Our narratives have globalized because as Benedict Anderson would have it, our publishing platforms have moved away from national control and increasingly from language constrants. Now we make and experience stories on facebook, instagram, twitter and netflix with ever more international content in the mix. Not entirely though, and the war now is between nationalist centers with small elites that resist with Moscow and Beijing (both capitals of imperial age empires that lord over vast territories of often unwilling citizens) being the greatest force versus the post-nationalist narratives of the EU and the US. The latter even despite Trump because in a way the US was the first post-nationalist nation elevating the primacy of global values and narratives over national ones after the 2nd world war, benefiting from it astronomically.
Nationalism is a sterile and spent force as so clearly demonstrated by Brexit Britain. What we experience is the failure and rear guard action of nationalism. It cannot address climate change. It cannot address a globalizing economy. It can’t halt AI or any technological advancement. It won’t be able to curtail migration as the Northern Ireland border with the EU demonstrates. As Benedict Anderson and Karl Marx both saw, technological advancements inevitably power social change. What nationalism can do and is doing is derail our ability to forge solutions on a global scale. A climate change accord is essential to our future well-being. And a global migration accord also is essential to the continued ability for our democracies to function and form that globalizing political consensus. The main drive for Brexit and the waning of Angela Merkel was migration. And one of the main drives behind forced migrations as we see them in places like Syria and Myanmar according to the UN is climate change.
We can choose to either control the narratives by restricting the new media, which may be impossible, or finding a way to maintain a growing and more secure identity and prospect for the world’s middle classes. Ultimately those middle classes will decide democratically or through their complaining on Weibo what authorities will do.
One thing we really should keep in mind, which is something that Brexit also epitomizes, is the power of the nation’s story. We cling to it because we haven’t formulated a relevant and more compelling one. And that Martin and I can’t stress this enough, is why someone like Elon Musk needs all the support and story-telling-narrative-power he can get. Space exploration, the colonization of the solar system, is something that is coming within our technological reach. It is a human and global story that has convincingly proven its worth by those who walked the moon 50 years ago. Merely rescuing our planet from our own nefarious activities isn’t enough, psychology has proven that sufficiently as well. The dark ages weren’t over until we took to our ships. We must take to them again. Our choice is between Mars or Venus and Venus neither in a romantic or classical but in an astronomical sense.