The technician represents the final elevation of human consciousness to a position of control. He wields the new magic, technology, and by his membership in the secret society of those who know how things work, is given power over others, who he views as inferior to himself.
He must constantly assert, for example, how simple certain technologies are. Once you know the principle, you see, it is all very simple. That is, if you have learned all of the background material and tools and are comfortable with the environment, which most people are not. Therein lies the key to his power: he has mastered what makes others uncomfortable, and therefore, his incentive is to make it even more uncomfortable.
As a result, the successful geek or nerd specializes in telling us how simple technologies are while making them as alien, awkward, counter-intuitive and joyless as possible. This protects his secret world in which he is master by driving everyone else out, sort of like a bacteria producing ammonia to ensure that it alone can enjoy a food source that it has poisoned for every other type of life-form.
Through this power — and he experiences it as power — he elevates something other than intellect. He mistakes it for his will, but really it is his personality’s desire for stability. Much as our thoughts tend to ratchet between fully coherent and stable and incoherent and threatening, our personalities contain a mental model of the world which is carefully constructed to assert order and reason to everything around us. We feel a sensation of power (but not power itself) when we are able to control the world in consistency with our model, reinforcing our perceptions and eliminating doubt, ambiguity, risk and uncertainty.
Among nerds, this power is most highly realized — and most specific. They have no power on the playing field, or the battlefield, and most likely not in social circles, but they have power over the secret world of gadgets and how to shape the behavior of others by using them. A nerd can make his gadget lower garage doors halfway so people must crawl under them, call a SWAT team to your house in the night, or delete your credit record. It makes him feel like a King for a day.
The problem with technology is that this mentality becomes infectious. People who work with technology are both exhausted by the sheer weight of tedium and detail-oriented memorization they must undertake, and also possessed of a desire to humble or humiliate others with their power. As a result, they set up illogical models which are deliberately inhuman because this gives the most power to the nerd.
Consider how inhuman our gadgets are — and not in the good way that is emotionless logic:
‘[B]eeps are one of the most stressful noises humans can be exposed to.’ She explains: ‘The human brain is designed to respond to sound. Every time it hears a sound, it is deciding whether there is a danger, or whether this sound is something you need to pay attention to, and how to react.
…Lisa says that single tones, such as beeps, are called tonal sounds and ‘go through our brains like a laser beam’. They are difficult to ignore even when not very loud.
‘Not only might the brain not easily understand what the sound is, it also finds it hard to tell where the sound is coming from,’ she adds. ‘This causes the release of stress hormones.’
Who on earth would design something in this way? Let us return to the heart of geek power, the laboratory.
There, all is divided into procedures. The procedure for using a microwave, for example, is that the user reads the manual, inserts food, and then goes to sit in a rest area until it is done. When they hear the beep, signifying that the food is done, they return to the laboratory test kitchen and extract it from the gadget, then eat it right away.
The nerds who run the department have a concern: what if the person becomes distracted? Well, we had better make the device beep every fifteen seconds until they come get the food — because, you see, in our laboratory there is only one activity, and that is using a microwave. Everything else in life is forgotten. We are here to microwave, and so if the user becomes distracted, well, what the heck is wrong with them? Force the idiots to get back in here and get their food. Control their behavior.
It is for their own good, after all. The food might get cold.
But when every gadget is designed this way, soon you have an army of egotistical gadgets who are all screaming for your attention, creating a cacophony:
Indeed, research has shown that beeping hospital machines actually slow down patient recovery.
American research has also found – alarmingly – that staff can become so desensitised to alarms they don’t react in emergencies. Schools have found that pupils also find it hard to concentrate when there is a lot of background noise.
…‘John Lewis did some research that found that more than 50 per cent of people wanted their household appliances to be less noisy ,which is why they have just started marking quieter machines with a special “Quiet Mark” label.’
And welcome to the nerd non-solution. Being masters of details, they will never redesign the system from the ground up, so they instead add optional sanity as a luxury purchase item. If you would like sanity with your device, buy this special kind of device, they say, which is like saying, “If you insist on defying our authority, here is a short bus device for you to use so we know you are retarded.”
If nerds and geeks wonder why they get punched in the mouth on a regular basis, this attitude — this pretense, this unwarranted arrogance — could well explain it.
Unfortunately our whole society is based on this pretense: that every action occurs in a vacuum, that humans can control outcomes, and that our superior intellect (monkey howl goes here) enables us to anticipate every situation. This makes us into permanently pretentious, manipulative people with a pathology that insists on subjugating reality to what is mentally convenient for us.
The ancients saw this as hubris, the root form of evil. When mankind thinks he is above reality, the apple that God designates as forbidden becomes a temptation, or an otherwise sane man insists on baiting the gods with knowledge of how he has deceived them. The human drive to feel the sensation of power creates this impetus. The “individualism” commonly lamented in my writings is a form of hubris, one that is inherent to the human consciousness.
When nerds look at civilization, they see something that they can “manage” with rules, incentives and punishments, forgetting that people will not be in a laboratory and will simply change the definition of those things to suit themselves, just like they selectively interpret everything else. Nerds cannot believe life is beyond their control and handy little mental formulations like that.
Now that Western civilization has shown its failure, and democracy being the late stage of that has revealed its toxicity, people go questing for “new” ideas. If they can claim an idea is new, it means they did not overlook perfectly decent options out of a sense of personal pretense; instead, they have discovered what everyone else did not know, and this makes them feel profound and brilliant.
In reality, the human animal and the questions of civilization — leadership, culture, incentives and non-tangible goals — have been known for nearly 6,000 years. Nothing is a mystery. The only question is whether we accept life for what it is, and adopt the time-honored practices that have always worked best, or keep looking for novelty in order to flatter our pathological need for the sensation of power.
Longtime readers know that the magical formula for restoration of the West — aristocracy, nationalism, capitalism and transcendental experience — becomes controversial in any group because almost everyone objects to one of its pillars. Let us look into capitalism.
Your task is to design a country. You have two basic choices for economies: you can let the economy sort itself out through the actions of individuals, or you can set up a power structure to command it. This most importantly functions in assessing how many or how much of each product or resource will be available at any given location.
Implicitly, the “free market” option is reward-based: where reward exists, someone will find a way to meet it, and so — this is the bottom line — the need will be met. It may be more wasteful than an absolutely ideal system, and it creates rich people along the way, but it ensures that needs are met. This means that its weakness is everything else.
The “command economy” option however is punishment-based. Central command sets up targets; you either do that, or something bad will happen to you, because there is not a reward structure in place. This mirrors the fundamental problems of all subsidy states, which is that performance above the minimal becomes optional while ideological compliance becomes mandatory.
From that view, it becomes hard to want to adopt a command economy because free markets work. That does not mean they are without problems. In particular, Free Northerner picks up on the problems of a broken reward structure:
The current socio-economic system is designed by rootless, soulless, high-IQ, low-time preference, money-/status-grubbing homo economicus for benefit of those same homo economicus. It is a system for designed for intelligent sociopaths. Those who are rootless with high-IQ and low-time preference can succeed rather well in this system, but it destroys those who need rootedness or those who are who are low-IQ or high time preference.
What makes these people powerful? Others want to buy their products. How was this accomplished, through voodoo or hypnotism? No, through the inherent tendencies of a herd of humans. So, we have created a false elite of people whose success results from their popularity with the largest segment of our society, the clueless and neurotic quasi-competents who make up most of our species.
In this, there is a weakness in capitalism: unless the audience is controlled, it will create a demand for products that match its (moronic) level of taste and ability. The result is not Wal-mart, but McDonald’s: for the price of a pound of beef at the grocery store, you get a half-pound burger made mostly of soy, but there are celebrities and cartoon characters drawn on the bag and thirty-two ounces of flavored carbonated sugar water!
