eighty percent? Ninety? Let's just congratulate the proud new owners of the Titanic. The iceberg is free.

They now own a world so chemically dependent as to be correctly diagnosed as terminally addicted. The substance of abuse, oddly named "drug of choice," is petrochemicals. Addiction is dependency, and we are utterly dependent upon this one resource for the basic necessities of life.

This deadly addiction was not an accident, it was a choice, made by those in a position to make such a choice, in full knowledge of the logical consequences to our entire world. There is even a promotional film from the 1950s in which a Scientist explains that burning fossil fuels will one day heat up the Earth beyond habitable temperatures. Apparently this was seen as just another engineering problem, as was made explicit recently by a Secretary of State who had just been CEO of the biggest petrochemical corporation in the world. This, as we now know, was Denial.

Denial is a mental mechanism that obscures memories of the pain of childbirth, but also befogs our perceptions and skews our priorities when we become addicted to substances such as heroin and fossil fuels. Hence our excitement over an election, when we know that our system is so soaked with oil money that there is no slightest chance that a change in our so-called leadership will bring a change in our suicidal energy policy, much less our trajectory.

We reached the point-of-no-return without noticing. It was many years ago, maybe even before the first of the really devastating resource wars. Now we are hooked, and the dealers know it. They remind us all once in a while by stepping on the hose for a minute or two. But ecological, economic and social collapse is already accelerating, just as the health of a heroin addict does.

How did it come to this? No, not how did we become such a smog-junkie: how did Global Community arise in spite of all we could do?

I have a theory. There was a technological advance that kicked off a couple of paradigm shifts, in the stack of nested paradigms we call "the way it is."

Technological development is a Cultural Evolution. This has driven human development for... well, even apes display different cultural behaviors from group to group, preferred foods, ways of grooming each other. Our economy is tightly linked to our culture of individualism at the expense of individuality. We had better hurry up and evolute our cultures now, or we are toast.

Information was the basis of our cultural development, up until about 2014 or so. Then a technological breakthrough occurred, and a new kind of market and a completely new economic logic burst upon the scene. At that point Attention displaced Information as the most lucrative raw material for entrepreneurial extraction and trade.

Petrochemicals are still the physical basis and infrastructure of geopolitical power, but Attention Technology moves the public mind at a velocity that IT never could reach. In the domain of politics and public sentiment this was a paradigm-level change of immense magnitude, that we're only just beginning to glimpse even as it washes over us in a tsunami of polarizing terror. In fact, we could express it like this: AT+AI > IT+AI. While both are seamlessly interconnected, the commodity that drives it all is now bundled moments of mass attention, ephemeral virtual audiences, mined like BitCoins every few seconds in the roaring stream of Internet traffic that surrounds us like carbon particulates.

The paradigm called "Capitalism" was not much affected by this change in the content of its markets and commodities; commodification and processing structures kept right on churning out the dividends as if it were another kind of sow-bellies or soy futures.

Most of us still have not noticed the transition, much less understood it. I certainly don't understand it. But the evidence is all around us. For example: a famous man famously lied, cheated, incited violence, invited foreign election interference and boasted of assaulting women, just before his elevation to the highest public of public trust.

It was as if a heckler shouting abuse at a chess tournament was suddenly moved to a football match. A boorish, overbearing attention-addict in one election cycle became a crusading outsider for the Forgotten Man in the next, without changing a single trademarked hair on his grimacing head, and was elected President. At least, the established institutions of governance certified the results.

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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay (more...)

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