This is a post about the word “grounded” and what it means to me. In general use, grounded means mature and sensible, but I think about it in a complex way that encompasses various social issues, and I think this concept can explain a lot of human behavior. This post jumps around a bit, because I have chosen several seemingly unrelated examples of ungroundedness to illustrate. I hope it makes some sense.
The two definitions of “grounded” that are of interest here are:
- Of or pertaining to an electrical conductor which is connected to earth;
- Mature, sensible with well-considered priorities.
The definition of grounded that refers to people is “a mature and sensible person.” The other definition here is only meant to refer to electricity, but I think that it applies to people as well because people can be connected or disconnected from the Earth, too. When I say “connected to the Earth” I mean that in a few metaphorical ways in addition to a connection to the natural environment. I think about groundedness as a connection to the material world in general, as opposed to the world of ideas and imagination, and a connection to the body and the self, as opposed to the feeling of disembodiment—awareness that we are living creatures with bodies, and not merely thoughts and ideas. These two definitions—mature/sensible and connection to the material world—overlap with each other, because a person who is connected to the material world will behave in a mature and sensible way, and a person who is mature and sensible will feel connection to the material world.
People become ungrounded for very different reasons. One of them is too much reliance on modern technology and man-made systems, which makes us forget about the natural world and that we belong to it. We are entirely dependent on the system we live in that is based on overconsumption of natural resources, particularly fossil fuels, and if this system were to be ruined, which is likely to happen, many of us would not survive. Many of us would have no idea how to even find food if there was no grocery store to drive to. We have far more awareness of brand names of food products than of plants and animals that live on our local land.
People also become ungrounded because of physical and emotional trauma—the results of trauma make us disassociate from our bodies and feel like our physical self is no longer real, or that it’s something we cannot live in or relate to.
Privileged people become ungrounded due to being in positions of power at the top of the hierarchies men have built. When someone has enormous power over others, he loses his ability to be mature and sensible and to recognize limitations.
These are all very different situations, but they all lead to ungroundedness or disconnection.
Our social system, culture and economy are quite ungrounded, in the sense that they ignore the limitations of the natural world, and are based on lots of abstract ideas and imaginary thinking. Our economy is based on consuming our resources as fast as possible and the daft idea of endless growth and expansion on a finite planet. Our social hierarchy (economic class system, male supremacy and white supremacy) ensures that there are always people in positions of power over others and they become drunk with power and behave totally irresponsibly, causing trauma in their subordinates. We humans have created a system that causes most of us to become mentally ill, whether from it’s a result of disconnection, too much power, or trauma.
In his book When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten uses an episode of Star Trek to illustrate how people in power become disconnected.
“The Cloud Minders,” episode 74 of the popular science fiction television series Star Trek, took place on the planet Ardana. First aired on February 28, 1969, it depicted a planet whose rulers devoted their lives to the arts in a beautiful and peaceful city, Stratos, suspended high above the planet’s desolate surface. Down below, the inhabitants of the planet’s surface, the Troglytes, worked in misery and violence in the planet’s mines to earn the interplanetary exchange credits used to import from other planets the luxuries the rulers enjoyed on Stratos. In this modern allegory, an entire planet had been colonized by rulers who successfully detached and isolated themselves from the people and the localities of the planet’s surface on whose toil their luxuries depended. The imagery of this Star Trek episode has stuck vividly in my mind. How like our own world it is, where the truly rich and powerful work in beautifully appointed executive suites in tall office towers; travel to meetings by limousine and helicopter; jet between continents high above the clouds, pampered with the finest wines by an attentive crew; and live in protected estates, affluent suburbs, and penthouse suites amid art, beauty, and a protected environment. They are as insulated from the lives of the ordinary people of our planet as those who lived on Stratos were insulated from the lives of the Troglytes. They too are living in a world of illusion, dependent on draining the world of its resources and so isolated from reality that they know not what they do, nor how else to live.” P. 103–104
This quote demonstrates beautifully how the privileged people in this world construct a hierarchy that elevates them above ordinary people and keeps them up and out of the toils of daily life. Using their power, they force the less fortunate to work for them and they live in a sort of imaginary world where there is no work, only pleasure. This leads to them being disconnected from the earth and from reality. The ruling class on our planet pay no attention whatsoever to the depletion of resources and to the coming end of fossil fuels and capitalism. They just cannot see limits because they are disconnected from the material world of the earthly environment; they only see their own fantasies.
Korten also describes the history of currency to demonstrate how our economy slowly left the material world and entered the world of the imagination. Long ago people traded things of similar value because they needed other things. Later they began to exchange items as mediums of exchange in transactions, such as precious metals and stones. Eventually they kept their precious metals locked up and simply exchanged pieces of paper with the amount of gold marked on them. This currency became the cash we know today. However, most of our transactions now occur on computer screens through the means of online banking. In the financial world, entire companies and careers are based on numbers on computer screens, not actual things. As Korten remarks,
“Each day, half a million to a million people arise as dawn reaches their part of the world, turn on their computers, and leave the real world of people, things, and nature to immerse themselves in playing the world’s most lucrative computer game: the money game. As their computers come on-line, they enter a world of cyberspace constructed of numbers that represent money and complex rules by which the money can be converted into a seemingly infinite variety of forms, each with its own distinctive risks and reproductive qualities. Through their interactions, the players engage in competitive transactions aimed at acquiring for their own accounts the money that other players hold. Players can also pyramid the amount of money in play by borrowing from one another and bidding up prices. They can also purchase a great variety of exotic financial instruments that allow them to leverage their own funds without actually borrowing. It is played like a game. But the consequences are real.” P185.