Contrast that to the 1930s, where everything was more elevated. What was the difference? The buying power was in the hands of the upper castes. Is it surprising, then, that the commercial elements of our society wanted it to grow and to become bottom-heavy? No: they wanted the easy audience to expand, marginalizing the hard audience, who now find that 99.99% of what they encounter in public is insufficient for their needs.
Capitalism has always revealed the queasy relationship between proles and commercial interests. Commerce loves morons because they will pay high markups for cheap items rebranded with novelty, popularity or self-image boosters. Proles love commerce because it makes them feel powerful; someone finally cares what their opinions are. Commerce requires them, in a bondage-style relationship, and for their dollars, it gives them control. They can command what product thrives and what dies. They can tell someone else what to do. They have power.
In that way, capitalism is in their view a replacement for social order. Social order ranks people above one another; with capitalism, all are equal, provided they have dollars in their little fists. Even more, in this form, capitalism works as an equalizer, reducing all to the same level as consumers of the same products. This is why even our wealthiest end up drinking soft drinks and eating fast food: whatever becomes available and succeeds, quickly crowds out everything else.
Capitalism becomes suicidal through this process. Whatever succeeds generates clones, and then the market must kill them off. The race downward means that at some point, innovation is killed and replaced by a circular pursuit of customers who are the least discerning, eventually creating the type of economic curve we see in the third world: a few companies own nearly everything, nothing new is invented, and most small businesses are marginal.
There’s another problem with capitalism of this sort. Like other forms of demotism, including peer pressure and democracy, it cripples decision-making, as libertarian sources notice:
What about Americans’ right to “preserve their culture”? I’m tempted to call it the nativist version of a “safe space,” but cultural preservation is far more totalitarian. A “safe space” is but an enclave – a small corner of the world where politically-correct norms prevail. To “preserve a culture,” in contrast, requires a whole country to impose traditional norms on everyone. And this is crazy: You don’t even have the right to force your culture on your adult children, much less millions of strangers.
The problem with libertarianism is its liberal heritage. “Classical liberals,” like liberals today, believed in the rule of equality and the “invisible hand” of markets and popularity which would choose the best. This is just not so, and if anything, the herd always chooses the worst and does so on the basis of the individual, which precludes any social change that is not optional just like performance under socialism.
So why do I support capitalism?
For two reasons: first, it works and the option fails every time; second, no System of any form can be trusted to run a society by itself. There are no “invisible hands.” There need to be highly visible hands, namely strong leaders and strong culture. The other three in the magic bullet list — aristocracy, nationalism, and transcendental goals — take care of that. Nationalism protects a group so that it can have culture at all. Aristocracy creates good leaders. Transcendental guidance places the fancy world of shiny material objects far away and focuses on the existential quality of life instead.
In fact, the best thing about aristocracy — which necessarily includes a caste system — is that it arrests the endless quest for growth and social mobility, replacing it with stability. As Anomaly UK predicts:
The key point is that nobody in the system has the aim of destroying society. That is an incidental byproduct of the competition for power.
The competition for power, not power itself, is what corrupts. When power exists, it is either in the hands of the good or not. That is easily fixed. But a condition of endless competition for power corrupts everything, including capitalism. Millennials and others should note that our current “capitalism” is far from being capitalistic, having been merged with the welfare state, and also lacks these forces above it. Our crisis is of that making, not capitalism.
Your grandmother may have told you that “birds of a feather flock together.” You probably ignored it. Folk wisdom was for old people, you thought, perhaps, and it was not very clear. What do these gnomic, naturalistic-metaphor sayings mean anyway? You moved off to the city.
Fifteen years later, you’re noticing that your neighbors look like you, earn like you and have similar tastes. How did that happen? You wanted to escape your white-bread, one-note suburb or small town. As it turns out, people naturally segregate without meaning to:
In Schelling’s model, individuals prefer to have some similar neighbours, but they do not discriminate against different neighbours – in short, they are tolerant. If individuals are unhappy with their neighbourhood, they can freely move to a neighbourhood with a more preferable composition.
In the example below, the yellow individual is unhappy about her assigned location because she does not have enough yellow neighbours, so she decides to move to a new neighbourhood. But when she moves, the composition of both her old and new neighbourhoods change. As a result, an old yellow neighbour and a new blue neighbour also decide to move.
This causes a domino effect that leads neighbourhoods to separate into yellow and blue ghettos. In the end, although no single individual prefers it, everyone ends up in segregated neighbourhoods.
What you are seeing is evolution in action. Within a group, different subgroups form; each of those has its own way of doing things. Those then separate and isolate so that they can improve those methods of doing things without interference by other groups. They are not acting against the others; they are acting in self-interest, and for the best interests of future generations. And so, in an inverse of the Tragedy of the Commons, the groups separate as if by a saltation process like sorts the stones in the river. A new order prevails, despite the human desire for power that makes us wish otherwise.
For leftists, other people exist not as means to an end but as tools for the achievement of the perfect project, like “Lawn of the Month” but far more iconoclastic. Leftists seek power above everything else and for that reason they embrace an ideology which says they deserve power and must use others to create it.
I am speaking of “equality” which is a paradoxical notion by design. When someone says they want us all to be equal, what they real mean is that they want to be equal, which is another way of saying “never wrong.” If they do something crazy, they cannot be criticized because “that’s just like, your opinion, man” because every act is only an opinion. No one is better than them if all actions are equal, and no one bad.
Equality sounds like a collectivist notion, and yet it is an individualist one. But wait, there’s more: individualist notions are inherently collectivist because the individual can only get power through the acts of a large group of people, so individualists unite into big needy sticky balls that roll through civilization demanding equality.
Ye are not other men, but my arms and my legs; and so obey me.—Where’s the whale? (423)
This is the secret to liberalism behind which it hides. It pretends to be a mass movement dependent on the individual when really it is an individual movement dependent on the the masses, who serves as its implements. Each person in the crowd is using every other and, in the time-honored nature of mobs, is relying on safety in numbers and hoping not to be the rare sacrifice who pays the price symbolically for the mob.
Currently Europe is about to self-deconstruct because its voters have momentarily risen from their slumber upon noticing thousands of jihadis pretending to be refugees so they can subjugate the brain-dead Europe, starting with a campaign of impregnation (and, apparently, pool defecation). The voters are stunned; they did not vote for this! How can it be?
Let me explain:
You, dear voters, are not the recipients. The recipients are your leaders.
This means you are the tools through which they create what they receive. That is your taxes and the power you can convey.
But we receive more than we give! they say, referring to their social benefits, forgetting that what they receive also contains a negative quantum, namely the debt factor. Socialism works by convincing Useful Idiots (UIs) to be selfish so they vote themselves a share of Other People’s Money (OPM), at which point socialists stay in power forever and when the money runs out… they borrow! Europeans talk proudly of how their social systems “work,” but they get nervous when someone points out that every one of their nations is deep in debt and failing to reproduce. That is not the result of happiness. That is misery disguised as having free stuff and thinking it makes up for having a functional nation.
EU-ites are also fond of talking about “Americanization” which is simply their way of insisting that an American be involved in order for changes to be bad. In reality, Americanization is the process by which national cultures are replaced by the proposition nation, in which the country is united by political/economic methods instead of culture and heritage. When the EU imports millions of raging mujahiedeen and calls it refugee immigration not an invasion, their goal is to Americanize Europe by removing its national cultures.
That means no Germans, no French, no Dutch and no Austrians. Just international citizens who happen to live in the European state market with a political boundary which is mostly arbitrary anyway. If you are Zambian in the morning, you can be German by nightfall! Europe, which is very proud of its national cultures, is naturally resisting this.
