Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book Between Two Ages – America’s Role in the Technetronic Era has become something of a conspiracy theorist’s holy – or rather “unholy” – writ. Ironically, this came to pass precisely in the wake of the fulfilment of some of Zbig’s predictions that littered the margins of the first third of his book. Yes, he really does mention the possibility of weaponizing the weather, exercising mind control by psychotropic means, and the creation of a certain “global consciousness.” All of this he expresses in a curious, morally vague, manner: you really can’t pinpoint whether he exalts the possibility or warns the reader about it. However, if you think that this means that he is simply being scientifically neutral, you are dead wrong. Between Two Ages is not a scientific treatise, albeit it disguises itself as such. It is one of two things: either it is a philosophy of history or political pamphlet. The truth lies, it seems, somewhere in between.
“Conspiracy theorists” are picking on Brzezinski’s narrative for all the wrong reasons – the book is, admittedly, authored by global mover and shaker, but the essence of his insidiousness is not to be found in passing remarks about geoengineering or smart-grid projects plaguing our present and foreshadowing our future. Although it may all very well be true, conspiracy theorists fail to see just how much they in fact share Brzezinski’s outlook and method. To clarify: by conspiracy theorists, I don’t mean independent researchers of deep politics or analysts of the age of transition – incidentally, a recurring term throughout Between the Two Ages. This pejorative and derogatory label signifies people who believe that history is a planar surface which can be explained and made transparent by “connecting the dots” – where dots signify people, events and institutions. So, for instance, the mere eventuality that someone prominent was casually connected to some contingent fact, say: attended Columbia University at the time of Brzezinski’s tenure, and later became a prominent public figure, serves as proof of the dots sinisterly connecting.
A prime example of this is David Icke’s assertion that Roman Pope John Paul II was connected with Nazis because, we are informed, he was allegedly working for some subsidiary of I.G. Farben during the German occupation of Poland. Icke is not an entirely serious man, but he serves as an exemplar of “conspiracy theorists” and displays all the peculiarities of this outlook. Namely, he fails to recognize that young Wojtyla was in all probability a semi-slave laborer employed in the cause of building his mortal enemies’ war machine. It is hard to believe that it was a dream job for which he applied along with hundreds of volunteers, all Poles in love with the Nazi cause and the opportunities it presented. It was more likely that he just got lucky to slave away in a factory, rather than to hang out with his unemployed buddies around concentration camp cantina. “Conspiracy theorists” jump to such conclusions because they are eager to produce an absolute, all-pervading system of knowledge. And for this purpose they pick the worst approach imaginable: the science of history. It is here they mirror the methods of some of their designated bogeymen, including Zbigniew Brzezinski himself.
History has a peculiar feature of forever defying the absolute – Hegel tried to demonstrate that absolute and failed, Marx gave it a shot and inspired millions executed in the process, and Auguste Comte simplified it to birth to sociology as a science of social engineering. And this last instance is precisely what makes Between Two Ages such an ominous book. Brzezinski cloaks a fairly crude philosophy of history in sociological guise, endeavoring to remake our past, present and future as total, transparent inevitabilities. Amorphous “Change” pervades his narrative, conceived while Barack Obama, whose first presidential campaign stamped this nebulous principle onto everyday language of politics, was just a juvenile, but it serves as a convenient stamp for the image Zbig wants to impose on the world.
Brzezinski proclaims that humanity is on the path of “Progress,” which begins with the advent of institutionalized religions. We then proceed to nationalism, which shall in turn be denounced by the more perfect methodical worldview of Marxism, and finally, at the time of his writing, history’s purpose would be fulfilled in the advent of technetronic era. The book is named Between Two Ages, as the last phase of progress is in fact a culmination – and the purpose – of the historical process. And just what is that purpose? The final elimination of man as such.
It is a peculiarity of sociology that it is cannot define the reality of its objects of study, and consequently, its proper methods. While some of its classics, such as the works of Max Weber, solved the problem by making sociology a kind of empirical social philosophy, using material from all other social sciences to produce strictly specialized and approximate theories and shunning predictions of the future as the devil shuns incense, others – and Brzezinski is by and large one of them – did the opposite. Namely, sociology in its crudest, most Comtean form projects mirror reflections of reality taken as absolutes and uses them to predict, or better yet impose, the future.
In Between Two Ages all known history is divided into four parts, and we are expected to believe that this enormous sea of time is practically sucked into these epistemological sponges until nothing else remains. Dividing history in such a manner is possible only in one’s imagination, not in fact, and therefore we are dealing with a projected image. And Brzezinski, practical man that he is, does not project images for the sake of entertainment. He is drafting a plan for manifest destiny. All those quantitative tables, insightful empirical observations, etc. are merely a ruse, for as every true scientist knows, there is no amount of data that can support such a theoretical construction laid out in just a little over a hundred pages. Its true persuasive power is found in reliance upon the on mirror of reality, but not just any mirror. It relies on the mirror of matter.
