Japan and the Shadow Side of Technology
That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.
— C.G. Jung
For many, society’s ultimate raison d’être is to serve the individual. Government, religion, social institutions are filtered according to where the individual stand in terms of personal growth. However, the hyper-masculine, pathologically self-centered consciousness has outlived its usefulness and instead threatens to destroy us all.
We stand at the cusp of a major human evolutionary period. I think we will make leaps into the vast human potential or become the first species to make ourselves extinct. There’s no turning back. The nuclear crisis in Japan is a prime example. Nuclear power is a product human technology — an evolutionary product, if you will. It is also increasingly promoted because it is safe. Which it is, except when it is not. Chances of a major disaster are tiny, one in a hundred million. But in the event of a statistically improbable major disaster, the damage could result in the destruction of a city or a country or the poisoning of the global food chain. As we are about to learn in Japan, the true costs of nuclear power are never reflected even in the very high price of plant construction. I mentioned last week that one cannot solve a problem utilizing the same consciousness that created the problem in the first place.
I’ll come back to the horrific events unfolding Japan soon enough, but allow me to clarify…
Abraham Maslow was one the first to explore the higher stages of human potential. He found that in addition to the basic human needs — physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, and self-esteem needs — there were higher stages of self-actualization and self-transcendence needs. He called these latter stages, being needs, in contrast to the lower level deficiency needs. These higher stages represent an inherent potential all human beings possess, although not everyone lives up to them.
Before Maslow, Lawrence Kohlberg proposed distinct stages of moral reasoning, which Carol Gilligan (in her feminist critique) would later expand upon. In her seminal work, In a Different Voice, Gilligan outlined four major stages of moral development, which she called selfish, care, universal care, and integrated. Another way of articulating these stages might be egocentric (I care only for myself); ethnocentric (I care only for my tribe, my country, my nation); worldcentric (I care for all human beings, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, or creed); and finally what can be called kosmocentric — where the masculine and feminine are integrated individually and collectively; and, I would add, extend care to all sentient beings without exception.
As in all development, the evolution (spiral) from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to kosmocentric is a movement of increasing consciousness, adopting and building on the previous stages. What the human potential movement discovered was that this embrace goes all the way to infinity. In the farther reaches of human nature people find themselves being one with a Ground of Being, one with Spirit, one with infinity, a radiant riot of the all-encompassing — whatever you want to call it.
My point is that you can have powerful states of consciousness — a powerful feeling of unity with a teaching or body of knowledge, for example. However, states are temporary while stages of development are permanent. Therefore, you can experience powerful altered states of consciousness or peak experiences and still not manage to grow or change. I think we’ve all experienced peak experiences of some type. Perhaps while writing, or otherwise engaged in a creative endeavor. Almost all my writing on recovery from addiction describes various states of consciousness.
I learned personally that experiencing peak or altered states alone don’t work. If you’re at an ethnocentric developmental stage, having a peak experience will only make you more ethnocentric. In other words, peak experiences tend to reinforce states of being. Not a good thing.
A common example is that if you’re at an ethnocentric stage of development and you have peak experiences of being one with everything, you might interpret that as an experience of oneness with Jesus and therefore conclude that nobody can be saved unless they accept Jesus as their personal savior. In other words, a peak spiritual experience for an ethnocentric Christian will be interpreted as having to belong to this group in order to be saved. To further elaborate, if you’re at an egocentric stage of development and have the same experience, you might interpret that as a belief that you are Jesus Christ. Using the same reasoning, if you are at a kosmocentric or integral stage and have that same spiritual peak experience, you will likely conclude that you and all sentient beings without exception are one with Spirit in the eternal here and now. The same can be applied to politically ideology. In fact, many people have died as a result of a social consciousness stemming from egocentric or ethnocentric states of being. People operating from lower levels of moral reasoning will even rationalize the senseless murder of women and children.
Still with me?
As I write, reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station have gone off the rails — to use an obsolete metaphor. The latest NYT banner headline is “Taming Reactors May Take Weeks.” There have been several explosions and no one really knows the true extent of the damage, because, humans being humans, those in charge are right now more concerned with public relations than human lives.
Yet Japan’s nuclear power stations were designed with the utmost care and precision. More precisely, as the only country in the world to have experienced true nuclear catastrophe, Japan had an incentive to build well, as well as the capability, laws and, regulations to do so. Which leads to an unavoidable question: If the technologically brilliant Japanese can’t build a completely safe reactor, who can?