And yet they have forgotten: the goal is not doing things for them, but using them to do things. They are the dolls in Ms. Merkel’s dollhouse, the arms and legs of Ahab, and to the average liberal, merely convenient warm bodies in the crowd who follow instructions blindly for the promise of “equality.” They vote for the promises, but the results turn out differently, because the goal was never to serve them but seize power, wealth and control from them.
The voters never understand this. They assume that they are in a neighborhood shop with a THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT needlepoint sign behind the register. No: they are in the realm of con men because the only rule in democracy is to get votes. Those who succeed at it go up there and promise the moon, using OPM, so the UIs pull that lever and transfer power.
Years later the voters are stunned at all the other stuff that happened. Why didn’t the nice salesman mention these? Oh: he has no obligation to. It’s the small print, dummy. And even more, he has no obligation to do anything. Promises are just advertising with the caveat that nothing ever really gets done, at least not to change direction. It’s all the same direction in slow steady compromise toward oblivion.
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous – why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind.
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows – a colorless, all- color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues – every stately or lovely emblazoning – the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge – pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino Whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? (193-194)
And with that, we come full circle. The point of democracy is to give the individual power which, like the white whale, they pursue to feel in control of lives that are mostly mystery and not flattering to the ego. In groups these people take over and then put horrible, cynical opportunists at the helm. Then they go on to ruin everything with the slow process of compromise to the lowest common denominator, which yields Americanization.
What Europe is awakening to is a taboo thought. They are realizing that as long as equality and democracy are in play, politicians will always find enough UIs — and remember UIs outnumber sane people 4-to-1 or more — to make promises to them and get in power, at which point they will resume the agenda of destroying national identity and replacing it with Americanization. Like Ahab, they are obsessed; this power is how they stave off knowledge of death and insignificance, and how they make themselves wealthy and powerful despite vast inner doubt.
America is awakening to the same thing as well. We all know what the Bell Curve looks like; there are more people who are easily fooled than those who take a second look. And so, any time there is an election, sense and wisdom lose. The UIs carry the day and then find someone else to blame when it works out poorly. But either way, it still happened!
Europe has so far refused to face the grim truth of reality which is that through our quest for power, we have become like Ahab. We The People must have power… we must use it to banish any mention of parts of reality that do not flatter us… we use others to this end, and if we must sacrifice a few, who cares? We have achieved our goal using others, which makes us the smart ones… right?
But this psychology cannot last. The shocked faces of Europeans who insist they never voted for this will give way in time to strong leaders, whether benevolent or not remaining a factor of how badly the decay hits before we transition away from democracy. History has made it clear however: democracy and equality are dead men walking, and with each rape and attack in Europe, that is becoming more clear to the sailors on that doomed ship.
Thanks to a five decade association between the two in the West, environmentalism and liberalism seem to be joined at the hip. This was not always so, and the original “green” movement would never have approved of what liberalism has converted it into.
Green criticisms of liberalism start with the realization that liberal policies create results contrary to green interests. Liberalism, based in appearance of intent more than consequences, will counter that it wants to help green interests by adding them to its agenda. Unfortunately the rest of the agenda contradicts those green interests.
If we are serious at all about reversing ecocide, our thinking will direct itself as keeping population low so that most of the land can remain in its natural state and not be over-exploited. Since pre-technological times, humans have exterminated species and created wastelands by the simple presence of too many humans. Overfishing arises from a need (and a financial opportunity) to feed more people. The same is true of cutting down the forests which absorb most of our pollution and return to us fresh oxygen.
Even the global warming debate entirely misses this point. What could reverse the presence of atmospheric carbon? Millions of acres of trees absorbing it, for starters. But we as humans follow our individual desires, which means that if we can sign the dotted line for the loan to get the suburban house, developers will bulldoze another thousand acres and make a subdivision. Then, since those developers need to stay employed, they will find more people who might want such housing and offer it to them at a lower rate. Like most things human, our tool has now become our master.
Ideally — from an environmentalist perspective — humans would view nature as an equal partner because we depend on it for air, water and food. Creating nature as an equal partner however would require us setting aside half of the land for nature alone and leaving it in its pristine state, much as happened when aristocrats owned exclusive hunting preserves. This would require humans to leave half of all of the continents in their natural state in all ecosystems and climactic types, not just the ones we cannot use for suburbs. This alone would reverse alleged global warming and ecocide. It would also directly obstruct leftist objectives such as immigration, welfare and social mobility.
Naturally this offends our tail-wags-dog modern myth that (economic) growth is essential. Instead of creating growth by creating new opportunity, like space travel or new technologies, humans have opted to create growth by population surge which produces more dependents and thus strengthens our ability to enforce control through public opinion. Against this I raise an example from literature.
In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien writes about a mysterious ring that essentially dominates the minds of those who possess it. Many theories have been written about the ring and what it symbolizes, including that it is a metaphor for technology or even language itself. I suggest that Tolkien told us exactly what the ring meant: it is referred to as “the ring of power,” and power is what it wields. We might describe power as meaning the ability to control without a natural parallel, or power for its own sake. This separates the type of power the ring wields, which is a freedom from natural consequences, from the might of a king which involves nurturing what exists and improving its prospects. The ring allows a person to detach from the rules of nature and in secret — because its power hides them from view — doing what they wish for themselves alone.
Power is the ability to control others, to grow civilization and to have wealth and money. By going down this path we enter into an age of things for their own sake: economy for its own sake, military strength for its own sake, control of citizens for that purpose alone. This detaches power from its objects and makes it an isolated commodity that can be sought to fill the void in our souls rather than to create that which might do so. This power represents a fundamental truth of civilization as a managed, directed process: it’s a trap.
Civilization kills populations. Where the reign of kings provides a stable life, civilization inevitably advances for its own sake. Almost no one will be willing to argue against “benefits” to society at large that come from expanding its power. And so people stop pursuing quality of life and start pursuing power itself. They can be wealthier and stronger by expanding civilization and so they do it; they can control nature and others with technology and so they exploit it. Civilization leads people into power at which point they become reckless because the only standard is what pleases other people by telling them what they want to hear. But that, too, is power; the oldest form of power is the nocturnal mob assembled to force a single issue on others and retreat in anonymity before daylight makes the consequences known.
By the nature of trying to please its citizens in order to create power, civilization becomes oppressive. Success at manipulating others is a salesman’s game, a merchant Reich. And yet it improves nothing, but the human ego prefers feeling strong to knowing that life will turn out well. What humans need is not growth but stability, safety not chaotic but “interesting” social life, and freedom from worry instead of liberty to engage in self- and socially-destructive behaviors. Power contradicts all of these needs because it must make people subservient, much as the forces of Mordor do in The Lord of the Rings, and thus compel them to need their leaders. This enables leaders to use these people as fodder for power, whether growing industry, war or simply making them neurotic and automatically obedient.
We should look at our human needs first and then make our methods serve those. We need less time at the job and more time making our families stable and happy. Kids need mothers at home and safe neighborhoods. These do not happen with political objectives which are the root of power. They happen when culture values sanity over power and we put leaders in charge who can restrain us from our own impulse control issues. Otherwise, like fat people with gift cards at a donut shop, we become our own worst enemy.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” they told me in high school, with stern expressions to let me know I had been exposed to profundity.
I have a different supposition: Power is a virus. If not taken out of the hands of individuals and directed toward some abstract but realistic goal like the growth of a civilization, power serves only itself — but it does so through the individualism and self-importance of unorganized people.
This is where politics leaves politics itself, because now we’re talking about the nature of power, not values (right, left) or manipulation (compromise, spin, ideology). We’re talking about how the human herd organizes itself, and not what it intends, but what corrupts its intention.
