In the argument last column, I was still selling the typical narrative of our time, the story of progress in the West through democratic evolution and material science. The thesis is Progress.
I see that this view, the perspective of modernity, is outmoded. Postmodernism now describes our mind and consciousness better than “modernism” and is the new way to see ourselves. A post-modern narrative must tell a different tale.
“Progress” is not credible now as the driving force of our times and of our culture. As Charles Eisenstein says, now we cannot believe the tale begun 400 years ago, of our ego’s separation (subject) from all of material reality (object) and we cannot accept the lie of our control of nature. A new narrative is demanded.
In the new narrative, we have to accommodate humanity in a story including other species, the planet we inhabit, and spiritual-immaterial reality, as having importance equal to ours. A new narrative will grieve the centuries of our illusion of control over nature. We’ll learn to have perspective on how and why we hurt the Earth. We won’t just grieve, we’ll heal the damage.
Art is our leading edge of consciousness. Ever since the brilliant 1979 film Alien, our creatives have told us tales of the invincible power of corporations. Star Wars (1977) was stuck in modernity; its tale is about empires and free warriors and rebellious individualists; Alien saw the truth of the power ruling us, 30 years before most of us figured it out.
Now we’ve agreed corporate power rules, and films like The Lone Ranger harmonize with us as it ridicules all the hero-myths of the Old West that once were part of the modern narrative. But Lone is too ironic to become the foundation of the new narrative of our historical movement. We use irony to ridicule outmoded-progress heroic happy-ending stories, but alas, irony claims no belief in us.
What will replace the old narrative thesis of Progress? I don’t know, but I’ll risk a guess.
Hopefully, the new narrative begins from the thesis that violence ultimately cannot establish the foundation of a decent human society and life. “War-is-awful-but-justified if-it-results-in-victors’-prosperity” is essential to the myth of Progress. That spell has lost its power over us.
(1) A new myth won’t legitimize violence. It will assimilate the truth that violence hurts everyone.
(2) Our new narrative will not put only human life and desires at the centre of its plot. Our consciousness now is evolved sufficiently to the point where it is rare to lose sight of the interconnected quality of all life. Until now that idea was a pious slogan of a few holy humans, one we all quote but do not enact in practice.
(3) Just maybe – I think it would be positive – the new narrative allows spiritual beings and neo-pagan fairies and elves (in novel forms) to be respected again. Materialist science tried to eliminate all non-measurable life-forms, and we lost awe and reverence for nature. That hurt us incalculably.
Those are my hopes. I would be guilty of self-censorship if I didn’t remark that all of humanity over the globe is not at the same place in evolving human consciousness. The less-fortunate peoples in the least-advanced and still-developing nations, with their miserable challenges of mere physical survival for millions of citizens, cannot match rich nations in evolution toward new consciousness and new myth. India and China are still following a modernist agenda.
But to feel guilty for the West’s good fortune accomplishes nothing. We lucky ones in Canada have a task. If the most-blessed bourgeois on earth (us) can’t or won’t find a path to break the pattern of the last 400 years, then no other humans are likely to do it.
Charles Jeanes is a Nelson-based writer. The last edtition of this column can be found here.