My friend Russell Campbell recently approached me, telling me he was disappointed by the Freemasons. Expecting to be bestowed with Enlightened Wisdom as he heaved against the heavy oakwood doors to enter the lodge, he instead stumbled upon a society for male fellowship. Guys looking for a reason “to hang out”, meanwhile making a charade of their intentions to better the world.
Facebook is another example, full of people declaring their ideological stances. But what do they really do to make a difference? They post opinions and that’s about it. My friend informed me he grew weary of people complaining about government yet were not willing to try and change things – they would rather complain than get involved. And if they would get involved in a matter, he told me, it would only be because they directly experienced how a decision affected their immediate self-interest. At that point it is usually already too late.
I recently experienced an example of this myself. Five years ago, the aldermen declared they would crack down on dog-poop. Politicians from all walks of life had complained about the dog-poop and had noticed how very little had been done.
Five years later, only three fines for dog-poop had been dished out, and it was revealed that the official in charge for delivering the fines was paid five hours for the processing of one complaint. The politicians repeated their severe criticism, and the mayor did what he could to protect the officials that were his personnel. He promised the fight against dog-poop would really become efficient this time, because the budget had been increased.
This made me remark that a larger budget was no solution, since the existing budget had been used inefficiently. The aldermen currently in charge of the officials are politically very different from those of five years ago. The promise the mayor had made was exactly the same. Therefore I realized that the apparatus of the officials was completely autonomous and beyond control of the aldermen, regardless of their political affiliation. By admitting such, however, they, as ‘controllers’ would lose their right to exist, so all that the major could do was to offer a defence of inertia. That’s what it was: A defence of inertia.
I suppose the only solution was to throw out the branch of officials in charge of the dog-poop affair, and replace them by pay-per-fine workers. This would probably be impossible for those politicians to arrange, since the jobs of officials are very securely protected by law. The law in turn, is largely composed by ‘experts’ – officials working for aldermen and ministers. As a result, there’s little politicians can do – even those who pledged publicly to cut back on bureaucracy – other than to dance to the tune of the piper while keeping up an image of credibility towards the public eye.
The point is not that the politicians have control. The point is that people believe in the illusion of control. Because this will allow them to sleep comfortably at night, resulting in stability. The aim of our political order, our Trias Politica, is not that life is arranged in accordance to the ideological principles of the representatives we as a people have chosen. No, the aim is to quench unrest. So that people can arrange their lives in accordance to any appetites that emerge, so that, however trivial or shallow these may be, people can at least pursue them without being disturbed.
Previously it was revealed that generally speaking, people will only get involved at the last moment, once their immediate interests are directly touched upon. As we shall see, this was pointed out by Von Clausewitz and Machiavelli. One would be right in saying that, by refusing to act against the government, the likes of people Russell Campbell refered to damage their direct self-interest. This is correct; it’s just that the impulses they receive from bodily pleasures dominate their brains over any longer term consideration. Therefore they’re not willing to exert effort for things of which they can’t understand how they directly connect to their lives. This observation explains how come it is often frustrating to hear someone say they do not care about politics, because they do not realize how much it affects the life they live. They cannot see beyond their own nose.
People, by nature, tend to avoid excessive exertion, because evolution has formed us to be conservative with our energies. If we would truly look ahead at the eventual results of our decisions, we would realize that it is in our long-term interest to throw our full weight behind our efforts in the present. If we gain an advantage now, we can use this advantage to more easily acquire new advantages in the future, making it more likely that we will attain our final goals. We must understand this, and apply it as a guiding principle to anything we do in life. We must not allow inertia to overcome us. Alternatively, if we do not refute a political decision of the government right now, it will be harder to put a stop to new measures proposed by them in the future, since they will already be prepared for the procedure while we still have to rally a majority against them.
