Thursday, April 4, 2013

47% right

"then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, 
to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, 
to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; 
so that the strong should not harm the weak; 
so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, 
to further the well-being of mankind."
             - graffiti on a bunch of rocks from ~3800 years ago

By now, Mitt Romney's "47%" speech seems to have gained lasting notoriety in a political arena where facetiously civic-minded power-grasping is normally taken for granted. His accusations of weakness, laziness and parasitism finally suggested the obvious to the brainless mass of voters whom he had targeted with his comments, that Romney did not see them as equals or even useful cogs in his power structure but as convenient future victims on whom to play out his fantasies of power struggles. 

However, it's not particularly relevant that a power-hungry sociopath, the alpha-type who tends to work its way to the top of any structure, be it religious, political or corporate, would have that attitude. It's a given. A society which promotes competition for its own sake will inevitably make leaders of the morally bankrupt. The much more serious issue is that the accusation was taken as an insult. The crucial misinterpretation of the very concept of government is the view that government should not ensure and protect basic necessities. It is the idiotic doublethink of this prevalent notion that government should not govern.

"47% who believe they are entitled to health-care, to food, to housing, you name it"
In that list of 'you-name-it's i would include education, and i should hope that a lot more than 47% of people believe they're entitled to it. I'm always reminded of the catch-phrase thrown at me in high school in the driver education program "driving is not a right, it's a privilege!" - well, no, mr. teacher good sir, driving is a necessity, because this combustion-giddy society, instead of providing safe, useful mass transit and self-contained communities which don't require you to drive 15 minutes (or walk for an hour each way) to a mega-super-mart to get even basic groceries, has made an automobile a basic necessity. The case is even more straightforward with the older historical necessities. 

Every power structure, if you're not using it as a means to gain power over others for yourself, has only one logical purpose: as a protection racket. A government is supposed to keep others from threatening and enslaving you. It's supposed to protect you from, say, the petty thug next door who'd love to beat your brains out and rape your wife to death. Or maybe against the religious nut who thinks he's got a supernatural mandate to force you to chant the word of dog. Or maybe, just maybe, against the corporate robber-barons who want to keep you a wage-slave while stripmining the land around you until there's no land or you left. In its best possible interpretation, a government is supposed to improve our lot altogether, to further the well-being of mankind. 

I am still at heart an anarchist. A universal refusal to attempt to gain power over others is the only way for a sentient species to live. I'm also not stupid enough to believe that humanity in its current state can handle an egalitarian society free of power-structures. This is not a sentient species. You will first have to prune away the idiots who cannot handle the concept of cold-blooded, long-term, mutually beneficial cooperation. They'll amount to most of the globe's population. However, if genocide is not to your tastes, you'll have to go through the painstakingly slow, centuries-long process of raising the level of thought of the public until they are ready to live in a better world. Now, there's a very old concept in psychology, Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" which though questionable as almost everything in the soft sciences (and quite a bit of the 'hard' sciences) nicely illustrates the reason why governments refuse to further the well-being of mankind. Basic needs must be attended before higher functions can be achieved. I see the currently popular interpretation uses a five-tier system. I prefer a more straightforward three-tier system which incorporates the overarching importance of instinct, since humans are to a large extent still little wind-up toys.

Physical, emotional, intellectual, in that order. 

The physical level also includes instinctive drives. Populations cannot think if they are hungry or homeless, if those physical concerns rule their actions. They also cannot think if they are kept in a constant state of instinctive tribal warfare, if they constantly believe themselves in competition with the whites or the blacks, with the towel-heads or the infidels, with the fags on the west coast or the yuppies on the east coast, with capitalist pigs or communist dogs. Mob mentality takes over. They also cannot think while their right to mate is contingent on adherence to a particular doctrine, like say, having to marry in a church before they're allowed to start humping. They will adhere.

At the emotional level, you have three moles to whack, the three basic emotions: fear, anger and greed. You cannot ask much of a population that lives in fear. They cannot think while they live in constant fear of 'terrorists' bombing them, whether those wear turbans or air-force uniforms. They will side with whoever is promising to remove that fear, whether it's in their interests overall or not. This also covers every other type of fear: fear that your boss can afford to fire you at any moment because there's a surplus of desperate unemployed apes just waiting to take your place. Fear that without a job you will starve, fear that the police will barge into your home to drag you into prison just to flex their muscles, fear that the gangbangers down the block will kill you for your electronics so they can keep bribing the police not to break down their doors. 
An angry population will also never vote in their own interests. They will vote against themselves as long as they are kept in a constant state of outrage over fictitious issues like patriotism, religion or threats against machismo. 
A greedy population turns on itself. 

The intellectual level, since it does not exist in most human apes, must be actively promoted. Gaining a sufficient level of education to have some historical perspective on social trends, to know the difference between and value of both theory and empiricism in order to become able to critically analyze the promises of politicians is not some extraneous ivory-tower conceit. It is a requirement of rational decision-making. Higher education is not frivolity. It is a basic right which is being denied through economic means to the vast majority of the population.

The core issue in governments' refusal to provide for these needs is a fairly recent sociopolitical backsliding in the past couple of centuries in England then the U.S. and then in the world at large. It stemmed from the capitalist glorification of competition which chimed only too well with instinctive social competition. It can be summed up quite succinctly:
Anything goes.
For millennia, since Hammurabi instituted his laughably unfair system of laws, humanity has been plagued by corrupt systems of government. No society, not even ancient Athens, managed to get everything right. The core principle however remained the same. Even in the sickest depths of feudalism there lived the idea that a lord had a duty to protect his people and ensure the harvest did not rot. Though most lords utterly failed in these tasks, it was still understood they they were bad lords. They failed at lording. Better lords did a better job of fairly upholding the law and improving the lot of their peasants. 
The modern reinterpretation of the right of the rich to take whatever they want from the poor, of the right of the strong to harm the weak, of the very existence of the legal fiction of a juridical person rendering our modern corporate lords unaccountable for their actions is a legitimization of the worst abuses of governments, a return to the primitive notion of "might makes right." The great coup which allowed for this paradigm shift was the ease of indoctrination brought about by mass-media control. Never before has it been so easy for the rich to convince the poor to make the rich richer, by promoting the utterly meaningless fable of "upward social mobility" - by glorifying injustice.

Things will not get better. This moribund society has broken every one of Hammurabi's tenets. It is handing its penal system and armed forces to the wicked and the evil-doers themselves, to the very corporations against whose excesses it should protect. It has glorified the ability of the strong to harm the weak, of wealth to keep amassing wealth. It has vilified enlightenment as unmanly and weak, glorified jocks over nerds. It has done away with the idea of well-being itself, recognizing only the extremes of workaholism and hedonism as ideals. Thanks to post-modernist denial of objective quality, it even became capable of ignoring the need to determine righteousness in a logical manner and opened itself up to endless factionalism to fragment itself even further. The system is self-perpetuating because once the public makes all the wrong choices and allows the wrong people to gain power over them, it is in the interest of those very same powerful individuals to keep the populace from thinking, to keep it hungry and scared and stupid, so that it keeps reinforcing those wrong decisions that keep the mighty right.

Welcome to the world before 1800 b.c.e.

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