Surely, we all want a better world, and that better world is possible if we …
1) Believe that a perfect world (Utopia) is attainable, and that, subsequently, the eradication of wars, poverty, disease, crime and social injustices is possible. Believe that we can create better living standards in clean environments and that work will be a labour of love for all.
2) Understand that this Utopia can only be possible if it is constructed for the enjoyment of all of humanity, and that nation-state borders are an impediment to the construction of this better world. A constitution already exists for humanity, it’s called the International Bill of Human Rights Insist that this universal constitution be taken seriously.
3) Understand that the alternative to Utopia is Dystopia and that this Dystopia is the current direction we are headed. In Dystopia, wars are a constant reality; poverty is rife, as is disease; criminal organisations control and govern us; the environment is dirty and noxious; and labour is an alienating reality for the worker and a daily purgatory. Understand that the creation of Dystopia has to be resisted at all costs.
4) Understand that technology is the main tool that will make the utopia or the Dystopia a reality. Understand that our creation and use of technologies must therefore be bravely orientated towards Utopian purposes.
5) Understand how our current system, which is geared towards acquisitions and the protection of acquisitions, is prejudicial for Utopia and a motivator of Dystopian scenarios. Understand that this system needs to be dismantled in order for the possibility of Utopia to bloom. Help provoke this dismantling of the system by believing in (1).
Human societies have always (or for the last 8 millennia at least) been subject to the perspective of Wealth and the power that Wealth wields. In terms of our relationship with the natural world, this has been a perspective that has always asserted that we must either control the natural or it will control us. In its essence this perspective is erroneous because it competes with the world and fails to acknowledge the self-regulatory nature of the ecosystem. It does not see that too much meddling will cause nature’s self-regulation to collapse. Instead of our arrogant manipulation of natural resources for the purposes of wealth, we need to acknowledge our dependence on the world and its self-regulating biosystem for our survival. Because of this, a belief in the continuous remoulding of nature to suit the needs of Wealth (i.e. by continual exploitation of its resources) is fatally dangerous. This needs to be replaced by a vision not of dominance for profit, but of partnership.
Once this idea of the great partnership between humanity and our world is embraced, power itself will be pushed into a diluting space. Questions like real democracy or egalitarianism, and problems like famine, organised crime, corruption and health are all determined by our erroneously competitive relationship with the world.
Dominance and competitiveness with the world is a mistake that is incorrectly linked to the idea of freedom. However, the truth is quite the contrary: Wealth creates responsibilities and duties that inhibit personal freedom. With Wealth’s power also comes the fear of losing that power, and the need to maintain control that also inhibits freedom, even for the one in charge. Ask anyone who wields it: power is often, if not always, a burden.
Freedom cannot be found in dominance or slavery, but in partnership. Of course partnerships also bring their own responsibilities with them and it requires hard and concentrated work to keep all the partners happy – but the liberating power of partnership is that neither side of the deal is being robbed of their freedom.
Nothing changes until it can change. No changes happen, and no new things are created, until there is the technology and the know-how that can bring those changes about.
All lack can be abolished through knowledge and the application of technology, once that technology exists, to the abolition of lack. If the technology is lacking, know-how is needed to create it, and more know-how is needed to apply the technology to that other thing that is lacking.
But, what is lack?
Lack may be felt, or it may be imagined. It is in the realm of imagined lack that creativity becomes the protagonist. Lack can also be universal or local or individual. An egalitarian economy has to be based on a science of lack, which in turn, needs to be rooted in necessity. The social-utopian slogan “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” is, fundamentally, a question of lack.
Should we be more, or less productive? The laws of the global market insist on the former: excess is a virtue, or at least while excess amounts to the excess of profit. To be rich and powerful, one needs to get money; and to obtain money, one needs to sell things; and in order to sell things, one needs to make things to be sold; and those things should be commodities with a short life-span so that that there will always be a need to purchase new things allowing the money to keep flowing in.
Now, according to this economic philosophy, we should have a productive and innovative society that is continually producing new commodities or improving on old ones. Capitalism produces a marvelous circuit of creativity dedicated to satisfying the needs of the hungry consumer.
