“God has granted to me to make friends with two of the people here: one is Orlov, and the other and principal one is Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov. He is a librarian at the Rumyantsev Library… He has devised a plan for a common task for humanity, the aim of which is the bodily resurrection of all humans. First, it is not as crazy as it sounds (don’t worry, I do not and never have shared his views, but I have understood them enough to feel capable of defending them against any other beliefs of a similar material nature). Secondly, and most importantly, because of these beliefs he leads the purest Christian life… He is sixty, a pauper, gives away all he has, is always cheerful and meek.’ L.N. Tolstoy writing to V.I. Alexeev, 1881”
As my coworkers seem to drift farther and farther right I am going in the opposite direction. This brings to mind the psychology of Jordan Petersen and how we need the opposite view if we are to ever understand our own. Though I am certainly perplexed by Trump supporters it is possible to just accept their behavior has a mechanism driving it and if I cannot understand it I can at least start with that. The best way I have found so far to make some sense of the present situation is to frame it as a kind of bizarre social Darwinism. As a few discerning progressives have stated recently, it is not about left and right, it is about up and down. Those at the top and those at the bottom and the deceptions sustaining this extreme inequality.
Deception in nature is of course ubiquitous in the form of camouflage. When humans evolved consciousness they went supernatural in the way they exercise self-deception concerning their own mortality. This is the basis of the psychological theory of Terror Management. Troubleshooting a fault by looking at all the parts of the system is my only gift and when applying that talent to this up and down problem I see deception as the salient factor. This goes back to my favorite verse in the bible and the question asked by Pilate, “What is truth?” All the parts point to a thanatological distraction acting as a kind of mass hysteria throughout history. We must substitute stories because the realities are too much to bear. The endless stories are how we escape distress.
The reality that generates all these constructs we believe to be so important is the unacceptable mystery of existence. Why is this world so terrible and yet so wonderful? Our simple default is to believe it is either completely terrible or completely wonderful but either of those worldviews alone wreck our psyche and is catastrophic to survival. To reconcile both as existing together is beyond our ability so we are driven to make stuff up. This is not simple and quickly becomes infinitely complex. When we have to make stuff up we automatically assume everything and everyone is either made up or is making stuff up also- so life becomes this game not about what is true and real but what you want to believe. My troubleshooting leads me to choose that fault as the big problem; the correct process is to imagine the best possible reality and then try to make it real, to turn a lie into truth – not make up the best possible reality and then just believe the lie without making it real. We must not choose the story we like. The mistake is choosing a story, which is fundamentally different than making a story real. The devil is in the details.
The most difficult path is to accept the world is both terrible and wonderful and not as alternative stories to choose from. We can only “accept” for short periods when we are at our strongest and most resilient. Between the two poles of terrible and wonderful is the great unknowable. For short periods we are transfixed by a world either terrible or wonderful but most of the time it is that queer mix we do not know how to deal with. So we resort to making up stuff and fooling ourselves into thinking we know something. And that is where the trouble starts. In terms of the obscene wealth amassed by a very few individuals and the self-induced delusions we use to make sense of that, what we are doing is choosing to believe one lie or another. Those choices lean left or right and our unique personalities push us one way or the other. The immutable law we rebel against here is that simple problems get solved but the hard problems will remain no matter how hard we try to make them simple. That hard problem is not left and right, it is up and down.
For any who are reading this expecting a blog entry about space exploration, this issue of left and right and up and down relates directly to the first space age and the future of our species. The perfect example to illustrate the left/right-up/down dichotomy is the race to the Moon. Ostensibly a cold war battle between socialism and capitalism, it showcased the shortcomings of both political systems. The west won by resorting to a soviet command economy program and then, because of the lack of profit that went along with that style of project, ended the first space age just after it began. We have yet to see humans travel beyond Earth orbit again and the present push is underfunded and shot through and through with neoliberal agendas almost guaranteeing failure. There is no short term profit to be made Beyond Earth Orbit and since we typically die after 70 or 80 years nobody cares about the long term. Individually there is no future to care about. Yet we collectively refuse to invest any significant resources into indefinitely extending the human lifespan. This seemingly bizarre little detail, never addressed with any degree of seriousness, may ironically doom our species to extinction.
This is akin to a race to the bottom where we collectively sacrifice our species so as to live our momentary individual lives just a little better off than others. Nothing is going to make us individually sacrifice until there is a future to sacrifice for. The terminal illness that is aging translates into a society where the individual seeks to gain as much power and wealth as possible in the moment. Part of this insatiable appetite is to invest in safeguarding extant wealth by any means possible and, naturally, influencing and deceiving others is the best way to accomplish that. While the patriarchy is often blamed for much of this it must be understood women enjoy wealth just as much as men. Part of the left and right deception has to do with stories about the battle of the sexes. In reality it is women who are the more existentially important beings- as I have often told my daughter. Males are largely expendable and act that way, at least for the first quarter century of life. It would be wise to send only women and no men to colonize space.
In closing, Federov’s Common Task is not camouflage for any left or right storylines. The Task always at hand is a call for all to go up, and if that requires dragging those very few at the top back down, then so be it. In the end, it is essentially about the 91 percent tax rate on the top 1 percent of the 1950’s that made America great. That story was made real, but the neoliberal fantasy happening now is simply camouflage for predation and greed. Propaganda.