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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Property, A Prologue

(Another introduction to these ideas was published recently on the Dissident Voice website

The true dilemma facing all of the various constituencies of humans, the unsafe poor, the safe poor, the just rich, the rich, the very rich, the super rich and all the many other ways that humans have divided themselves into interest groups, is that every one of the necessary changes to the way humanity approaches life on the earth requires a reduction in the use of materials and environmental services.  This is a most terrible dilemma because every present human economic, political and social behavior is based out of both the belief in and practical consequences of using more space, materials and environmental services. 

The different wealth constituencies are not purely random selections of humanity, but can be sufficiently selected from the normal distribution of human traits that these differences must be considered in speculating about their potential behaviors.  In general the poorer groups represent a normal distribution of human qualities while the very and super rich, judged by the degree of difference from the modal wealth of the region or nation, are a select group with a number of qualities in higher proportion than a random selection of people.  

I would speculate that the primary qualities of the extremely wealthy are highly focused motivation for wealth and power, intelligence and psychopathology expressing as narcissism and egoism merging into sociopathic worldviews [1].  A cogent argument can be made that the economic and political systems, adapted through our historical process, have come to select a reasonably reliable sort of non-sane person to manage our affairs.  The biologically based deference that we have for leaders – alpha members of our primate order – has covered over this dangerous reality.  It has even become a ‘common wisdom’ that well-adjusted thoughtful people don’t go into politics because of how much ‘craziness’ is required; and the very wealthy have long been looked at with a suspicion that they are driven by antisocial motives.  But this is not the point of this essay, rather a contributing condition. 

Only the uninformed or the willfully ignorant would argue that humans can keep on increasing in population and consumption of the earth’s productive capacity.  If we take it as fact that using more, faster, than the earth’s systems can replenish and absorb has a limited time frame, then there must be a slowing of such use and an eventual adjustment to a ecologically stable consistent rate of use.  As with a car speeding down the road, it makes more sense to begin the application of the brakes well before an impending stop than to slam them down in a panic, or worse to not slow at all and crash headlong into cross traffic. 

I read and hear about the issues facing the different constituencies of us – the problems recognized, or allowed to be recognized, by political actors and the “media.”  They are real, but are like a patient with heart disease giving primary attention to a sprained wrist; certainly we should attend to crime, immigration, inequity in minority treatment and a host of other issues.  The elephant, however, is that our most common beliefs and comprehensions of reality are wrong for the coming events of our lives and if we are to have any chance at all to mitigate or moderate the crash into the cross traffic, we must begin to change those beliefs and understandings as the first step in slowing down.  All constituencies must begin to adjust to new understandings; those that will not will have to be forced. 

People will not be able to make the necessary changes without new understandings.  There are two most basic belief systems that must, over a relatively short time, be completely or radically changed: Christianity (institutional religions in general) and Capitalism; it is time to begin to put the brakes on both. 

It is simply impossible for people who believe that they have a right to use property that they ‘own’ in any way that they wish to act with ecological responsibility.  It is simply impossible for people who believe that their wealth determines their value to treat other living things with respect.  It is impossible for people who believe that God will take care of them to realize the guiding scientific principles that move reality. 

The kinds of changes that are needed have historically taken many generations – wholesale shifts in underlying belief systems – but there is not the time.  The Desert Religions and Capitalism are the primary forces driving the destructive processes, rapidly accelerating destructive processes, associated with “our way of life.”  There is no way that adjustments of detail (new forms of energy, ‘democratizing’ a few countries or securing the borders) will have any effect on the trajectory of our biospheric deterioration.  Only making major changes in underlying beliefs have a chance. 

Real alternatives to monotheistic religions and Capitalism must be presented boldly and loudly.  Snide rejections and high schoolish slanders will not serve us well.  The terrible difficulties of such choices for most people need to realized, but the pressure to make the choices must be increased dramatically.   To put it as plainly as possible: the Desert Religions and Capitalism, as the religiously based economic design, have to be replaced with a more adaptive design for the survival of the biospheric living space. 

Key elements are the magical thinking of religions and the understanding and use of the idea of property in Capitalism.  The following several essays will look at how religions have influenced the idea of property, the biological and historical basis of property ideas and ecologically sound alternatives to present ways of thinking about property. 

[1] A legitimate question is by what right or credential do I label, even demean, these people.  First, I have been careful to preface this speculation with a statistical basis; I am speaking about comparisons of averages, not categorical definitions.  But, please recognize that the poor, a fully diverse and normally distributed group is routinely described as shiftless, weak-minded, weak-willed and unworthy of respect as living things.  These assumptions are propaganda largely generated by the very and super rich, there is no other reasonable source, as a device to deflect evaluation of their social relations and responsibilities. I suggest that this is clear evidence for their sociopathology, that they would demonize the largest group of humanity (and the ultimate source of wealth) as a means to maintain their excesses.

1 comment:

Michael Dawson said...

From Sam Pizzigati:

At century’s end, few top corporate executives — and few Americans of any
significant means — doubted they fully deserved their good fortune. In one
survey of America’s most affluent 1 percent, conducted by Worth magazine, 98
percent of the wealthy people polled attributed financial success to “greater
determination.”2 Almost as many of the wealthy surveyed, 95 percent, credited
success to “greater ability or talent,” and 91 percent told pollsters that the
financially successful have “greater intelligence.”
All this hard work, talent, and intelligence, the wealthy appear to believe,
contribute much more to financial success than mere happenstance — or unsavory
personal qualities. The wealthy polled by Worth rated intelligence over
twice as important to accumulating wealth as “knowing the right people” and
talent twice as important as “luck.” A willingness to take risks, they suggested,
makes success in life four times more likely than “being born into privilege.”
What about ruthlessness? Only 2 percent of the wealthy polled called “being
more ruthless” a significant key to success.