tags: western history, hive mind, Christendom, Roman Empire, social construction, spooks, mass media, legacy culture, dystopia, romanticism
The social construction of hive mind is not new. The historical background of our modern hive minds is Christendom, the way European society conceived itself from, say, the year 800 until Henry VIII’s break from Roman authority in 1534. Christendom was a strenuous and effective attempt at constructing hive mind, based on collective terror of spooky spirit-world angels and demons. Europe was a largely rural-agrarian and illiterate society dominated by a centrally organized Church and a de-centralized military/ propertied aristocracy from the ranks of which emerged regional dynastic monarchies. The Church altar and pulpit were the mass media of Christendom and gave the Vatican an edge over other social elements in arranging uniformity of attitudes and loyalty across vast territories, in fact, a theocracy. The thoroughness of the hive mind engineered throughout Europe by ideologues and agents of Christendom, mainly within institutions connected to the Vatican, established an historically new standard of monumental collective commitment, uniformity, cohesion, and rigidity; a romanticized idea of hive solidarity that continues to plague subsequent societies. Roman Church orthodoxy was a superlatively elaborate and uniform message, having appropriated useful chunks of Plato, Aristotle, and Stoicism. Unquestioning assertion of the resulting construct was policed viciously by the inquisition from around 1184 and by military crusades for larger outbreaks of dissent, offering crusaders complete immunity, forgiveness of sins, and all the loot they could manage. The ongoing use of Latin as the language of Church institutions, including universities, is an indication of the small “r” romanticism at the foundation of that hive mind. As far as the Vatican was concerned, Christendom was still the Roman Empire, with all the traditional authority of the Roman Imperium, carrying the weight of Rome’s entire historical imprint on the world: material, military, intellectual, institutional, legal, and spiritual. Prior to Christendom, the Roman Empire was arguably the most effective hive mind in all of human experience, for centuries imposing a heavily armed Roman peace over the Mediterranean world system. The medieval Roman Church did its best to expand the ancient Imperial legacy. A case could be made that it was the grotesque scope and intensity of Christendom’s hive mind that gave Europe its aggressive edge in subsequent encounters with other world cultures.
In the transfiguration from Medieval Christendom to modernity, the centralization of social supervision characteristic of the theocratic hive mind was not demolished but merely fragmented into a number of less all-embracing hierarchies, which learned to cooperate and compliment one another. There is a fundamental identity between old-time religious hive mind construction and the mind control managed by supervising institutions in contemporary societies. Spooks continue to be useful in the form of awesome personified abstractions commanding patriotism and fear such as the U.S.A., the British Crown and Commonwealth, China, the Dear Leader, Capitalism, Islam, IBM, Microsoft, or even the Free World. Modern societies are largely a landscape of mountainous commercial organizations producing profits for investors. Every corporation is a mini-Vatican with its own brand-myth and corporate culture which includes company-spirit and a star-system of corporate celebrities. Every employer expecting brand loyalty and competitive spirit is creating a hive that is structured as a cell within the superstructure of city, nation state, and international capitalism. Indeed, every high school is a training mini-Vatican with its religion of school spirit and sport team troops, its heroes and enemies; patterns downloaded from university collegiate culture. We are trained to hive mind from an early age.
As presented in part 1, the context of these observations is this: There are some clearly positive consequences to predictability and stability in cooperative effort. The question is, are there also negative consequences to this way of creating stability, and is it possible to do anything about them if there are? How might it even be possible to re-orient outside the influence of an ambient hive mind?
Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.