By Dr David Laing Dawson
The DNA imperatives that propelled our species this far are someday going to kill us all. We seek patterns, linkages, cause and effect. Our brains organize our multiple visual and auditory experiences. Our brains are, as others have said, organizing machines.
Most other creatures have built in templates seeking a match: the pathway to food, to shelter, to procreation, to touch and comfort. Our dominance has been upheld by our brains’ ability to organize information into new patterns, unique patterns, new cause and effect linkages, new explanations of cause and effect.
Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves” as he left the inquisition. Elon Musk says we need to colonize Mars. The Flat Earth Society is meeting in Saskatchewan (which is a good choice it occurs to me). Each brain is responding to the same imperative. The first has organized new information to arrive at a conclusion the church is not ready to accept. The second imagines a future from his own larger-than-life experiences and resources. The third clings to an old explanation by ignoring a wealth of other information.
A friend says, “They are both Leos; that explains it.” He smiles, letting me know he is not wholly committed to that (demonstrably silly) template of understanding.
The delusional man tells me a song on the radio is about him, for him, a message only to him, written for him, played for him. His penetrating gaze tells me this is how he organizes information. He is a believer. He is psychotic.
Today my Google list of top news topics includes Xi Jinping, Doug Ford, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon.
I know why Xi Jinping and Doug Ford are there. I will resist using the juxtaposition of those four names to draw any organizational conclusions about the world and it’s future.
But Steve Bannon? Why is Steve Bannon back on the list?
And it turns out he is busy. Busy in Europe, especially Italy, meeting with numerous Populist Leaders, Far Right politicians, giving speeches, promoting…. I’m not sure what he’s promoting actually. “History is with us,” he says. He seems to be promoting the kinds of xenophobic, racist, exclusive, fascist, isolated enclaves that brought us both the First and the Second World War. He gathers information through his own filters and sees an apocalypse in our near future, a Fourth turning, a war of civilizations. The elitists can’t win this war for us, he says. He promotes a populist movement fueled by Social Media, by reinventions of Briebart News. He seems to relish an age of warring tribes, this time with modern weaponry.
But where does he picture himself in this? Surely not as a robed and besieged emperor. Not as a Mussolini. Perhaps as the Consigliere who can escape to Argentina after the conflagration?
Bannon’s grandiosity would not be important if he didn’t have an audience. And that is the puzzle. Why are these people including Steve Bannon as a source of information to help them formulate their understanding of the world? Though I suppose they are simply selecting those who come with ideas that support the self-serving conclusions they already share.
To survive the ant must organize a pattern, a trail, that will lead him from the nest and back in search of food. And then the ant will stick with it. If I plant my shoe in that track the ant will ignore the bodies and simply go over that shoe.
To survive now we humans must, somehow, quell the need for simple, absolute patterns, the need that opens the door to the veneration of Imams and Popes and Kings and Presidents-for-life, and the Trumps, Bannons, and Fords of this world. And we need to overcome that genetic impulse calling us back to small, exclusive, warring tribes.
We humans have the gift of imagining new patterns; though, like the ant, we cling to the old. To survive, contrary to the impulses of Trump, Bannon, Miller, and many others, we need to imagine our tribes as more and more inclusive, less and less competitive, more and more cooperative.