However, there is an essential flaw in this philosophy. In order for it to work, consumer needs are not enough: the system must be fueled through consumer-desires, which can only be systemically positive enough if they are turned into needs. But then, this is not enough to keep the system spinning either. Something else is needed to keep the momentum going and the excess turning into wealth and power. To maintain a constant progress, every now and again everything has to be pulled down so that there is room to build anew in. And what is a better way of pulling things down than blowing them up. Natural disasters are good for the consumer economy, but, despite the increment of natural weather-anomaly disasters, these phenomena are still too infrequent and too random to be an assurance.
Yet, there is something we can always depend on in moments of the deepest decadence of the capitalist-consumer system: war.
War is something that can be manufactured; something that can be pulled out of the hat as a last resort whenever growth becomes lethargic, and guarantee the system’s self-perpetuating motion. In fact, war is a very part of that system: a tried and true methodology for injecting momentum into the machine. Wealth and power have been using war to sustain itself for the last eight thousand years. In a sense, technology has always been subordinated to military needs and great advances have been made when the empire of the state has pumped huge amounts of man-hours and money into military research.
But to see this fact as justification for the military and, subsequently, as a justification for war, is the most cynical of positions. The production and selling of arms (whether of mass or minor destruction) and the use of those weapons as profit-making internecine tools of thymotic rage has led us to the gates of the Apocalypse and the eternal damnation of a complete nihilistic destruction of life on Earth.
The inherent absurdities in the capitalist-consumer philosophy of perpetual growth have necessitated the production of its own class of clowns to perpetuate itself. Their justifications for prolonging the destruction have become infantile-ego wailings, in adolescent-will societies, driven by demands for what the clowns want and by the fact that they all want to have those wants now despite the consequences, because they deny the existence of any consequences. To get what they want, the clowns know they have to be tough, but they can buy protection, and they can rig the system to perpetuate their power and strength. The promises this circus makes for humanity, of course, are not comforting at all, but the clowns also feed on the fear they themselves produce in order to stabilize their grasp on power. And while the tough clowns flex their muscles, the weapons of mass-destruction sit comfortably in their silos, waiting to be unleashed in the greatest destructive act the world has ever seen. But this time, surely, it will be the final curtain.
In the firstpart of this article (https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/nationalism-patriotism-totem-identities-power/) we argued that both nationalism and patriotism are part of the sameanti-human historical process that began with the segregating cults of thetotem: “Throughthe totem, … the individual surrendered his voice in the community and allowedall voices to be concentrated in the singular decrees of the priest-kings.Community, as such, died with the totem that was set up to build it, and a newanti-human history was born that became a process of maintaining classdistinction and privileges for the few at the expense of the manipulation andexploitation of the many.”
Perhaps Marx would say that the class struggle began with this class creation, but, in the beginning, there was probably minimalconflict. Not only class consciousness, but any kind of consciousness was inits embryonic stages, and political struggle needs to be fired by a conscious desirethat transcends the mere physical needs for food, shelter and propagation. Inthe early days when the totem societies began to develop into the firstcivilisations, any vestiges of political consciousness were mitigated by themanipulation, and creation via that manipulation, of the social reality thatenshrouded the priest-kings with the veil of apparent truth.
While the Sumerian tablets mention internal strife and indicate that there must have been some early opposition to the flagrant grabbing of power in the creation of the first civilisation, the real struggle was carried out by those who had established their power already. Early progress has to be measured in the degree of success obtained in the maintenance of the enormous fiction of the totem; that monstrous, empowering lie. If there has been a motor, or a process through history, it has been the maintenance via re-modelling which has allowed the perpetual existence of privileged classes and the freedom for those classes to exploit the other classes of society. This condition has not changed in the last 5,000 years.
Identity is, of course, a process of separation. A separation that is needed in order to maintain the lies of the totem identities of the City-State. The City-State can maintain its identity only while it has enemies to compare itself with. For this reason, during the current process of globalisation which is really a process of centralising power and privileges for the ruling elite, we do not see any diminishing of nationalisms, but rather a strengthening of them.
