February 4, 2023

IMG 3077I’ve been to one of my favourite cities for most of the week, namely Copenhagen.  I spent a lot of time there in IBM days thanks to the support of Hanna (I think I have the name right but its 25 years ago and I have lost touch with so if you are reading this …) and we did a lot of method development there as we could facilitate in English, but the participants would speak in Danish thus avoiding interference.   The formal reason for this visit was to run the first Rewilding Leadership masterclass.  But the originating reason was when Beth let me know that the Louisiana Museum was holding an exhibition on the Weimar Republic, a long-term interest and one of high current topicality as the 2020s and 1920s seem to have some depressing parallels.  The banner picture is from my walk to the masterclass venue, and the portrait is by Christian Schad of the Italian pianist Anna Gabbioneta and represents both the shift from expressionism to precise realism and the increasing recognition of Die Neue Frau,  Weimar art increasingly challenged gender norms, exemplified by Otto Dix’s androgynous portrait of Sylvia von Harden which featured in the exhibition.  An added bonus was that we used to hold masterclasses in the Boat House situated on the grounds of the Louisiana Museum so the visit there on Wednesday night was a sentimental journey.

The new objectivity of art in this period, as illustrated and also exemplified in the Bauhaus school really acts as a segway into yesterday’s session where I gave a talk on Metamuggleism, a somewhat ironic title that I had to persuade the organiser to accept.  The wider subject I was addressing was meta-modernism which has been popping up in several areas of interest over the last couple of years.  The movement stands in Art for something that lies between modernism and post-modernism.  It is characterised in some of the literature as ironic sincerity and one of the best examples is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the irony lies in the young woman beating up the monsters. My use of Metamuggleism as a title was to suggest, ironically that its use outside of art, and some social movements lacked any real magic.

Meta-modernity describes a wider movement in art and social thinking,  Like Modernism and Post-modernism it describes a multi-faceted movement even though many of the practitioners would not use, and did not use the label itself.  All three modernisms are in effect a form of analysis of emergent phenomena.  Aside from the artistic side of this, I’d probably place Lane Rachel Andersen’s vision of a future society which aims to combine the best of indigenous thinking with modernism and post-modernism, while avoiding their downsides, how to do this is another matter.  We had coffee together in Copenhagen and she will be one of three eagles at our coming retreat on Education.  Both of us, interestingly are converts, we chose our religions rather than growing up in them which gives us a different perspective.  We also both chose religions that are distinctly not socially atomistic in their ontologies, but focus on community forms of identity.  The conversation was wide-ranging and could have gone on for longer than the hour we had available.  But it will continue at, and before, the April event.

I think there is a significant issue when a way of describing an emergent and somewhat messy movement shifts to being a thing in this case called Meta-modernism.  In that talk I identified three areas of concern:

