A business model for rebuilding the city of the imagination.
|The rise of irrational thinking, in the form of say religious fundamentalism, or climate change denialism, or radical social deregulation, indicates a society that is profoundly losing its way and has ceased to be viable at virtually every level at which it operates; existentially, socially, economically and environmentally.
Whether it be at the level of adequately capitalizing and securing very vulnerable individual egos, or moving out of laissez-faire libertarianism to social governance rebuilding, or cutting back on systemic over-production so we can rebalance our social capitalization effort and repair damaged psychological hinterlands, or making sure our descendants have some ecological capital left that will give them the necessary environmental income to live off, nothing we are doing now indicates sustainable behavior, or much hope for the future.
The rise of religious fundamentalism should not be any surprise. Existential and social panic should be considered reasonable in the face of the gravity of our situation. And religion is getting the business from that because secular society has been so successfully colonized by an an extremist, revolutionary and totalitarian consumer capitalism, it can't respond to the challenge, even though the awful damage it is doing and the crushing emptiness and silence that exists below the color and movement of its surfaces, threaten to destroy its subjects and everything they touch.
There is a secular, fundamentalist and non-traditional conservatism that needs to be built to address these challenges. The promise is that failure to produce something that provides security, meaning, coherence, a collective ritual experience, a compendium of guiding ideas, an organization to build and maintain them, and a visionary faith in the future and its work-in-progress, will mean the old fashioned fundamentalists will get the business, fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden notwithstanding.
Current secular atheistic/agnostic/evidence based thinking is not safe from this tide, which is coming in, ready or not. Whether the Bible or the Koran and the notion of a monotheistic god are nonsense or not, is not the question. The question is, can human beings go on ignoring the desperate circumstances the life force on this planet and the eviscerated condition of their own existential and social software? And whatever one’s cosmological beliefs, it just doesn’t make any sense to assume that some god is going to get us out of the shit, because even in the unlikely event that it did exist, after what we have been doing, it might very well not choose to save us.
Whatever it is that we construct to defend and rebuild our common future, it will have to start from scratch. The modernist market totalitarianism that we presently live under has effectively destroyed the past and the traditional systems of social and existential governance that guided them. All that is left of it are its ghosts and jerkingly dysfunctional bits of detritus. Yet even so, there is plenty of presently available cultural material, that if properly reconstructed and packaged, will provide us with the retradionalization platform we need to go forward.
Whatever the ideological construct is going to be that will get us out of the cul-de-sac we presently find ourselves in, it will need to incorporate the extremely conservative notion of sustainability in all things. This conservatism will be as profound as maybe, as we struggle to re-root ourselves into something that gives us bearings and a sense of our place in the nature of things, so that we cease to be lost, struggling for direction and wondering what we expect to have achieved when we get to where we are going, if indeed we ever find it.
The conservatism of which I speak goes back to the basic building blocks of social construction and what that construct is supposed to be built for. It is about the fundamentals of what it means to be human; that our most valuable product by far is the social organization necessary to produce the next generation to a certain product standard that can be carried forward indefinitely.
And that conservatism recognizes that the economic system that we organize to sustain this project has to remain within a disciplined hierarchy of needs and a strategically defensive posture towards a modern world that is likely to be unraveling and transitioning into something else. It is not there just to replicate itself in ever more sophisticated form ever faster for its own sake, but to deliver sustenance and security to the human community to do the main job it is here for; to replicate itself reliably and successfully, time after time, within the constraints of its ecological resources.
The lifestyle and the speed of technological development is infinitely less important than that. The fact is that we can’t keep exponentially growing our human economy indefinitely. We live in a limited space with limited resources that can only deliver a certain level of income beyond which it degrades, as we start to eat our ecological capital.
This conservatism does not fit easily into traditional notions of right and left, or even ‘conservative’ and ‘radical’.
The consumer capitalism of the latter day period of modern times has been radical and extremist in its exponential growth ambitions. And while its leadership can be regarded as 'conservative' in the maintenance-of-the-status quo sense, operationally it is nothing of the sort.
The industrial oligarchy is revolutionizing the means of production at spiraling rates, taking over public consciousness with a fully privatized totalitarian management system that leaves the dictatorships of the past look clumsy and amateurish, and ransacking every natural and human resource for productivity, wealth extraction and environmental degradation rates that previous generations of pillagers and exploiters could only stand in awe of.
Dynamism beyond a certain point takes out everything. Factories in China are now starting to put out safety nets around the upper floors of their factories to stop workers committing suicide on the job. In an era where we now know that burning hydrocarbons is significantly altering the levels of greenhouse gas, warming the earth and changing its climate patterns, global coal industry analysts are predicting nearly two percent per annum growth of coal production of 7.6 billion short tons as of 2010, through to 2030.
