The problem you’ve highlighted in your excellent piece, Joe, is not so much one of ‘delusional fantasies’ but rather a recurring pattern I’ve noticed in mass consciousness.
Humanity (or at least Western civilisation) seems to go through 300-year (roughly) cycles, oscillating between predominantly left-brain and right-brain thinking. As a recent example, we experienced the European Renaissance (1500AD, right-brain, artistic, creative) followed by the Industrial Revolution you referenced (1800AD, left-brain, science, technology, engineering, mathematics). If the pattern holds and we can safely extrapolate, we are currently transitioning back toward right-brain dominance, which should peak in 2100AD. The transition started with the hippie movement in the 1960’s and should continue till about 2030.
I am aware that there is plenty of over-simplified and downright inaccurate information available on the difference between left and right brain thinking, but from extensive analysis of neuroscience research papers, the consensus seems to be the following:
The right hemisphere primarily lets us be aware of the world, and looks for the connections, or the “between-ness” everywhere, whereas the left allows us to grasp, and, hence, manipulate the world. The left hemisphere’s world tends towards fixity, whereas that of the right tends towards flow. The left is not good at understanding the world. Its attention is narrow, its vision myopic, and it can’t see how the parts fit together. It is good for only one thing — manipulating the world. The left hemisphere’s values are those of utility and pleasure, whereas the right is concerned with meaning, purpose and happiness.
Using these basic differences in societies’ worldviews and cultures, it all of a sudden makes sense why we have manipulated and taken advantage of our planet ever since the Industrial Revolution. The good news is that an awareness of the error of our ways started in the 1960’s and is rapidly gaining groundswell.
Why is this important?
I believe it’s more useful to focus on what is good and positive; on where we’re going, rather than what we’ve done. I’m not denying that things are bad, but there are also plenty of positive things we could focus on if we choose. As you say, onward fellow humans…
If you’re interested, there’s a bit more detail on my review of 1,200 years of history here: