21st Century Enlightenment

     The 21st Century Enlightenment is simple. In much the same way as the Enlightenment of  the late middle ages, when the printing press was invented, (amongst a multitude of other "modernations") technology has once again brought us into a new paradigm of existence. In this so called "network intelligence" we become an amalgam intellect. In the old Enlightenment we shared books. In the new enlightenment we share each other, in real time. If this is not hyperreality, it doesn't exist.

     However, this revolutionary sharing of the global experience is merely the "how" of its existence. It is causally self-referential. I think the topic of interest on the matter should be directed at our actions. Our actions make the changes that take place in the world. It is true that the internet can organize revolution quicker than the printing press, but we are not revolting because such technologies exist. We revolt because there is cause for revolt. This realization is the second part of the 21st century enlightenment. (This too we share with many aspects of the original Enlightenment.)

     Like the french Revolution had JJ Rousseau and his Social Contract, we have a new standard by which we measure that which we consider fair and just. We can know no better than Rousseau as to our correctness in our times and places, but we both agree that something stinks about the state of affairs we find ourselves inhabiting. It seems too, that in our new enlightenment as in the old, the problems come down to the machinations of (perceived) money and (perceived) power. However, now, unlike then, we don't imagine such noble futures for merely France, or any other nation, but we dream globally. Furthermore, in the old enlightenment such imaginings we're left to the educated, some would say, elite of our societies, the Rousseaus of the world. Whereas now, anyone with a computer can become a philosopher.

     What these new age philosophers are discovering, uncovering and beginning to act upon is a key correlation of the 21st century enlightenment: The gap between the elite advantage and the rest of us is not dissimilar to the gap between the "western world" and the rest of the globe. It's not just the rich that are the problem, because, on a global scale, Canada is rich. I am rich. We are all guilty in our affluence. We owe our wealth to innapropriate institutional realities, systemic dichotomous beliefs and misguided intentions.

     These realizations are the promise of any change brought about in this new age. This is the subject matter of my book. The following are quotes from Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self.

    “In the Enlightenment, Europe sort of hashed out the kinks of western modernity. It would still take a couple more hundred years to work out the bugs, but we sort of woke up from the Dark Ages and didn't like the way things were going. Some scientific advances and a few revolutions later, the enlightened gave the populace its freedom by realizing its power. The influence of church and state had been lessened. The working class became recognized. The powers that be still sought control, but their forced intentions could not always be transparent, now that the common folk had a voice. Social Engineering had to go underground just to survive. So, where in the old Enlightenment we woke up to our conscious servitude, in this new enlightenment we realize our unconscious servitude.”

    “The term “Authentic Self” is valid and there is certainly a very real opportunity to make money by selling pathways to it, but the definition being touted by its proponents is inaccurate. So you have Dr. Phil talking about Authentic Self as “who you were created to be instead of who you were taught to be...” You may have seen Eckhart Tolle, spiritualist and author on the Oprah Winfrey show teaching that our egos are products of our experiences and possibly should not be trusted, certainly at the least scrutinized. Both basically the same argument, ‘you are a product of your paradigms and they require evaluation.’ It turns out that we agree with each other on this point. The problem with many of these other works is that there is still a leap of faith insisted upon us. Not that my issue is that Dr. Phil uses the word “created,” (he could after all mean ‘biologically created,’) or that Mr. Tolle goes on to re-interpret the New Testament Bible, attempting to apply validity to his theories. I’d be guilty of wearing the same blinders as they if I were to argue with them and I’m not here to take anything from anyone.  (None of us can prove or disprove the existence of God.) Is a classical psychotherapist’s opinion any more valuable than a spiritualist if the topic is the human worth of globalization with centralized governance?

