II. The State of The World
The state of the world as a reflection of a prevailing state of mind
It’s said that as of the year 2016, despite appearances, we are living in the most peaceful period in human history. Whatever the case, for many, this would come as a surprise. Through the globalization of media, crises from the far corners of the world appear to us in a barrage that creates an exaggerated sense of turmoil, violence and decay.
The cycles of strife, extending back to the reaches of human memory, and to seemingly every corner of the globe suggests, at the very least, what humans are capable of. So what is the difference, from generation to generation, in places that were peaceful that become sites of atrocity and vice versa?
The state of the world is a prism that everyone holds differently. How things are will seem different in every human moment. Perception is one part of it, what, individually, we are aware of and our experience. This will be less a claim of what we all individually do, or should, see, and more a meditation on what we collectively see through.
If the world could be understood, solved, with things we already know, our solutions perhaps would merely be adjusted in terms of volume, intensity. More research, more facts, more outreach, larger and louder, but ultimately conforming to the present sense of things. Truth has always been something decided by the victors, the majority. And so if how we see determines how we live, we must necessarily trace the way things are, what is wrong and what is right, to the prevailing worldview.
If this is the most peaceful point in history, then what is the point of this intervention? The prevailing themes of convenience of short-term gratification, both in personal and business senses, may not have limited our ability to know of negative events, but may have merely confined our perspective on them to explanations that are quick and easy and self-affirming.
Our popular explanations for things that go wrong over and over again, determine what happens to the feedback we are receiving about what we do, how well we detect the real root, who we blame, and thus the extent to which we are able to adapt.
What the story of peace does not tell us is of the long term consequences of how we are living, the entropic nature of our society and how the costs, the suffering, while not necessarily expressed in violence, takes the form of various tipping points, that have not yet, among privileged classes, been reached.
This is addressed to the issue of living in the long-term, a species perspective on our ways of thinking. By the time the pressures of the developing world become realities for people in the developed it will be too late for reflection, and the short-sighted explanations that prevail today will be translated by sudden and unfamiliar hardships, into the most ancient and regrettable forms of what is humanly possible.
This is an effort to prepare us for the stresses that the current peace, the current order have destined us for.
Although we think we are seeing the world as it is, we look only toward it through cognitive shortcuts, through routines we absorb from an early age that spare us the time and effort of thinking for ourselves. To do so is actually impossible until one begins to take an inventory of our conditioning, the kind of thought that happens automatically.
As cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman observes, that we survive, and, here and there, prosper, leads us to think we see things as they are, but as far as the visual picture created by the brain, this isn’t the case. What matters, more than how things really are, in an evolutionary sense is that you see clearly enough to survive, or optimally, thrive. When you get a different result, from what you wanted or expected, that is feedback, from Reality. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it that way. Just because you miss the half court shot one hundred times doesn’t mean you wont make it. Some strategies work well enough, we get the right result sometimes. And this, I suppose, is politics, the science of just preventing revolution.
To optimize, however, to attempt to minimize unwanted outcomes requires an intellectual flexibility, an openness to adjustment that is atypical, both of individuals and societies.
The state of the world is always a reflection of the state of the human mind, the trends of thought that collectively amount to our destiny. The notion of human nature, in its popular conception, ties us to negative outcomes as if they were inevitable. To develop flexibility of perspective is in essence developing the ability to perceive more and better options along every level of life.
In that sense, human possibility is our concern.