Thursday, April 3, 2014

Totalitarianism And The Great Masses Fully Roused: Part II

I said I'd return to this post. It wasn't a lie. It's been a while, granted. And just how often I'll return to the subject remains to be seen, I suppose. I'm still fascinated by ideas of power, and the ways in which we willfully submit to power. I find myself submitting, deferring and otherwise overly aggrandizing the powerful all the time. I was meditating on this idea a lot the other day. Why? I get why, but still, why? What I do realize is, though there's merit to everything, once you find yourself in the esteemed position of someone like Malcolm Gladwell your obligation to a certain degree of scruples when disseminating your work is hardly what it was when you first started. You've been vetted. Your opinion carries more weight. You, in turn, are more important in the grand scheme of things. Tremendous. Wonderful. Congratulations, you. You did it.

People will continue to seek the upper echelon. In large part because Nietzsche wasn't wrong. There is a "will to power." I think its manifestations might be more nuanced than the desire for control over everyone and anyone who might try to undermine you, and so who you, in your turn, undermine as a result. In other words, in any scenario someone is going to need to be undermined, and it's up to you to decide whether that's you or that's not you. (It is possible that you'll have no choice at all, depending on your paltry little circumstances or lack thereof.) We're not quite that cynical, are we? On the whole? What I'm saying is we don't necessarily mean to force our own wills on others. It just sort of happens, a lot of the time, at least.

I was listening on the radio when a fragment of information appeared. The host was quizzing people on what wealthier folks are less likely to want to do than the rest of the population. The DJ said as you become wealthier you tend not to be willing to wait in line as much. I only have the anecdotal example of the many cars I see cruising along the shoulder of the highway, and that many of those cars are models that tend to be more expensive. Nevertheless, the notion seemed reasonable to me. My question was, and this the host did not elaborate on at all, are people who are wealthy that way as effect or is this tendency more causal in nature? In other words, do people who don't want to wait in line become more wealthy than the rank and file, and one aspect of this is their willingness to shove their way to the front of the line, probably on the flimsy pretense that someone else would do it if not them? If there is any justifying at all to the process. If it's not anything more than complete and unthinking entitlement. They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it would seem the annoying patron with little to no social awareness or concern gets the conciliatory deals and compensation. People tend to get what they want, when they're of this mind: that for some reason or another it's what they're owed. That's not to say people don't complain for entirely justifiable reasons, and sometimes complain long and hard, giving the impression while doing so that they were probably driven to this point. I'm thinking of the infamous customer service call that leaked onto the internet last September, during which a man's harangue and the violent expletives included therein lasted for something around eight minutes. Here's a link to it, if you haven't heard it already. But somewhere along the way that carping seems to ring hollow. It seems the recourse of an untrustworthy sort, designed to fool the average you or me, who might hear it and find reasons to sympathize, no?

But it's that sleight of hand, good old misdirection. The masquerade that you're just a guy with a beef.

There's a lot about authority and absurdity out there right now. There's this article, which validates the notion that we tend to value absurd directives over more reasonable directives, because they seem to our thinking to be coming from a place of actual authority. The article is light on a few details I find myself curious about, though this is more or less necessary since there would be no way to objectively measure their presence. It's worth noting, though, that the answer could just be people tend to enjoy tearing stuff apart, when the opportunity is presented to them, when they're effectively told to just go nuts.

I think money and power is a vital theme, to be returned to as often as possible. They certainly go hand in hand in American society. They seem to go hand in hand the world over, too. With the U.S. Supreme Court's unsurprising recent decision to allow money to have even more say in American politics, we're really left with no other option but to conclude that your voice does matter more if you can afford it. That's not a democracy, or maybe more reasonably, we can define our founders' original government as a "constitutional republic." Still better than plutocracy, right? Oligarchy? What we're just about totally embracing these days. I'm not opposed to Scalia retiring. I think that much is obvious. Roberts, Kennedy, Alito and Thomas are all encouraged to do the same. You've earned it!

Robert Reich pretty masterfully skewers the popular talking point that the rest of us are simply envious of the wealthy, and that we should just stop being so envious already. It goes back to the great conservative - liberal divide: preserving the community (or, more cynically, the status quo) vs. the idea of universal equality. What the wealthy ought to remember is, actually, most people are fine not having what they have. Just because you spent your life maintaining or acquiring a fortune doesn't mean the rest of us desire that at all, or even a fraction of that. Certainly everybody desires the same right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." All three of which seem to be getting more and more difficult, not easier. (And when we're talking totalitarianism, it completely freaks me out because it's weary economic times like these, with a population under-educated and over-worked when the forces of totalitarianism are at their most viable.)

Plus the Boston Review's Claude S. Fischer has a great counterpoint to some seriously frustrating / obnoxious perspective from Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw. I think in Mankiw's "Panglossed perspective" of the so-called agreement between employers and labor, we see a perfect illustration of the ideological hold neo-liberal thought has on the greater academic world of economic theory. I will say, just as I think the humanities breed a more left-leaning belief system, economics breed a more conservative one. I'll also be forced to note the apparent monetary incentive for such beliefs, too. I mean, it's a smidgen intellectually dishonest, and I have to believe Mankiw knows this (isn't that deluded), to suggest that employers and laborers are equal players in deciding what a fair rate for the laborer's labors is (tongue-tied after writing that one, myself). Power would dictate without an intermediary like the government, and power would favor those with money (because they're effectively one and the same, as has been said before, I think). Workers could come together and unionize, but with the way unions have been so successfully maligned in the US over the past fifty years, it seems unlikely that's something that would get a lot of traction. Government is the last friend (and evidently a growing enemy, or at least impediment) of the average laborer, in my frank opinion.

I'll leave you with THIS LINK. My favorite "Shouts & Murmurs" piece in a mighty long time.

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