And you should be clearly aware of this – that your world (which is controlled by Business) is not the least bit interested in you – as a person. And in fact only wants to use you.
A whole book could be written about this – but is not likely.
Posts Tagged ‘ Power Complex ’
And you should be clearly aware of this – that your world (which is controlled by Business) is not the least bit interested in you – as a person. And in fact only wants to use you.
A whole book could be written about this – but is not likely.
Last night I had horrible nightmares about the failure of our corporations. This morning I am asking myself what that means – and asking “What do the corporations symbolize?”
The answer seems to be that they stand for almost everything, and the end of them will be the end of our whole world – not just the end of our global economy, but the end of everything. We can’t imagine life without them.
The reason for this is not hard to find: the corporations provide our jobs, the most important thing in the world. But they are no longer able to do this, and for this reason everything is breaking down.
Now I have said this, I must say it again: if we cannot provide decent jobs for almost everyone we are doomed. But we no longer can do this – and we aren’t even trying. We say something else is more important, without being able to say what this is.
I think I know what this is – now that the world is not working, we have decided to regress, and return to a simpler world where a few have everything and the rest are dependent on them. This would not be an ideal world, we tell ourselves – but at least it would work.
We have been in this fix before: with the collapse of the Roman Empire. True enough, the world did go on – but in a much simpler way. People continued to reproduce, although most of these died an early death. Much as before civilization. We sometimes ask ourselves “When this world is over, what kind of world will take over?” We now know: it will be another Dark Ages – assuming we don’t have atomic warfare, and really cook everything.
But let us back up a notch, and consider the present. As I said (and Keynes also) our primary objective should be to provide full employment ( the details of just how full that should be are debatable, we can agree that all who really want to work should be able to).
For some time now, perhaps forever, many jobs have been useless – but the holders of these jobs didn’t care, all they wanted was that paycheck. A prime example is the military: useless, dangerous work that has no shortage of applicants. They know they may not survive, but rest of their family will.
But, to repeat once again: our present economic system, dominated by the corporations, cannot provide enough jobs, and doesn’t even have that as one of its primary objectives. The people, who should be demanding this, are helpless – and don’t really exist.
This is an important point: at some time in the past, probably in the last few hundred years, people (as independent beings) have been eliminated. And no one has noticed. This is understandable – nothing like this has ever happened before, and we do not even have the vocabulary to explain it.
A key part of this process has been technology: we have put all our efforts into it, instead of ourselves. We now have a stupendous technology – the computer/software/internet/wireless, to say nothing of the automobile and the TV. But no way of managing it.
Indeed, this summarizes our overall situation: we have more things than any people in history – but no people and no tools to manage them.
I want to spend some time on the tools part of this. I worked in the software industry for 20 years, some of that time as a programmer. And I have been interested in finding out what is going on there. Software development is a key technology (after all, software now runs our lives) and we should be concerned about its condition.
Ignore for a moment that most people are not capable of thinking about this, or anything else. And assume some people are, and are working at making things better. What have they come up with? A lot, actually – but on balance they have not been able to make things much better. For the most part, the drive to destroy (which I keep referring to) has made this impossible.
Here the analogy with the Titanic is appropriate. The economy, which consists mainly of the corporations, is a huge machine incapable of coping with reality. It shows no interest in reality, and thinks it can ignore it.
This woman has been reading my mind. Here are the opening paragraphs:
SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.
But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.
One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone — and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”)
Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.
All I can say is “Amen, sister!”
I am sure most people would agree with her – outwardly. But inwardly they are secretly thinking to themselves “But this gal doesn’t really understand the situation, and anyone who agrees with her is in for a rude awakening.” But they say nothing out loud – because they know they don’t have to.
What we need is simple – we need to stop needing. Our human heritage is rich beyond compare – we have created a world of our own that never existed before. But instead of enjoying our riches we have become beggars, always wanting more. We have lost control of our world, and cannot get it back – simply because we have lost control of ourselves, and no longer think we have any value.
We started out with a human-centered world – since we made that world ourselves. But now we have been pushed to the side and marginalized another force that has popped up out of nowhere and taken over.
Right away, people will want to know “Yes, but what is the solution?” They will not wait for the answer, which they already know - identify this other force and simply pull its plug. What is this force? The many-headed monster MORE. And beneath it, something else – a feeling of inadequacy.
How did we get in this state? That’s a long story, going back for hundreds of years Its details are extremely complicated, but its overall outline is clear – people put more and more energy into their technologies, and less and less into themselves. This was natural at the time – technology was easy to change, and the benefits from doing this were clear. But changing ourselves was nearly impossible. Or at least this is what it seemed like at the time. Naturally, we put our energies where we would get the most results.
