Whither Humanity?


[Another shot at a very short and very general orientation, written for a local discussion, the topic having been suggested by others. Took the graffiti photo about six years ago in a Melbourne laneway].

Whither Humanity?

‘Wishes are the memories coming from our future.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

In considering such a huge open question as ‘whither humanity?’, rather than too quickly leaping to answers, perhaps one can focus on trying to first find some good specifying questions around this important question. We know that the way we frame questions or issues will inevitably determine our answers. We might sense that if we ask Business-As-Usual (BAU) questions, we will necessarily come up with BAU answers. Equally, we might sense that if we ask more ‘non-BAU’, more creative, questions, we might come up with more creative answers. Here is my attempt at the latter, starting with two Socratic questions about the two words in the leading question.

1. What does ‘humanity’ mean in the question ‘whither humanity’?
Is there a humanity ‘going somewhere’ at all?
Is ‘humanity’, as a subject or agent (as in ‘whither humanity?’), something that already exists, or is it something yet to emerge, to be (self-) created?

2. Does ‘whither’ mean ‘is, or might be, going’ (presumably on current trends/trajectories)?
Or does it mean whither it ‘should be going’?
If the latter, what are our criteria, our values, for determining our ‘should’?
If ‘whither’ implies a direction, or perhaps even a goal, what do we think humanity’s direction or goal could be?
If we think there might be a direction or goal, what grounds or evidence do we base that on?

You might like to now have a go at thinking about your own answers to the above questions before you check out mine…

My own answers might go something like this.

Ad 1: Humanity

‘Humanity’ as a conscious subject or agent of history does not yet exist. It is something yet to emerge, to be (self-)created. There may, however, be various signs of it emerging. It could be defined as the central challenge or task of this stage in human evolution. (Definition: a ‘conscious subject’ is one who ‘calls the shots’, ‘rules’, is self-governing or ‘autonomous’).

‘Humanity’ as an unconscious subject-object exists as a highly differentiated, complex phenomenon split into myriads of often competing groups and elements often caught up in different world views and states or stages of consciousness: in traditional or consumerist world views, in differing fears, voluntary slaveries, in various old and new oppressions and heteronomies of class and culture. Humanity in this sense is the object of immense structural forces of class, power, wealth/poverty, technology, custom and ideology which repress or hinder its becoming the subject of itself and its own evolution.

Ad 2: Whither

I think the whither humanity ‘is or might be going’ question can be answered by viewing the current trends that make up the trajectory of BAU: collapse, either slow or swift, of both the biosphere as a human-friendly life space, and of the global economy and/or liberal civilization.

The Big Four Threats in this regard, all preventable, are: (a) increasing shift from liberal democracies to authoritarian police states (b) systemic economic collapse/depression, (c) climate chaos/sixth great species extinction, (d) war(s) waged with weapons of mass destruction. All four are linked to the inherent wealth-and-power drives and contradictions of the global industrial-capitalist and the international military-imperial system.

As for the ‘should be going’ and direction/goal question, I would argue it should be, or should be more consciously, going towards One World Consciousness and the Good Society.

My own eight key criteria/values for this One World Consciousness and the Good Society would be:

• Ecological sustainability of all social and economic activity
• A fair earth share (‘simpler living’) for all individuals and between nations
• Maximised social equality and the right to cultural and sexual diversity for all
• Post-capitalist cooperative economies driven by human and ecological welfare, not profit
• Collective/public ownership of the commons
• Maximising freedom and participatory democracy in all social domains at all levels
• ‘Bread and roses for all’, i.e. institutionally securing universal human rights for all
• Abolition of all WMDs; strict adherence to the rule of international law between nations

Grounds for arguing such a desirable direction for humanity are of course manifold and cannot be detailed here. Let us merely step back and try to get a wider evolutionary perspective. Most would at least agree that human socio-economic evolution can be very broadly divided into three main stages: pre-industrial, industrial, post-industrial (culturally: pre-modern, modern, post-modern, and also, in Ken Wilber’s terms, pre-rational, rational, trans-rational, and pre-personal, personal, transpersonal). We are of course now within the ongoing, traumatic, ‘revolutionary’ transition period between the last two stages.

If this rough periodization is accepted, most would agree that human cultural evolution has entailed a gradual widening of average human consciousness from identification with the family, clan and tribe in the pre-industrial stages to identification with the nation in the modern/industrial stage, and that the inherent logic of this development has seen this identification gradually widening out to some form of ‘transnational’ One World consciousness as the post-industrial/post-modern age dawns.

Economically, technologically, culturally and genetically we are obviously moving towards ever greater global integration. The larger issues can no longer be solved on a national basis (economies, climatic and oceanic change, migration and refugees, war and peace). They can only be solved world-centrically.

This widening as a conscious process, is of course still confined to as yet small, albeit increasing, sections of the world population, with most in almost all countries still very much wedded to the tribe- and/or nation-identifications of the previous two stages. There is no ineluctable determinism to this widening process. Collapse and widespread regression to narrower, earlier stages of consciousness are always possible.

Seen from such a perspective, however, the key educational and activist question would thus be: how can we all further the process of global average consciousness evolution towards that of One World and the desirability, and objective possibility, of the diversely universal human dream of the Good Society? How can we all, as Rilke says, feel our desires for the realisation of such a dream like strong, magnetic memories flooding in from the future?


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 17, 2016.

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