Nationalism & Patriotism: TOTEM IDENTITIES & POWER

Powhatans

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.

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CIVILISATION, NATIONALISM & WAR: The decline and fall of the homo sapiens

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OUR EVOLUTION

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 DECLINE:

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]

FIRST WARS:

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.

CONCLUSION:

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

[iii] Source WAR IN ANCIENT TIMES https://www.ancient.eu/war/

WHAT DO WE TAKE? … C) from Marx

KarlMarx

FROM MARX:

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

WHAT DO WE TAKE? … B) from Hegel

Hegel_portrait_by_Schlesinger_1831

FROM Hegel:

(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

WHAT DO WE TAKE? … A) from Feuerbach

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FROM FEUERBACH:

(i) “… human needs determine consciousness

(ii) “The essence of man is the Origin, Cause and Goal of history …”[1]

In THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, Feuerbach examines the need for God, which he describes as an emotional need. This is true, but within that emotional need is also a need for an ultimate meaning to existence; a need for eschatological meaning; an answer to the question: where are we going?

The problem with this need is that it is easily manipulated: the very essence of religions is an indication of how sentimental attachments to symbols and fetishes can be easily implanted in society. Religions have also shown us how this implantation can be used by interested groups to socialise the masses in a way that is obviously beneficial to the groups that are controlling the manipulation. Religions are always, primarily, forms of exploiting the emotional need for existential and eschatological meaning in order to build easily controllable societies and cultures.

If we accept Feuerbach’s thesis that human needs determine consciousness and that God is an emotional need, we can see that obliterating what God is does not obliterate the problem of God, for, although we can obliterate religious superstition, without a substitute for God, we fail to satisfy the emotional need we have for an ultimate meaning to our existence.

To resolve this dilemma, we need to find another kind of final goal for humanity, one based on scientific and mathematical data, that can satisfy the human need for ultimate meaning and replace the purely mythical eschatologies of our religions. For example, it is a more positive idea if we construct our needs for ultimate meaning on the very physical and evolutionary nature of the cosmos, and our possible role within that evolution itself, rather than waiting for a supernatural End of Days.

We know that the Universe exists, and it is much easier to prove than the existence of God.

We can speculate on the purpose of the Universe in a scientific way, and such speculation can produce far more satisfying and pragmatic results than speculation on the existence of God.

Human purpose in the Universe depends on our relationship with the same Universe, and this idea ultimately leads to an interconnectivity between everything, both material and spiritual, that is lacking in the monotheistic religions that disparage the material in favour of an all-important, but also most-obscure idea of the spiritual.

In order to properly answer where we are going, we have to redraw our home, the where-we-are, away from the ambiguities of God, but not into the abyss of no-place, yet rather into the concrete reality of the Cosmos. Between God and No-God, lies the Universe.

If God is eternal, the Universe created itself out of nothing. If God is omnipotent, the Universe if driven by a blind will that needs sapient organisms (like us) to see.  In God there can be no evolution; no authentic progress, whilst the Universe is always expanding and changing, and we are the conscious part of that evolution and change. In God, we are insignificant; in the Universe and its evolution to self-consciousness, we are a fundamental, purposeful ingredient.

[1] As quoted in Althusser: ESSAY ON SELF-CRITICISM, p.101, (ebook)

THE POSITIVE DOOR OPENED BY THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

climate_change

The latest report from the ICC warns that a climate catastrophe will likely happen only twenty-two years from now unless drastic systemic action is not taken[i]. Of course, there is nothing positive about this emerging scenario, if we let it unfold it will be an absolute tragedy for humanity. Nevertheless, the ugly prediction itself does carry a positive mask, because it also comes with an emphatic cry to remodel our relationship with the world and with the technologies we created to improve our relationship with the world.

This last point is very important: the technologies we are using that are proving so harmful to the ecosystem, are technologies that were created to make the world a more comfortable place to live in. The planet goes dark at night, so we have technologies that give us light; the winters are cold, so we have technologies that keep us warm; the summers are too hot, but technology can make a space cool; there are huge distances between places, but we have technologies that can move us around quite quickly.

So, if the basic purpose of technology is to make the world a more comfortable place to live in, it is an absurdity to keep using technologies that are incrementing those same uncomfortable factors that they are supposed to be mitigating.

