Category Archives: Philosophy

Priorities of the Time: Peace

For as long as anyone can remember violence and conflict have been part of daily life: humanity appears incapable of living peacefully together. There are the brutal cries of war, the vile acts of terror, homicides, rapes and assaults of all kinds. People everywhere long for an end to such conflicts, and are crying out for peace and understanding, to live in a just world free from fear.

Creating a world at peace not only demands putting an end to all forms of armed brutality, it also entails building peace within communities, in the workplace, educational institutions and the home, in the natural environment and, most importantly, it requires the inculcation of harmony within all of us. Each of these areas of living are interconnected, the prevailing condition in each affecting the stability and atmosphere of the other.

The task before us is to identify and change the prevailing divisive modes of living for inclusive ways that facilitate peace and cultivate tolerance. Peace itself is part of our essential nature: when the conditions of conflict are removed, peace between groups and within individuals arises naturally.

We are Society

Society is not an abstraction; it is a reflection of the consciousness of the individuals that make up any given community. As such, the responsibility for the nature of a town, city, school, office, country, region, etc., rests largely with those who live within its boundaries. I say “largely” because the corporate and state bodies that fashion the structures and promote the ideals of the day bear a large part of the responsibility. Specific values and conclusions are daily poured into the minds of everyone, virtually from birth, conditioning the consciousness and behavior of people around the world; the media (including the internet), institutionalized education and organized religion being the main outlets for such propaganda.

Variations on the nature of such conditioning are determined by circumstances of birth and background: the religious, political, socio-economic belief systems, the values of the family, the region and/or the country. All ism’s are inhibiting and divisive, and as the Dalai Lama says in A Human Approach to World Peace, when they are adopted people lose “sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a single human family.” Freedom of thought and independent creative thinking is denied, conformity expected. And can there be peace when the mind is imprisoned within the confines of a doctrine, no matter how lofty?

Whilst it is true that a symbiotic relationship exists between society and the individual, fundamentally the external world in which we live is a reflection of the internal life of humanity. Violent, disharmonious societies are the external manifestation of the inner turmoil, discontent and fear that many people feel.

The business of War

The loudest, ugliest form of violence is war, the machinery of which is a huge global industry greatly valued by the corporate state. It is a business ostensibly like any other, the difference being its products are intended to kill people and destroy everything in their path.

Like all businesses, weapons manufacturers operate to generate profits: wars are big business for arms companies, and therefore highly profitable, desirable even. International arms sales (dominated by America, with 34% of the total) according to the BBC “is now worth about $100bn.” By contrast, to end world hunger, which currently crushes the lives of around a billion people globally, would cost a mere $30 billion per year. And we wonder why there is no peace – how can there be peace when such gross injustice and inhumanity persist?

Profit, whether financial remuneration, status or power, is the principle motivating force within the working methodology of the global economic system. It is an unjust model that promotes a range of divisive, therefore violent values, including selfishness, competition and ambition. It thrives on and continually engenders dissatisfaction, and can there be peace when there is discontent?

Enormous wealth and power for a handful of men flow from the Ideology of Consumerism, leading to unprecedented levels of inequality in income/wealth, influence, education, health care, employment opportunities, access to culture and freedom to travel. Inequality is a fundamental form of social injustice: peace will never be realized where social injustice exists. Nor can peace be known when hunger, poverty, and exploitation, flowing from (financial) vulnerability, stalk the land destroying the lives of millions throughout the world.

Removing the obstacles to peace

Extreme inequality is a vile stain on our common humanity; inequality between the hideously wealthy, who have everything but want more, and the desperately poor, who have nothing, can barely feed themselves and live lives stunted by suffering; inequality between the economically secure and habitually complacent, and those who work until they drop yet can barely pay the rent. The hierarchy of injustice is crude at the extremes, variable in the middle and toxic throughout. It feeds anger and resentment and crushes peace.

Together with a ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality, global inequality fuels insecurity and fear, both psychological and physical, leading to tension, anxiety and depression. It fosters bitterness, crushes hope and strengthens false notions of superiority and inferiority. This in turn reinforces the prevailing fear and a strengthening spiral of suspicion, intolerance and unease is set in motion, thereby denying the quiet manifestation of peace.

The realization of peace is inextricably related to the introduction of a new socio-economic order based on values altogether different from the existing model. A socially just system that reduces inequality, encourages cooperation instead of competition, and facilitates equal access to well designed accommodation, good quality health care and stimulating education. Where social justice exists trust develops, relationships evolve, peace comes into being.