The fake numbers held in the computer screens of these bankers are not actual things of value. Everyone in the world couldn’t withdraw their bank accounts at the same time because there isn’t enough gold in the world to turn the “dollars” that exist on computer screens into real-life gold pieces. These dollars are not real. It seems to me that we could wipe out corporate finance completely just using some effective computer viruses. We could erase the records of the debt that is holding the working class hostage. These days, the ruling class are controlling a lot of us through finance rather than direct violence. No bloody revolution needed in this technological age—just take away the computer games of the ruling class and what do they have then? With no record of what we owe them, they would not be able to collect. They remind me of teenage boys addicted to video games, spending their entire lives in basements in front of computers because the world of the game is real to them but the real world is not. Capitalists are ungrounded, meaning they are disconnected from the Earth and from reality, and they are unable to make mature and sensible decisions. They will extract resources from the Earth to sell them in order to raise the numbers on their computer screens until there is nothing left to extract. They cannot see the insanity of caring more about a fake number on a screen than about the planet that sustains their physical body and their very lives.
Another form of ungroundedness (disconnection) I want to talk about is the social media sickness I’m seeing in youth. Social media sickness is what I call it when a person becomes addicted to social media and texting to the point where the online world seems like real life and the real world is neglected or does not seem real. Some things that happen to youth addicted to social media and internet use are:
- Inability to concentrate on real-life activities due to constantly checking their smart phone or Facebook or Twitter for new messages, and feeling unable to put it away because they might miss something important online. And then, as a result, missing important things in real life.
- Being unable to go to sleep because they might “miss something” that happens on social media. Leaving their phone on all night by their bedside and waking up to start texting during the night, and never getting enough sleep.
- When a parent tries to remove a smart phone from their child’s hands, and the child screams as if her actual arms are being ripped off. She fights to the death to hold onto her phone no matter what the consequences will be.
- Being distant, rude, irritable, anxious and overly tired.
- Being in codependent relationships with anonymous people on the Internet that feel like real, close friends. Belief that they are responsible for meeting the emotional needs of anonymous people online and that if their computer time is taken away others will suffer.
- When a parent tries to hide the smart phone away, the child does everything in his power to steal it back, even if it means breaking rules and getting in trouble.
- Engaging in strange behaviours or using drugs in order to cope with the stress that she is feeling due to things that have happened on social media with people they don’t even know in real life.
- A sudden strong belief in a way of thinking that they found online even if it makes no sense in real life.
Notice the similarity between addiction to the virtual world in youth and the reliance on a fantasy-based economic and social system in adults? In both cases, a human-made technology becomes the only thing that is real and we live entirely in the virtual world to the detriment of our health. (Full disclosure: I am addicted to social media myself, and display some of these behaviours. I never said I was perfect!)
The solution is a mixture of “go outside and play” and change the culture so that we no longer make people ungrounded. Everyone needs to face facts. There are only so many resources on our planet, and we are burning through them at lightning speed. There is only so much oil and gas and after that we will have no choice but to switch to other forms of energy. Our world is full of garbage and toxins that we keep producing and we are all being poisoned. Men are fighting endless pointless wars and killing each other for no good reason. Human beings have collectively lost our minds. We should be using the remaining oil and gas resources we have to create the infrastructure to start harnessing energy from the wind and sun, so that when the oil and gas runs out we are prepared. But it looks like the way things are going we’ll completely run out of oil and gas and be in a big emergency before we actually change anything. We need to stop giving in to the demands of unaccountable and ungrounded rulers who make terrible decisions that negatively affect us all.
What we are seeing in transgenderism is a lot of ungroundedness. Some people (male autogynephiles) are in positions of privilege where they can declare their fantasies a reality and force everyone else to play along. Other people in transgenderism are ungrounded because of trauma and feeling disembodied and are looking for ways to cope. And other people in transgenderism have social media sickness and will believe daft nonsense on the Internet because that seems more real than the material world.
When humans are ungrounded, what we need to do is return to the material world, return to nature, and reconnect with our bodies. Some things to do if you are ungrounded:
- Turn off your computer and GO OUTSIDE. Do not bring your smart phone. Observe the season and the weather and notice the physical world around you.
- Meditation, yoga, or exercise to reconnect with your body.
- Therapy for trauma or for reconnection with the self.
- Volunteer in your community. Join organizations and meet people and do things.
- Go on a long hike, or camping, or anything outdoors, or do some gardening.
- Learn about the history of your area or your people, and learn about the plants and animals indigenous to your area.
- Consider how people did things before the invention of the technology that you are dependent on, and consider how you will do things once we cannot rely on fossil fuels anymore.
- Learn outdoor survival skills and making your own things.
- Do any activities that don’t require technology.
These suggestions will help members of the proletariat become more grounded, but they will not work for the upper-class elite who are controlling the planet. They have no interest in coming back down here with the rest of us, they’re having a great time up in their cloud and they can only be grounded if we pull them down by taking their power away. By seeing their bullshit for what it is and refusing to obey. By overthrowing the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Vive la revolution!
P.S. I have been holding onto this post for weeks without publishing it, because no matter how many times I revise it, I still don’t think I’ve written it in a way that makes sense. I sure hope this is understandable and doesn’t sound daft.