If you have the read the first two parts of this series, you can surmise my prejudice: Humans are not a neutral agent under the influence of external forces, but have species’ characteristics that form the basis for their organized responses to the environment and their responses to their own self-referenced “realities.” The Consciousness System of Order has been increasing its expression in the designs of our adaptations to the major effect of increasing technical mastery of biophysical reality and increasing population – this last a blend of native biological design and the vast energy availability from technology. A response to both population growth and the increasing need for and opportunity for systems of exchange has been the abstract economy with its nearly endless detail of action. From the manipulation of these details great stores of materiel have been collected and, more alarmingly, great ‘accumulations’ of the abstract tokens of exchange have taken on even more importance than real materiel itself. We are essentially a hunter-gather of hugely outsized capacity thrown, by a new adaptation, the CSO, into complexities beyond our biology; but denying our biology in response has been tried and found wanting.
It is from the vantage point (or distorting lens) of these ideas that I look at the detail of our present situation. The first two essays spoke to the larger and longer view. This one will speak to the more specific and, I believe, more inherently incorrect and confusing view since we tend to be drawn to the personalities rather than the form of the behaviors.
I do not believe that sense of the present can be made by looking at the methods by which the Rothschilds (or the Windsors or the Rockefellers, etc.) acquired such terrible power or the absolute and utter Madness with which they use it, but there is something to be said for calling the present economic order insane and explaining why. It is only by clearly seeing the depth and breadth of the madness – and its full penetration of our lives – that we can hope to escape a few of its distortions of the life that was born into our cells from the beginning.
A common, if not typical, view of our economic/political situation sees a few prescient humans fighting their way to “the levers of power” from which they run both economic and political events. Some are basically good (on our side!) and some are not (out for themselves or favoring those who disagree with us). The rest of humanity is just along for the ride and usually follows the leader, at least for a time. Sometimes the powerful act blatantly in the interests of the powerful, ignoring the masses, and come a-cropper against a general refusal to follow instructions.
Our present villains are the economic and political elite whose interests have always been very different from those of the grubbier classes – those who dig in the ground, put things together and similar work. C. Wright Mills, in The Power Elite, 1957, considered the history and sociology of the changing patterns of power that is well worth revisiting (selected reading here). While this was written in 1956-57 it is clear that Mills, had he lived (Died 1962 at 46 years old) would not have been surprised by our present – but might be surprised at our weak understanding of it.
The unapologetic arrogance of the economic elite – men (mostly) who only communicate within the circles of their power – clearly demonstrate that these are ordinary humans; they, like almost all people who are isolated in the parochial details of a cloistered life, are hopeless in a cross-cultural environment. Their pet politicians could not protect them; it was unimaginable to them that the ‘ants’ could bite. It is not necessary to consider Geithner vs. Paulson or to look into the soul of Greenspan or Summers. They function in a niche, they play a position on their team. It is the description of the niche that we need, not a psychological or behavioral history of the person. The ‘inside baseball’ detail of their differences would be useful to those who needed to deal with them, otherwise they are a role to be filled, not a person.
Madoff filled a niche to Ponzi scheme. The niche was created by legislative action in response to the entreaties (and bribes) of the bankers and investors so that they could unprotect previously protected wealth. It is what they do. And some “they” will continue as long as the niche – or “they” – exists. The vast economic structures are just niches wherein people of certain talents and willingness can do things. They are not required. Quite different arrangements would still move essential materiel around.
I have made my call: the economic and power elite is the cave bear. They are big and dangerous, but unlike the bear they absolutely require the masses; we do not need them. If we are willing to take the consequences of living without the services of the financial “wizards,” then they and their niche will disappear and, by virtue of the reduced importance alone, be replaced by a tamer version of an economic model. If they are allowed to stay in place they will have us for lunch. They have resigned the species in favor a self-referenced madness that we cannot imagine, but have seen glinting from the cold-blooded reptilian stares from the CEO parades.
I know that this a projection of my distain, but when Rick Wagoner, Ken Lewis and others look out of the screen or photo at me I feel a haughty and haute resentment that the little people dare to perturb their universe, that they believe absolutely (and madly) that the real world is theirs and that the Great Many are productive fields that they plow and have every right to plow.
For millions of years hominids gave up a few extra calories and extra sex to their “leaders” and the leaders gave back leadership – which was in many ways mostly a place to stand so that everyone was looking in the same direction. We have been fooled into thinking that we want lots of stuff, that it makes us complete and better; and we have been fooled into believing that we too can be part of an ‘elite light’ by possessing an ipod or a condo in Hawaii. The greatest obstacle to our passing through this time is our own (deeply biological) acceptance and desire for ease, for convenience, for the most calories for the least effort.
As long as humans will live and die for an ‘easy feed’ we will generate niches from which it will be delivered with all the consequences that are so plainly before us if we will only see them.
Who 'runs' America, who 'runs' the world? Humans do; at least for a time.