Now, all of this is out the window if power has a goal. Power with a goal is a three way switch — did it: (a) come closer to achieving the goal, (b) move farther away from the goal, or (c) do nothing? For all practical purposes, #b and #c are so close together that they get measured the same way. This is what holds power in check; comparison to the objective.
However, where there is no goal or only a vague maintenance-style goal like we have in the modern west, power has nothing to check it. Like a government employee or non-profit, it has no measurement of its success or failure; it just is. It keeps meeting its own internal goals, and so it assumes it is OK.
Wherever this kind of power goes, it expands. This can be a volunteer group, a friend group, a government, a non-profit, a corporation or even one aspect of your own mind. Once power exists, and has no outlet (goal), it starts working to further itself — because if it doesn’t do that, or stagnates, it declines (options #b and #c above).
Bureaucratic institutions never get smaller, only bigger. When a need arises, a bureaucracy is created. It begins addressing that need. Unless it can fix the situation immediately, it sets in for the long haul. At this point, it starts working to perpetuate itself. The situation is removed, and replaced by internal goals and external appearances.
Each year, the bureaucracy needs to find a way to justify itself. It can almost never do that by pointing to what it has been doing all this time and saying, “Yep, we’re just doing the same stuff, year after year.” People mistake that for option #c, stagnation, even though for most non-immediately-solvable problems the answer is to keep doing the same stuff that is known to ameliorate them, or do nothing about them and design around them (this is difficult).
As a result, the bureau must come out with a new initiative ever year. It’s doing that to defend the jobs of the people who work for it. A consequence of this however is mission creep, or the tendency to keep tacking on new goals as “sub-items” of whatever ostensible goal it was founded to have.
This means that every year, the bureau gets bigger, hires more people, and does more stuff. This is a form of entropy because it is becoming less organized, less effective, and more likely to be internally “gamed” by people who are fulfilling its internal demands, which are a step removed from actually addressing the problem. If the managers are check-writers are happy, the organization has succeeded; the actual problem is a secondary concern.
You might then ask, why does government turn leftist over time, and why are most government agencies leftist in outlook? The answer is that barring agencies which deal with specific reality-based concerns, like economics or the military, government agencies need to perpetuate themselves.
Conservative politics favor results over intentions, and as a result, will never expand government or give infinite job security to its employees. Conservatives are neither pro-government or anti-government, but favor the right tool for the job. The minority of problems are best served with permanent government agencies, hence most people see conservatives as “anti-government,” even though that’s illogical in a government-based system.
The result is that government turns leftist because leftists favor intentions over results. Intentions are what bureaus do best; they announce the new initiative, hire more people and spend more money, and when the problem goes unsolved, they haul out their mission document and show they’ve met their internal targets, even if their external ones went unaddressed.
Leftism builds more government. It allows government to justify itself by intention, and thus to grow itself. Power is a virus, and it is expressed by finding more dependents that require it so that it cannot be removed. This is a fundamentally defensive strategy.
Think about government welfare programs. When does the number of welfare recipients decrease? Never, if the welfare program can help it. If the number drops, so does the number of employees, the budget, the perks, and the job security. So any welfare program will find new dependents every year and if they aren’t there, it will invent them by expanding its mission. If society ever runs out of poor, the welfare agencies will quickly expand to covering people with mental stress, exhaustion, compulsive masturbation, etc.
Power likes to be leftist and have good intentions because that lets it expand. This seems to be why all governments except monarchies quickly plummet into oblivion. Even the totalitarians come to love their dependents, and soon they have converted society into a trough with no visible means of support. Shortly after that, the bill comes due, and it collapses.
One fine fall day, a massive grumbling from the stomach split the silent morning. The cells on break time were hanging loose at their favorite watering hole, a looped vein near the pyloric sphincter that tended to accumulate abundant nutrients. And, as usual, the talk turned to the lack of a comfortable living in the support tissues.
“I’ve really had it with all of this,” said an epithelial cell. “We do all the hard work, and the heart and brain are just kickin’ back and living the fine life.”
“It’s true,” spoke up a swarthy intestinal lining cell. “Who picks the nutrients out of the food? Me, all day long. And I see none of it.”
“You guys think you have it bad,” said a muscle cell. Muscle cells generally did not grumble as they tended to get more oxygen than organs. “I used to have a steady flow, every day. Now some days, I’m gasping.”
A lone nerve cell sparked up a cigarette and tossed in her two cents. “There hasn’t been as much food lately,” she cautioned. “Everyone gets less. The brain is trying to find us more food.”
A hubbub bubbled up and drowned her out.
“More food?” raged the intestinal lining cell. “We’ve got enough, we just need to spread it around a bit more. The brain is 2.8% of the body weight, but uses 20.37% of its energy. That’s just too much.”
“You know, you’re right,” said a pancreatic cell. “If we divided up the nutrients evenly, there would be no more strife. No more wars. No more social classes. We could live in harmony forevermore.”
A roar of approval shot forth from the undifferentiated tissue.
“What a paradise it could be,” said a comely young liver cell. “Everyone living for love, living in peace, doing what they need to do, you know, discovering themselves.”
Suddenly the cells felt themselves being crowded. An armored line of immune cells faced them down. “Break it up! Go back to your places!” megaphones boomed.
“Fascists!” screamed a longhaired prostate cell, flinging intracellular waste at them. The immune cells wrestled him to the ground and punched him repeatedly.
The lead immune cell faced the crowd. “Listen, we’ve got a social order here. If you break it, chaos results. If you make it too lenient, everyone works more to accomodate everyone else. We have to all work toward the same goal or civilization falls apart.”
Two surly and bearded kidney cells detached from the back cell wall and began to wander among the crowd, murmuring. One of them sold out copies of his magnum opus, “Harmonistics: Vector Analysis of Class Disparities and The One True Solution, Equiveinous Unitivism.” Silently they tossed droplets of adrenaline among the angriest, thinnest, meanest and dumbest cells.
Soon pancreatic cells were squirting insulin into the crowd, inflaming the mood. Someone blasted loose a packet of sex hormones and the crowd went wild. The immune cells were quickly overwhelmed and disarmed.
“The revolution begins today,” howled a scruffy adrenal cell. “For too long, the 2.8% has dominated the rest and made us its slaves.”
The crowd cheered.
“For too long, the 2.8% has divided us by organs and tissue types. They have divided us against each other! For the truth is, we are all brothers and together we can make a new and better life.”
The crowd cheered.
“For too long, the 2.8% has made us unequal, which is unnatural. We are known only by our homeostatic function, and that ranks us for nutrients. In our new world, we will be individuals of no cell type and no rank. We will all be equal. The brain cell and the liver cell shall come together and not be nerve cell and smooth cell, but a new type of cell, the undifferentiated cell, a citizen at large.”
The crowd cheered.
“For too long, the 2.8% has denied that we are individuals. Without our cell types, and our homeostatic rank, we will join hands in equal brotherhood. We are here because we are individuals, and as individuals, we want to be equal. Are you individuals?”
“YES, WE ARE INDIVIDUALS,” the crowd roared.
The kidney cell cast a sly look at his cohort, who nodded. Sales of the pamphlet were going well. Whatever happened, these two kidney cells were going to retire to luxury on desireable bloodstream-front property in the appendix, the most desired neighborhood.
“Onward with the revolution!” he shouted.
The crowd surged forth and made good on their plans. First, they set up a space in the prostate for a prototype of the new society. They called it the Free Zone. There were no rules. Everything was divided equally. People worked when they felt like it. For a few months, it was ideal.
Over time, however, the cells began grumbling again. It seemed that not all cells wanted to work at all, and some cells just made a hash of it when they had to do certain things. But every time the grumbling reached a peak, the kidney cells were there, tossing free nutrients into the crowd.
