We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Politics in the Age of Technology Induced Social Fragmentation

Most of world's people culturally live in different time periods ranging from 1820s to 1970s (Western time). This should be taken into account in international relations to avoid conflict and to speed up transnational construction projects.

When forging political coalitions to push through great infrastructure projects in the near future, we need to take into account continued rapid acceleration of two opposing social trends:

Trend A: Continued disintegration of unitary mass culture.

Mass culture was previously spread among the majority by top down mediums like television/newspapers or concepts like religion/geographic nationalism. As the demographic still affected by these mediums and concepts gets older and/or poorer, mass culture will become increasingly peculiar and less unifying for the whole population. In a way, that is worrying since the glue holding the diverse personality types will really only continue to exist among the diminishing baby boomer block.

Horizontal Internet communication allows the diverse rich spectrum of human breeds to not only find those similar to themselves but also to only communicate and interact (socially polarize) among those like themselves. Thus we see emergence of micronations and tribes within these micronations to a level unseen before. This explains why there is greater amount of difference within Millennial generation than there is between Millennials and Boomers. We see such technology enabled socially polarized clusters reflected in rising acuteness of various movements (libertarians, atheists, etc). There is little to dampen the fervor of these micronations since social media and search engines increasingly cater to people's informational preferences thus isolating, reaffirming, and making them more "acute" by the day. All of this of course was said when newspapers, television, and radio came into being since people could select among the channels, stations, or papers. Horizontal, socially emergent, bottom up, and cheaply widespread nature of the Internet is a qualitative step above these past mediums. There is possibility of major disruptions comparable to immediate post-Guttenberg press period.

At the very minimum, a cutting edge hybrid of proportional representation and direct Internet enabled democracy will need to be provided so at least the major personality clusters (SJs, SPs, NTs, NFs) can have political parties to represent their sensibilities. However, it is not sufficient to just provide the tools for these social clusters, tools that allow a political release valve for their feelings and energies. We need to start thinking of a unifying strategy and platform to prevent major paralysis stemming from intergenerational bias, intercultural bias, and particularly 21st century biases (micronationalism versus globalism and "inter-era bias"[see below]).

In the Western world, the disintegrative trend has started among the elites many decades ago, moved on to the professional upper middle classes in the 1960s, and is finally reaching majority of the population. The process of atomization and cultural disintegration described above is rolling like an accelerating wave from most culturally developed countries to all areas of the world. Four decades ago, Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and Between Two Ages made it clear that world's population lives in overlapping "eras" (preindustrial, industrial, post-industrial, technocratic [post-capitalist]).

One could be upper middle class in Nigeria living in industrial period culturally reminiscent of America in the 1840s, one could be lower class in Berlin living in early technocratic period, one could be an Afghan elite living in a pre-industrial stifling society, one could be a rural educated kid in Bahrain independently discovering the values of the hippy movement of 1960s America, etc. Russian Federation for instance, displays many cultural tendencies of late 1940s early 1950s USA. The overlaps and permutations are endless and there is great urgency to avoid mass psychological disturbances and violent frictions from reactionary conservative movements.

It is the shared responsibility of the trend setting Millennials at "ground zero" of cultural atomization (North America) to figure out how to lead productively in the informational spheres like TedTalks, documentaries, conferences, and newest mass media. With their proper informational leadership, they can show how to go forward as a global society without becoming stifling or reactionary.

Trend B: Continued increase in popular desire for more collectivism and community among those who already spent years living in very fragmented atomized societies.

An example of this was seen in the manufactured "Reagan revolution". As minority of the population (Ivy Leaguers who discovered their ego and hedonistic potential that comes with it) grew tired of the rest of society not catching up with them and the loneliness that comes with it, they chose to reabsorb themselves into a new form of corporate nationalism (that emphasized endless individual material expansion and dropped the need for collective sacrifice of prior exhausted FDRist nationalism). In the years ahead, we will see top down and bottom up calls for a still newer nationalisms that try to remedy mistakes of the American experience of both 1930s-1970s period and unfortunate 1980s-2008 period.