The revolutionary corporate space cadets that run this system must think that when they have finished, they will be able to retire with all their loot to Disney style theme pods on Mars and live happily ever after, while what's left of the earth recovers for a couple of million years.
On the other hand, the ‘progressive’ liberal humanitarianism, which is all that is left of post-Marxist leftism, found itself co-opted as a decommissioning agent to destroy pre-existing social governance so that the space could be colonized by the marketing system. The give-away is the lack of conditionality on the rights that this group gives out like consumer freebies. The disciplines that underpinned and gave life to a system of social rights have been completely removed and their space left vacant for others to quietly and unobtrusively take over, using the most formidable reality shaping machinery ever assembled.
The product of this machinery, mass consciousness, was inserted into the vacated existential and social software space. Within it was a program of production drivers and consumption responders that were so narrow, they destabilized, deconstructed and desecuritized their subjects into a state of sub-chaos and life without boundaries, leaving them at the mercy of the relentless blandishments of the sponsors.
The loss of individual control and autonomy as result of this made individuals easy targets for marketing machines, that were then free to invade the world of children, and take them from their parents at an ever earlier age, so that they could be more completely shaped as slaves for the production and consumption of ever greater volumes of goods and services, as they became permanently mobilized as shop troops, for all out 24/7 production warfare.
In the process, the normal construction of adult behaviors and mature autonomous values was successfully interrupted, facilitating the adolescentizing of the entire society, as new cohorts of Peter Pans and Wendys were brought up to never grow up and never grow old, passing on their immaturity, character under-construction, superficial values and egoistic vulnerability, ever more reliably to their successors.
Reformationary conservatism retraditionalizes through transformative thinking that proposes radical action to block unsustainable behavior. It re-regulates all human enterprise under the umbrella of reproductive communities, within which markets will be but a sub-component. It will raise up fundamentalist back-to-basics thinking in the face of a society that has not only lost its bearings, but become corrupted by very destructive excesses. It has a vision of a ‘purified’ social and economic product that rebalances human life and its ecological interfaces. It captures as much of the immediate past as is righteous, practicable, portable and stabilizing, into the future.
Above all, this conservatism will bring back to the reproductive community, which becomes the central social ‘industry’ project, the same product standards, regulatory regime and enforcement, propaganda techniques, educational effort and work participation, and diversity of product models, as the commercial/industrial empires of old. The libertarian laissez-faireism of the past would be unceremoniously dumped.
If the present ‘system’ of reproduction were to be treated like any other ‘industry’, the present one would be immediately shut down and reconstructed, for in all likelihood trading while insolvent, breaking every basic common sense regulatory bottom line if there were any, having no consistent social and existential education and social training templates or infrastructure for the reproductive labor force to mentor and shape its product with, no proper management and enforcement systems worth a crumpet, and delivering poorly designed, under-constructed and sloppily made product that is notoriously unreliable and infamous for not just breaking down under pressure, but behaving erratically under normal operating conditions.
This conservatism is not committed to social product uniformity, but however that product is configured, it has to produce industrial grade and measurable consistency of standards that can be maintained indefinitely on a whole of community basis. And if it can’t be done, it will be either reconstructed or withdrawn from the market in a process not dissimilar to bankruptcy.
The conservative world will not be a community of nominal equals. And while it will have some democratic features and some very tight performance expectations of its leadership groups, it will define itself as a hierarchy built around the seniority of accumulated experience, the wisdom of age and younger ambitious talent, in that order, unless the exigencies of emergency dictate otherwise.
It will bring a risk aversion and defensive behavior to the front and center of social and economic thinking, which will limit entrepreneuriality without trying to squash it in the process. This will always be something of an ongoing compromise analogous to an elastic dog leash on a three sixty degree swivel, anchored to the solid core values of a conservative society committed to gradual generational change where necessary, as former ‘Young Turks’ work through the system towards their turn at the helm.
And finally, this conservatism would be gender blind in the sense that men and women would have equal status in a system that ensured that occurred as a standard outcome. What that would mean is that female and male leadership would be roughly equal in all output units.
For instance, a prospective reproductive partnership would have to go through a rigorous training and relationship appreciation process. If that led to an engagement to marry, it would involve a very detailed relationship agreement that would be monitored by that community and its terms enforced where necessary or changed by agreement of all the parties, as an ongoing working document. And the main feature of this would be that leadership would be based not on gender, but on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties engaged and on what would likely deliver the best results for the partnership.
