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
Thursday, March 14, 2013
“Who Died And Made You King?”
My genes were born into a world in which the limits of their possibility were to be decided by the height of the sky, the width of the rivers, the rain in its season. Certainly, the experience, habits and tools of the people with whom I found myself would likewise be impacting on a whole range of possibilities, but within them it was my most gene-felt goal to express myself as fully, wholly and broadly as my hand-in-glove fit with the natural world would allow. It was not long coming that I began to realize, at a very basic biological level, that my genes had been betrayed.
We lived for the first few months of my postpartum life with my paternal grandparents. The grand (sic) mother instructed my foolishly naïve mother that I was not to be held, that breast feeding was dangerous for both mother and child, that children were not to be coddled (which, of course, included being cuddled) – my poor father! Millions of years of perfectly good, first class evolution down the drain.
It took me nearly fifty years to figure out what was going on: nature had died as a guiding force in human life; with supreme hubris, supported by monumental incompetence, humanity took on the task of guiding its own fate. This responsibility was taken on without one single capacity necessary for its actual accomplishment; the devices used to hide our incapacities invented the gods,… and invented pocket knifes, refrigerators and financial derivatives.
But religions and religious practice were only a sideshow – the real game was the ballooning of social dominance far beyond the first to eat, sexual priority and the power to decide where it was most pleasant to sit. Combining social dominance biology with the newly acquired ideas of gods and the capacity to concentrate wealth produced a monster: the class of humans who told others what to do, and used mystical origin as justification. This has always been done out of a pathological mix of insular belief and hubristic cynicism; no one human being can tell another human being what to do without some measure of that pathology.
The world today is awash with “being told;” there is almost nothing left of… Not even enough left to know what exactly to call the design of human life that was once how we lived. Don’t get me wrong; this is not nostalgia for some mythical perfection. It is, however, a recognition that, as a biological being, humans have biological qualities needing certain environments and actions to manifest. It is, moreover, an argument that ways of living that offer some reasonable degree of expression of these qualities are preferable to the rejection and denial of those qualities – especially when done for the convenience of a dominating class.
Chimpanzees and gorillas, wolves and the big cats, make terrible ‘pets’ as adults. The reason is very simple: they don’t take well to being told what to do. They wish to fully express their adult nature as competent proactive entities in the world. Since there are very few such animals living among us, we have created very few controlling structures related to them, other than cages and some laws limiting who can “own” them. But there are billions of equally recalcitrant animals with even greater potential for demanding self-expression, and for these animals the dominating classes have spent their major energies to create vast interlocking systems of power for their control – the controlling of humans is the greatest of all human projects.
There are, of course, some very good reasons for having systems for control of humans. The little buggers can get into, or out of, anything. Hide a tasty food and someone will find it. Secret away the most desirable females and they will escape with or without the help of some non-dominant male. A small group of the individually not-so-powerful can, by banding together, become powerful. Subordinate humans can think up all manner of mischief and challenges to being controlled. The dominating classes have always had their work cut out for them, but, as expected for humans, they have been diligent.
Which leads us to the world of today. Not only are people told what to do, they are told what to do so as to be told with evermore efficiency. The subordinate classes have been trained to keep their own members compliant in the greatest bait and switch of all time: if you help keep your neighbors in line, you can get to be a junior member of the dominating class, even a framable certificate for the den as clear evidence that you have done as instructed.
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The most advanced form of domination is capitalism. It is the design of capitalist systems that devices to channel the value added by productive action (usually worker’s labor) into capital-capture are created at every opportunity. Such opportunities occur with every transaction of exchange and with every change in the relationship of labor to capital (technological changes, staffing patterns, educational level changes, capital organization, labor organization, laws of all sorts – all change is an opportunity!). When we realize that every single opportunity is zealously exploited, no matter how small or apparently tangential, we can begin to develop some intuitive sense of an economy that lets the capitalist pattern of motives run wild without the significant controls and “training” that might allow this “beast” to exist within the world of life affirming values and needs.
What is so insidious about this economic design is that those who are being “told what to do” do so with minor objection or are replaced by the more willing. Falling into the personal behaviors of advantage seeking is natural to any biological entity, and a major source of innately inhibited behaviors in all “higher” animals other than humans.