Here we have, what we call, the technology-world paradox. What we created to make us more comfortable is aggravating the discomfort.

Capitalism naturally defends this paradoxical relationship, because it is a perfect cycle for making money. The rising mercury in the thermometers will necessitate more air-conditioning, which makes it hotter, which will further boost the sales of air-conditioners. But not just that, an increase in natural disasters will also create an increase in the economy of reconstruction. Capitalism knows that in every catastrophe there is a potential fortune to be made. Of course, this is a perverse and ultimately internecine game.

Until now, our technology has been created without taking this absurd condition into consideration. However, what should change as the unfolding catastrophe gets closer, is precisely the political attitudes towards this paradoxical relationship. The logical (and anti-capitalist) position that is becoming more and more obvious, is that technology, the purpose of which is to make our lives more comfortable, cannot be allowed if it exacerbates the discomfort levels created by the natural environment. Technology must become clean.

For many of us, perhaps for most of you reading this article, this is an obvious statement; but we also know that capitalism is being stubborn with its propagation of dirty, fossil-fuel technologies, and it seems to want to exploit every single last drop of oil and the last crumb of coal that we have on the planet. For the old capitalism, all this oil and dirt is a marvellous source of free money for those who have created the infrastructures for exploiting it, and those exploiters don’t want to surrender the lovely privileges they have forged for themselves.

Yes, we know we now have the clean technologies to replace the dirty ones, but the catastrophe scenario only worsens, and that is because there is a complete lack of will in the capitalist wealth-system that we are immersed in to make that change.

The fundamental question facing us today, is not how we can change the technology, but how can we make those who control the current bad technologies change.

Currently, are global economy is driven by two kinds of ideologies which have the same liberal basis. On the one hand there is the neo-liberal ideology which opens the door to capitalist desires and promotes the prolongation of dirty technologies, and on the other hand, there is a social-liberalism that wants to put state funding investment into renewable-energy technologies to fill the lack coming from the private sector. As such, an avoidance of the ecological catastrophe depends on the triumph of the latter. And yet, as we get closer and closer to the fatidic date, now 2040, the success of the positive option seems to be growing less rather than more likely of coming about.

Yes, this ideological failure to make a common-sense change is very concerning. So, where is that door we claim to see beginning to open onto a positive scenario?

The positive door is actually created by the growing obviousness of the ineffectiveness of liberalism (i.e. capitalism) to mitigate, let alone resolve, the crisis.

This inability of the system to save itself, opens the door to a radical redrawing of the economy. Instead of financing the transition to clean technology, the real solution will have to come through making the need to finance that change-over irrelevant.

In order to make technologies that will make the world a more comfortable place without making the same world more uncomfortable, we need to pull the spanner out of the works – and that spanner is capitalism.

Until we recognise this, the struggle to save the planet is ultimately a futile one.

Our current hope depends on social democracies gaining enough power to take positive steps forward. Nevertheless, our democratic cycles indicate that those steps will eventually be removed by the arrival of neo-liberal, nationalist governments that will replace them. In other words, if the future of the planet depends on the whims of the voters who are manipulated by Wealth-as power through the media to decide according to short-term political and economic concerns rather than long-term progress, we are doomed. If we call the neo-liberal democracy -A and the social-democracy path +A, we get an equation of -A +A = 0.

What we see through the new door that is opening, however, is the need for a complete overhaul of our capitalist system, and a complete change of perspective on what our money is used for. Not a Marxist redistribution of wealth, but a redefinition of Wealth itself; unchaining wealth from the idea of accumulation of money and/or goods and anchoring it to the idea of human fulfilment. This simple idea revolutionises the concept of labour goals and the purposes of the entire economy. Making money is suddenly not the do-all and end-all, and when and where money is an impediment to fulfilment it should be phased out or restructured.

What this door offers is a new perspective that we can call B. The equation thus boils down to A against B – and the struggle is clearer. B knows who its enemy is. It is not confused like +A which doesn’t realise that a large part of its ineffectiveness lies in its own condition as A. B, on the other hand, is unambiguous. It knows where the root of the problem lies.

Of course, it doesn’t make the struggle any easier, but it does make it clearer.

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

History and Nature

World News - Sept. 1, 2014

What must be done? …

To answer this question pragmatically, we need to listen to science, and science is telling us that we have to alter our energy culture and control population growth if our relationship with the planet is to remain sustainable.