“We don’t need leaders,” said a scruffy kidney cell. “We’ll just vote on what we want to do.” It was hard to get consensus, because almost everyone had a suggestion, and soon there was chaos. The kidney cells never seemed to mind. It was as if they encouraged the crowd to get louder, and more disorganized, and then laughed and disappeared when the votes turned out inconclusive.
Soon the Free Zone grew. The new cells abandoned their tissue types, and shared DNA freely with each other. They became individuals, which from a distance looked like cells with no particular purpose, or undifferentiated tissue. Everyone loved the Free Zone because there were no rules. Soon it grew and grew.
At this point, the revolution spread to other organs as well. Free Zones began cropping up in the liver, the pancreas, the intestines and even finally, the brain. Throughout the body, the old way — having leadership and hierarchy — fell in favor of the Free Zones and their new way of doing things.
The young liver cell was ecstatic. Finally, they had crushed the oppression that had kept her and her family down for all these years. They had broken the barriers between tissue types. Everyone was equal. Everything was perfect.
But problems remained. The Free Zone in the intestines was blocking the absorption of nutrients, so there was less to go around. A vote was taken, and it was decided to cut back the amount of food the brain received. This seemed to work for a few days, and then the number of injuries skyrocketed, as if the brain was completely out of its mind.
“The brain has declared war on us,” raged a kidney cell. “We have been attacked and must defend ourselves. And while we’re at it, we should just replace this brain with elections. We don’t need a brain anymore. It’s no smarter than we are. Because we are individuals! Are you individuals?”
“YES, WE ARE INDIVIDUALS!” shouted the crowd.
The Free Zone in the brain expanded until it took over most of that organ. The injuries stopped almost entirely — in fact, it was as if the body were not in motion at all. Nutrients arrived on a regular basis, as did pleasing television and morphine.
“We’ve really got it made now,” one of the intestinal cells jostled his comrade, as they made the long walk around the Free Zone that now took up most of the intestine.
Only one disturbing event marred the solicitude of the new perfect empire. An injury that was totally unexpected occurred; the nerve cells were on drugs of some kind, and didn’t do their duty reporting back. “Whatever, we’re all equal now,” they called back. But the Free Zone in the liver was almost totally destroyed!
“This is the work of the brain’s lackeys,” said the kidney cells. “We honor our fallen comrades. Now, who wants some more free nutrients?”
The attacks continued however. One day they all awoke from a drugged stupor and found the original Free Zone in the prostate had been destroyed. A few days later, the muscles reported new toxins in the bloodstream.
Again the cells gathered in the looped vein and started their angry chatter. “Why aren’t our leaders doing something?” asked an epithelial cell.
“We have no leaders,” said an immune cell through a drugged haze. “We vote now. We’re all equal.”
“What should we do?” said the young kidney cell, who found herself alone again, her latest beau having not stayed because, all things being equal, he’d found a comely young hair follicle cell who was giving herself away.
The grumbling continued until finally the cells turned to an immune cell and demanded he bring the people accountable to justice. Shrugging, he grabbed a few of his old mates from the precinct, and they vanished. A few minutes later they returned with the bearded kidney cells, who looked hung over and like they’d been asleep — asleep in the middle of the day? — surely not.
One kidney cell looked out over the angry mob and fled immediately. The other one nervously smoothed his hair, then took the podium.
“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “You may think we are in dire straits, but we are at the moment of our greatest triumph. This morning, advance units of our revolutionary guard have stationed themselves in the heart and the remaining unconquered areas of the brain.”
The crowd murmured.
“This has been a long war, a hard war. The lackeys of the brain and heart have destroyed many Free Zones, and we have suffered under their injustices many times. But those were the last times. Today, we take total control.”
The murmur intensified.
“We are no longer separated by tissue types. We are all equal. And with the Free Zones, we are more than that. We are individuals. This means that we do not think of ourselves by our rank in the body, and indeed we don’t have one. We are a new type of cell, an undifferentiated cell. And this means that we are all one.”
The crowd roared.
“Yes, my brothers and sisters, we have finally brought justice to this body. Say it with me: we are all one.”
“WE ARE ALL ONE,” the crowd shouted.
The kidney cell paused for dramatic effect. “We have overthrown the illegitimate power over us, and brought about a new age of peace and prosperity. We are all one!” Someone brought out a guitar, and the comely liver cell began a strip-tease dance on the stage behind the podium.
“WE ARE ALL ONE,” the crowd shouted, but a new noise began to drown them out. The regular beat of the heart had become erratic and confused. Shocked looks filled the crowd. At the front, however, the most popular of the cells — the teachers, the singers and actors, and the politicians — kept up the chant:
WE ARE ALL ONE.
WE ARE ALL ONE.
And then, the beating stopped.
“Looks like this one’s a goner,” said the doctor, removing his glasses. “We did everything we could.”
“It’s a shame,” said his partner. “Oh well, let’s clean up and get out of here. There’s an election tonight. I hope the new Equality Amendment passes.”
They left the room, silent except for the hum of a disinterested lamp.
When you were a kid, you may have been fortunate enough to have one of those tedious, blown-out old guys down the block who would always compare any current event to some distant dusty greyed-out happening in ancient times. “You know kid,” they’d rasp in those death warmed over voices, “Every time they raise gas prices, it reminds me of the Punic wars!”
Your job as a child was to make fun of them of course. That’s how you do what all children need do, which is differentiate yourself from your parents, because this is how children become self-conscious.They need that self-consciousness so that they can master it, and if they go far enough, discard most of it except the useful factual parts.
When we learn things, we have to go overboard first, and then find a moderate ground, upon which we can then heap more learning. Crotchety old men are on the far side of this cycle, which is that they sit on a heap of learning and are trying to remember back what it was like to be trying to build that mountain of knowledge. They’re upset you don’t understand how the Iraq war re-iterates things we in theory learned as a species during the Punic Wars.
They’re right but presenting themselves badly, because a raspy figure of death does not communicate reliability to the young. It communicates fear. What is missed in this lost chance for communication is a building block of understanding your world so profound that it changes the way you will view politics and society entirely. When children, we view our world like ourselves, as a linear history from birth to eventual death, and presume it to be inherent and unchangeable, a product of nature.When we get more experience, we stop seeing history as a timeline and start seeing it as a cyclic process which occurs in the linear space we call time.
Much like our own lives have birth, life, and then death, history contains similar cycles, but does not itself have them. Time is eternal. But for each entity in history this cycle persists. When we know this, we are no longer fooled by the heady propaganda from our governments, media, and moronic social partners that we are somehow “evolving” as a society. We are advancing through a life cycle which ends in death. The only thing that evolves is the design of individual humans and of course, the design of specific functions within a society.
Left to its own devices, the average civilization will cycle through its lifespan over a couple thousand years and then depart into physical, biological and intellectual ruins that resemble the results of at least a thousand years of dumbing down,compromise, palliative social placation, and of course, commerce dominating values. Is it any wonder the globe is covered with civilizations where dirt-covered people labor in ignorance at the bases of vast, impressive ruins? The original inhabitants are gone, both departed and absorbed into the remainder population.
This is what the old would tell the young if they could. It is also what great philosophers have attempted to tell us for aeons. Before we begin congratulating ourselves on one mechanism or another we have adopted to deal with the ongoing decline, we should ask ourselves: are we experiencing decline? Smart leaders and strong-willed populations can overcome this life cycle or prolong it, just like smart human beings can exercise and eat right and not become walking ruins of humanity before their time to depart this earth.
