Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.
Our most overwhelming impulse as humans is to belong to a society. The pain of shunning is the most powerful coercive tool we employ against each other. Shunning can motivate people to take their own lives or the lives of others. Solitary confinement can rapidly destroy mental health. An infant left without human contact can have all of their physical needs met and still grow up with physical and mental damage. The need to belong can be used to overpower principles, deep rooted morals and self-interest. History has repeatedly proven that the majority of people can be coerced to do anything to themselves or others by the need for social inclusion. The desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves is frequently expressed as a motivation for action and duty to society a frequent excuse for compliance.
Most people are born with ambition to reach their own full potential in the areas which interest them. Autonomy, the ability to choose ideas and society for ourselves and the ability to spend our lives in the way that seems best to us is a basic human need. A society which locks people in or out due to location of birth or ethnicity and roles which are presented as the only acceptable paths require rigid conformity which does not suit our characters and will cause rebellion. Accepted diversity is not just morally just or strategically wise, it is also necessary for a complete society to fulfill all the roles required or desired.
An overriding theme in social structures in recent centuries has been equality as an ideal. Once questioned and frequently refuted, it is now accepted almost universally, dominating political movements, political theory, and all of society’s institutions as a Holy Grail which, once achieved, will assure the better world which has so consistently eluded us. Whenever social change is attempted, the ghost of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité comes back to drown out all other conversation. Debates on equality as a realistic goal have typically fueled attempts at eugenics, not tolerance, since societal acceptance is hinged on equality. What and who we are all supposed to be equal to is the majority, an idea enforced by democracy. Our goals are to match those of the powerful, enabling them to excel ahead of everyone and become more powerful. Liberty and equality are for the accepted fraternity, not anyone outside their sphere.
We do not feel a sense of belonging when society demands we meet an unattainable ideal. The confidence of social inclusion required to risk relationships with other people by opposing majority will is a privilege of those accepted. Those not respected as autonomous individuals with equal rights but accepted on sufferance and with their needs unmet and unconsidered will forever be an unstable fringe. A society which demands unattainable results from a few of its members is inviting rebellion and discord not only from those excluded but also from those taught to exclude.
The quest for equality is futile and prevents development of a real society. It is the reason we have never achieved tolerance, a working system of collaboration or equivalence for all. It has denied us recognition and appreciation of the power of diversity. Survival under such a system demands conformity which restricts social progress to a crippling degree and denies basic rights of autonomy and personal fulfillment. It silences radical ideas which may bring change of great benefit to all. It ignores observable reality and the real requirements of a social structure with infants, elderly and diversity of all kinds. Those projecting from the mold will be driven into wretchedness for no reason except their failure to attain an impossible and artificial goal.
The concept of equality has been used to create a trade economy which insists that all have a universally equal ability to trade. The only work valued and the only ownership recognized is that of those in power and the only acceptable goals are those that benefit the powerful. Instead of a real society which works for the benefit of all members, we have created society as a corporation where all work to benefit the self-appointed shareholders. This trade economy has been extremely successful in justifying and continuing hierarchical rule and unbalanced privilege. In every tyranny there must be a rational justification of it. The divine right of kings was usually successful in protecting a monarch’s head as few wished to act against god’s will. A secular age must appeal to the sense of fairness which most people are born with. The idea that this one group of people are more worthy as they are used as a measure of worthiness must be instilled and reinforced constantly, as it is. The only reason equality in a trade economy is considered a virtue is to allow rule by right of virtue for the fraternity, the libertarian ideal of meritocracy.
In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft stated the root flaw in every governance algorithm used in the past or present, “Where there is justice there is no need for charity.” Her view has been overlooked by all and the image of a just society is consistently one which has evolved to be charitable. There have been societies that were ruled by equivalence regardless of ability or role but they were always few, and since the notion of equality under a trade economy became widely lauded as both an ideal and a truism they exist almost nowhere. The equality mantra is the worm at the root of all trade economy systems today and any trade economy based on an ideal of equality will produce the same result, as we have seen. Equivalence comes from an economic system in which an infant or other dependencies have an inherent right to be included without reliance on charity. Equivalence would value work which benefits the poor or a few equally to that which benefits the powerful or the majority.
We once had a chance to overthrow our feudalist structures and achieve autonomy, diversity and society. Many societies of interwoven dependencies worldwide had the potential to evolve and allow both autonomy and society for all. Capitalists used the principle of equality to create inequality, a caste system where everyone must strive for the same goals and all but the few setting the goals would fail. The current goals of knowledge based capitalism, with knowledge as a product of wealth, leisure and access, continues the progression. Silicon valley, the financial and commodity industries fill no need of greater society, they exist to create a new corporate ruling class overseeing a new age of corporate empire. What little they produce is in service of empire, not greater society. The technology industries have created a global governance system for the five eyes and other intelligence services. The financial and commodity industries are set up to rob resources and enslave the rightful owners.
The trade economy has denied the value of any work benefitting those in need of assistance and denied the value of resources in non-western countries. Both caregivers and the entire continent of Africa are depicted as being in a state of perpetual begging for handouts from the wealthy despite the obvious fact that no one needs the wealthy and everyone needs caregivers and resources. The same power that once denied ownership by the commons with the homesteading principle now denies the rights of homesteaders in favour of foreign multi-national corporations. Liberty can no longer be attained without society because society has grown too complex. Those who claim liberty with no obligation to society endorse rule by mafia and act as parasites on society.
Laws are stratified to ensure the powerful have superior versions of everything, including immigration rights at a time when much of the world will need refugee status from drought, pollution, conflict and natural disasters. Even natural life expectancy is unapologetically higher for the chosen strata. The world is being funnelled through a eugenics program of a previously unimagined scale.
This callous and deliberate exclusion of most of society, even for moral nihilists, is ignorant and ill-judged. Our only hope of a livable future is in a singularity produced not from technology created by a population of self-appointed Übermenschen but from the collaborative creativity of all of the diverse minds in the world. Where very recently a qualified tradesman could, and was expected to, understand everything related to their field, it is now increasingly difficult for one human brain to comprehend the overall workings of any complete system much less the interlocking detail of every system globally. Given the required tools and societal structure, we could create a resilient collaborative network that could act as a real hive mind, that could audit, bridge and develop complex original thought and create solutions with the speed required.
Every revolution in history has simply installed new faces on top of the same paradigm. Societies ruled by the majority create oligarchies of Great Men, those two standard deviations above the mean in every field, just advanced enough to impress and not advanced enough to baffle, always from the tiny demographic group accepted as rulers. The voices and ideas outside the circle of demagogues, the ones that need and drive revolution in every case, sink back into oblivion. It is evident that if we are to stop the endless cycles of revolution, or even survive another cycle, we will have to change the paradigm. The current corporate empire is eager to install the latest messiahs who will promise reform which will retreat to moderation and then back to the status quo or worse. As we can already see, this population is once more leading us past democracy and back to the deeper prison of fascism. This time it is essential that we go deeper and create a genuinely new system, not just new messiahs and new names for old tricks.