Podcast: Reconnecting in a Hypernormal world
“When you’re connecting soul to soul instead of ego to ego, you can create great things”
Do we passively live in a system we know is collapsing around us? Do we just go along, all the time knowing that everything our leaders say is not real? In a new BBC documentary [Hypernormalisation], Adam Curtis looks back to the 1970s to chart a course to today, where nothing seems certain and our political leaders strive above all else for stability in a world they no longer control.
My fellow Earthworm Founder Julien Troussier watched Curtis’ documentary recently and we spoke about it over lunch. You can hear our discussion in the Cooee! Podcast link below. (Sound quality warning: It was pretty noisy that day in the café, apologies for the background noise.)
“He’s talking about how increasingly things don’t seem to make much sense in our world” Julien started. “He talks about the US election, he talks about Trump. He talks about what’s happening in the Arab world and the increasing sense of chaos basically.”
Curtis’s documentary takes its unusual name from a term coined by a Soviet writer.
“The Soviet Union became a society where everyone knew that what their leaders said was not real because they could see with their own eyes that the economy was falling apart. But everybody had to play along and pretend that it was real because no one could imagine any alternative.
One Soviet writer called it “Hypernormalisation”. You were so much a part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it. The fakeness was ‘hyerpnormal’.”
Curtis is suggesting that we’re living in a similar situation today on a global scale.
I’ve since watched the documentary and though Curtis doesn’t propose what we should do, Julien feels the documentary suggests that Curtis hankers for past times when people acted from a strong sense of community, as in the 1960s, when people banded together to support civil rights’ causes that were beyond what was important just for them. Since then, a strong sense of individualism has emerged and now pervades our society and few folk seem keen to push for change beyond what’s meaningful or important for their own lives.
Julien feels that Curtis is perhaps asking for a new ideology, for stronger leadership based around a clear vision, perhaps a new –ism of some form. It’s not clear to me from my viewing. To me, it seems that Curtis is more just putting out a view of where he thinks we are today.
But Julien’s right in essence. Curtis is suggesting that where we are is not good, so the obvious next question is, “Where might we go? What’s next?” We can stay where we are of course, which seems to be what the ‘system’ is asking of us, no boat rocking please! That isn’t as stable a place as we’d all like to think though, with impending climate change bearing down on us and many global leaders doing very little to adjust our collective actions to avoid the worse case scenarios suggested by eminent scientists. There is much ground for fear that President-elect Trump’s actions will render our chances of staying under the dangerous 2oC warming threshold impossible.
Cause for despair?
Perhaps not. Both Julien and I feel that everyone can do something, but the key question is “What? What should we each do?”
Julien expresses it thus:
“Based on what we’ve seen in our work and the sort of thing we believe on how a different type of leadership can come up, maybe it’s not so much about describing a big vision of the future and how the world should be and a new manifesto for the world. Maybe it’s about people reconnecting more fundamentally with their deeper values, with whatever you want to call it – their soul, their duck, the wisdom they have in them.
So it’s a bit counterintuitive because you feel we need a new way to bring people together, big society, community together so thinking of retreating back to yourself and reflecting on your values, sort of feeling like, “well, that’s individual”, and you’re withdrawing.
But I think our point is not that, actually it’s not retreating. You act in the world and you connect with others but based on a soulful relationship, on what you fundamentally believe and being true to this and true to deeper human values again.”
We see it as a return to a more ancient way of being rather than a retreat.
What is certain is that things really are starting to feel strongly "hypernormal", as if a nasty crash is just around the corner.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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