    The individualistic approach of this “21st century” new age self-help movement, also denies much of the source of our self-defeating behaviour, namely the influence of society. It’s important to stress that I am not claiming that the tenets of any particular faith are invalid, I’m arguing that the requirement of faith in order to explain fact is. (Besides, you’re going to find that even the facts are fantastic enough...) Further to this question of psychological vs. philosophical authenticity, even from the academic crowd, it seems that the determination of the self from the self continues to dominate the field. In a 2008 paper called The Authentic Personality: A theoretical and Empirical Conceptualization and the Development of the Authenticity Scale, published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology Vol. 55, No. 3, the authors attempt to quantify and qualify “Authenticity.” While it is the most recent and scientific paper available on this subject it continues to completely miss the philosophical questions of self and determines that only we can decide if we are being authentic to ourselves. While this paper does address what it calls, “accepting external influence” and is agreeably concerned with authenticity as integral to well-being, it does not, at any moment, in any way, address the value of examining social engineering. The paper essentially concludes that if influence is internalized, to deny this influence is to alienate the self in an internal conflict that leads to psychopathology (mental problems.) While I essentially agree with this determination, this psychological point of view fails to look outwardly at any general causation. I have to ask, “What if external influences are lying to you?” “What if you don't know what it is you believe?” “What if you are lying to yourself because of submitting to external forces?” These are the types of questions that psychology cannot address except through trusting you know what is best for you.”
   
     “You are now, and will remain eternally, entitled to believe whatever nonsense you like. You’re going to do it anyway. You can’t help it. It comes at you from all angles, twenty-four hours a day. Don’t bother trying to blame T.V. or other modern distractions for the consistent barrage of often questionable information. It’s been this way for all of recorded history. This is right, this is wrong, this was bad, this will be good, you are this, I can’t be that... Only the delivery vehicles have changed. It is now systemic. It is automatically ingrained, as you are, after your birth, by practice and by influence, dragged unhappily away from purity and into hyper-reality. As are your children, as are your grandchildren, until someone, perhaps the black sheep, says, “No!” Being the black sheep may not make you popular, but it is helpful, even to those who judge you, if they are wrong thinking. The black sheep of the world may be counter-culture but they are also our pioneers. We may mock them, we might avoid them or disassociate ourselves from them, yet without them we wouldn't be challenged to change or pushed into new paradigms. I'd like to propose that there is a twenty-first century movement afoot made up entirely of black sheep, or perhaps sheep of many colours. At this point in our history these sheep all have the same message for the flock, “Beware! Beware! The end is near.” This is not a message I particularly subscribe to but I do agree with many of their observations. These observations will become self evident as we begin to understand how it is these problems are the reality facing us. Modernity, complexity, accountability, influence, greed, prejudice, these are the same old conspiracies of the real world.”

    “Tibetan monks, monks of all sorts spend their lives dedicated to seek out the deep, true, pure understanding that is appropriate for their efforts. An alcoholic may have to hurt himself or the ones he loves before he comes to realize it’s the booze that makes him abusive and/or destructive. It doesn’t matter how understanding is achieved despite how honourable you consider one methodology over another. It would be mere speculation for you to assign importance to someone else’s understanding. A monk may die an old man without being satisfied by his lifelong achievements. An alcoholic may, in one moment of clarity, change his entire life, even deciding to attempt to correct the mistakes in his past, changing the lives of others. So it seems that it is natural for us to be presented with solutions. We get in the way of ourselves and others by expressing opinion. The monk who cannot achieve enlightenment is the monk who doesn’t believe it’s possible for him to. The alcoholic who cannot control his drinking, doesn’t want to. Short of a lifetime of meditation or life altering emotional instances, how can we eke out any palpable self control? How can we recognize the need for change when in the midst of the paradigm that is lacking? How can we have 20/20 hindsight, in the present? As silly as that sounds, I think it is the attainable goal of the new modern enlightenment, if we are able to develop the habit. Hindsight always seems to make so much sense that we wonder, looking back, how we missed the revelation while we were in the thick of it. Our goal is to participate with the revelation in real time. “