And ended up losing ourselves – without even knowing it. We have become hollow shells, trying to stuff more and more into a developmental black hole.
Can this be fixed? In theory, yes – if we could understand ourselves better. And focus our attention inward, and not outward. Americans are now convinced their enemy is out there somewhere. When, as is usually the case, it is in here. They have become convinced that their inner selves are too horrible to contemplate – and are destroying them. As a result, their world is collapsing.
Let me summarize – the big problem is the loss of our selves. And the forces of wealth and power (what now constitutes the business world) wants this loss to continue. We have never been able to control power, and today is no different. Power has become enmeshed with technology, and they have become a deadly combination.
Something else has taken control, and we are afraid to take it back.
One of my recurrent themes has been that people are no longer important. This immediately raises the question “What is important?’ The simple answer is Power. The longer answer is The Corporate Power Structure. Organizations, where we all live and work, are mostly corporations, or dominated by corporations. They have all the money and all the jobs – in other words, everything. Survival depends on co-existing with them, one way or the other.
Strangely enough, most people do not want to acknowledge this simple fact, and carefully avoid it. They are content to simply be part of this power structure – without thinking about it – which is too dangerous.
Carefully left in the background is the subject of being – something only living beings can be – by definition. Corporations can not be – but insist on being treated as though they were the same as living beings – indeed, as super beings.
Ordinary beings do not matter.
Americans are experts at deceiving themselves, and they have been giving the rest of the world lessons in this. Our most important activity has become – being whatever we are supposed to be, controlled by unconscious social forces we are forbidden to think about.
Instead of being people we have become something else – so shameful we cannot tolerate thinking about it – and content ourselves with being consumers – including consumers of religious doctrines – including the doctrine of the market economy. To put this in a slightly different way – we have become obsessed with power, and are no longer interested in democracy or equality.
And we are ignoring this vast, fundamental change with all our might. We now pride ourselves on our ability to be exactly like everyone else, instead of being independent individuals. We are pleased with our weakness as individuals, which allows us to have massive power as part of the mass.
We now identify with the mass and with our things – a very interesting complex. But as our world was becoming more complicated, we were becoming simpler – and completely unable to cope with its changes. We wonder what is wrong with the world, instead of wondering what is wrong with us.
To put this yet another way – we have disappeared, and left behind us only a trace of the proud people we once were.
We have moved from a linear to a non-linear world, and the shock of this has been more than we can handle. What do I mean by this? I am talking about rate of change. Previously, this was manageable, now it is not. I am reminded of a Sixties song “Stop the world, I want to get off!”
This is related to the impact of technology on our lives – technological innovation has gotten faster and faster, with the result that social change got faster and faster. We did not see this as a problem – quite to the contrary, it seemed very exciting and profitable. Innovation was seen as a good thing – and the more there was of it, the better.
We actually thought everyone was going to get rich – in the new economy. Instead, everybody got poorer – except the very rich, who had too much already. This was innovation, but not the kind we wanted.
What I am going to do now, is what we all should be doing – but are not – going back over our past in an attempt to understand it. And to see where we got off the track.
I am hardly the first to try this, everybody and his brother has had his hand at it – and many of the are far better qualified. But one more voice in the crowd cannot hurt.
First, a definition. It started with a development in mathematics, which effected physics, which caused the Industrial Revolution. Isaac Newton, like everyone else of his time, was trying to understand the world. Then a strange idea occurred to him: that the world must be governed by mathematical laws. What a strange idea, right?
The math necessary for this had not been invented yet, so he, along with Leibniz, invented it – what we now call calculus. The basic idea here is simple: change could only happen so fast and this rate of change could be expressed by a mathematical formula, using a new notation. To this day, few can understand this – including the math instructor who taught it to me in a religious college I was sent to by my parents.
The impact of this was amazing: Newton had broken the code of how nature worked! The world (later dubbed the clockwork universe) was simply mechanical, through and through! The social implication was also amazing: people knew they could figure out how things worked, and use things to their own advantage, because the world was linear (it didn’t have any hidden surprises)!
For two hundred years this was thought to be the way things were. Then two things happened about the same time: modern society broke down, and so did Newtonian physics. The 20th Century experienced WW1 and WW2 – part of the move, as it turned out, towards Globalization. Einstein saved Newtonian physics with Relativity, but also helped invent Quantum Mechanics – which he later regretted, and fought against all the rest of his life.
Why was this? Because Quantum Mechanics was non-linear, things could jump from one state to another, and not change smoothly. No one was comfortable with this, but it quickly because obvious that this was how the world of the very small worked – not at all as larger things worked.
