Stop me if you have heard this old joke. A drunk Soviet citizen takes a box labeled TURNIPS to his neighbor and offers it for sale. They open it up, and it is full of stones. “If the Party says they are turnips, they are turnips, comrade,” says the drunk. “Unless you want me to report you for calling the Party a liar?”
All human groups — civilizations, church clubs, businesses, rings of friends — collapse the same way: they become successful, and to regulate themselves, set up rules and procedures which then become more important than the intended results of those rules and procedures. The letter of the law wins out over the spirit of the law. After all, you can either call the stones turnips or become an enemy.
These internal systems can be called control, which is the habit of making people into a fungible commodity so they can be forced to obey the same instructions, mainly for the defensive purpose of keeping them from destabilizing the group. Control, like any good virus, quickly escapes its masters and becomes dedicated only to itself, addictive like the power of the One Ring in Lord Of The Rings.
In that story, the ring represents a force that is seductive to men and then takes over their minds. It grants them great power, including invisibility, but the more they use it, the more their will is bent to its own. This is a metaphor for control, which is the trap into which most civilizations fall.
William S. Burroughs wrote extensively about the nature of control:
[W]ords are still the principal instruments of control. Suggestions are words. Persuasions are words. Orders are words. No control machine so far devised can operate without words, and any control machine which attempts to do so relying entirely on external force or entirely on physical control of the mind will soon encounter the limits of control.
…When there is no more opposition, control becomes a meaningless proposition. It is highly questionable whether a human organism could survive complete control. There would be nothing there. No persons there. Life is will (motivation) and the workers would no longer be alive, perhaps literally. The concept of suggestion as a complete technique presupposes that control is partial and not complete. You do not have to give suggestions to your tape recorder nor subject it to pain and coercion or persuasion.
…Consider a control situation: ten people in a lifeboat. Two armed self-appointed leaders force the other eight to do the rowing while they dispose of the food and water, keeping most of it for themselves an doling out only enough to keep the other eight rowing. The two leaders now need to exercise control to maintain an advantageous position which they could not hold without it. Here the method of control is force — the possession of guns. Decontrol would be accomplished by overpowering the leaders and taking their guns. This effected, it would be advantageous to kill them at once. So once embarked on a policy of control, the leaders must continue the policy as a matter of self-preservation. Who, then, needs to control others but those who protect by such control a position of relative advantage? Why do they need to exercise control? Because they would soon lose this position and advantage and in many cases their lives as well, if they relinquished control.
Burroughs may err slightly in that he sees control more as a physical state, and not a psychological one. As Plato points out, it is possible to have a strong leader whose intent is noble and whose intelligence is realistic, thus he accomplishes (mostly) what he aims for. This leader has “control,” but it is not really control. It is leadership, a variety of something covered later in this essay.
For example, consider a lifeboat full of eight dangerous schizophrenics and two leaders. The leaders will need to force the others to row because there are only two leaders, and many relatively expendable people; this way, the boat will reach its destination and the highest number will survive. Even more, since sanity is more valuable than insanity, it is important that the two get there, as a future is found in them but not in the schizophrenics, whose condition is highly correlated with genetic inheritance.
This shows us the essence of control: it is not power itself, but the desire to use power for no purpose other than itself or those who wield it. As Burroughs shows with his metaphor, those who use power for no purpose except themselves are soon thrown into a defensive role, at which point they must enforce control in order to avoid being destroyed.
Tolkien’s metaphor is portrayed most powerfully in the movies, where the ring seduces those who encounter it with words that reveal to them simultaneously their doubts about themselves and the world, and promises easier answers than the obvious and challenging task before them. Men are destroyed by wanting to use the ring to solve their problems instead of actually solving the problems directly.
In this way, the power of language is revealed. Words have a stunning power because they are tokens that evoke images in the minds of those to whom they are spoken, and there is no guarantee that those images correspond to those in the mind of the speaker. This occurs through the power of symbolism, or the ability of one detail to stand for the whole. The word can mean a single detail excluding others, and speaker and listener often have different sets of those details that provide the image in their head, meaning that the listener is blind to many of the properties that are implied. There are also lies, which may be the oldest and worst of human vices.
As is frequent on this blog, a citation from Tom Wolfe completes the circuit:
Evolution came to an end when the human beast developed speech! As soon as he became not Homo sapiens, “man reasoning,” but Homo loquax, “man talking”! Speech gave the human beast far more than an ingenious tool. Speech was a veritable nuclear weapon! It gave the human beast the powers of reason, complex memory, and long-term planning, eventually in the form of print and engineering plans. Speech gave him the power to enlarge his food supply at will through an artifice called farming. Speech ended not only the evolution of man, by making it no longer necessary, but also the evolution of animals!
…No evolutionist has come up with even an interesting guess as to when speech began, but it was at least 11,000 years ago, which is to say, 9000 B.C. It seems to be the consensus . . . in the notoriously capricious field of evolutionary chronology . . . that 9000 B.C. was about when the human beast began farming, and the beast couldn’t have farmed without speech, without being able to say to his son, “Son, this here’s seeds. You best be putting ’em in the ground in rows ov’ere like I tell you if you wanna git any ears a corn this summer.”
…One of Homo loquax’s first creations after he learned to talk was religion. Since The Origin of Species in 1859 the doctrine of Evolution has done more than anything else to put an end to religious faith among educated people in Europe and America; for God is dead. But it was religion, more than any other weapon in Homo loquax’s nuclear arsenal, that killed evolution itself 11,000 years ago.
