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dianna
18th September 2013, 18:34
This hyperindividualism is a relatively new phenomenon in our lives. For most of human history, people have put something else near the center — the tribe, the gods, the natural world. But a consumer society can’t tolerate that, because having something else at the center complicates consumption.

http://slackerhacker.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/narcissus2.jpg


Your mind, a clear mountain stream running burbling through the rocks. Until Pepsi stands up, unzips its billion-dollar ad budget, and takes a leak, staining it forever brown. Your brain, a verdant old-growth forest, until it dies the death of a thousand swooshes. Your soul, filled with the crystal fresh air of early morning, until Philip Morris blows in a cloud of its seductive smoke.

No. Mental environmentalism may be the most important notion of this new century, but the only way to start this discussion is by admitting the analogy is not exact. Whatever the mental environment is, it’s not a pristine wilderness untrammeled by people. It’s not the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the Antarctic biosphere. No, the mental environment has been shaped by culture as long as we’ve been, well, human.

The mind is, among other things, a tool for collecting, storing, weighing images and ideas. Perhaps earlier in our primate evolution our brains worked differently, but for millions of years we have been shaping our own minds and the minds of those around us. Our mental environment is not the Yosemite of John Muir or Ansel Adams. It has always been more like Central Park, a landscaped reflection of human notions. Every generation, every community, has had a mental environment. The culture. The zeitgeist. It is that almost invisible fog of assumptions in which we live our lives, the set of images and ideas we barely notice because they are so common as to be both banal and overwhelming.

What’s more, this is not the first moment that our mental environment has been polluted. We’ve seen all kinds of toxins poured into the infostream. Check out a Leni Riefenstahl movie if you want to see what I mean. Try to imagine life during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The state, the church have time and again become mentally oppressive until eventually a resistance emerged — a resistance that, from Martin Luther to Vaclav Havel, said at least in part: “We want our minds back.” Not all the way back: We’ve never owned our minds entirely. But more of our minds, in better shape. [...]


We are the first few generations to receive most of our sense of the world mediated rather than direct, to have it arrive through one screen or another instead of from contact with other human beings or with nature.

If the mental environment we live in has a single distinctive feature, the way that oxygen defines our atmosphere, it is self-absorption. That’s what a mental environment gone awry has produced; that is the toxic outcome of our era’s unique pollution. Some years ago, working on a book, I watched every word and image that came across the largest cable system in the world in a 24-hour period — more than 2,000 hours of ads and infomercials, music videos and sitcoms. If you boiled this stew down to its basic ingredient, this is what you found, repeated ad infinitum: You are the most important thing on Earth, the heaviest object in the universe. From the fawning flattery of the programming to the mind-messing nastiness of the commercials, it continually posited a world of extreme individualism. Even more than, say, violence, that’s the message that flows out the coaxial cable. Characters on television may turn violent to get what they want now, but it’s the what-they-want-now that lies nearer the heart of the problem.

This hyperindividualism is a relatively new phenomenon in our lives. For most of human history, people have put something else near the center — the tribe, the gods, the natural world. But a consumer society can’t tolerate that, because having something else at the center complicates consumption.

This appeal to us as individual fragments grows ever more powerful and precise. Most of the new technologies premise their appeal (especially to advertisers) on their ability to target with frightening accuracy our locations and our psyches.

So far, the assaults on our mental environment have been mainly from the outside, but we are seeing sorties on the inside too. Already we see psychopharmacology rampant, the ranks of people who need such medicine swelled by a creeping malaise: a gradual redefinition of our foibles, of our tiny personal tragedies. There are pills for the camera-shy, for “shopper’s remorse,” for the stresses of personal bankruptcy — it’s getting crowded in the collective bummer tent. Before long, genetic engineers may well be able to literally tweak the brains of our children, offering them “extra intelligence” or perhaps docility, upgraded memory at the price of downgraded meaning. Improved individuals, at the price of whatever individuality should mean in its sweetest sense.

But. The human mind and heart are not dead yet; indeed there are signs that we’ve reached the moment of resistance, that a million Vaclav Havels, albeit often tongue-tied and unsure precisely of their mission, are rising from different corners to challenge this assault. If you ask me what I remember from the WTO battle in Seattle, it is not the sting of rubber bullets or the choke of gas; it is a jaunty balloon rising above the melee with this message painted on its side: “Wake Up Muggles.” If you’ve read Harry Potter, then you know: Muggles are all of us, living in a world of magic but unable to see it, focused as we are on television and mall. But we are waking, in sufficient numbers to ensure there will be the same kind of fight for the mental environment as there has been for the physical one. And, of course, the fights will overlap.

Mental environmentalists may well lose, just like their colleagues working in the physical world. Global warming may be too much to overcome, and so may genetic engineering or push media or the simple warm-bath skill of those designers and marketers who would sap our lives for their own advancement. But the fight itself holds tremendous possibility. The liberation from self-absorption comes most of all in the battle to help others and in the vision of a world that makes sense to our minds, a world where no single idea (“buy”) holds sway.

Forget monoculture, in our fields or in our heads; imagine instead a thousand different communities, adapted to the physical places they inhabit, sharing insight and difference, appreciating small scale and large heart. Where no musician sells 10 million copies, but 10 million musicians sing each night. Where we are freed from consumer identity and idolatry to be much more ourselves. Where we have our heads back.

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information, and is the pioneer behind the 350.org movement. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.



https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/90/mckibben-environmental-movement-mind.html

GloriousPoetry
18th September 2013, 22:36
Thank you Dianna for posting this thread,

As I get older I become more aware of how our mental environment is unhealthy and as a human race we are becoming more disconnected from our true humanity.
Last night I just had a conversation with a friend about the missing or lost of information regarding our place in nature and our place on the planet. I told her that at times I want to just live in a space where I can see the roses grow in a garden because I am so tired and burnt out on what society has to offer....which is all mentally driven and accumulating more information isn't going to make the roses grow.

Rahkyt
18th September 2013, 22:37
Hyper-individualism and Mental Environmentalism.

I like those terms.

I found this quote to be relevant:


The state, the church have time and again become mentally oppressive until eventually a resistance emerged — a resistance that, from Martin Luther to Vaclav Havel, said at least in part: “We want our minds back.” Not all the way back: We’ve never owned our minds entirely. But more of our minds, in better shape.

Very few individuals indeed have owned their minds entirely.

Can anybody imagine? What that must be like? To be totally divorced, mentally, from the rest of humanity? To not be drawn into the collective mentality? To not feel the Zeitgeist? To be able to experience it all as something distant, affecting others but not yourself?

Does that sound psychopathic? Just a bit?

Or ... is there another state where this is possible as well?

donk
19th September 2013, 13:57
Does that sound psychopathic? Just a bit?

I think it sounds like enlightenment...as long as empathy is included.

I believe it is possible to be emotionally detached in a healthy way...but still being empathic--to me, this is how I try to live (often asking the same question: is this psychopathic?)...I could be wrong...