The underlying message here is that nature is an integral feature of history; a feature that cannot any longer be ignored in the unfolding of the historical process. From now on, human history cannot be told or understood without also understanding nature and our effects on the natural environment that we ultimately depend on for our quality of life and survival.

That we feel separated from nature in the historical process is an illusion. That the illusion persists, despite everything we know, is mainly thanks to the efforts of power to maintain the farcical image that places civilisation outside and above nature. Nature has never played a part in the explanation of history because, once it did, the exploiting classes that wield power would have had to forfeit many of its reasons for holding onto that power. Very much of wealth’s property, for example, was accumulated by claiming a natural right to property through someone’s labour, passed down through the ages via inheritance. The truth is, nature is not something that anyone can hold a natural right to. The natural rights are nature’s own.

In the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance, nature was made by God and obeyed His laws, which was an easy way of saying that nature had to obey the laws of the churches and kings who represented God on Earth.

The Age of Enlightenment offered a new, clear explanation of history based on reason and liberty. But again, nature is largely ignored by the powers governing civilisation. Not even in the enlightenment was science allowed to have its say to explain the historical process. History gradually became something to say about the masses; a class struggle. When a revolutionary force grew, it still lacked the common-sense insight that inexorably linked the fulfilment of human progress to the world and its ecosystem, undoubtedly vital for our existence here. For the bourgeoise revolutions of the 19th century and the omnipotent force of capitalisms that accompanied them, nature was little more than an inexhaustible source of wealth that had to be exploited to the full. We are now experiencing the beginnings of the tragic consequences of that kind of thinking.

Now, things are different; we have ecology, a science that explains nature and our absolute dependency on its well-being. The damage done to the environment by our anti-natural and anti-human historical process is now evident … and it’s time to rewrite our history books and put that evidence into real consideration.

EQUILIBRIUM

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In the dystopian sc-fi-action film, Equilibrium, directed by Kurt Wimmer, we are presented with a totalitarian regime that controls society by abolishing feelings. In this dystopia, each member of society is provided with a drug, to be taken at regular intervals, that inhibits, like Prozac, the human side of humans – our feelings.

On a superficial level, this seems to be a critique of all dictatorial regimes, and of the evolution of power. Nevertheless, the real manipulation by the most powerful regimes today function quite the opposite: power today is ensured, not by inhibiting human feelings and allowing the logical mind to flourish, but rather by letting our sentiments and desires dominate us and, by so doing, inhibiting effective critical thought which would challenge the authority of the regime.

All totalitarian regimes have always identified their greatest enemies in the intellectual class. It is only knowledge and deep critical thinking which will be able to see through the lies they propagate and undermine the superficial veneers of happiness they have painted their societies with.

Governments and Ultimate Significance

Parliament

Governments are supposed to organise us, but … organise us to do what? To be able to answer this question democratically and function as effectively as possible in favour of the demos, the elected government would have to know the ultimate significance of what everybody knows and does, as well as the potentials behind what each one of us would like to do.

The paradox behind this fact is that no demos would ever want their government to know exactly what they know and do, or, perhaps, even what they would really like to do.

What this paradox means therefore, is that real democracy is an impossibility. Nevertheless, we have systems that call themselves democratic, and we are told that these systems are designed for our welfare, or for our security. But these claims are also paradoxical, because such justifications only make sense for a society that has already reached and understood its ultimate significance … which takes us back to the first paradox, and in this way the great leviathan of government swallows it tail twice.

To resolve these paradoxes, the demos needs to be able to have the faith that a democratic government that knew what we want, know and do, would be able to channel this perfect knowledge of its citizens into a collective, truly purposeful project directed towards real fulfilment.

 

THE ROLE OF RELIGION IN DEMOCRACY

Religion has traditionally been an escape vessel for political leaders: if the ultimate significance is a religious one, beyond our control, except by ensuring that the religious idea is allowed absolute freedom of expression, then government can concentrate on fulfilling its four-year programme without worrying about the inconvenience of its own ultimate significance.

What this succeeds in doing is to create the removal of politics from any truly purposeful organisation. When the long term is ignored, so is authentic fulfilment. The result is a general feeling of dissatisfaction and pointlessness and a retreat into hedonisms and living the day to day. If there is money around, it creates decadence. If there is not, it creates the struggle for daily survival.