But more importantly, is nuclear energy a viable alternative/ solution to anthropogenic global warming (AGW)? Of course it isn’t. From an economic perspective, it’s prohibitively expensive. The most rigorous costs/ benefits analysis puts the approximate cost of nuclear energy at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour, which is triple the cost for electricity rates in the United States. Right now, nuclear energy supplies about 20 percent of our energy needs. There are approximately 104 nuclear plants (quite a few sitting on the San Andreas Fault line) — you do the math.
Here’s a great example I found at the Washington Post while researching this essay. Reporter Anne Applebaum writes:
“In an attempt to counter the latest worst-possible scenarios, a Franco-German company began constructing a super-safe, ‘next-generation’ nuclear reactor in Finland several years ago. The plant was designed to withstand the impact of an airplane — a post-Sept. 11 concern — and includes a chamber allegedly able to contain a core meltdown. But it was also meant to cost $4 billion and to be completed in 2009. Instead, after numerous setbacks, it is still unfinished — and may now cost $6 billion or more.
Ironically, the Finnish plant was meant to launch the renaissance of the nuclear power industry in Europe — an industry that has, of late, enjoyed a renaissance around the world, thanks almost entirely to fears of climate change. Nuclear plants emit no carbon. As a result, nuclear plants, after a long, post-Chernobyl lull, have become fashionable again. Some 62 nuclear reactors are under construction at the moment, according to the World Nuclear Association; a further 158 are being planned and 324 others have been proposed.”
But my argument doesn’t rest on economics alone. Building nuclear plants and regulating them — making sure the rules are followed and safety insured — that is an iffy proposition at best. Even if nuclear plants were perfectly conceived, in a perfect world, there would still be a major risk involved. But we don’t live in a perfect world and humans will cut corners, concoct sweetheart deals. In short, the reality is that there’s no “ooops” factor in nuclear energy, no “do over.” Oh yeah, and there’s that thorny problem of what to do with the “spent” rods and nuclear waste.
The question begging to be asked here is, when it comes to the potential of nuclear catastrophe, is there any level of risk that can be written off, like the death of a city, a nation or the destruction of a fragile ecology as unfortunate but just a cost of doing business?
Think about the extraordinary combination of circumstances that led to Japan’s current nuclear catastrophe and you have to question how people can be so complacent where the possibility for such devastation is in the hands of people infinitely more thoughtless and corrupt. Have you noticed all the corporate shills insisting that the current crisis should have no bearing on American plans for increased investment in nuclear power generating capacity?
Of course they’re by the same voices that have prevented the country from doing anything to reduce the known peril of our potentially catastrophic over reliance on fossil fuels. Remember Dick Cheney sneering at talk of conservation and holding secret energy meetings composed of the same people who rob us blind and pollute our environment with impunity?
And this brings me full circle to the issue how does a vision of society manifests itself for someone at an egocentric stage of development versus someone who’s at the worldcentric level? How do different levels or stages of moral reasoning affect global village?
With technological advancement, the social system we inhabit has repeatedly favored technologies that move us away from the communal (the higher forms of moral reasoning) that honor life the inherent interrelationships in human culture. In their place, the values driving our modern concept of “progress” as unchecked technological development have become the moral imperative of the postmodern age — and its curse.
What I see are too many people stuck in their ethnocentric cocoons. As a species we stand on the verge of evolutionary quantum leap. A leap that has the potential for creating a more just, more forgiving world never before visualized. But as with every evolutionary leap, we have the dark side and the greatest danger we face today is not from terrorists, it is from an outdated collective consciousness that sits rigid and immobile at the center of a reality whose nature is essentially always changing. We live in a world of increasing numbers of potentially catastrophic technologies — and increasing numbers of people made sick by technology. Today’s technological advancements pose a danger not only to individuals, but to life itself: to the essence and survival of the earth’s waters and soil and air, to you life… and mine. I am not railing against technology. That would be ignorant and entropic — against the evolutionary direction. I am pointing out that our technological development has outpaced our collective moral development. Our technologies are not created and chosen in an open, democratic manner, and we have not demanded that they be so. Rather their existence is, for all intents and purposes, an unchosen fate. We are as children with a book of matches.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
Edward-Yemil Rosario: You have to question how people can be so complacent where the possibility for such devastation is in the hands of people infinitely more thoughtless and corrupt.