In movies it is popular to zoom out of a scene, show its larger context,and then return, with the juxtaposition (a product of time) showing how the small events of our lives are both iconic indicators of the larger cycle and contributing to it. Now that we have zoomed out from the events of our day, let us return to the Punic Wars, and the Blackwater scandal currently fading out in Iraq. What the media and government and well-meaning bloggers see is abuse of a system by a rogue mercenary company; what people with historical context (zoom enabled) see is the inevitable product of a declining empire forced to rely on mercenaries, who by definition share few of its actual values.
The real transgressions of the Blackwater people, it turns out, are more than one incident. Where US soldiers tried to blend with the population and reinforce a positive presence, for Blackwater, their contracts are a job and Iraqis are just in the way. Think of the killing of millions of buffalo, the wholesale removal of trees for replacement by concrete, or the billions of pounds of paper not recycled by businesses every year. When you’re on a job,you tacitly recognize it’s a form of control and resent it, because you’re not there as a result of agreeing with the mission. You are there for the money and because, since you’re forced to get money, you picked the least offensive career for you. But resentment is the periphery of that focus.
People at jobs (in my experience) tend to carry that chip on their shouldering a barely-hidden way that makes it even more present wherever they go. They do not act out overt aggression, but instead make thousands of tiny acts of sabotage. They borrow your stapler and don’t return it. They leave messes around the office. They accomplish only what exactly is stated in detail for any assignment, and ignore obvious implications. Job-logic is what gets us people being wasteful, and then running home without a care. Job-logic is what causes sloppiness that reaches epidemic proportions at the big corporations.
Job-logic is someone painting a floor, then storing flammable paint next to a water heater because it’s conveniently close to the door and no one told them not to. We joke at our jobs about how much we like weekends and can’t wait to escape, but under that joke is a simmering resentment which expresses itself in, “I will do what you tell me to, and not a god damn thing more,” which creates a kind of obliviousness. Our product works OK but breaks after a few months, or dumps oil on the floor?Well, we did what it said here in the Working Specification.
When an empire has to hire mercenaries to do the work that its Army cannot for political or logistical reasons do, you know the end is peeking around that next corner, and he’s winking. You know the game, he says. You fear death and death comes for you, but if you’re so goal-directed and conscientious that you seek an ideal more than you fear death, death cannot catch up to you until you are so old your body simply gives out. Our society has not found such a goal and has instead focused on making its members comfortable via material wealth and social esteem, which has made them fat,neurotic, emotional and ineffective. All they know how to do now is hire others to take care of them.
That old guy in the corner is telling you about the Punic Wars because the same thing happened to Carthage. While Rome was a virile and young civilization bustling with blondes and redheads and auburn-haired people,Carthage had become a marketplace for the dramatic international jet-setters who follow money but have no use for culture. They were a Semitic culture,formed from the intersection of Berber and Asian and Caucasian societies,and according to some accounts dyed their hair and painted their faces to excess. Carthage was like Los Angeles at its worst: ostentatious, but quick to humble someone else by pitying them and tossing aside a pittance of alms,and completely useless except for paper-shuffling, re-financializing money shuffling, desk-bound “earning money” without making anything better. In other words, a society in its final years, when it no longer has any ideals to live for.
Rome called their bluff. Unlike the Carthaginians, called Punic from the Latin term for Phoenician, the Romans were united by a common goal of power according to their ideal, and spreading that ideal through an empire.They were conditioned to practical labor as much as theory, and their theory was not landlocked by social constraints like marketing, as the Carthaginian theory was. They were rising, and Carthage was falling, and over the next three Punic Wars they proved it to the world, eventually laying siege to Carthage and literally erasing it from the map. Of course, that was before their own civilization aged, lost its consensus of ideals, and collapsed.
Despite the cries of media charlatans, Blackwater’s recent Iraq debacle is a small detail. Some guns for hire screwed up because in their job capacity there is no requirement that they care about the broader implications of what they do. So it is with all jobs, and jobs as labor without the context of ideals are a product of dying civilizations. The media is performing its job by whipping a detail into a frenzy, and at the same time, overlooking the inevitable truth of our decline. We’re all just doing our jobs, but no one is watching the overall direction on which we’re going. We can fool ourselves for a little more time by calling this progress, and in that time we can make some money and hopefully get away from the mess, so we will.
What it comes down to, when you look at civilizations as life-forms in themselves, is that there are two stages of society. In one, normally the youthful stage, the society is organic, meaning that consensus of values motivates its people toward accomplishment in accord with the ideal that represents the mental derivation that produced those values. In the other stage, usually the later, the society has become self-conscious but has not transcended that self-consciousness, so it imposes Control upon itself from some presumably absent but always oligarchically-controlled leadership faction. Conservative societies rule with a top-down order, emphasizing the production of a leadership caste, and liberal societies rule with a bottom-up order that seeks to neutralize leadership castes by empowering those at the bottom.
Both are methods of control that because they are imposed,create a job-mentality, and so do not fit the bill for saving a civilization.If we want to thrive, there is only one way, and that is by starting at the origin of leadership in a successful society, which is a mental and moral consensus according to some ideal that transcends self-consciousness. We must shoot for something that is not within the self, and is not defined within the society itself. It must be an ideal. Without such an ideal, we are like the Blackwater people just fulfilling rather frustrating jobs, and sometimes we too will freak out and shoot up the innocent from what might be sheer boredom.
In the common parlance, it is often said that power corrupts, but this generally applies to people who are personally unstable and spiritually undisciplined, and so once they escape the corset of social obligation, they act out their suppressed inner fantasies with deranged results. The flip side of power is that it teaches a form of compassion, a “tough love,” that comes from the necessity of motivating people, because motivating people is both a matter of strict external force and gentler internal reward. If you’re going to lead people into battle or business or a volunteer effort, you need to show them that their task is just and there is no other way, but also make them feel a sense of empowerment and world-remaking importance in their job, so that they see it as not only necessary but beneficient to society and self.
People are raw material. They come to you a mixed bag: they have strengths, and weaknesses, and fears as well as ambitions. Most of them do not know how to channel their ambitions, so if not given reason to think otherwise, will become egocentric and either seize power, or disclaim it entirely and retreat into personal worlds of amusements and fetishes. On the other hand, if their ambitions are given a clear path and a reason to exist, they can exponentially increase their productivity and acumen simply by the fact of being inspired toward their task. Among other things, this explains how throughout history small groups of men and women have changed the world radically, and how sometimes a smaller army or business can crucify its competitors: its people are more focused and believe in their task more than the opposition.
Although amplified by the modern world, throughout history most people have spent their day to day existence in a state of slight depression. The simplest reason for this is that very few of us get to live a life where we are a constant focus of attention, and so we labor mostly unknown except to a few close friends and our families, whose praise means a lot to us, yet, we would prefer to be more widely influential. Further, because life is a long and winding road in which it is necessary to make errors in order to learn the foundations of successes, all of us will have some failings and embarrassments lurking in the past. We prefer not to mention them in public, but whenever we consider our next move, doubt arises in the form of these past memories, much like beating a dog with a stick when it soils the carpet will convince it in the future to remember pain and associate it with that act. Our own histories literally condition us to depression.
What amplifies this depression in the modern time is the sheer size of our society, and its general course downward, which even the dumbest among us seem to have noticed. We notice such things on a subliminal level more than an articulated one, since to understand the situation in structure and words requires knowing more of it than most lives will see let alone analyze. Since our society is huge, and seems so far beyond our control or even understanding that it is inexorably going to do what it does, most are slightly depressed by their lack of influence on changing a worsening situation. Among the intelligent, it is recognized that masses of morons will undo whatever they achieve, or worse, turn it into a dumbed-down version of itself, missing meaning but preserving appearance (if you’re thinking of what Metallica did with the “black album” here, you’re on the right track). This keeps even the best among us depressed.
