Epoch Eclipse
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Epoch Eclipse

When Normal Is Dysfunctional Social Collapse Is Inevitable

What is normal for the spider is dysfunctional for the fly.

Image by the author. More on Instagram.

Professor Jem Bendell writes on page 2 in the abstract portion of his Dec 2018 updated paper, Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, “of an inevitable near-term social collapse due to climate change.” Then Jem Bendell writes on page 3 in the introduction portion of the same paper “of a social collapse triggered by an environmental catastrophe,”.

The logic Jem Bendell demonstrates here appears that of climate change and environmental catastrophe preceding, and therefore forming the precondition for, social collapse. This logic seems to indicate that catastrophe would need to be inevitable for collapse to be probable.

Yet, on page 19 of this paper, Jem Bendell states, “I have chosen to interpret the information as indicating inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe, and possible extinction.” This presents an opportunity to reform the logic supporting his interpretation.

This presents an opportunity to reform the logic supporting his interpretation.

Social collapse may well be inevitable due to deeper issues of which environmental catastrophe may also be symptomatic. The first issue that comes to mind is the human global ecological footprint overshoot. This strongly correlates with the Club of Rome 1972 publication of, The Limits to Growth, edited by Donella Meadows.

The Global Footprint Network, an independent think tank founded in 2003, calculates the Ecological Footprint and bio-capacity of more than 200 countries and territories from 1961 to the present based on up to 15,000 data points. These calculations evaluate the capacity of the Earth to restore the resources consumed within a one-year time period.

For example, the capacity of the Earth to replenish freshwater aquifers, rebuild fertile soil, and recycle CO₂ from the atmosphere is evaluated against human freshwater use, soil depletion, and atmospheric CO₂ produced from burning fossil fuels. The Global Footprint Network then determines when during the year human activity overshoots the capacity of the Earth to restore the consumed resources. In 2021, Earth Overshoot Day was July 29, one of the earliest ever.

This overconsumption of resources is enabled by drawing on stores accumulated over millennia. These stores are the resources Nature itself employs to restore the resources consumed. These stores may be understood as a goose who lays golden eggs, the golden eggs representing the restored resources available for human use each year.

Humanity, in exceeding the capacity of the Earth to restore resources, is killing the goose incrementally since the 1970s. This view is validated by the computer models used for the Club of Rome publication. While this may resemble the earlier conclusions of Thomas Robert Malthus FRS and Thomas Hobbes, notice that the Club of Rome and the Global Footprint Network base their work on global empirical data and system computer modeling rather than philosophical conclusions subject to personal biases.

Today through major media outlets we can also observe the widespread early evidence of global social collapse. Concurrent with global environmental degradation we can also witness the heightened fragility of the global financialization of capitalism exposed to the increasing threats of ethnonationalism to trade and migration. This correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, as many others seem to prematurely conclude.

Rather, all these effects seem symptomatic of underlying psychology. This underlying psychology generates behavior that embodies cognitive dissonance and therefore evidence of dysfunction. This dysfunction then becomes destructive to human society through internecine conflict and environmental destruction.

Sigmund Freud Opened a Door to Understanding

In letters written during 1931 &1932, Albert Einstein queried Sigmund Freud, “Why War?” Sigmund Freud’s answer was grounded in his delineation of the conflict between “Eros” and “Thanatos”, the life instinct and the death instinct. This may be the most accessible explication of the core of Sigmund Freud’s approach. This clearly reveals the normal psycho-pathology of human nature.

This Freudian approach carried forward into the construct of Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and the Tavistock tradition. The primitive psychotic defenses identified by Melanie Klein as ‘innate/instinctive’ (Klein, 1952) and developed by W.R. Bion in his, Experiences in Groups, (Bion, 1961) lay unchallenged at the core of the Tavistock paradigm.

The Tavistock paradigm has been propagated globally to noteworthy institutions such as the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Brunel Institute of Organisation and Social Studies, National School of Government, Uxbridge (Middlesex) the UK.

The evidence seems to indicate a near-universal mental state assuming unlimited opportunity for growth, inexhaustible resources, and an endless capacity for Earth to absorb waste products. This mental state now comes into direct conflict with paranoid-schizoid defenses emerging from the projection of an alter generated by a psychological split. These mental states are exhaustively documented and widely examined in professional psychology and psychoanalytic literature.

These mental states have long been considered normal for humanity. Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and many others accepted these mental states as essential to human beings. These mental states previously provided the basis for the understanding and manipulation of both individuals and crowds as exemplified in the personalities and work of Gustave Le Bon, Adolf Hitler, Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov), and Edward Louis Bernays.

While the normality of these mental states, now evident in dysfunctional conflict, has long gone unchallenged and now seems enshrined in apparently unassailable intellectual cannon, there is also advanced theory supported by cultural anthropological, historical, and contemporary medical evidence. This advanced theory suggests that humanity can develop beyond its normal dysfunction.

This advanced theory suggests that humanity can develop beyond its normal dysfunction.

This advanced theory relies upon evidence showing that these mental states producing the normal human dysfunction are learned rather than being hardwired into the human psyche. Since they are learned, they are therefore accessible to analysis and modification.

The entirety of existent human society has been built upon the normal dysfunction, the normal psycho-pathology, of human individuals and crowds. For this reason, social collapse is inevitable. Society will either collapse tragically as a result of its normal psycho-pathology or collapse when intentionally restructured somewhat elegantly and gracefully in the nick of time.

It will only be from the resolution of the question of the nature of social collapse that we will be able to understand if humanity faces probable catastrophe and possible extinction.

We can perhaps yet manage the collapse of business-as-usual in a way as to avoid the worst-case scenarios. But our window of opportunity to do so is rapidly closing.

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Jay Greathouse

Jay Greathouse

Bootstrapping my work on DAO Data Unions Running post-scarcity domains in the Metaverse with NFT sales.