Once the totem was established, the lies could be formulated to justify all sorts of behaviourin the name of the divine symbol of the new society. But if people questionedthese lies, or the exploitive and repressive measures they were suffering as aconsequence of them, they had to be forced into a submission to the belief. Andso, the high-priests took charge, not only of the temple economy, but also ofthe warriors that could defend it. As such, any opposition to the lie couldeasily be a death sentence and the classes without an army to defend them had to wonder if opposition was not a madness. If opposition is life-threatening, it is probably best to tow the line, even if by doing so life is mademiserable. The exploited labourer is told that his or her life can always beworse – or no life at all. If thinking inspires the dangers and miseries causedby Power’s brutal reprisals, then it is best not to think at all; to go withthe flow and be a good citizen. And its best to teach your children to thinkthe same way. Soon the oppression and exploitation becomes immersed in thegreat fog of normality in which things happen in a certain manner because thatis the way things are.
But from the time of Sumer, the way things are is that the society is organised in a way that will produce an abundance that is enjoyed by the privileged class, while those producing the abundance with their labour are given enough to survive on and little else. In history, we can see a progression and emergence of a middle-class who were encouraged to think they were comfortable and free. But rather than being a process of egalitarianism, it was merely a necessary process carried out to ensure the supply of abundance to the privileged class who were consolidating their fortunes through the sale of consumer goods. In order for the privileged to accumulate the billions they have made it was necessary to have billions of individuals capable of buying the billions of products they were selling. And so, there arose an economic need for what we call the middle-class.
But let us not fool ourselves: the privileged who hold power have not had to succumb to democratic or revolutionary demands on them, but rather technology has allowed them to create new ways of making fortunes by selling new manufactured products. All the rest, in its essence, has not changed since Sumer and Urk.
Aside from Sumer other powers were born in different ways: the Egyptian class-system grew primarily out of a power won militarily for the power of the Hawk-god that absorbed the priestly functions of control after making military conquests. Of course, Egypt took the priest-king idea one-step further and its leaders became Pharaohs, king-gods. That the lie could be taken so far seems ludicrous, but, for the Egyptian it was either believe the lie or die, and then, as in Sumer, after a few generations the king-god system would have been understood as the way things are, because that is how they have always been.
Power and its privileges are the centre of all civilisations, but so is the subsequent retarding of thought. The Greek Commonwealth, and especially the richly artistic and philosophical culture of Athens is so special because it was a blatantexception to this rule. In Greece there were City States, but there were alsothinkers thinking some of the deepest thoughts that have ever been contemplated. To understand how Greece was possible, we have to remindourselves that, before Alexander, it was just a peripheral place, on theoutskirts of the real centres of power that grew in western Asia and Egypt. And,on the periphery, it was more possible that thinkingwould be allowed.
Rather than stimulating and benefiting from the natural creativity and inventiveness ofhuman beings, the privileged classes pulling the strings of power havegenerally wasted the inherent talent of human beings and because of this it could be said that civilisation has been an obstacle in authentic humanprogress.
At a centenary memorial service for the victims of the First World War, Emmanuel Macron warned of the dangers of nationalisms whilst praising the virtues of patriotism. The nuances separating the two terms are important: nationalism is based on cultural and linguistic or even, in the worst-case scenario, racial or ethnic ties, whilst patriotism is nurtured by the values and beliefs of the state. Nationalism is more aggressive to foreign states and foreigners than patriotism is. When nationalisms clash there is always a threat of war, whilst patriotisms use diplomacy in conflicts to find peaceful outcomes to conflicts. Nevertheless, both terms generally represent the same thing. One might be seen as the ‘good cop’ and the other the ‘bad cop’, but both are cops, or, if we look at it from humanity’s point of view, both belong to the same mafias we call Nation States.
Nationalism or patriotism, against the measuring rod of Humanity they are both segregating and oppressive forces. Yet, it’s hard to imagine a world without countries. After all, they have always been here, haven’t they? And the hardest thing to imagine away is that which has been around, seemingly forever.
Certainly they’ve been here, in a simplified form, ever since the first societies gathered around the first totems. Each one with their own symbolic deity. These totem-cultures then gathered together into city states, under the protection of a unifying divine entity that began to take the totemic form of a divine statue. These city-state countries would expand and create larger states and even empires, regimes that needed ever more powerful totems … until they discovered the One, which was the mightiest totem of all, demanding that all must bow to its omnipotent symbols.