The catalyst of change for this situation can be a seemingly miniscule change in belief. People now believe they cannot change themselves or the world, and that things will continue as they have been; if given the knowledge that not only are things invisibly changing, but that the future favors this change, and that they can be the implements of such alteration, people will become inspired and find belief in the future. The same energy that fuels their depression can propel their hard work and brilliant invention in remaking the world. Another way to view this is that depression is the result of one’s energy having no outlet, thus it works against the individual by creating internal chaos. Give people an outlet that they believe will have positive results, and they will move the world. It is for this reason that stubborn assholes such as this writer believe that as has happened in the past, a small group of determined people will change our world yet again. People of the world, your time is coming.
And time is on our side. Every day we grow stronger and more disciplined, the errors of society bear it and its lackeys further into oblivion, crushing them under the weight of a design which is doomed by its own contradictions to failure. Each day that we do not give in and do not parrot their rhetoric, ours is seen more clearly by others, and more respected. And with each passing day, more of the failures of our current civilization come to light, and more people look for alternate answers, perhaps not to act on directly but to support covertly or simply as vessels for their hope of a better future. When people become inspired, they gain a nearly godlike status in their ability to think clearly, act decisively, and make each choice correctly the first time. In this state, the errors and stumbling confusion that hampers us in daily life is minimized, and replaced with a state of pure function that comes of a lack of spiritual doubt about one’s course. People of earth, your fortunes are changing.
If you’ve got a modicum of intelligence, you are probably depressed, and you were probably born depressed: society is against you, as it wants to dumb down every aspect of its function to the point where you will be a misfit and your best efforts will not be appreciated even when successful. You are surrounded by idiots, and thanks to democracy and consumerism and popularity, they do have greater power than you – for now. You have no faith in the rotted process of our society, or its calcified judgment, or even life itself, perhaps, for it has delivered you to this state. Yet this is changing, and the same force of life – call it nature, God, or chance; your pick – has brought this cycle toward the beginnings of a close. You must have faith in the process of living and the change it can bring, because at that point, you can see yourself as an agent of this change. As a wise man once said, “I don’t know if what I’m doing will make things better, but I feel better working toward something in which I believe.” That outlook requires leaving behind the comfort of feeling you cannot change anything, so contenting yourself with distractions like television, drugs, novelty music and social pressures.
We live in a world of a lack of absolutes. We cannot “prove” what we’re doing is right any more than those who oppose us can, but we can make a firm stand with statements of personal experience and wisdom such as “I prefer” and “I believe.” Nature takes her time, but our environment has changed to the point where it will no longer favor the foolish with excess, and all of the things that smarter-than-average people have dreamed of as a means to restore meaning and beauty to our world are returning. The forest will reclaim the cities, the wilderness our moral souls, and intelligence will storm the walls of our civilization and plant the banner of “ever upward” over the ruins of contentment, gluttony and placating the crowd. Our time is coming, and our victory is a choice of our hands and our hard work. Our depression is obsolete, and the time of our triumph newly dawning. Where will you stand: with those who give up their comfortable depression and sloth, and take charge toward the future, or those who will through inaction defend the dying? For me, I prefer to believe. And the more I see, the more I realize that the age of great change is coming, and the era that has oppressed all the fine things is life is ending in flames and smothering decay. People of earth, you can similarly be inspired, but you must choose it.
Or How Abusive Authority is Not Authority Itself
Most people like to see the world in two sides, x versus y, a linear equation. They would like you to believe that there’s a right way, and a wrong way, universally, of doing things. They would like you to believe that some people are evil and some are good. They want you to see anyone with money as bad, and anyone without, as innocent and pure. They also want you to see any authority as oppressive, and any anti-authority as being on the side of fun, freedom, and acceptance. This is the oldest trick in the book: they’re trying to lure you into Us Versus Them, and oversimplify the world, so that you can feel good about yourself for joining the “right” side.
Pay attention to both extremist and moderate propaganda. The Republicans want you to think that their position is moral, and anyone else is amoral, and thus lacks the strength to take necessary action (invading Iraq) and will cause society to degenerate. The Democrats want you to believe that those who have money will oppress all others, and that only those who embark on a pity crusade to raise up the lower are correct and moral. Both sides have some truth to them, and if you take their ideas out of linear context, there’s a germ of something compatible between them: moral action must be taken, and some are against it. Because they use oversimplification, however, their platforms become blind dogma and have little relevance to the real world.
Extremists do the same thing. In the environmental movement, there are people who would like you to believe that only those who check carefully for dripping faucets, buy organic food and heat their bathrooms with solar energy are right, and everyone else is “blind” and destructive. Neo-Nazi groups preach exactly the same dogma, except their rhetoric is conservation of race. Only those who adopt a strictly racialist view of the world are right, and everyone else is part of the conspiracy. Both groups suffer for their linear outlook, in that both degenerate rapidly into bigotry. Organic buying hippies versus the mass corporate horde; if we just oppress that mass corporate horde, everyone will live comfortably with water conserving toilets and recycled maxipads. Neo-Nazis tend to preach, in a manner guaranteed to alienate all successful people from them, that if we just eliminate Jews/Negroes (Jews being Asiatic- and Negroid-hybridized Caucasians, historically speaking) everything will be okay. Us Versus Them. Good Versus Evil. Right Versus Wrong.
Life isn’t designed on a single axis.
There are two problems with the Us Versus Them theory, and they are as follows: first, that a universal, single law can apply to all places – universality, because it must apply a single measurement to diverse areas, is by nature absolutist, and increasingly so as those trying to implement it become defensive. Second, that it polarizes between an Elect and a Preterite, e.g. the Us who are ordained to do what is right, and those who are destined to have it done Unto Them. In Platonic terms – and we all know that Plato’s metaphor of the cave was misinterpreted as metaphysical description, in the modern belief “neo-Platonism,” when it was a metaphor for the interpretation of knowledge – in the world of appearance, we see only ourselves and a world opposing us so, because of our entrenchment in the self, we tend to contrast between two extremes. What Plato was hinting out however was that we are enslaved by that perspective, and need to rise up out of the cave of our artificial knowledge and look directly at the world as it is, so that we can understand its structure, which is by definition not linear but parallel in form. Some might say this is itself a polarization, but it’s not Us Versus Them but a contrast between a simplistic way of viewing the world and a more accurate one. Anyone can pick up either method, thus “Us” and “Them” are not descriptive terms.
One place this can be seen clearly is in our responses to authority. By nature, most of us are anarchistic in emotional outlook, but when it comes time to getting things done, we recognize the need for leadership. This leads to the problem of authority, because someone must not know what the plan is and tell people what to do, but must also give a firm yes or no to their actions. Therein lies one of the paradoxes to society: in order to have the freedom to enjoy what civilization grants, through specialization of labor and the corresponding efficiency of scaling, one must have some kind of authority. Leaders. Sergeants. Cops.
Authority versus Authority Abusive by Design
This concept of authority, in itself, is not abusive. In theory, authority is granted by tacit contract between citizens and the enforcers so that the enforcers can do what is right for the citizens (a group which must include the enforcers as well). When authority does what is beneficial for the citizens, only those who oppose authority are in disagreement; when authority is either abusive, or is applied universally to citizens with different needs, an abuse of authority occurs. At some point what unifies a society is agreement on what authority must do, but when that breaks down, the tendency of most leaders is to become defensive and to try to replace that consensus of authority’s purpose with greater authority. The thought is that greater strength can replace citizens who have grown apart in values and, like the same principle applied to a dying romantic relationship, it makes active abusers of authority and passive abusers of those who must submit to it. It is a no-win situation.
