While cultural norms are by definition ‘normal’, they are by no means always sane and healthy. The term ‘cultural insanity’ refers to normative templates that have become so counter-productive and self-defeating, or so misaligned to our basic Human needs, that they stand to undo Society or its life supports. In fact, normality can be the deadliest of foes.
All Human cultures milk illusion for purposes of control and motivation, but never before has a Society indebted itself so heavily to unreality. As our unreality bubble ruptures, we find ourselves in an endgame with all-or-none stakes that can only be won by way of a radical and upsetting utopian transformation.
For the first time, Utopia is a matter of life or death. Getting it half right is not enough. Idealism and reality have converged. Utopia is becoming serious business.
There is nothing that we cannot be or believe. We are as perfectible as we are corruptible
Buddha called for a spiritually advanced Society that imbued depth of character and full aliveness by way of selflessness, harmony with nature, liberation from worldly desire, and contemplation about truth and reality.
Renaissance utopian Sir Thomas More preached for a morality-centred Society with no money, no private property, a six-hour working day and no need for lawyers.
Sir Francis Bacon recounted a cultural Eden that endowed all members with ‘generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, and piety and public spirit.’
For psychologist Erich Fromm, the only defence against our all-consuming social insanity was ‘a radical change of the Human heart’. He detailed a utopian model called Humanistic Communitarian Socialism, to be overseen by a ‘supreme cultural council’.
As the last great public figure to brave a utopian vision, Albert Einstein felt that our best chance of surviving our sociotechnical system, which he equated to ‘an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal’, was an entirely new global order that united all nations under a single ministerial authority representing the ‘common moral community of humankind’.
By the middle of the 20th century, we had largely given up on utopias beyond those which could be consumed or ogled. Easier to swallow were anti-utopian scenarios such as George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as they mirrored our heartless compliance in the face of indomitable manipulation.
More recently, we recognize in films like The Matrix and The Truman Show our phantasmagoric World of factory-farmed experience that keeps us suckling on fantasy, and numbed to life beyond our brainwashing.
Traditional hopes must be surrendered if consumer culture is not to fulfil its destiny as history’s greatest evil. Democracy, now a corporate puppet show starring politicians as eunuchs and us as fools, no longer allows for true leadership. Technology, compromised as it is by the profit motive and soaring demand for distraction and techno-trance, is as much an axe as an answer.
The highest act of Love in a criminally insane Society is disobedience. In his essay ‘On Disobedience’, Fromm warns: ‘At this point in history, the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey may be all that stands between a future for mankind and the end of civilization.’ Normality can no longer be trusted. Unconditional obedience is an unaffordable luxury.
Nature has lost patience with our illusions. Time is no longer our ally. The Age of Idealism has forced itself upon us. Utopia or bust – that is the endgame. In reality, we gladly die for the things we love.