In the reality described in the scene above, we notice that each person brings their singular viewpoint to the scene. I am there because I need something that is very specific, that something stems from my desires and interests, and is unrelated to those of the clerk, let alone to the man in the TV show. Already, it is clear that I am only considering a limited number of aspects of the reality that I am surrounded by – the ones that support the fulfillment of what I want. Therefore, I make decisions about reality on the basis of my viewpoint which is underpinned by my desires and interests – these are my personal economics. The way ‘personal’ economics work if a 1:1 reflection of our global capitalism. On a global scale, we are in a similar position we don’t really engage with the direction that things take in the world, we are focussed on working in the service of free enterprise, even if this means working a menial job in a corporation. The rest of the world we leave up to our elected ‘body’, the government of the people. The common thread between our personal lives and the global population is that in either case, only aspects that promote our interests, or the interests of a group, are addressed. We institutionalise “proxies”, such as elected politicians. It is their task to stand in for us so that we don’t have to concern ourselves with the world-at-large. Yet, we create this world together through our participation in decisions that form and shape policies, laws, as well as the financial backbone of our system.
From this standpoint, we can define personal desires and interest as “personal gain”. Thus, in its basic structure personal economics are equivalent to the profits that drive the world’s financial system. Through this selection of focus that everyone pursues we inadvertently must break down what is whole, we must zoom in to create order. This allows us to select whatever it is that we need, want or desire. We create order in the sense of creating categories of objects and services by separating the whole into neat little divisions. What I mean by the ‘whole’ is our environment, other beings – all that surrounds and sustains us. A Chinese proverb states: The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. Even if this proverb lends itself to multiple interpretations, we can easily see how we put forth the naming of these neat little divisions, the concepts we devise to describe our world, as a worthwhile human achievement.
We believe that by creating categories and divisions we are able to specify communication. We even state that through this order, which we make by and through the use of language we can rise above all other creatures, we become rational thinkers. Yet, when we look closely we see that this specification of objects and services does not sharpen our communication, rather, it is used to create an alternative reality – one we call by the name of progress, our modern world. A world, that is created by our minds on the premise of abstract thinking – we abstract, mine, and extract from the whole that which we have categorised and labelled for our purposes. We strip it from and off the physical world by the use of language. From language we create beliefs, ideas, concepts and rituals – we conceive of mental states. Through mental processes we form new relationships that no longer reference the physical world but favour our conclusions of what we understand progress to be.
We can easily see this on a basic example. In Western cultures we eat pigs. When we slaughter a pig and process the meat, we call it pork. When we process the meat so that we can eat it in a sandwich we call it ham. Neither pork nor ham refer to the animal itself. The relationship to the animal, as a being in the physical world we live in, is severed and reconnected to our ritual or cultural pattern that is composed from our mental states. The pig is now disembodied. We want to indicate that the pig is dead and edible and this is how we rationalise these naming conventions. Our purpose, to be able to eat the pig, is fulfilled and within this process the pig itself as living being has no role, no meaning, no relevance. We have used language to abstract reality, namely ‘the pig is dead’ and we can now talk about the pig-meat in two ways, as ham or pork. This procedure of abstract thinking in relation to our surroundings is culture-specific in that it depends on the patterns a culture has created for itself. Other cultures have constructed other patterns that are used in the ‘eating’ rituals. In Guangzhou, China where dog meat is sold at the market the linguistic break-down, or mental abstraction of “the dog is dead, it is an edible item” will have similar descriptors that in their essence reflect those of the Western pig.
“Abstracting” from the physical as we do, with the use of our minds, is however a multidimensional approach. Another dimension is to take the know-how of the physical world and selectively apply it to the things we make. I can’t really say we create because at the most we reconfigure the existing relationships through a mental filter. For this example, all we have to do is look to the sky were we see birds and airplanes flying around. Airplanes are modelled after birds. The study of bird-flight led to the design of aircrafts that we use to travel around the world. In other words, those who have studied bird-flight have selectively ‘abstracted’ that which could be useful for humans to build mechanical birds that fly and carry cargo. Birds are only one example in this, most of our tools are created by imitating the physical world around us. We even have a word for selectively-putting-the-physical-world-back-into-our-thinking in the drive for human progress. We call it biomimicry.
