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, March 31, 2009

Who Runs America and the World:

And why would they want to? 

(I am reminded of a 3 panel cartoon from Mad Magazine: Pizzeria with a sign – “Best Pizza in Town.” Further down the block: Pizzeria with a sign – “Best Pizza in the World.”  Last panel, at the end of the street: Pizzeria with a sign – “Best Pizza on the Block.”) 

I recently read an essay by Brian Cloughley entitled, ‘Who Runs America?’; I wanted to know.  The essay was about Israeli leaders having inordinate influence on US leaders, but it turned out the title was a teaser for the last lines: “Will they continue to support Israel, the country that has laid waste a land and murdered over 200 women and children? 

If they do, the question must be asked: Who runs America?” 

I was disappointed.  I thought that Mr. Cloughley might be ready to drop a dime on the real truth of who really calls the shots on the madness that serves as our governance.  So, as an aficionado of analogy, a mere minion of metaphor, I began trying to answer that so tantalizing question in my own way.  I went to my somewhat limited repertoire of experiences with the actual “running” of things 

I have worked, recently, with a small school; there are only about 20 people employed or employing in connection with the school.  Still, I really don’t know who is running the place.  I do know who wants to (the governing council, the directors, the teachers, the students, the parents – all want a say in their own interests, but really none of them “run” it). I know who is in the leader box of the organizational chart, we feel the heat coming from district and state and I know who is listened to and who is not, but when it comes right down to it things happen much of the time by the sheer momentum of events, more a series of omissions without an obvious guiding hand (and this matches my experience from other organizations).  If this is the way our tiny school microcosm of banal exercises functions, can it possibly be analogy for millions of people functioning in the multifaceted levels of national government? 

Can it be that there is really no one running America?  Is it possible that some significant percentage of the functioning of government is no more than a continuation of existing actions in motion?  If this is the case, then ‘who runs America?’ becomes ‘what runs America?’.  To some important extent a general notion of ideological correctness or even – perish the thought – popular will might be important. Can it be that leaders are like railroad engineers? I have always marveled at the ‘engineer’ being said to ‘drive’ a train: While there must be complicated things to do to make the great power of the train consistently work, still the train goes where the track is laid.  I don’t see much ‘driving’ going on.  The real power is manifest before the track is built and then often in only the most general way in response to the lay of the land. 

Then there is the ship metaphor: the Ship of State.  Here steering is possible in all directions (except up or down) and immense power.  In theory the Captain can take the ship anywhere, but then the captain can be knocked in the head and replaced by another with different aims.  So, while the leader, if given sufficient authority, can really seem to run things, it is still either the people or some select group gaining their power from a constituency of the people that finally decides direction.  It is true that the “captain” can take the ship far in the direction of his setting and thus decide how much work is required to reset the course, but such control is seldom more than a decade or so, almost never more than half a human life time. But a ship of substantial size is still an excellent metaphor in that even when everyone wishes to change direction, from captain to cook, the momentum of all systems makes slowing and turning, without tearing loose the boards of the deck and damaging the running gear, impossible.  In the political/social world is it that people just get up each day and do what they know how to do?  So it is in large measure even on “the ship:” the people who run things do so by the simple acts of running the little daily circles of their lives. 

This thinking only lights, a little, the complex garden of these processes – like a garden maze at twilight with spooky shadows confusing the senses.  At one extreme there is no plan at all; just the daily doings summing up into the billions of events bounding along from accidental order to accidental chaos.  Order has a longer run, because quite simply it is order! And chaos usually signals its coming and sets the daily motion in search of safety – which is, of course, the order of yesterday; even if it is not. 

At the other extreme we are all the unwitting puppets of the Bilderberg Group, the club of the connected that, if it does not actually do so, would rule the world: Someone has to do it!  I am sure that the Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the international Jewish conspiracy and a variety of ad hoc attachments are very powerful influences on truly important processes and events in our world, but do they ‘run’ it?  That is, does someone say, “Go change the economy of Egypt,” and someone goes and changes the economy of Egypt?  Or is it more like, “I would sure be happier, and more wealthy, if the price of Egyptian cotton were to go down.  How can we do that?”  I think that running the world may be more like having the power to do a thing or two and doing it without much regard for the consequences.  

In my childhood I stirred ant nests and watched the creatures run around in disordered ant-terror, but they would, rather quickly, return to patterns of movement, restore the mound and their little lives.  I always felt ashamed, but did this perhaps 20 times in the wonder of it (for those offended by my callousness toward the ants, rest assured that the ants had their turns at me).  Could it be that some humans find themselves in such a place that, for their own reasons, they can stir the multitude?  I certainly was not “running” the ant colony, but I was making a moment happen.  Are our “leaders” just making moments happen from which we, the holders of order, must restore and recover?  If this is true, then those who “run things” only stir and the great multitude restores by actively living the order of their lives, by resurrecting daily routines out of the chaos of leadership.

The evolutionist must point out that no God is required, no special creation, no intelligent design, just doing everyday on a terribly ordinary little plan: consume sufficient calories and some version of make fertile offspring; this is enough to make 4 billion years of life, billions of species, incomprehensibly complex ecosystems and the most incredible biomechanical creations.  It could certainly “run” a country. (There is more to this story.)

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