The first half of “The Lucifer Principle” proposes that the source of evil is the drive to survive which is often at the expense of others, a fight for territory or supplies. The second half switches from biology to human history and talks about the effect of good times versus bad times. Good times allow experiment because there are backup reserves if things go wrong, but also the bad times -- which can motivate innovation and reaching out (when the going gets tough, the tough get going) -- can be undercut by the need for some kind of relief, whether the body’s own endorphins or morphine, which paralyzes. Leisure, boredom, are deadly, chutes to destruction.
Entrainment of the people in a vision (a meme) will propels them, give them courage and energy. This is the use of the arts and religion (which is an art rather than a Truth). I’ve already peeked ahead at Bloom’s next books in the sequence: “Global Brain: The Evolution Of The Mass Mind” and "The Genius Of The Beast: A Radical Revision of Capitalism." In “how to read” classes, one is taught to make a guess about what one expects to read, so as to see clearly how it differs from your presuppositions. I’m guessing it will be thus:
- Capitalism is a way of increasing and sharing value.
- Commodities need not be physical objects, but can be valuable ideas.
- Virtual objects cannot be limited by the physical world.
- Therefore, the capitalism of ideas, enthusiasm, skill, and experience cannot be limited and need not lead to the destruction of others if we see them as our market. We don’t have to take what THEY have, we only need to persuade them that what WE have is also of value. (Unmask the war of Islam against Christian or fundamentalist against liberal, and their roots in ownership of worldly things is at the core. They are NOT selling ideas except as disguises.)
I have been very suspicious of capitalism and commodification. I see enormous evils, like attempting to eliminate whole categories of people (genocide) through stigma that denies them basic protection and sustenance or criminalizes them into BEING commodities. The prison industry in this country that has grown up around our constant criminalizing is so big that reducing it to more rational level would have huge economic consequences. Being lionized into a saleable “property” is the same dynamic.
I go to Adam Curtis now, the BBC blogger. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/ A thinker something like Bloom, he was able to trace the discovery of the subconscious (or whatever it is we call that -- the hidden workings of the brain) and how it developed into psychotherapy and then marketing and political propaganda, particularly that which is based on fear. Very useful in war or insurance sales. Our current capitalism is operating on the commodification of fear, which is demonic when it divides and stigmatizes other human beings in order to sell wars that profit only a few.
Bloom sees fear a different way: a motive to make war obsolete, an adrenaline to energize new understanding and sharing. (At least that’s what I hope he will say.) In the meantime, the Lucifer Principle explains to me how it is that Cinematheque can replace the competition for resources, the struggle to climb the pecking order and to ensure that one’s physical children become inheritors of one’s advantages. Their resources are so abundant, consisting of life in all its sensory glory and variousness, and their defiance of fear is so strong (because they are young boys), that they have no time or use for accumulating stuff beyond their wheels, their iPods, and their meds. They DO need those and their resourcefulness in finding ways to get them is unlimited, as is Tim’s. This propels creativity.
Now a direct quote from the conclusion to “The Lucifer Principle”: “The movement of humans into social groups, the tendency of one social organism to swallow another, the rise of the meme, the increase in cooperation -- all are ways in which the universe has ratcheted upward the degree of order. But under the natural urge toward more intricate structures, higher planes of wonder, and startlingly new and effective forms of complexity, there is no moral sense. There is no motherly Nature -- who loves her offspring and protects them from harm. Harm, in fact, is a fundamental tool Nature has used to refine her creations.”
Mother, rocking mother (I’m tempted to use the f-word), is a trap and an opiate. To my mind it is as much a mistake to personify nature as it is to personify God the Tyrant. One must remember that Bloom is Jewish, like Freud, so he carries that family pattern. We must trust Bloom to emerge from anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, and -- well, what do we call seeing everything in terms of a nuclear family, the heart of the in-group, the source of the tribe? He’s a thinking man and a city man, so he hasn’t come to ecology, much less the deep green ecology I espouse. (More of that later.)
When he does, I expect him to become more Jungian, to have internalized the dualities of male and female, fire and ice, being and nonbeing, or whatever dualities turn up -- plenty of them since making distinctions is the first step in thinking about life. The distinction between good and evil, the morality memes of the cultures, are often paralyzing or inflammatory -- blocking the possibility of transcendence, new ways of seeing our pouring lives.
“Because it is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions inside the head and express something - perhaps not much, just something - of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are, from the momentary effect of the barometer to the force that created men distinct from trees. Something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our bodies from moment to moment like water in a river. Something of the spirit of the snowflake in the water of the river. Something of the duplicity and the relativity and the merely fleeting quality of all this. Something of the almighty importance of it and something of the utter meaninglessness. And when words can manage something of this, and manage it in a moment, of time, and in that same moment, make out of it all the vital signature of a human being - not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses - but a human being, we call it poetry.”
This is not writing to sell as escapism, because of the pressure of fear. This is writing for the transcendence of the writer, which may be shared freely. It is wings.