Our highly-praised act of creativity, considered a human capital, is nothing more but our ability to apply our mind to devise proxies to the physical reality we live in. We do this actively by classifying and ordering what we perceive with our senses. We then reconfigure the identified relationships to always and forever do one thing: to suit our purpose. What we call progress is the sum of our efforts to create this alternate, or in essence virtual reality. The process of virtualisation is not a new one and certainly not limited to the digital realm. The binary code we generate is yet another manifestation in support of virtualisation. Virtualisation may even be called the spearhead of how we apply mental processes to divide and conquer the physical world, and how we exist in our relationships to each other.
How do we relate to each other? Here we follow the same pattern, we ‘select’ those who we believe are worthwhile of our attention. Generally, relationships are categorised and described as: family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The rest of the world – again, the whole – is therefore of no or marginal interest to us. Let’s face it, if it were any other way, there would be no starving person in this world. It is therefore no coincidence that we are now living in an age where virtualisation, the alternate reality we call into being, has solidified through the use of digital machines. We now operate in and from the shared virtual space we have called into being. We have created the internet so that we can connect with anyone who is willing and able to make it their focus to ‘connect’. We may have hundreds of so-called friends on Facebook, representing the various human-relation categories I have mentioned above. More than ever, virtualisation is blatantly staring us in the face when we compare the spatial reality we live in with the reality of our shared virtual space. The majority of us will have trouble naming a decent number of people who we know and communicate with intimately in a spatial radius of 50 square miles. It may be that you come from a small village where relationships are more local and intimate, this however will only proof that those types of environments function within the classification of human-relations, and that they can hardly be called progressive – these are places we leave behind in the pursuit of progress. We do not consider indigenous cultures, such as the Amondawa tribe in Brazil, who live in close-knit communities, as the cutting edge of our progress.
As creatures of pure self-interest, we loose the reference of the dimensionality of our actions that are guided by our way of thinking. In the process of breaking down the physical world into mental categories and devising order so that we can be selective, we keep no link to the whole. The whole, the physical world as a whole, has become obsolete in this process. We easily discard it, as we discard rubbish in a bin. The result is that we are fragmenting and dividing the physical reality to a point where we are unable to sustain ourselves because, as you might have guessed, division as the starting point is inherently destructive. We destruct to abstract, you might say.
Before I move on to give you some examples in how we teach children to be ‘abstractors’ via the use of their mind, I will briefly explain Figure1 you can see above. In an attempt to visualise this two-fold dynamic that I described above, Figure 1 is meant to illustrate the looming and inevitable consequence, if we were to continue along this path. Here, the human is at the centre because the human is the initiator as well as the receiver of this process of progress. The dollar sign in the centre symbolises all currencies because all money or currencies are used to promote selection, abstraction, production and consumption. The brown-coloured field represents the physical reality we live in, or the planet we call earth. We use our mind to endorse abstract thinking. We ‘virtualise’ our reality and in this process we use up the ingredients, as we exploit the physical world because no matter how virtual we become the building blocks of human life are located in the physical world. This is to the detriment of all beings that do not change, modify, and ultimately destroy the habitat of all other beings on the planet – the human is the sole perpetrator in this endeavour. Mankind fails to preserve the world for those who do not operate from mental states, such as animals, and therefore causes extinction of living beings. The graphic indicates this selection process, the steady reduction of supplies in the production of materialised mental states: this is where we perpetuate virtualisation by constructing tools and environments in support of what we think. The graphic further notes that we identify and fetishise the specialness of nature, it becomes food for thought, we study the hell out of it to see what’s in it for us. I previously illustrated this point with the mechanism of biomimicry. We then feed the ‘fruits’ of our studies back into the process of progress – we close the loop.
Children come into this world and are systematically taught to adhere to a process of becoming abstract thinkers. Virtualisation is introduced by creating an alternate world where humans and other creatures battle good and evil. The Harry Potters of this world have been around as long as there have been stories. We teach our new generations to be of the magical mind instead of the earth. We teach them by providing an alternative to life by proposing stories and fairytales on all kinds of virtual media, such as an ipod, TV, and laptop. Neatly encoded they make for perfect carriers of our beliefs, ideas and concepts in how we see this world. We groom our youngest to use their imagination and dream up virtual relationships that can be expressed through language and representation. Instead of bringing the world to our children, we insert a bunch proxies. What else are stuffed animals and franchised toys? We teach children to stay away from the biological substances we are also made of. We call it dangerous and dirty and we don’t even stop with our own body. Or are we past the stage where we are ashamed of our physical bodies for producing shit?