     “Change always waits until the last minute. Whatever shift is required will only occur when it becomes a necessity. In a natural system the preceding (repeated) statement is true. This means we can deduce that change is a necessity. If there is human interference then change can be created, destroyed, controlled, etc. It was this realization that caused the “first” Enlightenment which began at the last half of the seventeenth century. French philosophers, unhappy under what they considered the tyranny of their own leaders, “woke up” and started asking questions. “Why does the church have to be linked to the state?” “Why do our young men have to join the campaign or be labelled traitors?” “Why does one who has worked hard to gain stature fail and those who are merely born into it succeed?” “How did we get to this point?” To put it bluntly, the Enlightenment came from the realization of philosophers that “common” people didn’t have to be the way they were because anyone said so, yet they were. It wasn’t  just the French, there was a vast uncorking of new ideas all over Europe, into Russia and carried over into the “New Land.” Stemming from the growing ease of travel, the printing press, the chemical, medical and mechanical advances in industry and other conveniences, a new society of powerful people was created, the individual, the “person.” (The Middle class.) Modern philosophy was born from realizing the quick, rampant influence of unavoidable change and shortly thereafter, secret philosophy came along too. For if the masses decide they are going to be aware, if they are going to literally revolt in the streets to get what they want, then control seekers must find a subversive way to convince the people what it is they want. If they are skilled enough that no one notices the programming, it doesn't exist. We are, to this day, still trying to rid ourselves of this veil. We put our hands on some bible or other to swear honestly, we use our congregations to elect politicians, we turn away from big business displacing populations when it's called “war” and seek it out when it's called “progress.” We are constantly lied to. We even lie to ourselves and amazingly enough, we do so anonymously! This is key to our own examinations, the programming instilled, if kept secret from the bearer, is as much a mystery as his or her own subconscious, but not to the programmers! This means that modernity has created a second subconscious: the Hyper-Manipulated Self. This is the programmed Human. This reality helps to define the goals of Anti-Social Engineering.”

     “The self, before the Enlightenment, was understood to be something like, “the soul.” It was something that you were, automatically. Your self was a product of your experiences as you went through life, but there was still a “core” there, to be built upon. After the enlightenment, the question was determined to be moot. Even if there was a core self there, it couldn't be fathomed, it couldn't deciphered, except in rare cases of extreme exception. For ordinary folk, Philosophers simply suggested that we “get on with life” and not bother ourselves too greatly about it. (Contrast this idea with Religion, which seems to ask the opposite of us.)
    However, if we were to shift our intention away from “the self” and toward “consciousness,” have we actually changed anything? Consciousness is essentially awareness, it is the mind aware of itself and the world, it is cognisance. The self is the “what” you are cognisant of and with. Your consciousness makes “you” possible, but you could be an entirely conscious, active participant in life, while being also entirely dismissive of your authentic self. In fact, you may never be more conscious than when you are being inauthentic. It's like consciousness is the vehicle that the self drives, our problem is finding the right directions. “Consciousness,” as a word, indicates a more rigid, scientific approach is necessary when considering what it means. Anyone can discuss the self...”