  1. The association of stage theory with meta-modernism with stage theory, and in particular that of Wilber by Goetz and his writing partner.  To be honest, reading that work pushes me closer to Nora Bateson’s view that stage theory is a modern form of Eugenics.  If you listen to the exchange between Nora and Goetz, mediated by Brendon (of which more later)then the first ten minutes of Nora’s summer are a brilliant summary of the issues with stage theory.  After that then you have to put up with the other two trying to mansplain her into agreeing with them.  Some of the comments that follow the recording show the true horror of spiral dynamics.  To be honest, this all seems like an association, the main driver is stage theory and the idea that becoming meta-modern means you have obtained the status of the yellow value meme.  Goetz freely admits that there is little or no respectability in advocating stage theory, but nevertheless, he persists which is a classic cult-type move.
  2. The whole Game B thing has now taken on the label.  As I make clear I remember when Jordan first told me about the idea, when we were lodged in tents on Powder Mountain several years ago, it seemed like an exciting idea; an environment in which young people could explore possible futures.  But it has now become an ideologic imposition of an escapist narrative, with significant cultural appropriation.  It has the saviour complex aspects of cults, you have to shake off the evil creature on your back seeking to prevent you from reaching enlightenment.  It’s a long-term debate I’ve had with the application of trans-media to social systems.  Transmedia is about creating a consistent narrative between film, books games etc which people then join.  My own view of narrative is that, while transmedia has utility, it’s more important to understand where people are and enable them to change to a future they determine.  This type of idealised future state is a type of lotus-eating, a distraction from engagement with reality.  Rather like the Inner Development Goals, it focuses on how we think, not how we act …
  3. The attempt to create a new meta-modern religion is characterised by Vervaeke’s Religion which is not a religion and Brendan Dempsey’s Emergentism which is an appropriation through its name alone.  Both are also tied into this whole Crisis of Meaning stuff which I find very problematic.  We have a health crisis, an energy crisis, a European war and a climate disaster, for which the correct name is really a Poly-crisis, there is nothing meta about it.  Whenever the world enters periods of radical and threatening change millennialist cults arise and this is just another.  They try and pull people into a form of religious abstraction, seeking the rapture.  There is also clear gaslighting, and an attempt to create fear and validation.  Brendon starts his first video with the claim that a survey in 2019 showed that 80% of the British Population says their life is meaningless.  On questioning that it turns out the survey was run on a limited population sample by the manufacturer of probiotics to promote product sales and reporting in The Sun for God’s sake.  But it is quoted as absolute truth and when challenged justified by Vervaeke’s prior use and has not been withdrawn.  His first video is in the same style as Game B, presented by an avatar with idyllic rural imagery (Latin-looking women heaping tables with food which is problematic in its own right), a very culturally specific false dichotomy designed to offer the new religion as a third way, a fair number of straw(wo)man errors of rhetoric peppered with isolated statements it’s difficult to disagree with,  and some science to give credibility. Somewhat ironically that is the form of persuasion it criticises. We may need to adopt Marx’s view on the opiate of the people in respect of this so-called new religion.  Vervaeke has so much material on YouTube that he is difficult to avoid, but the bromance with Jordan Peterson is sickening and like others, I can have little respect for him until he comes out and condemns Peterson’s fairly abhorrent views.  That aside he adopts the rhetoric form of simply throwing lots of things out which are individually credible, but with no coherent narrative or call to action; that approach is used to suck people into cults and to build the cult leader.  I’m told by a mutual friend that he wants to avoid that, but I see no evidence to support the claim.

You can probably gather by now that I see meta-modernism, but not meta-modernity as dangerous.  I’m not sure any of the three above have anything to do with ironic sincerity, it just looks like they like the name.  I may have gone a little far at times in the session and there was a little confusion when I compared rhetoric styles: some people thought I was comparing people.  But overall this stuff needs calling out for what it is, a dangerous set of distractions from real engagement with the various crises we face.  And while the authors and promotors of those distractions may, in the main be well-meaning the direction of travel has historical precedence and at that point, I return to the Weimar Republic.


In response to some social media questions – the reference to ‘between’ modernism and post-modernism is in the sense of mediation not some sort of halfway house.  My focus in this post was on my concerns over the appropriation of a way of describing an emergent aesthetic and social movement to be a think hence my separation of meta-modernity from Metermodenism.  My use of a hyphen and capitals is deliberate here by the way.

Another distinction is that meta-modernity is engaged in an ironic mediation by the two, while much of Metamodernism seems more about the assertion of a new doctrine and the othering of post-modernism.  I’m doing my best to wade through Stone on the subject and he at least seems to be wrestling with the wider issue but dismisses in a paragraph other alternatives to post-modernism such as the various strands of new materialism which I would favour.  Interestingly his only argument against new materialism is that it uses some of the tools of post-modernism which is a little (sic) ironic as mediation would permit that.

But as an overall statement, there are too many theologians and not enough philosophers involved in this, and they are very protestant in their orientation.  The focus on stage theory is itself the product of atomistic thinking which confirms that view.


Second Postcript

Brendon is now justifying his use of the dubious statement by an appeal to authority, namely Vervaeke said it.  I’m even less impressed and of course there is no link to the so called research which would allow review of sample of questions.  But even if you take it seriously it says that the main reasons for the depression is lack of money and/or illness,  Using religion to distract from people from their  physical condition has a somewhat negative set of precedents in human history.

If you read the Sun article this is further emphases.  Yakult’s UK PR Manager, explains that “As a Japanese Company, we want to introduce the nation to Ikigai, a Japanese self-development concept, which is a framework for bringing satisfaction, happiness and meaning to your life.”   So their use is pretty similar to that of the the meta-muggle religious tendency.

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