Solutions Part Six: Political Enlightenment (October 2, 2010)
The insights offered by political enlightenment are as essential as practical solutions.
The status quo rests on a largely unexamined assumption that the only solutions we "need" to "fix things" are 1) some new technology and 2) minor policy reforms.
Realizing that these assumptions are deeply, fundamentally wrong is part of what I call political enlightenment. It is political because our perceptions and assumptions are shaped by our politics of experience.
If we are told that the status quo is the best system there is, and we believe it, then we internalize everything that is visibly wrong with our lives and our communities as the result of some weakness or flaw in ourselves. The status quo is "perfect" and thus all flaws must be within us.
If we sense that owning a single used vehicle renders us "poor," and we believe it, then we feel poverty-stricken. To the family with no vehicle, we are wealthy, but that reality does not counteract the political perspective we have internalized from incessant marketing and propaganda, all of which seeks to undercut our inner security and ability to make coherent, independent assessments.
The key insight of political enlightenment is that everything is political. Thus the pseudo-science of economics has failed us not just because it lacks the tools to make sense of our world, but because any economist who sets out to document the internal contradictions and ontological limitations of Neoliberal Global Capitalism will find their career is over before it starts.
Yes, there are always outliers (for example, Michael Hudson), but these are allowed just to "prove" that there is no dominance or colonization. The status quo isn't so clumsy or heavy-handed; marginalized voices play a key role in the colonization of the mind, as they can be publicly co-opted, dismissed and ridiculed to show the plebian debt-serfs the falseness (and negative consequences) of harboring such "outside" thinking.
Simply put, the status quo Central State/crony-Capitalist-cartel/Financial Elite partnership is a political structure that ultimately depends on the consent or complicity of the governed/indebted. Were that political legitimacy to be questioned and then lost, the status quo would crumble.
This is why the marketing-media complex (currently owned by six global corporations and a handful of State-owned firms) is key to the dominance of the State/Plutocracy partnership: if you control the politics of experience then you control everything--governance, the economy, the culture-- because everything flows from this colonization of the mind.
The mind of the Chinese teen who scorns "flavorless" vegetables now and relishes/demands Chicken McNuggets has been very effectively colonized; so too has the mind of the "progressive" who blames everything that's wrong on the "conservatives" (and vice versa).
That false dichotomy--at its core, simply a form of distracting entertainment designed to occupy the mindscape of the plebian debt-serfs with churning emotions and quasi-gladiator "combat"--is the acme of colonization of the mind.
To say that all that's wrong with America and the human condition is "left" or "right" is like saying humanity's problems all come from having a left or right arm.
As an example of the inherent limitations of this false dichotomy (Rush Limbaugh describes himself as an entertainer--a welcome whiff of honesty in a purposefully dishonest media), please consider Globalization and China: Neoliberal Capitalism's Last "Fix" (June 29, 2009).
Once we experience political enlightenment, we lose the ability to be angry or resentful over these manufactured dichotomies. Humanity came to full flower about 200,000 years ago as the survivors of a small band of hominids. Like all other species, humanity thrived on windfall exploitation, exploiting the resources of an area until it no longer supported the band, and then they moved on.
This strategy has run to its limit. There are now 6 billion humans stripmining the planet, and there are no nearby planets to stripmine once we've exploited the resources on this one.
Wisdom had little payoff 200,000 years ago, and so it has never been selected for in the human genome. Now we must fabricate it consciously, an arduous, uncertain project.
We can start by asking cui bono--to whose benefit?--of every inherently political assumption and every element of a status quo that excels in masking who benefits at the top of the pyramid, and refuse to accept received political conventionalities as meaningful except as screens and simulacra.
In this way, the purpose of the Survival+ critique is to foster the political enlightenment
that is the starting point of the path to wisdom.
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