Culture

The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I

Dear Adam Bellow,

I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle — with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and  David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”

I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.

I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:

What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.

In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.

I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:

The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.

So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:

My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:

My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.

Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):

I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.

Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.

But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…

(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)

50. Disinformation: The Complete Series

What makes it Counter-Culture?

This DVD set features the four episodes of the Disinformation TV show and a series of speeches and performance art pieces at the Disinformation convention. I count it all as one film. Shot in 2000, the convention speeches were captured at a unique moment in American time — the climax of the 1990s (which the show’s segments also embody), the end of Bill Clinton, the beginning of George W. Bush, pre-9/11, and still with an optimism about the possibilities of the internet and technology.

The program is an oddball news show with host Richard Metzger interviewing a mixture of artists, writers, conspiracy theorists, and freaks. Each episode is spiced up with excerpts of a rambling comedian, Brother Theodore, and excerpts from an underground redneck Jackass style video, the infamous and horrific “Uncle Goddamn.” Metzger warns at the start of each episode that “If You don’t know whether we’ve made this stuff up, we’re not doing our job right.”

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

Metzger’s sideshow of wonderful whackjobs are all presented straight and with professional production values — really like the CNN of Counterculture.

The bonus features of the speeches are where the real counterculture ideas are articulated in depth. Key speakers for me included Grant Morrison, Douglas Rushkoff, Howard Bloom, Kenneth Anger, and Robert Anton Wilson — authors and artists who continue to influence even as my politics and values have shifted so much since my early 20s. It was here where I began my exploration of occultism more than a decade ago. The techniques explained do work. The books recommended are ones that I’m still studying today.

The accompanying interview compilation goes deeper and features lots of images. This model of a book/TV compilation of interviews and discussions is a great approach:

Finally, in a more big-picture sense, the title of the show, Disinformation, is also the name of the media company that produced it, that Metzger co-founded and has since left, and the concept should be regarded seriously rather than in the jokey po-mo Gen-X way.

One of my biggest ideological shifts over the course of 2013 and this year has been incorporating the insights of Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa’s books and articles into my understanding of history and the present political/cultural warfare. Pacepa reveals how Soviet disinformation worked, its methods and successes during the 20th century. Pacepa names names, pointing out the titles and publishers who engaged in the KGB’s disinformation to sabotage American culture. Now more familiar with the themes and narratives of KGB disinformation many of the sequences in Disinformation appear in a new light, as echoes of of a previous generation’s approach.

Among the key publishers in America who supplied a steady pipeline of disinformation into the American consciousness was Grove Press, the archetypal counterculture publisher of the 1960s. In future writings I’ll start to put together the pieces in my research into Grove Press, publisher of so many leftist and counterculture books that lined the bookshelves of the home I grew up in — just as they did for Barack Obama. Disinformation was the internet age version of Grove. (And in many ways Miramax and Harvey Weinstein were the independent film equivalents.)

Adam, I think it’s vital that if Liberty Island is to regard itself as an instigator and nurturer of conservative countercultures then we should look back at the previous generation’s counterculture publishers and how they operated, where they succeeded, where they failed, and how America’s enemies exploited them.

So too, the successes and failures of who I regard as the greatest counterculture author of the 20th century can be weighed in the next title…

49. Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson

What makes it Counter-Culture?

Wilson was a novelist and non-fiction writer prolific during the ’70s, at his peak in the early ’80s, and still continuing on exploring oddball themes into the ’90s until post-polio syndrome began to take him more around the time this documentary and the Disinformation lecture were recorded in the late ’90s and early 2000s. His books integrate together a dozen or so different strains of 1960s and 1970s counterculture and occult esoterica, all glued together with jokes, incredible creativity, and often stunning literary prose. Wilson had friends and associates throughout the 1960s alternative world, from Timothy Leary to Playboy. His memoir, Cosmic Trigger, is his best book and the place to start. (Again, the techniques describe therein do work.) In a future letter-list post that I’ve started planning I’ll lay out the rest of Wilson’s titles and other related books for your team. As I return to fiction writing after an almost decade long hiatus/non-fiction diversion he’s one of my main influences with the Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy in particular offering a lot of inspiration.

Oh, and kids today are ridiculously spoiled. The whole documentary is available on YouTube and I’ve embedded it at the top of the next page…

(Warning, some R-rated language and occasionally turn-of-the-21st-century Bush-bashing)

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

Apart from exploring Wilson’s techniques for consciousness change and his creative methods and introducing his many works, the film itself is a fun example of a genre that now in the age of cheaper digital filmmaking should explode. These films that present a single author’s key ideas through interviews with them and their associates and with cool visuals should be done more with today’s fascinating and provocative artists and thinkers.