 

ENLIGHTENED GOVERNMENT

But how can we ever get over the first paradox. The idea of the enlightened government is terrifying. Traditional enlightenment and power has been a terrible, often tragic, combination for societies, and they usually add up to dictatorial dogmas enforced by megalomaniacal leaders. We need enlightened government, but we fear it will only bring about oppression and tragedy.

Nevertheless, once we start analysing the ultimate significance we are proposing and the ideologies that have created past dictatorships, we find there is a fundamental difference. Traditionally, ideologies have been initiated by and for a social group, or class, race or culture. The failure of these ideologies as enlightenment has been their intrinsic nature of pitching us against them.

What we are discovering now is that the struggle between us and them has got nothing to do with the current crises except in the fact that it must be overcome. The only way that our great universal problems can be superseded is by humanity coming together and making the ultimate leap towards ultimate significance which can only come through a real identification with what each one of us really is … a member of the human race. From the human race point of view, sovereignty is a constant distraction away from the ultimate significance.

AUTHENTIC REALITY

But whether we can offer an authentic ultimate significance for social action or not, the shadow of power still hangs over the reality of all social organisation. And the form of that shadow is that governmental power is, really, the power to create reality.

Our argument is, that authentic reality which is that which offers an ultimate significance for all human knowledge, activity and desires, can only be measured from a holistically human point of view. Power on the other hand, has been traditionally self-interested, serving the needs and desires of certain factions and using lies and persuasion to convince societies that their regimes are working for them. Or, if not, that they have no other choice but to work for the regime that wields ultimate power over their lives.

What is our Mind-set?

Mindsets

“All human activity is subject to habitualisation. Any action that is repeated frequently

becomes cast into a pattern, which can then be reproduced with an economy of

effort and which, ipso facto, is apprehended by its performer as that pattern.”[i]

(Peter L. Burger and Thomas Luckmann, THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY)

 

In many ways, the socialization process is an exploitation of habitualisation by authority groups. Synonymous with habitualisation is the concept of taming. Authority uses the socializing process of habitualisation to create a concept of reality in which all its members are so deeply immersed that they accept it almost unconditionally.

In charge of a tamed society, authority is given a leeway that enables it to protect itself and act in absolutely unrestrained ways without having to implement obvious uses of force or tangible instruments of oppression.

Whatsmore … “Habitualisation carries with it the important psychological gain that choices are narrowed. While in theory there may be a hundred ways to go about the project … habitualisation narrows these down to one.”[ii] Berger and Luckmann regard this as a positive thing, seeing that it frees the individual from the burden of decision making, but, by narrowing down possibilities, the individual is being sunk into the swampy reality of reduced options that authority desires.

There is no freedom in such a reality, and yet the individual has been nurtured to believe that he or she is free, and largely accepts the discourse that his or her society is the best of all possible systems. The individual even believes that he or she can choose, even though they cannot clearly see what their choices might be.

“Habitualised actions retain their meaningful character for the individual although the meanings involved become embedded as routines.”[iii]

This embedded meaningfulness is the reality of coherence. Things are because that is how things have to be in order to ensure that things remain as they are. But this concept of reality is not in fact particularly meaningful. Rather it is a mind-set blind to possibilities of other realities. Whenever the socio-cultural rule of this-is-how-we-are and this-is-how-we-should-be comes into effect it not only destroys the roots of creativity and truly progressive notions, it also threatens the power of common-sense notions of what should be done when the correct answers to that question lie outside the framework of habitualised reality.

Berger and Luckmann themselves argue the opposite: according to them, habitualisation “opens up a foreground for deliberation and innovation.”[iv] Yet now, as wealth flaunts its riches in ways we haven’t seen since the times of the absolute monarchs; when international conflicts broil and simmer and lunatic leaders talk of pressing the button; while our economic system grows and plunders, pillaging the last remnants of natural resources, leaving us standing on the threshold of an apocalypse; with the membrane of the ecosystem tearing apart right under our noses and opening a window to the most inhospitable of climates …

While all of this goes on, habitualisation creates a lack of deliberation and innovation to handle any of these crises … And it does this over and over again.

 

[i] Peter L. Burger and Thomas Luckmann, THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY, pp.70-71

[ii] Ibid, p. 71

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid