The emerald bauble of the planet, nested on a sequin-dusted jeweller's cushion of black velvet, this is not the world. The several billion apes with improved posture that cavort across the planet's surface, these are likewise not the world. The world is no more than an aggregate of your ideas about the world, of your ideas about yourselves. It is the vast mirage, baroque and intricate, that you are building as a shelter from the overwhelming fractal chaos of the universe. It is composed from things of the imagination, from philosophies, economies and wavering faith, from your self-serving individual agendas and your colourful notions of destiny. It is a flight of fancy spun to while away those empty-bellied Neolithic nights, a wishful fantasy of how mankind might one day live, a campfire tale you tell yourselves and then forget is just a tale you are telling; that you have made up and have mistaken for reality. Civilisation is your earliest science-fiction story. You come up with it so that you'll have something to do, something to occupy yourselves during the centuries to come. Don't you remember? -- Jerusalem, Alan Moore, pp. 774-775I found this interesting and broad example of a "campfire tale" in Alan Moore's latest novel, which I'm about 2/3rds of the way finished reading at the moment. One of the themes in the book is the way traditional communities are being swallowed up -- which has been discussed in connection with Trump, though Moore's book makes a solid case that, at least in England, this isn't just about an urban-rural divide.
Another recent article argues that the relative popularity of things like Trump and Brexit has not simply been due to economics and disenfranchisement, but that they are instead ways for pre-existing racist/xenophobic sentiments to become organised. That's believable up to a point, but those sentiments don't come out of the blue. If we think about Germany before the rise of Hitler: the Germans weren't exactly happy campers from an economics point of view. Scapegoating "the other" happens when that's an at least quasi-rational thing to do.
My own hypothesis is that it's mostly a loss of meaning that has brought about the situation we're looking at now -- so it makes sense that those most desparate for meaningful things would seize upon those meanings that are closest to hand. This is basic "pharmacology" -- so for example according to the Bruce Alexander theory, this is the main reason people become addicted to drugs.
Yet another article breaks the Brexit phenomenon down geographically: it would seem that it's not necessarily the case that the most economically deprived areas supported Brexit. But, for example, Moore's home town of Northampton voted 58-to-42-percent in favour of "Leave".
(Aside: This latest link is to an interesting interview with Moore that touches in particular on an alternative way of making political decisions, based on a temporary jury rather than a designated long-term political class.)
To my way of thinking, these cultural topics come back fairly quickly (believe it or not) to contemporary discussions about artificial intelligence. My point being that people have been talking about the way that mechanisation leads to disenfranchisement since the start of the machine age. Civilisation as a science fiction story indeed!
Another point of reference that I've been wishing we included in our Networking Knowledge contribution is a reference to the switch from "earth god(esse)s" to "sky gods" in ancient times -- taking place in Greek, Celtic, and Nordic cultures alike, apparently. I'd hypothesise that there's a technological aspect to that shift, namely as the sky becomes more relevant for navigation, sky gods become more relevant to culture, too. Along with navigation, of course, comes mercantilism; something along these lines is the basic "theory" embodied in the Cellini statue, which was created by commission Cosimo I de' Medici, who was perhaps a rough equivalent to the later-day Goldman-Sachs and Morgan-Stanley.
I think one could argue that this "shift" recurs, with locally-based meanings being supplanted by long-distance connections (e.g. on this logic, TPP has a lot of the "sky" element to it). This coincides with various apocalyptic effects. The difference between the end of the world as we know it and the end of the world per se is at least somewhat subtle.