Gender neutrality would also involve the downgrading of the status of sexuality to what it was originally designed for, as biological bait to get people into reproductive working relationships. It would recognize that sexual compatibility and introductory romance is a negligible predictor of successful long term working partnerships. Casual sex would be actively discouraged as anti-social promiscuity and an invitation to narrow, potentially exploitative and immature relationships. Children would be rigorously prevented from sexually ‘interfering’ with each other, until they were ready to enter into properly adult, trained and consequential reproductive relationships that would all lead to significant lifelong connection, even if that didn’t lead to marriage as such.
Children would be actively trained for reproductive partnership in a succession of rites of passage towards a complete engagement process as early as possible, when mentors and family felt that the young person was ready to accept the onerous responsibilities of sexual intimacy, with people they had some reason to be serious about beyond hormonal attraction. And it would be the community's business to make sure that that would happen appropriately. Sexual relationships would no longer be a purely private matter, but an act of publicly sanctioned, disciplined and accountable social relations, that would leave little room for prudishness or undue secrecy.
Homosexuality would not be encouraged, but nonetheless recognized as an inevitable factor in human society that needs to be compassionately accommodated and actively tolerated, with the same access to the vast bulk of the social infrastructure as everyone else. However, while they would get social sanction and legal regulation and recognition for their partnership arrangements, these would never have the status of genuinely reproductive relationships, or given the social resources that are reserved for society’s main purpose, which is its genetic fertility and gender modeling to its reproductive product; i.e., the gender construction of its children.
What a conservative society would not tolerate would be attempts to raise homosexuality to an equal status as a ‘normal’ and ‘alternative’ sexuality that could lead to adoption and inappropriate gender modeling to children in a powerfully mentoring familial setting. In a society that refocuses towards building a live product as its central enterprise, that is committed to life against the forces of death that characterized its antecedent economic system and wanting to return to its human roots as a biological agency, homosexual family mentoring and gender modeling will not be tolerable.
This rejection is not judging homosexuality as either good or bad, but inappropriate in a shattered world trying to put itself back together, and recover its basic driving identity that we share with all other living things; to reproduce not only its progeny, but the procreative relationship that makes it possible. Anything else is a sideshow, diversion from the real thing and an unfortunate mistake that we make space for, because it can happen to any of us. Nature makes mistakes, so who are we to judge? But neither do we indulge our mistakes, as if the mistake were somehow 'inoperative', which it is not.
Conservative societies focus the minds of their subjects on the long term view in whatever they do; that whatever they do is prepared for thoroughly within a life centered hierarchy of values, to ensure environmentally friendly and sociophilic outcomes in a consistently reliable way; that the context in which they do it is is to re-regulate social and industrial intercourse; and that social relations are returned to the purview of communities as part of the rebuilding of their commons and its governance.
Conservatives will not tolerate social privacy being used as cover to deconstruct and untransparently replace important social infrastructure with deliberately weakened and unstable existential and social software, that pretends to be ‘spontaneously’ built by and for the individual, when on any analysis, it plainly isn’t. Conservatives will not allow the social commons to ever again be marginalized in the way it has been, or allow the social governance it facilitates to be unplugged, destroyed and replaced by marketspeak. Conservatives will never accept the totalitarian character of the market grip on the collective imagination and the damage it has done to the coherence and effectuality of adulthood and its capacity to reproduce autonomous social values, mature and far sighted judgment and righteous moral standards.
Such a conservatism simply isn't going to tolerate a moral discourse that cannot tell the difference between ‘humanism’ and an indiscriminate soft touch, ‘freedom’ and life without boundaries, ‘authoritarianism’ and firmness, ‘justice’ and sectional interest, 'fairness' and unconscionable moral leveraging, ‘tolerance’ and indulgence, ‘compromise’ and being compromised, ‘flexibility’ and weakness, ‘concern for ‘the value of human life’ and cowardice, ‘dissent’ and treason, ‘repression’ and discipline, ‘assault’ and chastisement and ‘abuse’ and toughness.
Such a conservatism won't tolerate an inability to distinguish ‘disadvantage’ and dysfunctionality, ‘individualism’ and egoism, ‘plausibility’ and integrity, and excuse making and honest justification.
Such a conservatism will not tolerate making desire and fantasy became synonymous with ‘needs’, needs with ‘rights’, human rights with consumer entitlement, and ‘democracy’ with consumer satisfaction.
Such a conservatism will not tolerate 'love’ being conflated with lust and eroticism, ‘sexuality’ with identity, 'homophobia' with reproductive gender consciousness and sexual ‘alternativism’ with sexual corruption, parody, infantilism and/or cruelty.