But even before reaching the One, the totem went through many metamorphoses: the pyramid shaped ziggurats and the pyramids themselves. In the first city, the Sumerian Uruk, the temples and land were considered properties of the gods. Divine properties which certain families were placed in charge of, as if by divine will. So we see, even at the very beginning of civilization, how religion was used to justify an enhanced privilege over the others.
The first concentration of power was assumed by the priestly caste. Once the people had been indoctrinated into identifying themselves with the totem representative of the gods that were supposed to control and even predetermine their fate through the power of concepts like destiny, it was a simple step to mould them into servants of the totem. Only the priests had access to the gods’ thoughts and motives. It was through the priests and the unsullied, pure character of the High Priestess, that the gods gave their laws to men.
Through the totem, therefore, the individual surrendered his voice in the community and allowed all voices to be concentrated in the singular decrees of the priest-kings. Community, as such, died with the totem that was set up to build it, and a new anti-human history was born that became a process of maintaining class distinction and privileges for the few at the expense of the manipulation and exploitation of the many.
Patriotism might be the good cholesterol that the nation state needs to preserve itself, but the nation state itself is a powerful virus that has put humanity into a coma for millennia. It’s time now, not to be good patriots but to see the virus for what it is, and dismantle the nation state in order to resuscitate what we really are: humanity.
1) 2.5 million years ago – evolution of the first hominids: able to walk upright and make tools.
2) 200,000 years ago – evolution of the homo sapiens: bigger brains and better ability for making tools; social organization and the cultural adaptation to different kinds of environments.
3) 12,000 years ago – due to the impact of climate change and the scarcity of food, some communities evolve from being hunters and collectors to being herdsmen.
4) 6,000 years ago – New techniques of irrigation and drainage, allowing for intensive agriculture based on the use of the plough.
The emergence of the first communities practising husbandry and agriculture was a result of necessity rather than mere wilful choice, and they were responses to needs created by environmental realities (first of all, the Ice Age and later because of desertification in the Middle East and North African regions where the Earth’s warming brought about extensive desertification).
Sedentary society in the early Neolithic era was classless and communal, in which the nuclear family did not exist.[i] As such, it can be affirmed that he first steps toward civilisation were a divergence from a basic form of communism. But why did that divergence from social harmony take place?
The production of an abundance of food that agriculture provided caused a rapid population growth. However, this same population had to be maintained, and agriculture in the Neolithic era was still precarious. Plagues, droughts and other natural disasters had tragic results for many Neolithic communities. Also, populations kept increasing even though arable land was scarce. Over farming created sterile land: exploration was needed to find fertile spots where the community could be replanted, and different social groups began to find themselves with conflicts of interest. “Poverty and property, scarcity and abundance were the primary causes of the first wars.”[ii]
The earliest archaeological indication of violent conflict dates back 7,500 years, and it was in the 6th Millennium BCE that groups emerged that began to identify themselves with a certain area and dominate that area for their own. As such, the year that the mythological Cain killed his brother Able should symbolically be set in the Neolithic era, at around 5,500 BCE.
But for war to occur, there needs to be the kind of complexity in a society that can fashion armies (soldiers and arms for those soldiers). We don’t have any evidence of armies before the creation of civilisations. The earliest pictographs of armies have been dated at 3,500 BCE, from the kingdom of Kish,[iii] at the beginning of the Bronze Age. Historically, in the evolution of western societies, war is a consequence of civilisation.
But civilisation alone is not a reason for the creation of warfare: these first wars were made possible not be mere cultural organisation, but by a mixture of complexity, necessity and manipulation. Needs existed where scarcity was the norm and abundance was something that others had; or where one’s own abundance was threatened by the scarcity suffered by one’s neighbours. We have nothing while they have so much, or we have so much and they want to take it from us. But this condition alone is probably not enough to drive two communities into an armed combat in which, a priori, a large number of individuals will be killed. There has to be powerful psychological motives to ignore the natural possibilities of sharing and/or exchange and sink into the extremism of violence and combat.
War could not happen between communities until the communities themselves had developed an imaginary identity around themselves. The identity of the tribe: the ones who dance a common dance around the same totem.