Worse than simply being manipulative, language has utility. In doing so, it allows those who could not succeed to learn from others and so endure despite lacking the understanding behind the words. This creates a rich environment for manipulation, because then there is a mass that does not understand depth, only the surface comprised of the simple images in their minds evoked by language.
If anything marks the transition between the last century and the present, it is a gradual rejection of the power of language to control. People are recognizing that words do not have inherent meanings, which means they are only meaningful insofar as speaker and listener have the same mental images, and this depends on who they are, and cannot be “educated” into them.
Through this mechanism, humankind returns to something like the order of nature. Language is useless, so instead we agree on a goal which cannot be transmitted through language, like the amorphous idea of a great civilization rivaling that of the ancients. Then, we rely on people to reach that goal by independent action, reflecting their ability and therefore where they belong in the hierarchy.
Contrarian to this large evolutionary step, the doctrine of egalitarianism serves as the basis of control. It establishes what cannot be said by making a rule that all people must be equal, so anything above equal becomes taboo. Wherever humanity is held back, you will find control saying that we cannot get ahead of ourselves, because not everyone is up to speed yet.
The latest from the forces of control is “political correctness,” a type of speech code that shapes thought toward egalitarianism and therefore prevents critique of the failing 1789-2016 programs which implemented egalitarian ideas as policy. The backlash against political correctness is beginning with fervor, and may have elected the current president of the United States:
According to the website — the project of mathematician Spencer Greenberg — believing “there is too much political correctness in this country” was the second most reliable predictor of whether a given person intended to vote for Trump. The only better predictor was party affiliation: despite an abnormal campaign featuring an abnormal candidate, it remained the case that the overwhelming majority of Republicans voted for the Republican candidate, and the overwhelming majority of Democrats voted for the Democratic candidate.
But being anti-P.C. correlated more strongly with being pro-Trump than just about anything else: it beat out social conservatism, protectionism, and anti-immigration as predictive tendencies.
“Nowadays, as the right sees it, the left has won the culture war and controls the media, the universities, Hollywood and the education of everyone’s children,” Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at New York University, told Politico in the recent article that made me aware of Greenberg’s survey data. “Many of them think that they are the victims, they are fighting back against powerful and oppressive forces, and their animosities are related to that worldview.”
Political correctness represents the attempt by the dying egalitarian Establishment to hold on to power after it has lost the hearts and minds of its people.
Egalitarianism promised “freedom” from the “tyranny” of the monarchy, and instead delivered a string of ideological wars beginning with the Napoleonic Wars and extending into World War Two. Since that time, the West has fought a cold war against egalitarian totalitarians, and divided itself between different shades of egalitarianism among its own political powers.
The point of political correctness is to prevent the criticism of egalitarianism by noticing certain facts that egalitarianism will not acknowledge, and so quickly became a war on truth itself. As in witch-hunts, political correctness gives power to the people making the accusation, which is assumed to be true because no one wants to in turn become a target of the inquisitors.
In turn that creates a situation where necessary truths are denied, forcing ordinary people to become extremists once they realize this system is designed to perpetuate a lie and suppress truth:
In January 2014, the commander of a French military academy rejected the master’s thesis of an elite German army officer under his charge for its extremist argument that human rights could lead to the genocide of Western races.
“If this was a French participant on the course, we would remove him,” he told the young officer’s German superiors.
An academic hired to review the thesis told senior officers in the German army, the Bundeswehr, that it included racist and radical nationalist content, but they chose not to formally discipline the man as they did not want to jeopardize the career of a high-flying recruit.
Societies that suppress potentially truthful observations because those observations may threaten control are by nature totalitarian societies, no matter what methods they use, including “peaceful” ones like ostracism. You either obey control, or your life is destroyed by obliteration of your career, reputation, livelihood and chance to have friends and meet potential mates. The forces of political correctness are using natural selection to “weed out” people with unconventional opinions.
As a result, the West now has created a situation where it is pursuing a path to doom and has eliminated any ability to notice that this doom is upon us. This gives us a binary choice: we either fight this system, or accept our own destruction. We are going to go out just like the Soviets, unwilling to alter a failing direction because of our pretense of being correct according to control:
Totalitarianism has nothing necessarily to do with violence (as Aldous Huxley perceived in his Brave New World of 1932 – and to equate totalitarianism with violence was an error by Orwell). For totalitarianism ‘whatever works’ is the guide.
Thus we now, in the West, live in a highly totalitarian society, in which most people’s thoughts are controlled most of the time – by a combination of indoctrination during childhood and youth, the unified-linked bureaucracy of the government and the workplace, the mass media and its addictiveness, and a legal system which explicitly includes thought crimes (what else are ‘hate crimes’?).
Those who wish to resist this totalitarianism have made a fatal error. Instead of demanding an end to control, they have chosen a false target through an ersatz opposite to control. They choose “freedom,” which is a form of egalitarianism, which means that as soon as control is overthrown, it will be reinstated through the manipulation that produced it the first time.
The opposite of control is not liberty, but cooperation. Cooperation requires a purpose and principles, so that people can measure their actions by how they help to achieve that goal. With cooperation, people take on unequal roles toward the same end for the benefit not of individuals, but of society as an organic whole, as if it were an organism.
Without cooperation, people go in many different directions at once, and this opens the door to manipulation. Since the chaos impedes life, people will begin manipulating one another with language. The virus will spread, and soon everyone will manipulate each other, which makes manipulation the only way to have power, and by natural selection elects to leadership those who are the best manipulators.