“Lastly, even the final decision of a whole War is not always to be regarded as absolute. The conquered State often sees in it only a passing evil, which may be repaired in after times by means of political combinations. How much this must modify the degree of tension, and the vigour of the efforts made, is evident in itself.” – Carl von Clausewitz, On War
With this, Von Clausewitz tried to make clear that a full mobilization of the force one can potentially exert, has the highest chance of gaining success. Yet this not what usually happens; “Well, we don’t need to have every piece of artillery up in the mountains by noon. If a few arrive late on schedule, it’ll have to do, because afterwards we can still fall back to the forests.” In politics, this translates to: “Well, if today we don’t cleanse the cities of the dog-poop, people will be pissed. But they have a rather short memory – even if today we rid the city of dog-poop, they will have forgotten by next year. So the situation will have to do for now. There will be plenty of opportunity to dish out more dog-poop fines next year, when the budget will be higher.” “Oh, Obama’s going to do more government spending. This is bad for the financial future of my country. But hey, this year I can still go on holiday to Spain, so I don’t have to complain just yet. Right now, I can’t really foresee the consequences of a drastic cut in spending. There will still be plenty of opportunities to cut spending next year.”
Machiavelli, too, emphasized how inertia is a political force of its own;
“Nelematus, not being able to endure the tyranny of Aristotimus, Tyrant of Epirus, assembled in his house many relatives and friends, and exhorted them to liberate their country; several of them requested time to discuss and arrange it, whereupon Nelematus made his slaves lock the house, and to those whom he had called he said, either you swear to go now and carry out the execution of this (plot), or I will give you all as prisoners to Aristotimus: moved by these words they swore, and going out without any (further) intermission of time, successfully carried out the plot of Nelematus …
It is seen how much men are dilatory in things when they believe they have time, and how ready they are when necessity drives them. Nor can a Prince or a Republic who want, for their own advantage, to defer the discovery (of a conspiracy) use better means than to hold out another opportunity to the conspirators through slyness, so that they expecting it, or it appearing to them to have time, the (Prince) or (Republic) will have time to castigate them. Whoever has done otherwise has accelerated his ruin, as did the Duke of Athens and Guglieimo De Pazzi. The Duke, having become Tyrant of Florence, and learning that he was being conspired against, caused ((without otherwise examining the matter)) one of the conspirators to be taken, which quickly made the others take up arms, and take the State away from him.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi
Great results are usually only booked under extreme pressure – not under extreme Freedom, like Ayn Rand supposes. As evidence I could point at the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Protestant tradesmen were only prepared to pay for a large-scale contribution because they had the breath of Louis XIV panting down their necks. Same thing could be said for the splicing of the atom, the radar, jet planes, and computer code, developments which were all accelerated by World War II. Or space travel, by the Cold War. It’s do or die that produces the edifices of human Greatness that last to face the dusk of time, not do as you wish.
“People generally rather complain than get involved. And if they would get involved with something, it is only once they directly experience that this thing affects their immediate self-interest.”
Like “I think, therefore I am” was the primal principle, the founding stone, of Descartes’ thought, the above statement can be said to be Machiavelli’s. It is True, and once acknowledged as such, it shows how Kant’s categorical imperative is useless. After all we already admitted people can’t see past their own nose, so how could they ever oversee whether some action they are about to perform could be acceptable in a kingdom of infinitely entangled ends?
Kant may have said: “Always treat others as goals in themselves, and when you act, do it according to a principle of conduct that you would agree with if it were made into an eternal law,” which is the categorical imperative. And against that I quote The Prince: “Because there is such a vast difference between how people live, and how they ought to live, that someone who neglects what one does for something one should do, faces his demise rather than his success. Because a man who always and at any cost proves himself good, will inevitably perish at the hands of so many who are not good.” Clearly the golden rule of Kant is not proof to masochism and sadomasochists; such individuals appreciate doing and receiving pain. Therefore they would find it agreeable that doing and receiving pain would be made into a general and eternal law.
If I would live in consistent accordance with Kant’s principle, then someone would start mustering my services for his own cause while pretending to see me as a goal in myself, but discard me the moment I would no longer be necessary to that person. That way such persons would work their way up in society, expanding their influence by surrounding themselves with wealth and prestige, using the naive followers of Kant as steps. And eventually we find such persons introducing policies that alter the public spirit.