The tribal identity is a mini-nationalism which used a primitive form of national-history, based on the imaginary stories of the totem myths, in order to define themselves as a group. Without this controlled separation through the creation of identity, it would be impossible to organise a force of warriors designed specifically for the killing of other humans, members of the same species; people who should have been tied to one another through human empathy toward their common species.
Societies created their own identities, and the process of socialisation-through-identities was an anti-humanising process designed to create people who feel different to other people in order to create anti-human humans with the potential for making enormous sacrifices for the community (and the king) in its struggles against other communities. It was the creation of these social identities which lay the foundation for the possibilities of all wars. It was also a preliminary step toward the forming of the class divisions in society that we suffer from today. Our anti-human identities are now the greatest misfortune we suffer today, for they are the progenitors of all our other misfortunes. They are deeply embedded in our System, and their omnipresence and seeming omnipotence makes any ideas of real systemic reform seem futile. Nevertheless, at least we know what needs to be extirpated from the System to make it work for humanity. Rolling back 6,000 years of anti-human history may seem like a daunting task, but it is the only choice we have now if we want to make humanity human again.
[i] Neil Faulkner, DE LOS NEANDERTALES A LOS NEOLIBERALES, p. 27
[ii] Ibid, p.29
We get the idea that capitalism is concealment: hiding its exploitation well.
It conceals through seduction: the enamoured victim of the seducer is always blind to the depths of the one-sidedness of their relationship.
“… things do not always immediately appear as they are. The divorce between reality and the way it appears is a central aspect of Marx’s dialectical thought.”[i]
What we learn from Marx is the need to be critical and vigilant of appearances. In fact, it is precisely when everything looks quite rosy that we must be especially on our guard.
Marx argued that in communist societies technological development would seek to eliminate repetitive, physically demanding, unsafe and unhealthy tasks; reduce overall labour time, satisfy basic needs and develop human potential.[ii] The failure of communism is usually estimated by its inability to achieve, or even successfully approach the achievement of these goals.
However, in assessing this failure, it is also true that the communist states were set up at times when technologies were not advanced enough to make this forward-moving cultural-leap possible. Very many of the technologies capable of transforming our lives were developed in the capitalist, not the communist world, and the great spike in technological development that we are experiencing now came after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a sense, it could be affirmed that communism arose as a political alternative before its time. Ironically, the application of Marx’s Utopian dream is far easier to envisage now. Whilst, a development of our current AI and robotics technologies offers an alternative to human labour that could give us the means to nurture our potential, the pressing needs for systemic change that are demanded by the ecological crisis give us a sound reason for wanting to make such a revolutionary change as well.
One of the goals of all human societies, if they are truly human, should be to get humans out of the psychologically and physically tedious work spaces, and into environments where human potential can be focussed on tasks related to the full development of our human, homo sapiens, potentials. Technology is now our greatest hope, and the more utopian are our hopes for the technological world, the better. Nevertheless, it is also true, and it should always be uppermost in any technological thrust forward, that a Utopia will only ever be built once research and the production of new technologies are liberated from the profit-making obligations of the market place. (Capitalism + Technology = Dystopia) is the true equation behind the façade of the current System, but it is this same monstrous equation that has to be avoided at all costs.
One of the ways to achieve the liberation from tedious, repetitive work that offers no spiritual reward for the labourer, would lie through a complete automation of production – a process which is taking place, but which is unpopular because it produces unemployment, which produces, in our capitalist-monetary system, misery and poverty. What this implies, therefore, is another Marxist or neo-Marxist goal: the deconstruction of the idea of unemployment allowing for a conception of society to be formed in which being without a wage-earning occupation never has to be a problem.
[i] From Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad, MARX’S CAPITAL, Routledge, p.4
[ii] Ibid, p.8
(i) “Man, because he is Mind, should and must deem himself worthy of the highest … The Being of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power which can offer resistance to the search for knowledge …”[i]
Our consciousness makes us unique and blessed in the Universe.
(ii) “… in so far as we participate in the knowledge of it, we are in the truth; but in so far as we are singular, we are in error.”[ii]
Our participation with the Universe through our knowledge of it, is the truthful, authentic participation.
