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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It is Time to Act, part one

Any attempt to become broadly and generally informed about what is going on in the world around us is met with a huge amount of detail: millions of words describing, millions of words spinning, almost every human activity. The requirements for knowing anything with statistically acceptable levels of certainly are overwhelming. This technical reality is exacerbated by the habit of many potential sources to speak without sufficient knowledge to warrant speaking and the even more deplorable habit of lying about what they think to be true.

The result is the virtual impossibility of being able to organize a body of information from which to live and act in veridical relationship with the sustaining realities of either the social or the biophysical worlds. This has been true, at some level, for hundreds, thousands, of years. Plato made this observation with his cave metaphor. Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu expressed the same ideas in story and magical verse. A continuing human quest has been for how to retain or return to truly grounded and human ways of living when “all around are losing their way.” We may not know what is reality, but we can know that what we are presented with is not it.

Sorting through the tiny bit of the data that one person can accumulate, and applying a reasonably broad experience from a life that began in the first half of the 20th century, I have been, all my life, trying to see beyond the shadows on the cave wall.

We are certainly lied to about economic, political and social matters in greater proportion than we are receiving deeply considered and responsibly presented evaluations of these critical concerns. I remember, when I was a child, the powerful pressures to ‘modify’, sometimes beyond recognition, events around a broken window, damaged tool in the shop, a wrecked car and so forth; I perceive, in the expressions and pronouncements of people like Tim Geithner and others, the same uber-sincerity and fatuous deliberation that were the supporting legs of my stories to parents, teachers, policemen, etc. And I am always initially appalled that others don’t seem to see what appears to me to be so clearly, at the least, disingenuousness. Then, of course, I realize that there is little informing basis for selecting the honest from the dishonest, the lie from the truth – often, even within the person doing the speaking.

We can’t handle the truth. That is another part of this conundrum. For, in fact, certain kinds of very unpleasing truth are becoming more and more clear. The economic elite – those with great wealth and those who control the mechanisms of exchange – are unprotecting the small, but numerous, collections of wealth held by the Great Many and accumulating it into their own control. The “economic innovations” touted by Wall Street are really devices to unprotect the small holdings of millions of people and to take them. After all is said and spun, the US is a predator economy; it was predatory, primarily, on weak countries and peoples beyond its borders when we were an industrial power, and now that we have become a ‘military based service economy’ the same methods are being used against our own people [1] [2].

We are all in this together…or not. From a sane ecological perspective, humans are a species with an environmental impact – all in it together. From the present economic/political perspective, the few million elite are absolutely superior to the subservient billions – not in it together at all. The Great Many can do without a comprehensive, empowering education; without access to competent medical services; without reliable social and protective services; without safe, affordable food and water supplies; without legal protections from abuse by the powerful; without safe housing. All of these things are so expensive when multiplied by hundreds of millions and billions of people!

Better to amass great fortunes for the use of a few who can really appreciate quality and luxury than waste vast sums in millions of tiny dribbles that go to unappreciative lives of no particular value in the first place: The actual actions and proposals of the world’s governments and especially as seen in the recent US debates around healthcare, war and global environmental issues support this interpretation as a dominate, if not openly admitted, attitude. Great wealth creates its own system of thought, a system of thought that sees the accumulation of excess as a primary value and not as simple insanity, a system of thought that justifies the distortion of human relations and environmental relations as some God-given economic imperative and not as a social and biophysical abomination.

This is what underlies the millions of words and images designed to confuse and twist our understanding: The primal struggle is and has always been between those who are willing to accumulate exclusive excess and those who try to live within some sustainable margins of consumption.

We have become so accustom to excess and the social and economic structures arising from it that we have lost the sense of its insanity. I have for my whole life struggled against this idea because of its dangerous consequences, but I am coming to believe that the time has come to actively reject the elite yet again, to tear down their sources of power and to end their preeminence. This is a terrible decision, but it seems the only one left to us. The elite are becoming shameless in their exploitation and theft. So confident are they of their position of power and control that the desires of the Great Many are openly ignored; so certain of their ability to manipulate the levers of power that they are stealing billions of dollars right in front of us. The wealth gathered up by the economic elite is not materialized out of thin air, as they would have us believe, but is made from the past labor of the Great Many and future demands on the earth’s productivity, and their theft of it is enforced by their control of political/legal, police and military power.

The earth and its services do not belong to the elite. They do not belong to our species. The earth and its capacity to support and sustain life is a property of physical possibility and millions of species integrated into thousands of ecosystems that are woven together in mutually supporting designs. The incredible madness of the elite is the greatest danger that we face. Fighting back has its own dangers, but, sadly, there seems to be no options left.

I have long been an advocate of the individual pursuit of specieshood rather than cause based activism, that by discovering how to live in some harmony with the living designs of the biophysical space an ameliorative force could be created. I still believe this, but I have to add that as one becomes imbued with the deep biology of the human animal, the more the madness of the elite is evident and the more fighting back is mandatory.

[1] The legal structure is readily available to influence those inside the US and so the great middle and economically active lower classes become the prey. As the economic elite can control the legal structure of other countries (through WTO, World Bank, US military actions, etc.) units of prey will shift from nations to various collectives to individuals with wealth worth the effort to unprotect and take. Aggregating small units of wealth is only worthwhile when a legal structure and an armed force is made available by the state, that is, when the people are forced to pay for the tools of their own fleecing.

[2] The state is always predatory on the people. The US founders took this as axiom and attempted to design the necessary state functions in ways that would remove or diminish that “natural” relationship. Jefferson saw that only periodic revisiting of the rules, to weed the garden, as it were, would keep the people safe from government. The people have been negligent of that duty. The limitations on government have been used, not to protect the people, but to weld business into the government structure creating the present oligarchy; and government of this form is completely predatory.


Michael Dawson said...

The fact that we've never called a single constitutional revision convention is indeed a huge indictment, especially of the vested interests who have dominated what passes for politics over the past 125-150 years. Can you imagine a more glorious and basic and probably wildly popular, yet still utterly, totally unmentionable proposal in this madhouse society (where there are lots of other unmentionable basics)?

If we ever make it that far, we must write periodic revision into the Second Constitution.

Anyhow, this is an essay I'll be re-reading very often. Your ability to get to the root is amazing, James.

James Keye said...

Michael, thanks for your kind words. There is growing, both in number and stridency, pubic recognition of these ideas. Chris Hedges had a piece today in a similar vein (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/10/19). The next essay will be looking at details of possible action. I hope it will be of value.