But that was not all: digital computers took over. When I was going to Electrical Engineering school in the Fifties, they did not teach digital computers, but analog computers – something you only see now in science museums. They were linear, something they were comfortable with.
But that didn’t matter, digital computers took over, and this opened up a whole new world. A short review is in order: in digital computers, only two states are allowed: a zero or a one – and nothing in-between. The real world, the analog world, has to be digitized before a digital computer can work with it. Digital computers needed software to run them, and eventually the Internet (completely digital) showed up to form an entirely new complex: the computer/software/internet (CSI). It quickly took over our world, and took control of it.
It should seem strange to speak of a technology controlling the world – but there is no better way of saying it. People have become addicted to their things – and, as with any addiction, it controls those addicted to it. In our case, our technologies, which have gotten out of control.
This is one of the major problems of our time, mainly because it is not recognized as a problem, but as our chief source of our pleasure – as is the case for any life-threatening addiction. Steve Jobs should not be regarded as our savior, but as the devil incarnate – a man who knew us better than we knew ourselves, and who turned our unconscious cravings against us. The same could be said for Henry Ford.
I have said our technological dependency is a life-threatening addiction. Let me amplify on that. This is not a new observation, Emerson said “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” And the people of his time agreed – but did nothing about it. Why? Because they had been seized by the idea of progress - not realizing that meant the progress of technology, but the neglect of man.
The dynamic here is simple: the human species has a one-track mind and can only focus on one major preoccupation at a time. Usually this is religion, and rulers have always used this to their advantage. If Christianity became a widespread religious enthusiasm, for example, the solution was simple: make it the religion of the Empire. If the Empire collapsed as a result – that was just too bad. The Empire was not to benefit the people, but the select, decadent few – the exact opposite of the values of the Roman Republic.
In present-day America, business has become our religion – a secular religion, true, but a religion nevertheless. And business, ever since the Industrial Revolution, has been focused on technology. But also, and this has become very important, on controlling the mind of the public – who have only one function: to consume.
Apologists for the Power Complex (the so-called Conservative think-tanks) will agree with much of the above – but insist nevertheless that the situation is not serious – and in fact is improving! A better day is just around the corner, therefore, not to worry. The people don’t really believe this pitch, they know their situation is serious, and they are scrambling to be on the winning side – the side of the rich and powerful.
And the world is entering into another Middle Ages – a high-tech totalitarianism where the people are as stupid as mud. I have been there, been part of its craziness, and know what I am talking about.
Something is wrong with the world, and that something is us. It’s not the birds, the bees, or the trees – it is us. But we refuse to acknowledge this, and keep insisting it is something else – this, that, or the other thing. This is understandable, because what has happened to us is something we would not have wished on our worst enemies. And it happened, strangely enough, with the best of intentions.
It is not hard to understand, once you get over the horror of it all - because what happened was indeed horrible. We ended up not being human, but something else we have no word for, and no understanding of. But only the desperate defense “What ever you are talking about, it never, never happened. We are basically the same as we always have been. The world may be in desperate condition, but that is not our fault.”
The denial is even more basic than that: we cannot see any Big Problem. But only isolated problems here and there, and no overall pattern. Whatever happened to us, it has destroyed our ability to understand our world as a whole. Instead we sing, as a massive chorus, “Nothing really bad has happened! Things are better than ever!”
And our intellectuals are no better, they are not swimming against this current – probably for the same reason: they are scared to death – as indeed everyone is. The one overwhelming emotion of this time is a fear so intense it cannot be overcome. We now have a society where only complete conformity is acceptable. Some discussion of this or that is permitted, but not the Big Problem. We cannot even say that it does not exist – because that would involve some tentative admission that it might.
However, I will continue my reasoning, whether I have an audience or not. This requires an historical review – a review of what happened in the Modern world. Others far more qualified than I have written about this – but not that many. The most important event in the history of mankind is a complete mystery to most because our educational system has omitted this study – but has concentrated on making us comply with what has happened instead. It did not make us better thinkers, but better conformists instead.
The key process in the Modern world was Mass Production, which began with the Printing Press. Once set up, it could produce unlimited copies of any document. This was not an innocent, isolated incident – it set a pattern that everything would follow. Soon we would be mass-producing everything imaginable – including copies of ourselves.
But I need to discuss something else: the explosive growth of technology – of which the Printing Press was a part. The first dominant technology of the age was the sailing ship – which was developed to a peak of perfection that even amazes us today. These could sail around the world, and literally expanded man’s horizons. The New World was discovered – even thought it had been discovered by pre-historic man long before.
Whole industries sprang up to build and service these ships – and even more amazingly, a huge population to furnish the manpower to operate them. We have always flocked (like chickens) to wherever the jobs were, and this was our second population boom (the first was in response to agriculture).
The era of mass man had arrived – and this would have a profound effect – but also, and this was also typical, we would ignore this most important development. The education system, which was designed to educate only the best and the brightest (but also, if truth be known anyone who had the money) could not begin to cope with the vast increase in the population, but instead concentrated on making them part of the System. I must now describe what this System came to be.
The System was caused by the next major development – the Industrial Revolution. This, in turn, was make possible by Science – which in turn made new, modern technologies possible. As I have already said, the first of these, the Printing Press, was also a technology but hardly a science. In the same way succeeding technologies were only indirectly related to Science – but were nevertheless dependent on it.
The next big event was the Steam Engine – but also, even more importantly, the use of fossil fuels – which started us on an energy high, and an energy addiction, which still defines, largely, who we are. To put it bluntly, we are energy hogs – and we have no intention of breaking this habit. However, let me return to my historical review.
The Steam Engine made manufacturing possible. Instead of using human power (and animal power for transportation) and the simple loom to produce cloth – the Steam engine could provide vast amounts of power – and with the complicated machinery being rapidly developed, could produce vast amounts of cheap cloth. This immediately reduced the people involved, who had been independent farmers and craftsmen, to poverty. There were dark, satanic mills instead of England’s green and pleasant lands. But we were just beginning.
The Steam Engine also made the railroads possible. (I am skipping the development of the canals, because in the end they were not so important.) The railroads also provided employment for the growing population – but in inhuman working conditions.
People had become nothing more than machines to be used for industrial purposes. And Industry had made a few extremely rich – a wealth they proceeded to exhibit in every way possible. This would be the pattern of the future – except for the ostentatious display. This would eventually become more subdued, as its owners became content with control instead. And the rest became content with entertainment instead.
Entertainment (the movies, and eventually television) became an industry itself – and eventually, in the form of marketing, advertising, and politics – the dominant industry.
I hope you are asking, as I go through this review: what happened to the people in all this? The answer is simple – but shocking: they ceased to exist as people but became something else – a something we have yet to acknowledge or understand.
And the situation only got worse as the external combustion engine (coal and steam) was replaced by the internal combustion engine (oil, the automobile and the airplane). And then even worse by the latest complex – the computer/software/Internet.
People had not just ceased to exist, they had actively turned against each other and proceeded to destroy the world. The ultimate terror had begun.
And the Power Complex now has all of it. This is the most important fact of our time – and only I seem to be aware of it. But let me continue anyway.
This is really a continuation of my posting Power not Only Corrupts Completely, it Destroys Completely. In either case, the subject is power: the most important thing in the world, but one we are completely ignorant of – and we are determined to stay that way.
Our innate assumption is that power is unlimited, anyone can go out and get as much as he wants – all it takes is a little gumption. But plenty of people have discovered that power has been safely locked up where they cannot get at it. They discover this, then promptly forget it – and do not come to any conclusions based on their experience.
The reason for this is simple: they are not supposed to notice this – it is strictly forbidden. This would mean they have some power themselves (the power of recognition), and this would make them dangerous. No cracks in the armor must be permitted.
The only way to get power is to play the game, and become part of it. Independent players are no longer permitted.
I am tempted to end today’s observations there, and maybe I should – but I will continue with some speculation about why our situation is the way it is.
The experience of having no personal power is one of the most frightening things people can experience. It makes you “sick at your stomach” – which is directly connected to your gut-level self. It is the sentence of death, and people will do anything to avoid it.
If I were a historian – and I might as well pretend to be one – I would note that the last half of the 20th Century changed everything. Television changed everything: people were bombarded with multi-sensory inputs – programmed by those in power – they could not resist or understand. The television had become their communal placenta. I did the right thing by deciding to turn the thing off, but I was unusual.
But this was only the beginning. We were hit by the big three: computers, software, and the Internet. And we will never recover from them. The business world was quick to use them to consolidate its position, and turn itself into a giant complex - that has all the power.
This happened so quickly, within less than a typical lifespan, that people went into shock - ceased to function normally, and could not defend themselves. This was covered up by the Cold War – really a war against America itself, and everything it had stood for. No one noticed, because they were sternly instructed not to. Noticing became anti-American.
At the end of the Forties, the schools turned against their students. I remember it clearly – it was a shock I never recovered from. But this was only part of a larger pattern: people turning against people. People had frequently been against other people – and not adverse to slaughtering them in large numbers. But this was the first time they had been against people themselves – and devoted to their own destruction. People were no longer people, and considered themselves super-people - devoted to eliminating the other kind.
And no one is noticing. It’s like were are standing next to a huge elephant, that is shitting copiously – and everyone is singing in perfect harmony “It ain’t there!”