“… reality is the outcome of an evolving system of concepts, or movement towards the ‘Absolute Idea’”[iii]
Or, in other words, we are in an unfolding eschatological process; our lives are imbued with meaningfulness because of our knowledge and sapiens nature, and we are moving purposefully towards a great common goal – the Absolute Idea, driven by the Weltgeist, the World Spirit.
We’ve already discussed the human connection with the Universe in “What do we take? – A) from Feuerbach” https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/what-do-we-take-a-from-feuerbach/, and briefly touched on how humanity, as consciousness in the Universe, is directly involved in this Weltgeist. We see this involvement as a deeply positivistic concept, so deep, in fact, that it makes the human need for God obsolete. It was a positivism that fuelled much of the 19th century’s Idealisms and Romanticisms, pointing a purposeful way forward for humanity through the progress of its understanding and its own shaping of the Universe through technological possibilities. Through science and technology, everything was possible, and that was an optimistic and motivating idea, until it became also the monstrous reality of the 20th century and its two world wars that left humanity on the brink of annihilation.
But, the pessimism that evolved into a profound nihilism had already begun in the 19th century, and was announced by science itself in 1852 when William Thomson, the first baron Kelvin, published a work called “On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy”. This thesis outlined the basis of what was to become the second law of thermodynamics, a concept that possessed ramifications that were to throw humanity into a period of irrefutable nihilism and pessimism still dominating human culture today.
The consequence of Lord Kelvin’s prediction was an announcement of the end of the entire Universe. According to the law of thermodynamics, this will take the form of a “heat death” in which the Universe will come to a halt in its expansion and freeze. Later, in the 20th century, with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to support it, came a new, even grizzlier prediction for the cosmos. They called this the Big Crunch, which proposed that the Universe will eventually collapse in on itself and everything will be sucked into one nice, neat, totally-compressed pin-point of absolute energy.
Whichever way you looked at it, this physics affirmed that the Universe was doomed.
Nevertheless, a new age is dawning with a new scientific outlook that is immensely positivist and some cosmologists now dare to propose a vision of a Universe that, in a Hegelian way, has evolved meaningfully, with a seemingly wilful purpose. This wilful universe, according to contemporary cosmologists, is not unlike Hegel’s Weltgeist driven Universe. It has fine-tuned itself in such a way that from an absolutely unconscious void in which nothing existed because there was nothing to perceive that existence, it has been able to create sapient organisms, not only capable of perceiving the world around it, but also of understanding the unperceived subtleties of that world. And we, as the highest form of sapiens’ evolution on our planet, are an integral part in the Universe’s plan to create and understand its own existence. What this means, is that humanity is placed in the centre of things again. We can now forget all nihilisms: ours is a purposeful universe, a beautiful place powered by absolute meaning, a godless-full beauty, in which we, as sapiens, are the key to all existence.
We have permission to think teleologically again. By which we mean, to think of the direction toward which everything is evolving as a purposeful thing. Once we have accepted final purpose, it creates a new gravity that tugs us from the end and pulls us forward, dragging us away from the vicious circles of all past conflicts.
But if we are to resurrect the idea of the Weltgeist, it needs to be protected against spiritualist and other religious manipulations. If we refer back again to our Feuerbach post, we have to insist that the Weltgeist should be considered a blind force and that we, as aware and rational organisms within the Universe it drives, are the “eyes” and “consciousness” of that spirit.
Our current ecological crisis shows us the dangers of pursuing nihilistic directions forward, and the disaster of equating progress with continual growth and human happiness with what we consume. Without the imperative conditional that humanity is in the world primarily, and the Universe secondly, and the subsequent consequences demanding that all progress take into consideration this partnership, there will be no evolution. In fact, the last century has been a devolution away from the Absolute Idea and Hegel has been shown to be wrong. The Universe is blind and we are its eyes, but if we lose touch with the Universe’s own driving spirit for natural progress, then we are also blind and that blindness could very well lead to the Absolute End of the Idea and the obliteration of all conscious, rational being.
[i] G.W.F. Hegel “LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY” ebook version, p.15
[ii] Ibid, p. 245
[iii] From Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad, MARX’S CAPITAL, Routledge, p.3