Berlusconi no longer runs Italy. But is the “Berlusconi of the Brain” still in charge in your own world?
According to Iain McGilchrist, the left hemisphere of the brain is like Berlusconi because it controls the media. It airbrushes reality, creating rational, linguistic arguments to generate an illusory perfect, mechanistic world.
When you combine that idea with the fact that the left brain is more interested in what it already knows than in new things, the result is a hall of mirrors, in which the left brain knows more and more about what it already knows, and is less and less open to new ideas – and to grubby, imperfect reality.
McGilchrist is interested in the effect of that at the level of society and culture. He argues that society is becoming more and more “left-brained” – technocratic, bureaucratic, mechanistic.
He quotes Einstein, who said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
I’m curious about how all this affects us as individuals. Is it possible for a person to get “stuck” in the world of the left brain? I suspect it is possible – and the fact you’re reading this means that you’re vulnerable.
If you’re the kind of person who reads and reads about how minds work, about how people think, about the structure of communication and human relationships, you’re showing an affinity for the left brain’s view of the world.
The bind is that the world of the left brain is safe and predictable. Those books and websites aren’t going to stab me or rape me. They create a comfort zone where you can relax.
But perhaps they can be damaging, too. They create an idealised notion of how people “should” be: you too can be rich, attractive, talented, famous… if you follow these clever techniques and hand over lots of cash.
And inherent in that notion is the idea that perhaps you’re not yet “good enough” to engage with real people… so you stay in your nice, safe, bookish, nerdy comfort zone of the rational mind.
There is another way to find out about people and the way they think: to get out there and engage with them. But that’s unpredictable, and therefore risky. It requires us to engage the right hemisphere – so we may have to operate without a clear structure or plan, even without language, and to pay attention in a more holistic way. We’ll be way out of our comfort zones very quickly… and then what could happen?
Given the choice, would you sack your own Berlusconi?
Or would you stick with the man who famously said: “The left has no taste, even when it comes to women”?