This may seem an odd proposition for most. Matter is usually understood as opaque being, that which offers resistance, or it is not understood – meaning defined – at all. However, its original notion is that of the receptacle of form. As sociologists don’t believe in Aristotelian, or, God forbid, Platonic forms, it is quite strange to observe them inverting these notions. Namely, when someone like Brzezinski talks about “religion”, “ethics”, “technetronic society”, “internal man” and “external man” he is in fact manipulating images reflected in matter. This is obvious inasmuch he doesn’t believe there is any reality to these ideas except for what they could mean to us. For instance, read how “the inner man” – in truth his very essence – will fare in the technetronic society:
Instead of accepting himself as a spontaneous given, man in the most advanced societies may become more concerned with conscious self-analysis according to external, explicit criteria: What is my IQ? What are my aptitudes, personality traits, capabilities, attractions, and negative features? The “internal man”— spontaneously accepting his own spontaneity—will more and more be challenged by the “external man”— consciously seeking his self-conscious image.
The dialectic of inner and external man is the real purpose of Between Two Ages, and we’ll come to that shortly. But the most interesting aspect is Brzezinski’s method: inner man is depicted as challenged, not as a real being, but as a historically projected image. Institutionalized religion gave him first principles and definitions; nationalism transformed him in sentimental romantic; Marxism endeavored to reconcile him with external man in revolutionary praxis; technology will finally revoke him. Inner man originally denoted a very definite thing: for Greeks it was nous or active mind, while in Christianity it is a receptacle of Christ – a space where the Truth can find shelter. In more or less each of us, it is a place where the World can’t reach us.
Observe now what Brzezinski does. He historicizes this notion, thereby fashioning it as a projected image. This method of his sociology can be more or less reduced to self-conscious dialectical materialism; self-conscious inasmuch it knows that there’s nothing real behind the image. Every object of science is an image reflected in a mirror of matter. Its meaning is projected and can be depicted, but in itself it is a reflection of the amorphous mirror. Hence the ease of constructing an all-encompassing conceptual framework and reducing it to a minimum suitable for the author’s intentions. There is no essential difference in Comte’s and Brzezinski’s approach – they are both evolutionary, professing “Progress” and, above all, “Change,” and essentially superficial in relation to reality. But such formulations are quite suitable for their purpose, and that is: the Aufhebung – abolition – of inner man in external man.
The true conspiratorial and most insidious aspect of this book – far more so than teasers about weather weapons, global consciousness and mind control – is the quest to demonstrate – and explicitly so – that the technetronic era is an age of eradication of inner man. What Brzezinski calls an “increase in knowledge” as an essence of technetronic era is denoted as a sort of ‘outing’ of inner man, because accumulation of knowledge ever expands into infinity, pressuring man to subject himself to infinite forms of tests, trainings, improvements, life-long learning, etc. It is knowledge without an inner principle of unity, and therefore something rather akin to ‘ignorance’ or, better still, a re-imagining of oneself. Man becomes not a subject of knowledge, but its object. Who is the subject, then? Only his reflection in an infinite, splintered mirror of Faustian technology.
If we approach reality as Brzezinski does, with the implicit intention to re-cast it, then it really doesn’t matter what is real and what is image. The image of inner man is the inner man; an image can be made more or less ‘real.’ In this sense, technology, which in the technetronic era is to finally become our environment – including the nature itself observed as a system – represents a perfected mirror of matter. While reflections in matter are crude and thus retain some semblance of its models, technology is a kind of refinement of this mirror, and not by polishing, but by making it more fluid – like dark water or molten, yet cold, steel. In the mirror of the will all kinds of things can be reflected as reality, and everything is external to it.
Our celebrated abolition, die Aufhebung, is quasi-dialectical, as nothing shall remain within – only the void. External man must cease to be man, i.e. he must forfeit his inner being. We could compare the knowledge of this un-man not to the ‘docta ignorantia’ of Cusanus or Socrates, but rather to the learned ignorance of today’s ‘knowledge-based society.’ Learning eradicates the learner. And for all Brzezinski’s geopolitical subtleties and well-documented political leverage exercised in the past 45 years, his greatest crime is to propagate this alchemical exterminism as a manifest destiny for humanity. How can there be a destiny for one who is no one?
On a final note, it is saddening to realize that the quasi-academic style of a dystopian pamphlet can convince so many people that it is anything more than a letter of intent. Further dumbed down and “disseminated” through a myriad of posters, leaflets, sound bites and propaganda clips of globalist institutions from the UN to the EU, such jarring imagery today is more relevant and more convincing to the masses than it was 45 years ago. The technetronic era is an exercise in remodeling the man unto nothingness through the inversion of knowledge – a logical assassination.
All accumulation of knowledge is exercised through sound and vision, as Brzezinski explicitly states. Sight and sound themselves are weaponized to annihilate interior being, quite literary forcing the inside out. Life-long learning, as required by the technetronic principle, is the unlearning of inner life and integral identity for the sake of letting oneself being remolded from the outside, according to demands of ever-changing technological reality. History ends by making oneself external to oneself, with the destination of an absolute un-identity. Lest you find this farfetched, observe how EU legislators see the citizens of the future:
A picture speaks a thousand shrieks. Behold the progress of dehumanization, played out in Faust’s mirror. Identities fractured and reassembled at will, essences revoked – the victory of “Tolerance.” If Arbeit could macht frei, why not try out Toleranz next?
So conspiracy theorists beware! Brzezinski might very well be one of you. Or you could just be a reflection in his distant mirror.
Branco Malic writes on philosophy, culture, and politics at Kali Tribune.