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‘BEAUTIFULL WORLD WHERE ARE YOU?’



















 

Beautiful world where are you?

I would like to apologize in advance, -this only feels appropriate as internet calls this the age of apologies-  before you spend your time reading a collection of thoughts and assumptions of mine. I used (some might say abused) a lot of question marks to finish my sentences. Also I would like to be released from personal criticism based on my questions. Not only that, but I don't know any answer and will never pretend to know, and I strongly distrust anyone who does. That does not imply I, we shouldn’t be bothered to care. No men's ignorance will ever be his virtue.

The millennial world, by all false assumptions, is an individualistic world where we no longer have a hold on, what used to be, our traditions. Broken families, part-time contracts you name it.
At the same time, there are major problems that are spinning out of control, like the climate crisis and the powerlessness we have over the large amount of plastic that is produced. Politics that go in all directions, the neoliberalism that pulls everything apart so that no one has any stability. All this ‘clean-cut’ seems to be the basis for a new kind of existentialism and a new kind of lostness.
A lot of us are highly educated, we read theories in books and on the internet, and we are good at articulating the problems of the world. We even find ourselves returning to systems such as Marxism to understand the world. We have this enormous insight and knowledge and hunger for insights, but the question that follows sounds: what do we do with that knowledge?

I feel the millennial feels the powerlessness to really exert influence. I mean, you might know very well what is wrong with the climate and how capitalism is exploiting everyone further and further, but that knowledge than only becomes transactional again and again in the voracious system that capitalism is. Paradoxical: you can type furious messages on Instagram and Facebook, but that only breeds the system more.
Millennials are accused of making the world revolve around themselves and seeing themselves as the center of attention. A kind of egocentrism. But if you’re honest, don’t you think millennials have proven to be more involved in society than, for example, the boomers?
We think about structures in the world, but at the same time there is that impotence, the impotence to fix anything. Is that the fault of the individual? Because we still like to take cheap air flights? There is very little possible to really do anything, precisely because all the opposition and all the resistance is being swallowed up. The dilatation that the millennial thinks only of themselves is precisely evidence of an individualistic view of the possibility of real action.
The prejudice that we are focused on ourselves… well maybe we are only looking for connection in a world where we live in impotence because so many things are no longer controllable.

Why do you think we are concerned with ourselves? Because we are growing up in an info-caliptic world without any structure to fall back on. I would like to point out that I am highly aware of the fact that every generation goes through times of resistance and rediscovery. But that it wouldn’t make any sense to approach the world from a different perspective than mine. I mean, we are not claiming a monopoly on stress or disappointment or pretend that we are going through the scariest, world  -what am I saying- life changing paradigm shifts yet... but what if we do?


Everyone has the idea that they are living in the most important time ever, in this case its true -Phillip Bloom.




The big narrative

We are living in a paradigm change. Right now we have the biggest revolution of the last 3000 years, the whole human image has been fairly stable, but that is now starting to tilt.

Okay so let me explain that, let’s go back. Before the biblical time, we lived in a time of mythology. The construct back then followed the rules that everything you did was a negotiation with the surrounding forces. When the Bible came, they drew a very patriarchal model. “Submit the earth” they decided to act to an image in which we are free, rational creatures who stand above nature, even dominating and controlling it. The goal was to complete this dominance, this had several layers, but the highest layer is capitalism which ask us to be highly performative and adaptable.

The world became an Anthropocene world, ‘geological age of mankind’ as Paul Crutzen stated. Are we not at the time that it is a necessity to shift (back) towards a Symbiosene world before we use up all our resourses?

So, we live in a Random world, unfair and chaotic. But we have a very strong instinct for justice. The way we approach this world is trough stories, fictitious constructions. Based on these stories we decide what is good/bad, brave/cowardly and so on. The stories we grow up with in a society also designate our own actions and attitudes in the world. The stories change trough time but remain incredibly important because it is the only way we can approach the world.

You can look at it as a mind map -before these became a high school explanatory way to de fuzz the teenage brain-, it shows where we can go and what we will find very detailed. But it is of the most importance to keep questioning this map, who wrote it? Who is it written for?

