The Industrialised Individual
Our great symbolic power does not make our colonisation by industrialism inevitable; but it is nevertheless an Achilles Heel which loosens the constraining power of the real world and thereby makes us vulnerable to a range of ecologically malignant ideological systems. The capacity to focus on alternative realities is perilously close to the capacity to ignore current ones; and the size of the association areas in the human brain could be seen either as our great advantage over other species, or as a deficit in our relation to reality which will eventually prove terminal. Which of these views we incline towards will depend on the context; for those traits likely to lead to success in industrial society are not the same ones that would ensure survival or successful reproduction in non-industrial societies. A focus on abstract thought, an individualistic attitude, a casual psychopathy — these traits, although they would be poisonous in most indigenous cultures, would all seem to have short-term benefits for the individual within industrial society; so their lack of long-term adaptiveness is due not so much to a mismatch between the individual and the social context as between this social context and its, natural, context. In short, what will crucially determine the survival (or not) of homo sapiens industrialensis is whether the society that has ‘grown out of our brains’ is terminally alienated from the natural order, or whether it can rediscover its foundations in the natural world.
KeywordsNatural World Water Hyacinth Industrial Society Natural Order Symbolic System
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