One possible solution and an inverse of Reaganism may be material nationalism (such as communal claim to land and key natural resources within nation states), physiological nationalism ("we are all human! and no matter how diverse got common physical needs!"), psychological nationalism ("we got common emotional needs!") and a mix of all 3. At the same time, the middle classes will insist on continued room to build hyper individualism (if desired) and further personal autonomy in psychological, interpersonal, and material realm (example: perhaps the people collectively own the land but you own your own unique shelter and property on this land).

It is possible that the educated intuitive suburban youth in the Western world will continue to further individualize and create ever more acute microtribes indefinitely but the shared viral experience of global information will increasingly provide a sense of a real global community and desire to be part of it somehow.

Reconciling the Trends Politically

At first it seems that we have a recipe for endless conflict. First, the perpetual exponentially increasing friction within Trend A. Then the clashing of Trends A and B as some more backward segments of global intelligentsia strive to break free of mass community and older nationalisms while cutting edge intelligentsia tries to reassert some new postmodern community and high tech inclusive nationalisms.

Just as hippies in say, Indonesia, sell out and discover their own version of Reaganism, all of a sudden they see a trend coming their way from Japan that puts everything into question once more. Most human personality types can only psychologically handle and absorb so many paradigm shifts and trends in their lifetime (much less a decade).

This is why political platforms of the near future should be as broad and deep as possible. The material, psychological, and physiological nationalisms mentioned previously can be scaled up to the whole globe or scaled down to a small city. Lets review the MPP:

Material: (Land and key resources like minerals in the land are our collective commons and are to be managed by us as we democratically see fit)

Psychological: (We are all humans and have commonalities like need for self-esteem, autonomy, love, influence, etc. And these desires will be provided for via proper political representation and management of the collective commons)

Physiological: (We are all humans and have commonalities like need for water, food, shelter, and some material matter to manipulate with tools, turn into tools, etc. And these desires will be provided for via proper political representation and management of the collective commons)

These three obviously blend together and play off each other and are broad and deep enough to provide a common political platform for a majority of human personality clusters. A society can safely be federal, unitary, decentralized, part of a supranational unit, diverse, homogeneous, etc as long as these three nationalisms are emphasized politically. Cultural, ethnic, and value nationalisms will still exist and play a major role but unlike MPP they provide for major source of unhealthy friction. De-emphasizing them will be a major challenge and calling for word's elites in the decades to come (just as de-emphasizing and separating religion and state was for elites in centuries prior).

As could be guessed, mass infrastructure development is to play a major role in putting MPP to the forefront of popular attention and to make MPP possible. In essence, to create a new type of global "glue" that would hopefully go a long way to neutralize the frictions of Trend A and frictions between Trend A and B and to put the energy generated by these frictions towards productive use.

Although 21st century will be marked by top down elite emphasis on collaboration and cooperation, even competition can still be allowed to co-exist when it comes to infrastructural achievement. This would sublimate the psychological tendencies of more aggressive human personality clusters into a socially healthy mass effort. A way to think of this is a sort of "space race" right here on earth (example: "we beat them in building this amount of fourth generation vertical farm complexes!"). Ethnic, cultural, intergenerational, and inter-era differences will still manifest themselves in the types of infrastructure projects that communities build. And of course, in an awful potentiality of resource wars. More on that in a future article. Resource wars are serious business.

Super Summary: Infrastructure as key word and mantra so we don't forget why civilization is possible at all

Infrastructuralist focus is needed to make 3 new forms of healthier scalable 21st century unifying nationalisms possible (MPP). Infrastructure itself is scalable and can range from microcomunity level to planetary level. Infrastructure focus redirects the friction within Trend A and friction between Trends A and B towards productive efforts. Infrastructure pushes towards more informational sharing and friendly cooperation between communities that operate on different political scales and whose people live in different cultural "time periods".

Infrastructure sets short, medium, and long term national goals that pushes cooperation between different personality clusters and creates unity among them that doesn't stifle them on a personal emotional level. Having and building the means towards more energy, food, shelter, and resources is less disagreeable than national goals stemming from one dominant ethnic or cultural faction. In order for infrastructural focus to be had at all, short, medium, and long term goals need to be quantified and put out for the public to manage (example: quadrupling arable land within 20 years, eliminating a certain desert within 10 years, etc).

Finally, for these goals to be properly decided on and implemented, a major technocratic reform towards a more advanced proportional representation and direct democratic hybrid political system is to be undertaken.

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