A big, maybe the biggest story that is changing right now is the construct of eternal growth. Eternal upgrading relies on dominance, getting further in the game than the rest. The economic contest, of course, already comes from the enlightenment, the idea of the rational individual being free from the rest. Constantly optimizing the market to function better, we have no right to be lazy because the world asks us to be performative and adaptable.
This market system we have set up is collapsing it doesn't work for everyone, it has formed a small elite group of very wealthy people and a very large growing group at the bottom that should not starve but also very clearly get the message: the economy doesn't need you. You are there to consume. You are the mouth. When these people say, “If this is democracy, then it's not for me, just keeping me in limbo. I actually have no value as an individual anymore” that is a very dangerous signal, they will turn away from democracy.

So with all the knowledge we have, everything we know, why are we incapable of changing? Why do these stories move so heavily in the transition to change? Well... Do we not see the stories as stories, but maybe as the reality?
This is an intellectual trap because then we are no longer question ourselves.
And…  The fact is, we end up being complicit in every possible facet of this society.

A story or an opinion do not change through clever arguments, a story or an opinion change when the story breaks reality because it can no longer explain anything and then experiences come that contradict what we think we know, and if this happens often enough we will be open to new explanations. This translates into a sort of story war, which evidently creates space for conspiracies…

Conspiracy thinking

Conspiracy thinking is a multidimensional, complex problem. A conspiracy theorist sees the whole world as a result of conspiracies, but the world of a conspiracy theorist is much more complex. The interesting thing is that ideas become very much intertwined with personal identities and with group identities. That institutes itself and acquires new interests, not only ‘what do I think’  but also who am I, and what is my use within the dynamic of this community? This also weighs against the idea that fact-checking will get rid of the untruths because it doesn't help with the social structures that communities create.

During the pandemic, social media took the WHO guidelines to form the truth on their platforms, but the WHO is political instrument…
Who decides what gets censored is invisible. Shouldn’t this organization be democratic transparent? Public debate must be visible in order for it to be trustworthy.
And also, there have (and I can not stress this enough)  to be clashes of ideas about subjects. We should not dismiss people a priori based on their assumptions and reasons.

Are we now entering the postmodern swamp of relativism? No, the important thing is that sensitivity of truth is not unambiguous.
If we teach people to live with multiple truths, they may be less likely to look for a conspiracy.
Maybe we need to learn more about thinking, about knowledge and how it is used for political purposes. What are rhetorical techniques to manipulate people, how can we distinguish information from manipulation, how do we recognize framing?

Shouldn't we prepare ourselves for some societies to be much more complex and inexplicable than we think/hope? The truth is not as black and white as some fact-checkers or media platforms would have you believe. The truth has perspectives… And changes constantly.

However, this, change, is not rewarded in politics at all. It is not only cognitively but also socially very difficult. You can't just change your ideas,  you will be experienced as a twister. So, it is not appreciated if you change your opinion in a world that is constantly changing…. “I'm glad you changed your mind” should be a rewarded statement. You don’t always need or can depend on a full certainty before you act, “With 70% of the information we have to make 100% of the decisions” - Rutte.


Personal narrative

That brings me a little closer to home, our own narrative. We are good, really good at telling our own story- the progression, the adversity. But it never seems to turn out how we’ve planned it… our slow, comfortable paced plans contradict with the unimaginably fast, no-pause world around us. While we are legalizing same-sex marriage in one moment, the very idea of a binary gender system or a two-spouse limit is being challenged in the next. I am pretty sure that gay marriage is going to seem like this traditional idea a couple of years from now. 

That's the world we live in.

Also studies show that our willingness to change goes down as we age, and it is built right into our expectations of people at different stages of life. We expect our friends to understand concepts like white privilege but are satisfied if our parents can simply avoid stereotypes. The truth is that the further we are into a story, the less likely we are to want to rewrite it.

The thing we might be missing in reading this is the power of the word. Again, the word… Story. The word story is heavy and hard, we need something lighter that can keep up with the pace. Like an idea. The 'idea of me’. As far as psychological constructs go, at first, the two seem very similar. The story of me, the idea of me. A story we write once but an idea we can re-write every day.
'The idea of me' isn't built on an either/or at all. It's built on ‘and’. Ideas change trough time, they get bigger, we keep adding to them, expanding them. Take racism. This is an idea going through an expansion. Racism started out as a struggle for equal rights, but the achievement of equal rights didn't dispel the idea of racism, it just expanded the conversation to include all of racism's less obvious expressions.
Today, when we talk about racism, we talk about an idea that's many layers deep. We talk about that which we can't always point to or that's not necessarily propagated by any one group or person. When you build your identity on a story, it becomes a once and for all discovery. But if you believe yourself to be an idea, the identity becomes a moving target.

