A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rules of the Race

There are rules in most races (human, horse, dog, car, boat, etc.). Participants agree to them as a condition of joining in.  But sometimes – even often – the finished line and its inordinate power to confer superiority, wealth and power, invites attempts to gain it by any means that can be hidden or gotten away with, even if exposed. 

In the simpler sports, e.g., those of actual racing, infractions can usually be defined with some clarity, though ‘cheating’ has its own culture of activities and arguments.  In politics and business the situation is somewhat different in that a great gulf exists between what are the reported, publicly acknowledged rules and the actual rules of play.  It is as though the rules of football were those we, in the stands, recognize and yet the players on the field are carrying syringes of knockout drops, chains and knives.

Of course, politics and business are not games in the sporting sense, but our sporting metaphors are most commonly used for understanding and a social science study called “game theory” is used to model them.  There is still winning, however, and, subtly and not subtly, the hidden rules of ‘win by any means’ have been being made more and more acceptable to the public mind.  The arguments are that (1) winning is proof of virtue, (2) personal winning illuminates, motivates and instruments the way “forward” for all and (3) the only true and trusted motive is self-interest, the fullest expression of which will, by an invisible hand of adaptation, guide our collected actions.  These arguments have a smattering of biology, psychology and philosophy dribbled among them like the drippings basted on a ham – we are to be impressed with the fine checkering and succulence of the glaze.  Though ultimately, it is the meat of the argument with which we must live.

And the meat of the argument is that wealth and power accumulate into ever fewer hands and that these hands are connected to heads that value less and less the vast multitude from which that wealth and power derives; seeing virtue in their own actions and the frustrations of the many as dangerous, uninformed, envious and a bother; when the truly powerful see the needs of the subservient as a ‘bother’, the feeling can justify the most awful palliatives for easing that feeling.  By way of putting our time in perspective: Marie Antoinette had more in common with the people of the Paris street, and knew it, than the members of the Bilderberg group have with the world’s people; they, the dollar-a-day teeming masses, and we, the wage-slaves of consumerism, are only numbers and malleable consequences to the World’s Masters.

But the World’s Masters know a truth that all masters know: They are few and the masses are many.  They also know that, ultimately, their position of power and authority rests on the minds and muscles of the masses, though they prefer to recognize this as the numbers of economic theory rather than in emotional, human terms. 

If the many organize, the masters will remain, but as the servants of the many.  This is (was) the promise of the United States of America: The masses (defined variously over our history) had enough power in the organization of the vote, in the power of local political structures to represent the “common man” and in the power of media to inform and thus organize ad hoc forces to give substantial check to the masters – who would always be absolute Masters if given any unchecked opportunity.

What we are seeing today is the overwhelming of the American Promise by thousands of little “discoveries” of how to get around, over and under the constitutional constructions intended to maintain the power of organization of the masses.  The media, the keystone of the social arch, is now in the hands of the masters.  The crusading reporter telling the truth to the many is stuff of history.  Today the truth is not so much crushed as it is diluted to the colorlessness of the everyday.  “The last two presidential elections were stolen”(there are many other examples); this should be a story of monumental concern. There is ample evidence.  The nation should stop in its tracks and root out the malefactors.  But no, millions of words of drivel erode the little pinnacle of this story.  It never breaks into public consciousness.  And thus a nation is on its way to being lost, and power concentrates again into the hands and self-interested heads of the Masters.

There is a ring of inevitability to this scenario,….

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