Massive budgets aren’t necessary for making trippy idea films that rely on challenging concepts and cool images for their power. More provocative counterculture authors should be given this kind of treatment as a gateway to their ideas.

http://instagram.com/p/rnQFQSI7HZ/

48. Yellow Submarine (1968)

What makes it Counter-Culture?

This Beatles cartoon is the greatest of Flower Power relics and is still a joy to behold and an innocent presentation of the sunshine side of psychedelia. This is the way that the hippie dream should be remembered — as the cartoon that it was — appropriate for children.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7lRMw6f3EY

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

Children’s and family entertainment of this sort is an effective vehicle for transmitting concepts and embedding them at a young age. We should explore work in this, the Alice in Wonderland tradition, that uses symbolic images in a joyful, strange parallel universe with satiric points about the absurd world of today.

I think my study this year of 1930s cartoons has been partially based in this impulse.

http://instagram.com/p/rnQHgmI7Hf/

47. Dark City (1998)

What makes it Counter-Culture?

So Dark City is essentially the best science fiction movie of the 1990s in my estimation. It expresses more artistry and substance in 90 minutes than The Matrix trilogy in 3 over-bloated movies. Through an artful blend of science fiction and film noir it takes a familiar genre trope — the wrongly-accused, persecuted man fleeing scary pursuers — and transforms it into a metaphor for man’s rebellion against his violent, animal nature and a corrupt social structure seeking to contain him. In Dark City the pursued man learns he can develop the ability to tune, to transform his environment and overcome his adversaries. And this ability is turbocharged through understanding more and more of the collective knowledge of the past. In Dark City the metaphor is hidden that mankind’s history of accumulated knowledge, wisdom, and understanding empower us; cut off from our memories, our brains perpetually wiped, we become easily pushed one way or another by those above who understand the methods of manipulation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSpowoKqSzc

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

Dark City offers a protagonist rebelling against the arbitrary fate a subtle totalitarian society has assigned him, casting him as a murderer in some strange experiment to understand the human spirit. He chooses to pursue the few fragments of memories he has left, seeking to recreate a world from imagination once he learns how to take control of the power that once used to oppress him.

I’m concerned about the over-prevalence already of obvious, heavy-handed dystopian future narratives in the science fiction marketplace. It’s still important to pursue the themes, but perhaps the days of overt totalitarian futures has passed. It’s almost become too much of a cliche, and really, to a serious degree, perhaps one whose time has come and gone. For dystopian future narratives to have a freshness they should consider the path of Dark City — blending genres  to create something fresh. The Film noir qualities obscure Dark City‘s sci fi cliches.

That general approach — figuring out how to grab hold of cliches and then twist them and balance them against one another is a central aspect of counterculture and occultism, I’ve come to find. For example, in The Templars and the Assassins, James Wasserman describes the Western Esoteric Tradition as blossoming from the blending of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim mystical traditions:

Given that we are indeed pop culture polytheists, we should understand the blending of genres as comparable to the syncretism that produces new religions.

http://instagram.com/p/rnQJmyI7Hk/

46. By Brakhage, An Anthology: Window Water Baby Moving

What makes These Films Counter-Culture?

Stan Brakhage was one of the most influential and innovative experimental filmmakers of the 20th century. This Criterion Collection DVD set features a selection of several of his major films.

Returning to Brakhage’s work these years after first discovering it, I see him more in the context of Camille Paglia’s art and cultural analysis in Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson and Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star WarsPage 25 of Sexual Personae:

Art is Paganism. The creation of images and the manufacture of exciting, emotion-gripping fictional stories is a form of nature-worship. In Brakhage’s avant garde film work the Paganism manifests in the persistent focus on parts of the natural world and and the extremes of emotion. His works are known for shocking. Window Water Baby Moving is a very artful and graphic depiction of his wife giving birth to their son. Another short film depicts a real autopsy.

Film’s ability to present devastating images that strike on a visceral, scarring level is an example of how more intense technology can deliver deeper imprints on our consciousness. What book about child birth can compare to the impact of witnessing Brakhage’s work?

On the next page I include three more of my favorite Brakhage films from the set, two which are available in full online.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_j2leCH7OQ

45. Dog Star Man (1961-1964)

This is Brakhage’s most well known series of films. He shot it during a difficult time in his life and made do with the limited locations, images, and tools available — the perpetual lesson each generation of independent filmmakers relearns…

44. Mothlight

In Mothlight Brakhage attached plants, leaves, and dead moths directly to the film!

43. The Dante Quartet

This is probably my favorite in this set. I still need to see more of the films in volume 2. (It was released in the waning years of my film obsessive period…)

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply Them Today?

We need to have the same experimental approach — using the camera and the medium in ways that produce unique visuals and intense emotional experiences unlike what others have ever done. The technology now at our fingertips makes this much easier than in Brakhage’s day…

http://instagram.com/p/rnQLi0o7Hp/

42. Fellowship of the Ring

41. The Two Towers

40. Return of the King

What makes the Trilogy Counter-Culture?

Another key influence of recent years has been David P. “Spengler” Goldman. I always jump at the chance to edit his columns and have recently finished and blogged about his book It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You. (See “30 Bad Ideas Men Should Embrace if They Want to Destroy Themselves,” an article that creeped me out a bit given that the day after I finished it Robin Williams committed suicide…)

One of the book’s essays has transformed the way I now understand one of the central pop culture religions of my family, Lord of the Rings and the The Hobbit: “Tolkien detested Wagner’s neopaganism,” from page 77,

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

Tolkien’s stories depict a number of mystical countercultures in a pre-Judeo-Christian universe who must come together to overcome an imperial slave state. What Tolkien was doing was using Paganism to tell a Judeo-Christian story. (I regard this as the essence of what the Bible is secretly all about too — taking Pagan symbols and rituals, defanging them, and turning them into powerful tools for revealing the one True God of transcendence. Douglas Rushkoff’s Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism and Testament comic series have been strong influences here.)

“A world born of words instead of Nature will never work,” she said. “Lets be sure of that, Astarte,” Ba’al replied… Testament, issue #6 West of Eden…

http://instagram.com/p/rnQNJHI7Ht/

39. Dick

What makes it Counter-Culture?

The youthful, innocent side of ’60s counterculture here juxtaposes with Nixonian narcissism and standard-level political criminality. This movie is so much better than All the President’s Men which now, in the age of Obama, feels all the more shallow and meaningless. The crimes of this President and his puppetmaster Valerie Jarrett far surpass Richard “if the president does it that means it’s not illegal” Nixon.

Maybe this fun satire should provide more of a model for aspiring world-changers and culture warriors than the Woodward and Bernstein fantasy of the past.

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply It Today?

The alternative twist on history is the genre to explore. Dick‘s co-screenwriter Sheryl Longin is married to PJ’s co-founder Roger L. Simon. (Yes, when I got to to meet her a few years ago I shifted into fanboy mode and expressed my embarrassed appreciation for her role in making one of the favorite movies of my teen years.) Together Roger and Sheryl have done extraordinary things with the blending of history and fiction. The Party Line, their play about Walter Duranty and the parallel to today’s media’s willful blindness to evil ideologies, has been a big inspiration to me. Someday I plan to use a comparable method in depicting some of the neglected historical characters and episodes who need to be better understood.

http://instagram.com/p/n0j1ixI7Fv/ http://instagram.com/p/rnQPjiI7H1/

38. The Avengers

37. Watchmen

What makes these superhero movies Counter-Culture?

One of my favorite articles that I’ve written is an unpacking of the esoteric references and themes throughout what I regard as the best traditional superhero movie, The AvengersHow 10 Esoteric Secrets Hidden in Joss Whedon’s Best Movie Can Change Your Life.

I could write a comparable piece for the best postmodern superhero film. Alan Moore is heavily influenced by Robert Anton Wilson. How Wilson embedded counterculture philosophy in the structure of his novels Moore did in his comics. He made each of the superheroes represent archetypal ideological concepts in extreme forms and then the narrative style of their comic issues reflect their ideas.

A superhero team with many members is akin to a person with many ideas and emotions. The team functions when the characters’ temperaments are in balance with each other…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3orQKBxiEg

In a practical sense I’ve experimented with trying to tie my focus on writing, reading, editing, or publishing to specific times of day and year. I’m still working on figuring out the right balance and rhythm.

How Should Counter-Culture Crusaders Apply them Today?

Last year I concluded my Avengers article with this image, linking the superhero archetypes of the film, the turn of the seasons, the “station of the sun,” with the suits of the Tarot and the esoteric significance hidden in the Hebrew letters received by Moses. I tried to visualize “As Above, So Below” in linking these big concepts to my own professional work — reading, writing, editing, and publishing as likewise four shifts of creative change.

Watchmen, a deconstruction of superhero archetypes, splits some of these components into multiple characters, in my estimation. While the Wand and the Sword embody aspects of individuality, the Cup and the Disk can express and contain multitudes:

http://instagram.com/p/sbh6qoE7zk/

Wand: The Comedian represents the narrative’s primitive, violent Will. Likewise his role in the story is as the catalyst, his death at the beginning sets fire to the narrative.

Cup: Nite Owl and Silk Spectre represent the comic’s emotional center, the coming together of masculine and feminine.

Sword: Rorschach, the heartless vigilante and criminal investigator represents demented Ayn Randian reason on steroids, cold steely intellect, and brutal rationality. His determined pursuit of a conspiracy cuts open the plot.

Two sides of the Disk: Ozymandias + Dr. Manhattan, the narrative’s literal earth shakers and transformers. Corporate wealth + quantum power and knowledge that transcends space-time = the start of a new cycle in a new universe.

(I’m of course not arguing that any of this is done consciously most of the time, wherein authors intentionally design their work around these or any other symbols.)

I think my fascination with this spiritual practice comes from my idealistic, naive, long-held desire to find ways to transcend religious barriers. The Tetragrammaton is a pattern linking Paganism, Judaism, Christianity, and Secularism.

In my wife’s artwork she too has intuited the power that manifests when balancing four interrelated concepts across each other. Her “#WhoDoYouWorship” series was on display last week for the first time since her Master’s Thesis show this spring:

Wand: Beyonce, the original inspiration and most provocative piece in the series.

Cup: Miley Cyrus twerking and teasing in an extreme embodiment of feminine nature.

Sword: Kerry Washington as political super-fixer Valerie Jarrett Olivia Pope.

Disk: Lena Dunham of Girls, well known for flashing her pentacles all over the place…

Adam, I think this pattern, this creative tool, goes much deeper. A more recent Paul Laffoley video from this year expands on his Disinformation interview from a decade ago, laying out this pattern’s prevalence in the universe:

Two more authors provide useful conceptual tools for understanding the creative methods of the universe. Warning: here’s where we really start to dive into the speculative deep end of the pool…

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 7.05.35 AM

When Howard Bloom visited LA last year I laid out to him my theory about how in his “Big Bagel Theory” of the Universe’s creation and destruction he accidentally found the image of God too. (See the video above which summarizes one of the concluding chapters in his book The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos CreatesThe book was the last title on my “23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards” back from 2014 with Howard’s previous titles included too.)

Howard’s still an atheist to the best of my knowledge, but I think that’s mostly because he seems to go by the traditional definition and the Big-Man-Up-The-Sky understanding of God. But I think this meets the definition of what it means for God to be defined as a verb as Jewish mystics do and as the Tetragrammaton demonstrates. The more one understands the many, many hidden meanings behind both the esoteric symbols and the scientific symbols, the more their parallels becomes apparent.

Wand:

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 2.53.43 PM

Cup: Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 2.55.39 PM

Sword:Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 3.13.18 PM

Disk:Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 3.14.12 PM

Recently another friend, the creative artist Bruce Arlen, turned me on to another author, a Physics Ph.D. and theologian, Gerald L. Schroeder, author of Genesis and the Big Bang and God According to Godtwo books that have also gotten me thinking as they point to the original creative patterns in the universe. Schroeder’s and Bloom’s books parallel in fascinating ways, both pointing toward a way to understand the creative mind as innate in the Universe and a concept that when we grasp we can apply to our own lives.

“Light beams became alive, and became not only alive, but self-aware, and acquired the ability to wonder.” God According to God, page 29:

In Genesis and the Big Bang Schroeder takes a close reading of the Hebrew in the opening chapters of Genesis and draws the parallels between Einstein’s understanding of a young universe in which time and gravity behaved differently than they do today. In his newer book God According to God he takes this approach to the rest of the Bible, discovering that God did not create the universe alone. The Bible names his partner: Wisdom. From page 202:

I’m just going to reprint my entire entry for Global Brain  from “23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards” to best draw the parallel between the two authors, representative of the blending of spiritual and scientific paradigms. Just as the merging of fiction genres can create great books and films, the unifying of non-fiction authors also informs new paradigms. Bloom too rejects a simplistic, Darwinian model of evolution, finding in his research intelligence innate in nature:

21. Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century 

Publication Date: September 2001
Official Description:

“As someone who has spent forty years in psychology with a long-standing interest in evolution, I’ll just assimilate Howard Bloom’s accomplishment and my amazement.”-DAVID SMILLIE, Visiting Professor of Zoology, Duke University