“People generally rather complain than get involved. And if they would get involved with something, it is only once they directly experience that this thing affects their immediate self-interest,” explains why the philosophy of Communism must inevitably deteriorate into severe despotism, where no action is performed unless directly governed by the lash. After all, these enthusiasts start out from the ideal of an autonomous community where everyone voluntarily supplies labour to supply for the needs of others. Yet people’s natural inertia is only overcome once self-interest is directly in peril. Which means they will be inclined to let others work harder than themselves. Until of course all the reservoirs have been depleted, when base poverty will be the bottom line. They will work, but they will not put as much effort behind their work as they expect from their comrades. From that it follows that the only way to avoid sheer poverty is to constantly remind the workers that not working will result in immediate pain.
(On a side note, Marx argued that the modes of production were the base of the economy, and thus of the whole society, and that Idealism really played no role of importance. He held it to be just a secondary consequence of Hegel’s bourgeois philosophy. Against this, it can be said that productive work can be ensured by the crack of the whip, but True innovation springs form Inspired Idealism and genuine motivation, such as Einstein’s drive to understand the workings of the universe. Idealism, culture and attitude are therefore not the superstructure of World Civilizations, but form their base.)
Marx’ aim was to entrust the means of production to the workers, so that they would create a self-supplying community in which they’d have plenty of time left to devote to self-elevating activities. Like the Marxists, Ayn Rand was foolish in this aspect too. She thought that by freeing people from non-voluntary control, they would use their time to advance knowledge and deepen their cultural awareness. This is nonsense. Instead they will generally use their time to watch garbage on television. The masses appreciate Ayn Rand’s ‘hero’, the industrial-scientist-entrepreneur who single-handedly worked himself up to power and fame without government interference, for the wealth they produce. After all without them, they wouldn’t have ghettoblasters and sportcars, but they are alien to their stance in life, like they are opposed to that of Einstein. “Someone who neglects what one does for something one should do, faces his demise rather than his success.” They take advantage of the ‘heroes’ by enjoying the goods their research provides, but secretly they envy and mock their studious commitment. If you obtain a perfect score in some test, the cute girl you helped with her test-preparation might say “well done”, but she won’t date you, because she will consider you a serious guy she could never have a laugh with.
Einstein wore socks of two different colours because the revelations emanating from his mind unveiled themselves on a higher plane, too enthralling to even notice the socks. If he had not risen in status because he was recruited by some government struggling with the threat of conquest from outside, people would have laughed at his confused ramblings. If he had entered a bar and had tried to converse about the subject, people would have thrown beer into his face since the quest for True understanding of the universe is for them unpopular theoretical garbage.
Quite simply, if you were like the heroes Ayn Rand describes in her novels, you couldn’t even pick up a girl at a bar. Okay, granted – by hiding the intimidating Greatness of your thoughts behind a mask of empty charm, sure, you could. But she would be a “gold digger” and you would soon grow bored of her shallowness. With Hobbes, Rand shared the idea that absence of strain was the highest end attainable to man. But where Hobbes was moved by the idea that the nature of things is war and that man was a wolf, Rand thought that (absolute) Freedom would drive all things to the best of their ability. This stance betrays her assumption that the nature of the universe is fundamentally good, so that by taking away compulsion and strain all things automatically drift towards where they must be, and find their proper place within this cosmic order.
This vision, however, leaves no room for the tragic or the unfitting – the misplaced. It denies the essence of the misplaced as such. The inability for a man of Great vision to connect with contemporary women on a genuine level, due to the encroachment of shallowness and social atomism upon society. Now that is tragedy. It’s a part of life that can’t be mended, or wished away, or remade. No amount of Freedom can correct this, since a daily life lead in absence of strain, yet without a genuine intimate mutual human connection, can’t be classified as True Liberty. This is a part of life that’s fundamentally broken, misplaced, and it demands recognition as such. Best thing a contemporary hero-genius can do today is to visit a bar and try to hit on a girl, while keeping his ambitious idealism unbeknownst to her. He might be lucky and have sex, but he will never have intimacy. And he will have to watch out for beer being thrown in his face.