By Steve Salmony
Culture presents us with much that is real and also less that is illusory. From a psychological standpoint, because humans are shaped early and pervasively by cultural transmissions in our perception of reality, it is an evolutionary challenge for humankind to see the world as it is. When a psychologist thinks a patient is suffering from a mental illness, that is an evidence-based clinical judgment.
However, general standards of normalcy are not clinical judgments, but matters of socio-cultural norms and conventions that are full of correctly perceived aspects of reality as well as some misperceptions of reality. Deeply disturbed mental patients distort reality drastically. "Normal" people pay no attention to them. Or if attention is paid to them, it is usually just long enough to put them away. After all, they are crazy; they cannot distinguish what is fantasy from what is real.
By contrast, organizations like nation-states, as well as cultures, appear not to misperceive reality so sharply, yet distortions of what large aggregates of people perceive do remain. A term of art in psychology is useful here, "folie a deux." The term means that two people share an identical distortion of reality. This understanding leads to other terms, "folie a deux cent million" for a social order or "folie a deux billion" for a culture. These terms refer to a misperception of reality commonly held by many people of an organization or culture. One way to define the highest standard of what is “normal” for the individual and for human aggregates could be looked at in terms of what is free of illusion, what is in scientific fact real.
Even experts, I suppose, can and do confuse ideology with science, contrived logic with reason, self-interested thinking with common sense. Science regarding the activities of the human population appears to be ignored when ignorance of the world as it is serves to support greed-mongering, social order and religious dogma. I would like to submit that on occasions such as these, conscious and unconscious thinking in the service of a status quo leads to distortions of what could be real and perversions of science. In such instances, fantasy is embraced by many people; knowledge of what could be real is eschewed.
In these early years of Century XXI, humanity could be confronted with formidable, human-driven global challenges, some are already visible on the far horizon. It is inconceivable that the human community can respond ably to whatever challenges present themselves in the years just ahead if we choose not to so much as acknowledge what is real and visible to naked eyes. We can also recognize how the blinding power of certain adamantly maintained and widely shared culturally transmitted fantasies regarding global consumption, production and propagation activities of the human species could have mesmerized many experts into thinking that the humankind is somehow not an integral part of the natural world we inhabit and ultimately not subject to biophysical limits to growth that are ultimately imposed on living things by a planet with the size, finite make-up and frangible ecology of Earth. Perhaps human exceptionalism is fantasy not reality. And yet, human exceptionalism has been broadcast ubiquitously as if it were real.
What is aiding the perpetuation of fantasy and the denial of reality? Why the stony silence among top-ranked experts regarding the unsustainability of the human overpopulation of Earth, while the false hope of population stabilization and an end to population growth soon has been broadcast everywhere as if such an attractive idea had the support of sound science?
Extant scientific evidence indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity that Demographic Transition Theory, for example, has to be a misleading, incomplete, ideologically-driven logical contrivance that just so happens to be politically convenient, economically expedient, religiously tolerable, socially agreeable and culturally prescribed. Demographic Transition Theory is not adequately supported, indeed directly contradicted, by heretofore unchallenged scientific research. How could the perpetration of so pervasive a silence with respect to science, as well as the consensually validated broadcasts of pseudosicence, ever have been accomplished during my entire lifetime?
What is going on? I cannot help but ask questions. How did this denial of what could be real occur on my watch, on our watch? How have the broadcasts of false hopes and promises been maintained regarding a benign, soon to occur, and somehow automatic end to human population growth? How have these false hopes and promises been maintained by experts acting as censors of science and real facts? Are powerful and influential people colluding to deny scientific knowledge?
Leaders and followers alike in the family of humanity can do better, and I trust we will soon enough awaken to the need for behavior change rather than continue down the primrose path that Rachel Carson called a superhighway. Our adamantly advocating and relentlessly pursuing a morally disengaged and patently unsustainable way of life -- one of endless population growth and connected economic growth -- simply cannot last.