Technology

Let’s talk about another moving target, technology. It feels as if we are being dragged along by this incredible, strong force… of technology. We are moving towards a future where technology is inevitable, and questioning assumptions generates a discussion that we can only slowly start to  conduct now.
We live in a data-driven policy, we think that everything has to be solved with technology.
Technology is made up of artifacts, art forms, what people produce. A data center is our culture. But data is not neutral and technology is not neutral.


How we now perceive the internet is based on how we can maximize transactions, that is the earning model in which we pursue profit maximization. Our economy now runs on the image that we are calculating citizens for our own interest, suppose we take a different starting point (people are instinctively inclined to the good and collaborations) then you have to take care of the circumstances, but then you would build a society very differently… We have been moving in a neoliberal force field for more than 30 years, and that is the expression of our political culture of our view of humanity, and we optimize for that, the way we deal with technology is exactly the same. 
The way we treat the planet is the same.
We extract value from systems, that is an ideological discussion, what kind of world do you want? How do you want to deal with value creation? Why now accept that we still extract value from the planet… we have declared people outlaws in the digital domain and that other, can culminate and draw that value to itself. This is a system that we keep up right with everyone. And this is also a system that we need to question… I think.

If a world is only made up of transactions, then we will always measure our relationships…

The hypothesis that we are so influenced by capitalist thinking. That we ourselves can only see love in terms of give and take transactions.
Look, we grow up with old value systems, and you can make bigger connections or preach idealistically about the individual but in the end we still look for connection, and this has been passed down through the generations. The highest form of life is the romantic existence of feeling connection, the narrative which is fed by stories, books, movies etc.
This desire takes place in a setting where God is given up, so where we might look more for visible connections.

I've been thinking a lot about right-wing politics lately, I mean, Who isn’t. How conservatism as a social force has become associated with voracious market capitalism. The alliance is not obvious, at least not to me, because the market does not conserve anything at all, but rather swallows up all aspects of the existing social landscape and separates them, stripped of all meanings and memories, in the form of transactions.” - Sally Rooney

So if we look at technology in cities, in application oriented cities… up until now the ecology has remained outside the digital transformation. It’s no news, nature is healthy it benefits us in a million different ways. But can we really only employ the benefits without caring for it?
We are learning more and more how trees learn from each other, symbiotically, how they work together. That's quite a tilt of how we live in many cities. Maybe this can also be a step towards a fundamentally different way of thinking about our own place in the world.
If you think about a tree, you think about the leaves the crown maybe the big roots, but half or maybe even more of the plant lives under the earth. A very impressive web of fungi that allow the trees to communicate. One tree is, like one human, incomplete. We live as individuals in a highly connected world, we exist out of the connections we have with the world around us. For trees this rule applies too, a forest is a network a social structure, a community.
Now think about this… we plant trees in concrete environments where they are isolated and frankly, lonely.

I don’t think I have to question-mark the next statement: ‘If we don’t realize we need to treat the surrounding species with respect, we are going to cease to exist.’ Man wrote the book on bad behavior, cheated the neighbors… We’ve got what they paid for.

I mean, ruining the world is a beautiful Hybris. But we can definitely ruin mankind.

The limits of our hopes are whether we as humanity can survive on this planet at all, will we manage to give the technological artifacts we use a public direction.

What's interesting is that no matter which angle you come from everyone will end up at the same point, we have to recognize that we are cooperative creatures that we have to be very careful with the resources and don't let any extraction take place in that anymore. Without sounding too sentimental, there is no other way I can articulate how I feel about this topic, then: Let us build the land your children can still live in.

An organism cannot survive by just growing, or just shrinking. An organism must breathe. Moderating is the art of living -Plato.

There is an ideal zone, we just have to find it.

The ‘Grow’ works with Antoinnette Cauley

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