Here’s an interesting snippet from Tomorrow’s People by Susan Greenfield.
One of Greenfield’s main arguments is that technology is not facilitating a loss of individual identity. Indeed, we are experiencing quite the opposite. We are seeing the emergence of a kind of collective super ego that is not private but public. There is too much identity and it has become collective.
One of post-war Germany’s most influential writers was a fellow called Sebastian Haffner and one of his major aims was to explain Germany (especially the rise of Hitler) to the British. According to Haffner, the reason that Hitler emerged in Germany in the 1930s was a lack of identity. Essentially Hitler gave Germany its collective identity back. He also made the point that between 1918-1939 Germany became obsessed with sport (another form of collective identity).
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Have you noticed how, for instance, people are starting to wrap themselves up in flags? When I was growing up in England the only people that painted their faces with the English flag were football hooligans. These days everyone is doing it. Over on the other side of the world, Australia Day has become a naked celebration of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and people do quite literally wrap themselves up in flags. Personally I find this rather unsettling. The mass public hysteria surrounding the death of Princess Diana seemed to tap into something similar.
Greenfield’s book was written in 2003 but since the financial collapse of late 2008, nationalist and tribalist forces seem to moving centre stage. I’m sure it’s not 1939 returning but it’s something to keep an eye on.
PS – Image from Ross Dawson.