The Death of Geography

Desolation Canyon, Green River, Utah

I’m having a number of thoughts this morning that I think are important enough to get down, and not getting nearly enough (well, how about NO circulation) in the information dynamics of our society. I’ve written about the death of geography due to social media and the Internet as an organizing principle in society here, and the fact that geography gave us something resembling a statistically independent distribution of opinions. And that was a GOOD thing.

One thought I had not had was that distribution of opinions from physical geography was also likely to provide more grounding validity — or rather, searching for deeper truths, driven by our own data collection, outside our backyards. You tended to pay more attention to the world if the physical world mattered – a fancy way of saying if you could actually see and hear it. And while the changes with COVID certainly accelerated all this (think of the cocooning of the Pajama Class through services like Door Dash) it had been 30 years in coming. Due to things like the wage gap, and overwork, and disconnection from your neighbors, geography had already been dying a slow death in the context of our own minds.

And that’s a full spectrum assault on even things you might not like. If you even attempt to think how a service like 4chan or 8chan of the Dark Web, with its reprehensible content, was forced to physically locate in a backwater in the Philippines, one can see how the see-saw of the world is going. Geography is losing.

And when physical geography starts losing, this becomes increasingly problematic from a very visceral perspective. Humans are meant to live with, and see each other. It’s a physicality that is inescapable, at least from the perspective of human mental health. Our current set of proxies (from telephony to ZOOM) are unable to stimulate the cerebral cortex in anything but the smallest role-playing way. Robin Dunbar’s famous number says 150 +/- people (not discriminating in between empathy-derived relational types — externally defined vs. data-driven) and he’s probably right. But what happens when that number of meaningful relationships drops below that number? Do we all become virtual actors sequestered in memetic survival bands, scattered across the world? There are days, at least for me, that it seems that way. The people I exchange meaningful information and ideas with are in Montana, North Carolina, Sweden, and Italy. None of them (yet) are really connected to any of my network except through me.

What gets increasingly fascinating is how the whole COVID pandemic played into the death of geography, and the various tools that were used to accelerate the entire system toward control of the elites. Of course, there’s the obvious monetary energetic argument — a couple of trillion dollars got transferred out of the local small business bunch into operations like Amazon. And once you realize that human connection is important, then you can understand how absolutely ineffective mask mandates became a key component of that acceleration. We had been offering the inherent death of physicality with the Internet, and the statistical binning of opinions through the Pareto-like mechanisms I’ve discussed in this piece. But for psychopathic elites, it wasn’t enough. Masks themselves, as well as social distancing, are yet another attempt at destruction of geography. Masked faces are also anonymous faces, and the human brain loses another avenue to ground its own actions with empathy for others. The channel is blocked. And when that channel is blocked, especially with the gaslighting that has characterized all avenues of the pandemic, all sorts of magical thinking can ensue — like your children being the assassins of their grandparents. That meta-kind of magical thinking didn’t end well for the Aztecs, who believed people had to have their hearts cut out for the sun to come up, and it won’t end well for us either.

On a larger sociopolitical scale, we can see the actions of elites furthering this destructive path against human agency. As imperfect as the concept of Westphalian states may be (the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648), they are the source of shared national identity even here in the 21st century. Russia’s total invasion of Ukraine is both a dim view of the future, while at the same time being a throwback of 100 years. Had Putin ordered the annexation alone of the Donbas, filled primarily with people of native Russian descent, it might have firmed up the old ethnocentric order, and been shown as a calculated move on his part for both security and territorial expansion.

Defying battleground logic, Putin went for the whole enchilada and invaded Kyiv, with the intent of dissolution of Ukrainian identity. But instead of that happening, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed up on the Internet, clad in personal battle armor — a very physical presence indeed — as well as a suit, urging both arming oneself with a machine gun, and the creation of more social media, including TikTok videos about the situation in the Ukraine. Geography is dead until it isn’t — but how the merger can and will happen is still very much up for grabs.

I’ve been having some interesting conversations, with some very interesting people regarding increasing local sovereignty, focused on individual rights. The idea is that increasing local sovereignty, especially with respect to geographically local infrastructure, could serve as an empathy development ladder for local communities, instead of seeing flight of capital out of communities through larger forces.

I like it. It’s a good idea, and an attempt to claw back the destruction of geography as an organizing principle. Sooner or later, infrastructure has to have a physical layer, and as such, be buried in the ground, or something. One might also classify local food sourcing efforts as in the same category, if not quite the same meta-category. We buy food from farmers’ markets, and attempt to support those individuals contributing to the local health benefit. But it’s pretty limited. There’s only a small amount of land held in shared ownership (which is likely a good thing) and all these paths forward depend on evolving groups of communities toward planes of higher social development and responsibility. Or before long, you still end up with Montgomery Burns owning the local nuclear power plant.

As of today, against my own intuitive bias, Kyiv holds strong against the Russian invasion. There’s tons to say about how, if we were put in the same situation, immersed in the culture of individual disempowerment we are in the U.S., we might not expect the same outcomes as seen by Ukraine’s ferocious defense of their homeland. There’s a whole stack of things to write about there, including how progressive evolutionary ideas, like the empowerment of women, have been flipped on its head and used for endless attacks against others outside the liberal establishment. I think it’s important to recognize those, though, for the relationally disruptive strategies that they are. Whether we throw the baby out with the bathwater is still up in the air. The short hot take on the Ukraine situation is that independent agency and an empowered citizenship is holding its own against a much larger, conscripted servant army.

For those that follow me a little more closely — good news on my own Ukraine front. My son’s company runs a division in Kyiv, and everyone there is safe and sound.

I promise to write a little more about Ukraine and the war in a couple of days. I read about military affairs extensively, and have known about the corruption in the Russian army since forever. But it’s still fascinating to watch my own mind in believing that they would have wiped the floor with the Ukes in the first three days. Which didn’t happen. How we all are influenced by outside bias and both real information, and propaganda, is just fascinating — even those of us who believe we stand above the fray. We’re all in the Matrix, whether we like it or not.

Stay tuned.

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