Twentieth century 2.0

Sigmund Freud and Hannah Arendt are the scholars we should read to understand the insanity of the present.

 Freud spoke of the power of the subconscious mind in driving our desires. He spoke of the id, that part of our consciousness that reveals our most base instincts, without concern for the feelings or well being of other people.

Arendt described the emergence of nihilistic mass societies, in which alienated people adopt totalitarian and genocidal world views. She saw how sophisticated forms of propaganda permitted new forms of destructive political parties. The result was industrial-scale killing of enemies—foreign and domestic. Terror kept society in line.

What we witness today in the world is version 2.0 of the horrors of the 20th century.

Technology has connected us more than ever, yet people are more psychologically and spiritually separated than ever before. And the forms of control — and forms of death — wielded by those with power is greater than at any time in history.

We can watch YouTube and see what it looks like inside a refugee camp holding Syrian refugees somewhere in Turkey. We can see images of children caged at the U.S. border with Mexico. We can see these things, yet the reality of what we are watching is more distant than ever before.

The reality imposed by two hours at the movies, watching a super hero battle a super villain, bears more sense and has more meaning to people in rich societies than the real suffering of millions. Detention camps, like a terrible bacteria, are emerging without mercy, and yet those of us who can say something have little to say about it, and nothing we can do seems to stop the downward spiral of civilization.


Freud and Arendt would say that it is, at heart, a form of denial. Our sunny world views in the rich West, and amongst the elites who govern that rich West, cannot take in the cold darkness of refugees, detention centers, and human extinction.

Because these facts cannot be processed, they are ignored and disregarded.

But facts are stubborn things. The camps only increase; and we should expect more of them — much more of them — as time goes on. The Great Refugee Crisis of the 21st century, borne of the twin demons of runaway climate change and political chaos, will dwarf every other people movement in history in terms of scale and scope. Animal species continue their mass die-off. Human waste is every where. Humanity has used up this planet.

Everything has been used up.

I pray we can change our ways. I am beyond hope, so I don’t use that word. It is a funny thing: while I am agnostic, I find some comfort in prayer. I find some comfort in faith, and in the power of a small group of people to change the world. There is some comfort in that. Faith has more meaning for me than hope. Hope seems like a pathway towards despair. With faith, perhaps the world can change.

Only time will tell if faith bears more promise than hope.