According to the author Harari we made a huge jump forward with a Cognitive Revolution; a change in the brains of Homo sapiens that enabled us to believe in fictions. Those fictions were things such as Gods, Kings, Country and money. Their power only exists in the imagination of men but it enabled us to band together in large numbers, to trade, to work on projects and to be unified in the face of adversity. That simple change enabled us to more from a population 13000 years ago of 4-6 million to a population approaching 8 billion.
It worked very well. People could be pacified and unified around a set of fictional beliefs – God, King, Country and Money. We could join to fight in wars, to built massive temples and cathedrals, to conquer new lands, to evangelically convert the infidel and to trade between nations. Apart from the odd revolution, when people lost faith in a King or two, it all worked very well. People were united by faith and patriotism.
Then came the 1st World War and the onset of industrial slaughter. Bravery and patriotism lost their meaning. People no longer believed in the hierarchy. They thought their leaders were flawed – lions led by donkeys. They lost faith in King and Country. They saw the slaughter and lost faith in God.
As Wilfred Owen summed up:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
The old lie; it is sweet and honorable to die for ones country.
With the Vietnam war people were losing faith in their leaders. The war seemed unjust. They rebelled.
There have always been a small number of people who did not believe in the mindless acceptance of God, King and Country. Some even rejected money and tried to live without it in a simple life.
The fictions no longer held true. They saw the hypocrisy and two-faced practice of the elite who paid lip-service to religion and were all pomp and ceremony with no substance; those who fought wars from their safe bunkers.
Now the internet has connected everyone and views are exchanged. The fictions of God/Gods, King, Leaders, Nations and even the Dollar are questioned and found wanting. Is the internet dismembering the cohesion?
People openly talk disparagingly of our leaders in a way that would have been treason a hundred years ago. Religions are castigated and examined but God can’t be found, the atrocities carried out in his name by fundamentalists are considered insane, and it is manifestly obvious that they can’t all be right. The believers of one religion claim they are the chosen and all the others are wrong. There is madness. But will the fiction continue to hold water in the face of such exposure? Even the Dollar is under pressure. Currencies fluctuate and the rich manipulate the system for their own end. Do we go back to gold and Carrie shells? It is a lottery.
The internet is exposing the fictions and myths.
What will happen if the fictions collapse and the cohesion breaks down? What happens when people no longer believe in Gods, Leaders, Nations and money?
Has the internet put us at a turning point? Can we invent new fictions to replace the archaic, outmoded ones?
Can we shift from Gods, Leaders and Nations to other beliefs?
I would suggest that beliefs in maintaining the ecosystem of the planet (nature), looking to a worldwide system of governance, a worldwide currency that does not fluctuate, and a faith in a coalition of leaders might be healthier fictions and more stable and sustaining.
I also thing that mankind needs goals and challenge to unite behind – space is the frontier that might just fulfill that.