     “One of Habermas more obvious and powerful statements is key to our studies, he said, “In any age the ruling ideals are the ideals of the ruling classes.” Which is another version of the “golden rule.” He observed that, even in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we are allowed our independent interests, provided we do so from within the framework provided by the “ruling interests.” 
    Habermas, unlike Freud and some of the Existentialists, does hold out hope for humans. He remained optimistic that we could communicate, know our selves, be good and get better. He believed, just by being present we had no choice but to participate regardless of ability or interest. He said, “In the process of enlightenment, there can be only participants.” There are no greater than or less than. No patients, no doctors. We are all equal in the great quests we undertake. However, later in his life, Habermas did come to appreciate how money and power did distort this equality. He believed the only way to correct this would be to harmonize these systems, somehow.
     Michel Foucault was a Philosopher that believed true Humanity was disappearing. To him, we are robots being programmed, mostly willingly. Foucault sought out the dominant paradigms of the present and past to achieve his understanding. He thought that this was the best anyone could expect in terms of modernity. For instance, he held little faith in the records of History. To him, history was more or less the legends of those who were successful in creating it. He thought that if it were possible to  decipher what was missing from “a history,” you might be able to piece together the “mass” history, or the “people's” history. He called this the “marginal discourse,” which he imagined as the scribbles in the margins of history books. Not unlike Roman graffiti of lore, giving a very different public take of the popular history. Looking for the marginal discourse can lead to the major discourse.  We should accept our history with no assumptions. He said, “Knowledge is controlled in every society, through mechanisms of power. Anywhere you find knowledge, there also, you will find power.” They are the linked conditions of the possibility of one another. “Knowledge is a regime of power.” (You can replace “knowledge” with “information.”)”

    “What is happening here? It seems as if these people are delaying the present. Who are they if they are not themselves in their moments, as they happen? We are no longer concerned with the individual experience it seems. We want “the Spectacle.” When we were less important than God, we could live with it. God is, after all, God. When we were less important than the King, it worked for a while, until we realized the King was an idiot and likely to get us killed just so he could be richer. When we're less important than dots in a video game, we may have a problem... Philosopher Jean Baudrillard thinks it is already too late. This is the result of the hyper-real, we are constantly asked to decipher what is real and what isn't. The result is exhaustion and finally you refuse to do the necessary work. Now your world has ended, your chance for authentic self is diminished and you are only a player in a theatre where you can't wait to see what happens to you. The problem, of course, is you are waiting for a future you should be directing.
    Baudrillard says it is our own damn fault. I agree. It seems that we want it to be the way it is. If we choose this course of complexity, integration and information overload, is it not because we thought it the right path? If we didn't choose it, yet do nothing to change it, is this because we like it the way it is? Baudrillard says this isn't something that is coming, it is already here. We must now adjust to it. We change our personalities like a fad, with all the necessary accoutrements.
    Sometimes, when we change our ideas, we do so because we've been manipulated to that end. We are going to examine the logic of these types of manipulations. It is through this self-manifestation of first, the hyper real, then the hyper-real self that we can only expect hyper-manipulation. This term does not refer to the speed at which the manipulation becomes active, nor the quantity of types of manipulations, although both these things increase, particularly recently. The “hyper” in “hyper-manipulated self” refers to the intensity and insistence of the manipulation, to the self, as well as the pre-programming done to ease engineering. When we get further into the typification of social engineering we will begin to see how we don't know who we are, if we're not told and how this is causally self referential.”

    “If we are thinking wrongly about what makes us happy, or we are made happy by the wrong thinking, we can only gain from examining what sort of “wrong thinking” there is, out there, to take part in. As I've stated throughout this book, I have no intention of determining what you should think. My goal is to demonstrate what thinking there is to take part in, what thinking means, in and of itself and how thinking is manipulated. In this chapter and the ones that follow, remember that we are philosophers and although there are going to be opinions stated, it doesn't mean we have to subscribe to them. We are having this discussion for the sake of examination. As we wish to anti-social engineer the hyper-manipulated self, we must know in what ways we have been manipulated. Despite the diagnostic name for those who continuously exhibit a behaviour of manipulation being psychopath, we have no interest in pointing fingers. However, as we also must establish the phenomenon of social engineering and the dangers such manipulations represent, we must look at historical and current examples of such endeavours. I can hardly be blamed for sharing a culture with the Engineers.
     Furthermore, if we were to point fingers at any particular “wrong thinking” we would also have to point at ourselves, whoever we are. After all, there is a particular type of person that is easily  manipulated and if we were manipulated to be that person, we have become the hyper-manipulated self. We are not off the hook by way of ignorance or error, our own happiness will attest to this, if not now, soon.”


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