Only a fool would build a monster or monster-machine that could destroy him and all around him without designing-in serious controls and a secure off-switch. But that is exactly what we have done. Not that there has been no warning: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Henry George and many others of equal intellectual power and authority have pointed out the principle dangers, but not drawn sufficient attention to the most insidious one – that it is the nature of a smallish percentage of the human animal to ferret-out every possible advantage in a situation, both in the moment and with some consideration of future opportunities; that hundreds and thousands and millions of people will be looking for such advantages, many taking a very generous, for themselves, view of what society might judge to be criminal; that these millions of advantage seeking moments would become, not an aberration recognized and frowned on by the community, but a central tenet of society – and so release the monster from any human jurisdiction.
In our present distorted perspective, the long-standing intuitive understanding of the dangers to the community of wealth concentration has morphed into the rejection of community rather than the rejection of wealth.
Many, if not most, of the present plans for “changing the economy” or for “building a sustainable economy” do not even begin to address the most important issues driving the destructive nature of the present system. New currency models, co-op ownership, economic growth models based in quality rather than quantity, socializing capitalism and other similar approaches, while valuable beginnings, will only be gobbled up by the processes described above without recognition of and action on the most basic issues. The three principle issues are:
The acceptance of concentrations of wealth outside of community control as appropriate and “natural.” And, quite possibly, the concentration of wealth in general! Concentrations of wealth require great amounts of that wealth, distributed as coercions, to be used for wealth’s protection. Otherwise, such concentrations would collect a crowd and would be distributed and used by “organic” processes. The prevention of this “organic redistribution” has become the major force in our societies, exceeding the valuing of life and the conditions sustaining life; not the least, ignoring the special capacities and qualities of the consciousness life that are part of every member of the human species.
That the present pathological relationship with environmental processes requires, absolutely, a return to a non-pathological condition. Regardless of every other issue, this one is non-negotiable and the ultimate consequence of the next issue.
The social biology or evolutionary psychology of the human animal must reset or replace much of the anachronistic, mythical beliefs that inform our Consciousness System processes. The Conscious System of Order has no design or device for directing adaptation toward veridicality, nothing equivalent to evolutionary process in the Living Order, other than the total failure of a belief system as it confronts the biophysical Reality (philosophical logic and science, up to now, have been largely impotent beyond the creation of technological products). Yet, we have the capacity to put off such failures for a time in small and immediate increments. The result is the cycling of societies through a great range of ascendance and collapse – kaleidoscopically in geologic time. The resulting cumulative suffering of humanity is to the apocryphal lemming’s march into the sea as multiple forest fires are to a paper match.
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We are all born into the world to be proactive members of a human community, a community that we support, that supports us and within which we have the opportunity to express our genetic and consciousness endowments. That elements of this description have been co-opted by the capitalist system as a means to dominate the masses is no accident; it is the biggest lie of all.
Rather than being supported in the great varieties of expression of human happiness and fulfillment, we are being told what to do at every turn, to the point that self-reflection and true self-interest are considered both dangerous and, by controlled definition, un-American (or un-British or un-Muslim, etc.). But, this should not be a new thought for anyone; everyone feels it in one form or another. We accept it every day and in every way: cameras to the left of me, scanners to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
The daily grind has been described ad nauseam and need not be repeated here. To the slavery of work without purpose other than money has been added a whole list of complex coercions: credit scores, credit itself, due dates for all the different payments, onerous hoops to jump through for healthcare and other insurance related “services,” the idea of insurance, all the various “rents” that must be paid for the use of land space, the water we drink and the very air we breathe. It is not difficult to understand the Libertarian impulse as a kind of knee-jerk response to this constant amorphous blanketing of life’s daily experience – especially so for an animal that is biologically designed to take charge of itself; a gorilla would not put up with this!
It is a fool’s errand to try to remake society without first remaking your own life. The fault of Libertarians is that they accept society’s values, yet want to reject its restrictions; they want to have everything without doing what they are told. Refusing to be told what to do requires that one give up significant portions of society’s productions as well as protections, both of which are ultimately stifling.
Striking the balance between human self-determination and community stability will require a return to environmental sovereignty; humans are not suited to be King.