Posts Tagged ‘ the good society ’

We Have Become Everything and Nothing at the Same Time

This is nothing new, religious fanatics have been behaving this way forever. And, as the latest religious fanatics, we are behaving this way right now.

We are talking about the difference between what we believe and what we really are. The religious fanatic believes he (as an impersonation of God) is everything. Everyone else only sees a deluded being – a nobody. However, he may have acquired many believers, who share in his belief in themselves. They have been transformed into supernatural beings – like being that way, and will gladly sacrifice their lives to stay that way.

But for the latest mass passion – in the Christian sense, in what its believers believe to be the ultimate transcendence of man – a leader is not necessary at all. They, as new gods, have become perfect: all-knowing and all-powerful. Leaders may appear temporarily to explain the ways of God to Man, but but usually the masses have this knowledge already – as a direct revelation to all at once, and for all time.

Psychologically, this is a split between a conscious Good Self – and an unconscious Bad Self. The Bad Self is projected onto our enemies. Naturally, we retain the Good Self for ourselves. Nothing has changed for thousand of years.

But we believe something has changed – and something vital: our advanced technologies, which have made us this way. We now exist as a global force: invisible, but all-powerful. And we even have dreams of occupying space!

A short review of recent American history will be of help. The turning point was the coronation of Regan (that was what really was, as was recognized at the time). He showed Americans how to be wonderful nobodies – and they have been eternally grateful to him. He also destroyed America, which they agreed was essential. The Old America, with its liberal ideas and its belief in social betterment (a evil idea!) had to be destroyed so that a Perfect America might arise.

The war between Good and Evil has been joined again. God’s elect has ascended to heaven – but a heaven on earth. They have returned to participate in the Final Battle with Evil – one that will usher in a reign of eternal glory.

And of an eternally self-perfecting technology.

Classical Cultures, in their prime, were Exemplary Societies

Americans, because of their inadequate education, are unaware of this. But on the Continent, where standards of education (for the upper classes in particular) are much higher, a study of the classics has always been important.

The Greeks and the Romans treated their own citizens very well. Slaves, women, and their conquered peoples, on the other hand, only existed to be exploited. The tradition of helping the conquered recover (such as after WWII) so they could be part of the global economy again, is a very new idea – and one we have not extended to the Vietnamese or the Iraqis.

For the Greeks and the Romans, the law provided for the protection of its citizens and allowed them to develop their talents and their wealth freely. In modern terms, it provided a level playing field. Public officials did their job well, and were respected. This is not to say that many did not enrich themselves instead – but this was anticipated, provisions were made to limit this, and to punish the guilty – often by banishment, which miscreants feared almost as much as death, because this meant separation from their family (very important at the time) and a loss of opportunities of every kind.

I owe this idea to Jacques Ellul in the first chapter of his book The Technological Society. He says, as others have, that these societies worked because they provided for the people involved – who were deeply involved in its operation. They bought into their society because it was made for them – because it was them.

Military force against citizens was not necessary because they supported it completely.

Compare this with Modern China. It tried Marxism, which failed completely. Then it decided to make its urban businessmen successful – and succeeded completely. It still has a big problem, however – what to do with the rest of the population? The answer so far has been military suppression – which never works very well. Will it look to its past, and learn from it? It has rejected much of Western economic theory, which was smart – but it is too soon to see if it can go from there.

What about America meanwhile – or the rest of the West, which has largely followed it? It cannot pretend to be a benevolent society, since it is only interested in making money – for a small part of the population. It has succeeded in turning its people into robots, so it cannot rely on them for any solutions.

After a brilliant start, America seems to be doing everything wrong. It would be interesting to be around a few hundred years from now to see how their historians describe the Rise and Fall of the American Empire.

What Kind of Society do We Want?

The answer is clear: we want a society that is ruled by the rich and powerful – a traditional society.

But who are the rich and powerful? Those in control of our large organizations – who are powerful, well-connected, and well-organized. The People, by contrast, are relatively poor, disorganized and easily manipulated – not much more than a mob. They are politely referred to as consumers.

As I already said, they want a return to a traditional society, where someone else will take care of them. The comparison to the infantile state is irresistible.

What drew me to these cheerful conclusions this morning? A consideration of how our Federal Government works. I am learning UML (Uniform Modeling Language) a visual way of representing how groups of people interact. To do this, you have to know who the players are and how they interact. The who question is the most interesting.

In a representative democracy, which is what we are supposed to have, the answer would be relatively simple: Congress, the Administration, and the Courts. These are supposed to serve at the pleasure of the people. And the people are supposed to have a good idea of how well they are doing their job. This is clearly not the case – for the simple reason that the most powerful players are those holding the money bags. Everybody serves at their pleasure.

Someone like me, who wants to model what is going on, has to include them very prominently. The question is: how?

It’s hard enough to model Congress, with all its unwritten rules and power structures, because Congress doesn’t want the public to know how it really works. This is only for insiders to know, and of course this includes the lobbyists, who make it their business to know how it really works – and make sure no one else knows. In this case, Knowledge is clearly Power with a capital P.

The most direct route to power is clearly by controlling how these people are elected – and making sure they realize this. If they want to stay in business, they have to pay the piper and dance his tune.

A model of how this all works would still include the people, because they can still vote – but would show how Money controls how they vote – mainly through TV ads. This would be difficult to model because it is a subtle process. Obama, for example, was carefully nurtured by them, as an up-and-coming young man who could go places – with the right people behind him. He hasn’t disappointed them, because he in identifies with them completely. Clinton was much the same, and saw to it that the Democratic Party switched sides and worked for them.

But I don’t want to lose sight of my original question: “What kind of society do we want?” The word that needs to be looked at closely here is we.

We now assume that this we is a society ruled from the top. America has changed, but is completely unaware of this change, since it happened slowly, over more than a century – and Americans have short memories.