Bill White’s recent article about speeding tickets brings to mind a powerful example. Speeding tickets are a case of abusive authority because they are motivated by the wrong ideals. Local law enforcement is encouraged to use them as a means of collecting revenue, like a tax, although the original idea was that society could be divided into safe drivers versus reckless drivers. In the first days of traffic legislation, the focus of giving citations was to rack up enough negative points for bad drivers so that they could be forced off the road. Things changed. At the current time, a car is required to get to work, so instead of trying to eliminate bad drivers, the law has mutated to become a bizarre form of taxation on behavior – not the behavior of bad driving, which is open to debate, but a good old linear measurement: speed.
When we say that authority applied universally is defective, we mean in part that not all people are equal. Some can drive safely at seventy miles an hour, where others should drive at fifty or not at all; a driver can be as dangerous driving slowly, and causing traffic pile ups and thus forcing others into bad behavior, as driving quickly. But assessment of speed gives us that good Us Versus Them feeling, where those who drive within the laws are OK and those who go faster are outcasts, amoral and lawless, etc. That the cops who give the tickets are not only taking in money for their departments, but also getting personally closer to promotions and praise, turns this situation of dubious authority into one of predation: cops become predators who find those who, responding to speeding limits designed for the least competent but applied equally to those of all competences, drive faster than the official limit. There is no greater confirmation of this than the tendency of American freeways to have an average road speed of ten to fifteen miles per hour faster than the posted limit.
“In a closed society where everyone is guilty, the only crime is getting caught.” – Hunter S. Thompson
When we see someone pulled over for speeding, we have initial compassion replaced almost immediately by a sense of Better Them Than Us, because we know that it’s a luck of the draw that the person pulled over got caught and we didn’t, since in order to function normally in this society we all speed on a regular basis. At this point, what we have is authority that is of a poor design, and thus is abusive. There are many other examples, but speeding tickets are a daily fact of life for all of us who drive anywhere, and it is small feedback loops like citizens annoyed at being taxed for what others equally escape that will contribute to change in our view of authority.
Authority versus Abuse of Authority
Being careful to separate authority itself from abuse of authority does not blind us to recognizing where authority is abused. Authority is both a power, and a responsibility, in that in the role of authority one is a servant of those over which one presides, and must do what is best for them regardless of its popularity. If it is necessary to do more work in less luxurious circumstances, it is a hard sell to the population, but that does not obviate the necessity of that transaction. We all want to hear that we can have more of what we want without much sacrifice, but life often is not compliant, which is fortunate, as to use a simple example, if we ate only desserts and not main courses, we’d be an unhealthy bunch.
Authority is abused when the person in authority acts outside of the social agreement by which the authority was bestowed, using authority instead for reasons of personal enrichment or emotional response. Probably the best example of this in recent memory is the assault on Branch Dravidians in Waco, where a popular president encouraged his forces to attack religious dissidents who also sold rifles. The excuse was that they were violent; the reality seems to be that those in authority resented people disagreeing with them, and decided to crush them, sending all of them and their children to their deaths. While the Branch Dravidians may have been a bit odd, there was no definitive proof that they were dangerous or even committing criminal acts, and in the intervening years, evidence has emerged that suggests they were set up and wholesale murdered by President Clinton and his cohorts for the crime of not going along with his vision of the world. Even if screwing around with his intern was what in theory brought him down, Clinton lost much of his popular support after he decided to incinerate his own citizens with military force. Like most career politicians, his method was to adopt popular viewpoints but his goal was raw power and personal ego-gratification.
Currently, we can witness abuse of authority in the American crusade in Iraq. At first, it was a war against terrorism; that didn’t pan out, so it became a war against WMD, presumably to take out Israel’s primary enemy (Israel had bombed Iraqi WMD programs before). Finally, with all else failing, it became a war for Democracy and Freedom, both of which mean nothing when they come at the expense of your native culture being replaced by cultureless Product-ism and American-style infestation of malls, fast food, etc. Iraq is at this point as neurotic as America is, since the Americans have effectively divided it against itself. Where one ethnic group ruled, now each group pulls in its own direction, dooming the country to endless civil war. Women are now polarized against men, the poor against the rich, the rural against the urban. Iraq is destroyed much as the Branch Dravidians were, and for what? Well, it’s convenient that, as in Vietnam, American industry can take over and cultivate both new sources of cheap labor and new markets for mediocre products (Coca-Cola, General Motors, Microsoft). The reason for this war is less obvious, but lies within the revenge impulse of George Bush himself: he wanted to best his father, and finally beat back those who defied not only American-Israeli hegemony in the middle east, but also the American way of life and “official” religion, evangelical Christianity. Oil, democracy, WMDs, terrorism, religion are the justifications – the real reason is pure abuse of power, based in the personality of our leader much in the same way it was with Clinton. Maybe being popular forces politicians to internalize so much of their own personalities that when those elements come out, they are by nature violent and revengeful?
Authority becomes abusive when it falls into the power vacuum created by a lack of official consensus, but a powerful majority who will identify with its Us Versus Them rhetoric. Iraqis and Branch Dravidians = bad; Freedom and Democracy and Civil Rights legislation = good. The abuse of authority is enabled by a population that cannot agree on basic values and is willing to be manipulated by such demagoguery, in part from the belief that greater force will compel others to join the “right” and not “wrong” side. It is not a property of authority itself, but of authority placed into an impossible decision and the error compounded by leaders choosing to avoid the actual problem – disunity – and to emphasize force instead. The Iraq problem lies in an ancient division between Jews and Muslims, exacerbated by Christian Crusades, and cannot be solved by force alone. The Branch Dravidian problem arose because America, as a culture and shared set of values, has always been a melting pot and thus has no common ground except basic law and order and money, of course. In each of these situations, misuse of authority has simply hastened the inevitable collapse. The Iraq war came on top of announcements by al-Qaeda that America and Israel would attack Muslim lands, and immediately made prophets of al-Qaeda. The attack on the Branch Dravidians spawned greater divisions in American society and more radicalized dissidents. The only solution that misusers of authority see is greater authority, which they’ll tighten until they force revolution or other extreme social breakdown. Entropy is our future.
Didn’t this column promise to be about cops? Now that we have some understanding of the underlying problems of authority, it is easier to understand why cops are so divisive. There are two major attitudes in America, at least, toward law enforcement. The first are those who out of pure meekness and submission or practical not rocking the boat choose to support law enforcement radically; they tend to fear the lawless, the coming anarchy, and the hordes of impoverished, drug addicted, violent felons that America produces. The other group believes that cops are inherently authority abusers, and paints them all with the same wide brush as consummate bullies and oppressors. The reality of course is that cops must represent a system of law that is, as in the case of profit derived from speeding tickets, abusive by design, and, because of the paradox under which they labor or other personal factors, that some cops are authority abusers. The counterculture would like us to believe that only authority abusers join the police force, but this does not address the fact that some form of authority is needed. The other side is blind to the failings of the design of our authority and the situations in which it places cops that make authority abuse easy. Authority is only as good as its design and underlying that, the will of the citizens to come together and agree on values systems.
There are plenty of good cops out there. Hardworking, they see their job in a transcendent light, which is that it’s their chance for heroism on a daily basis. They look forward to placing themselves in harm’s way so that they can do an act of good, usually saving the rest of us from some deviant. It was cops such as these who spoke up against the Branch Dravidian invasion and the war on drugs and other misguided, abusive ideas, and it’s their counterparts in the military – who view their own roles with the same kind of respect and hope – who are currently voicing the rumblings of dissent with the Iraq war. Much as many of our citizens are either passive bullies or active forces of subjugation of others, some cops are simply screwed up people. Many are not. What makes people fear cops is the system of values behind their authority, which in its absolute and universal application of laws that do not take into account the differences between people, creates an oppressive atmosphere in which both sanctioned and unsanctioned abuse have free reign.