In this extraordinary follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Lucifer Principle, Howard Bloom-one of today’s preeminent thinkers-offers us a bold rewrite of the evolutionary saga. He shows how plants and animals (including humans) have evolved together as components of a worldwide learning machine. He describes the network of life on Earth as one that is, in fact, a “complex adaptive system,” a global brain in which each of us plays a sometimes conscious, sometimes unknowing role. and he reveals that the World Wide Web is just the latest step in the development of this brain. These are theories as important as they are radical. Informed by twenty years of interdisciplinary research, Bloom takes us on a spellbinding journey back to the big bang to let us see how its fires forged primordial sociality. As he brings us back via surprising routes, we see how our earliest bacterial ancestors built multitrillion-member research and development teams a full 3.5 billion years ago. We watch him unravel the previously unrecognized strands of interconnectedness woven by crowds of trilobites, hunting packs of dinosaurs, feathered flying lizards gathered in flocks, troops of baboons making communal decisions, and adventurous tribes of protohumans spreading across continents but still linked by primitive forms of information networking. We soon find ourselves reconsidering our place in the world. Along the way, Bloom offers us exhilarating insights into the strange tricks of body and mind that have organized a variety of life forms: spiny lobsters, which, during the Paleozoic age, participated in communal marching rituals; and bees, which, during the age of dinosaurs, conducted collective brainwork. This fascinating tour continues on to the sometimes brutal subculture wars that have spurred the growth of human civilization since the Stone Age. Bloom shows us how culture shapes our infant brains, immersing us in a matrix of truth and mass delusion that we think of as reality.

Global Brain is more than just a brilliantly original contribution to the ongoing debate on the inner workings of evolution. It is a “grand vision,” says the eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, a work that transforms our very view of who we are and why.

Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:

In Global Brain Bloom continues to compare the story of humanity’s cultural evolution up from barbarism to modernity with the biological development of life and with the behaviors of the primitive organisms from which we evolved. He argues that conventional evolutionary theory — survival of the fittest — is only part of the story and fails to account for an awful lot of strange behavior. We also function as part of groups, and groups of organisms evolve too.

Bloom calls these groups of organisms that act together “superorganisms.” It applies in both the micro and the macro. (As Above, So Below, again.) One example of a superorganism is the human body. Bloom explains how our bodies function not as one individual but as a vast network of organisms working together. All throughout our bodies untold numbers of bacteria wage war on our behalf, assisting us in our digestion and many other essential tasks.

But it’s when Bloom’s concept applies to the macro superorganism that it becomes a useful too for us. The Superorganism model Bloom depicts in Global Brain applies to business, families, states, religious and political movements, and yes, countercultures. The same patterns of information gathering and processing that we find in bacteria colonies and honey bees we see in our bigger human creations of the viral spread of ideas and culture.

And the more we understand the patterns, the more we can manipulate them to our own benefit, survival, and further evolution.

Why Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:

I’ve found Bloom’s model of warring superorganisms a useful metaphor when trying to make sense of the chaos of my daily political media world. When we start thinking of the organizations and movements we’re apart of as superorganisms then we can analyze them through a new paradigm and identify the hidden sources of potential problems. If a superorganism fails to continue to evolve and thrive then the reason may be identical for why a sick organism dies: one infected organ can sabotage the whole body. In the same way, just one component of a business or organization needs to be failing for it to eventually bring down everyone.

Bloom identifies five essential components for every superorganism to have to survive. If the business or group endeavor you’re in is failing then a potential cause is because something’s amiss in one of these areas: “conformity enforcers, diversity generators, inner-judges, resource shifters, and intergroup tournaments.” Whether you’re managing a household, a corporation, or an online publication you’re going to need to have these elements managing information and making decisions.

Again we see the Masonic Principle, that through understanding and balancing conflicting elements we chart a new path to happiness and prosperity in a constantly changing world.

Creation comes through juxtaposition, through taking new substances, methods and styles — and authors! — and smashing them together. I shift amongst the five roles that Bloom describes every day but in putting out this series and pursuing these new media experiments with Instagram I’m playing the “diversity generator” role and I look forward to this fall with more collaboration and explorations across mediums. Here’s the new style I’ve started to explore and that I’m going to continue nudging others to pursue:

Sincerely,

David

P.S. Part 2 will come soon in a — what else? — 4-part series of film-list hybrids powered by Instagram and Hyperlapse. I’ll have 36 more films including (sneak preview) my favorites by John Waters, Kenneth Anger, and Terry Zwigoff… UPDATED: Now up here.

P.S.S. Some bonus Maura hyperlapses, the latter enhanced with another app that allows overlaying songs:

(The future is shooting, editing, and uploading films from one’s phone while out walking the dog!)