Question: What’s the most prominent human made object visible to astronauts orbiting the Earth? Answer: The Great Wall of China.
A monumental achievement of technology. Starting in the 7th century BC, over hundreds of years and dozens of emperors, the wall eventually stretched over 13,000 miles fortified with towers, barracks, and garrison stations. Yet…
Mongol hoards broke through several times. The wall eroded.
Now the Great Wall is a tourist attraction.
Fast forward to the 20th century. The Berlin Wall forms an effective barrier until it too comes tumbling down in less than 30 years.
As we hurtled toward the new millennium with the Internet and globalization now eroding national boundaries, the Chinese government has been frantically erecting the modern version of a wall. Dubbed in the west as “The Great Firewall of China,” the government employs hundreds of computer experts using URL and packet filtering to block information crossing into China’s virtual territory. This time, instead of Mongols from the north, international computer hackers are finding ways around the wall.
Fast forward to the year 2016, where in the U.S. a demagogue known around the country primarily as a TV reality host, a man who never held a public office, an avowed sexual predator is about to get elected President. The slogan catapulting his campaign? “Build a wall.”
WELCOME TO THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
Despite Brexit, European anti-foreigner nationalism, and Trump, globalization continues its long-term trajectory…People and products moving faster and faster around the planet, information streaming at electric speed through millions of coaxial and fiber-optic cables spread under oceans, over continents and streaming down from satellites…over 4 billion of us every day talking to each other, tweeting each other, Facebooking each other, YouTubing each other, podcasting each other across national boundaries.
Build a wall?
As political scientist Wendy Brown notes in her book, ‘Walled States, Waning Sovereignty,’ in the 21st century walls are nothing more than theatre props.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL WALL
When our ancestors first climbed down from trees in Africa and stood up on two legs, many advantages followed. But it wasn’t until they started spreading out around the continent and then onto new continents that human brain size dramatically increased.
Anthropologists note that the flexibility needed to meet the challenges of new, diverse habitats instigated a new brain layer covering over the part shared with other mammals. We now call this uniquely human layer the neocortex and it takes up over 75 percent of our brain anatomy.
The mammalian part of our brains are primarily tied to a strong territorial imperative. Mammals need strong, inflexible, boundaries and will kill to protect any perceived threat. If an innocent lion cub wanders onto the territory of another pride, the male of that pride will kill it even though it poses no significant threat.
We humans are mammals emerging from evolutionary forces with a gift: The larger neocortex gives us the ability to see beyond the narrow, self-centered fears of the territorial ego. Modern neuroscience has shown that the neocortex can increase our sense of bodily boundaries and give us the capacity to understand and empathize with others, including strangers.
The neocortex is geared towards developing connections. The mammalian portion of the brain layered underneath it is hypersensitive to protecting boundaries.
So how is it that we can find thousands of computer classes teaching AI (artificial intelligence), but where do we find education about our potential human intelligence?
Best lesson I ever learned about my brain didn’t come from academia or science but from the American self-defense master John Perkins whose classes I took for a year (and whom Gerald Celente introduced me to).
I asked John why in every class he read horrific details from police crime reports, then followed it with a group meditation where he would guide us through a beautiful setting in nature. His answer: To live fully in this world we need to be aware of and face up to its worse and best aspects…can’t hide from either…only then can our minds give us a sense of security. Perkins helped us re-wire our brains to remain more centered when staring into fear and the unknown.
Just as our ancient ancestors developed significantly more powerful brains by finding ways to thrive in new, unchartered habitats, we find ourselves now in a totally unpredictable digitalized, computerized, fiber-optically wired global village of instantaneous communication and virtual connectivity.
Want evidence of the mammalian brain in action, see the Trends Journal’s Top Ten Trend for 2019: Human Waves. Want evidence of the neocortex in action, see the Trends Journal’s Top Ten Trend for 2019: Socially Minded.
As the sped up, wired world of the 21st century continues to unfold do we expand our vision or try to hide behind walls even as they continue to come tumbling down?
We might do well to remember the insight from the person who coined the phrase, “Global Village,” Marshall McLuhan:
“There is no such thing as inevitability as long as we are willing to contemplate what is happening.”