Such a conservatism will not tolerate ‘equality’ being metamorphosed into creative equivalencing that legitimized reward for the incompetent, promotion of the unqualified, penalizing the industrious and in the name of equality, exploiting the unequal by getting them to compete as ‘equals’ out of their league against stronger players who control the rules against them.
Such a conservatism will not indulge the use of totalitarian heresy and deviationist cliches to corruptly obfuscate moral discourse with a view to protect ideological sacred sites, entrench intellectual laziness, prevent rational evidence based thinking and substitute it with propaganda labeling and name calling. It will regard conflating critical discernment, ordinary judgment, belief, social generalization, and inter-ethnic criticism with 'discrimination', 'judgmentality, 'prejudice', 'stereotyping' and 'racism' as a dishonest and reprehensible attack, if by the same token it requires a resort to ideological devices that themselves look for all the world like 'prejudice', 'judgmentality' and 'stereotyping'.
And the reason that will happen is that conservative society will be re-establishing the commons and collective responsibility against the pervasive and totalitarian claims of individualism. These claims came not just from the utilitarianism of the self styled 'Enlightenment', but the bowdlerization of those ideas that came with their takeover by indulgence capitalism, as it 'dropped out' the social responsibilities that underpinned the individual entitlements 'The Enlightenment' claimed.
Within such a conservative order, the collective many will not be able to escape the reputational damage caused by the poor behavior of the few 'bad apples' they tolerate in their midst. By the same token, it would likely be sufficiently conservative and cautious to want to take whatever was portable from 'The Enlightenment' with it on its journey into an extremely uncertain and dangerous period, where the boundaries of pyscho and socio-pathology would likely be constantly and sorely tested.
Conservatives are going to need to be very tough about these things, because there isn’t much time left to get our act together, before the consequences of the follies of the latter days of modern times start to unwind our present understandings of ‘progress’, which in reality, is little more than the march of the lemmings.
If war is the only way we can start down the road to saving human society and its fellow species from some dreadful ecological and social Gotterdammerung, then that is what has to be done. The conservative agenda as laid out here, is not necessarily the stuff of a normal democratic consensus, which is currently controlled by a subterranean oligarchic power structure whose interests lie in the continuance of an unsustainable status quo, which they maintain through the consciousness control of mass populations..
When I watched the first day replays of the 9/11 attacks on the heartland of the established order in 2001, aside from feeling shock, I felt something shifting inside me, as it began to dawn that a conservatism which owed absolutely nothing to the modern age had just marched peremptorily onto the world stage and made it absolutely plain that it was not going to play ball with the corporations that now run the global economy and its social matrix, right down to the familial level. It was a very modern way of posting angry and challenging theses on the cathedral doors of our age, as Martin Luther did in 1517.
While I regard that particular version of conservatism as not just a competitor, but mortal enemy, the tactics that they are using maybe the only way to get a conservative order up and running in time to save anything. Because while our perspectives may be in many ways totally at odds, we are informed by a common understanding that the kind of corporate capitalism that now dominates the planet is a total monster that has to be killed, or it will kill us and our future.
In the aftermath to the collapse of secular socialism, it has fallen to the lot of conservative religious fundamentalists to carry the flag for fundamental social change. And if we do not want Sharia Law or a form of Christian desecularization to altogether replace modern institutions as they begin to crumble, then we have a journey of our own to travel, much like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, who had to walk that walk during a much earlier reformationary struggle against the corrupt old order of his day.
That challenge is before us now, but how many will heed its call, even in the face of the violence that is coming, and do nothing but wait in the very temporary shade of our comfort zones? There is a massive task of economic calming and social and ecological reconstruction in front of us that will consume all our energies for the next millennium. And this will have to be done in the context of war and severely damaged environments. It will require the making of individuals and communities of the sternest and most enduring character.
Great journeys must be imagined first
and so trenchant in their intent
to slake the deepest kind of thirst,
they grasp imaginers by the throat
and tell them bluntly:
only through travail and trial,
by purging fire
and hammer blows be smote
can their spirit be reforged
and history's child
This ordeal can either temper
according to its whim,
or perhaps the pilgrims’ strength within.
Courage can surmount faint hearts,
but how can faith presume
that having gambled all,
there is a way to save us in the end?
There are no roads upon the other side,
except the ones we make,
every step perhaps at stake
every view through soldiers’ eyes.
And so we wile away our days
beside brooding familiarities
that will not speak to us for fear
that it is not the sun that brightens
all that we hold dear,
but the bonfire of our vanities;
that the deepening darkening shade it castes
is not shadow,
but decaying sanity.
We look for hopeful signs,
but at midnight,
the clock rings its hands and says
in anguished tones,
"Ladies and gentlemen,