At the heart of any alternative system should be the inculcation of the Principle of Sharing; sharing not only of the food, water, land and other natural resources, but of knowledge, skills and opportunities. Sharing encourages cooperation between people from different backgrounds, allowing understanding and tolerance to grow. Tolerance of those who look different, pray and think differently, and understanding that humanity is one, that the human condition is universal no matter one’s circumstances or worldview. That we share one home, which we are all responsible for, and that in every corner of the world men, women and children want the same things: to live in peace free from fear, to build a decent life for themselves and their families and to be happy.

When we share, we acknowledge our common need, our shared humanity and our universal rights. Through sharing, a more equitable world can evolve; sharing, together with cooperation, tolerance and understanding are key elements of the time, and when expressed individually and collectivelyallow for peace to naturally come into being. Complementary to such Principles of Goodness, forgiveness and the absence of retaliation or retribution are essential in establishing peace. As is well documented, punishment without rehabilitation and compassion is a recipe for despondency, more violence and further acts of crime. Such actions have dogged humanity since records began, as has war, and while there have been tremendous advances in technology, medicine and science, the consciousness of humanity seems to have changed very little, we remain violent, selfish and fearful. As the Dalai Lama puts it, “there is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering…the basic human problems remain.”

The overcoming of these ‘basic problems’ and the realization of peace both flow from the same root: the recognition of mankind’s essential unity, and the cultivation of a sense of “universal responsibility”. Fragmentation and dishonesty of mind must be resolved, fear and desire understood. The current modes of living inflame these negative tendencies and make what already appears difficult, even more so. Discontent and desire are constantly agitated, social and national divisions inflamed, and an atmosphere of insecurity created. At the same time a reductive image of happiness and security is portrayed through mainstream films, TV and other media outlets. It is a hollow construct based on pleasure, the fulfillment of emotionally rooted desires and material satisfactions, none of which will ever create lasting happiness or inner peace. Peace does not lie inside walls of division, whether formed of concrete or constructed out of some ideological doctrine, but, like lasting happiness, reveals itself when there is total freedom from desire.

Why We’re Blind to the System Destroying Us

I rarely use this blog to tell readers what they should believe. Rather I try to indicate why it might be wise to distrust, at least without very good evidence, what those in power tell us we should believe.

We have well-known sayings about power: “Knowledge is power”, and “Power corrupts, while absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These aphorisms resonate because they say something true about how we experience the world. People who have power – even very limited power they hold on licence from someone else – tend to abuse it, sometimes subtly and unconsciously, and sometimes overtly and wilfully.

If we are reasonably self-aware, we can sense the tendency in ourselves to exploit to our advantage whatever power we enjoy, whether it is in our dealings with a spouse, our children, a friend, an employee, or just by the general use of our status to get ahead.

This isn’t usually done maliciously or even consciously. By definition, the hardest thing to recognise are our own psychological, emotional and mental blind spots – and the biggest, at least for those born with class, gender or race privileges, is realising that these too are forms of power.

Nonetheless, these are all minor forms of power compared to the power wielded collectively by the structures that dominate our societies: the financial sector, the corporations, the media, the political class, and the security services.

But strangely most of us are much readier to concede the corrupting influence of the relatively small power of individuals than we are the rottenness of vastly more powerful institutions and structures. We blame the school teacher or the politician for abusing his or her power, while showing a reluctance to do the same about either the education or political systems in which they have to operate.

Similarly, we are happier identifying the excessive personal power of a Rupert Murdoch than we are the immense power of the corporate empire behind him and on which his personal wealth and success depend.

And beyond this, we struggle most of all to detect the structural and ideological framework underpinning or cohering all these discrete examples of power.

Narrative control

It is relatively easy to understand that your line manager is abusing his power, because he has so little of it. His power is visible to you because it relates only to you and the small group of people around you.

It is a little harder, but not too difficult, to identify the abusive policies of your firm – the low pay, cuts in overtime, attacks on union representation.

It is more difficult to see the corrupt power of large institutions, aside occasionally from the corruption of senior figures within those institutions, such as a Robert Maxwell or a Richard Nixon.

But it is all but impossible to appreciate the corrupt nature of the entire system. And the reason is right there in those aphorisms: absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption. If that were not the case, we wouldn’t be dealing with serious power – as should be obvious, if we pause to think about it.

Real power in our societies derives from that which is necessarily hard to see – structures, ideology and narratives – not individuals. Any Murdoch or Trump can be felled, though being loyal acolytes of the power-system they rarely are, should they threaten the necessary maintenance of power by these interconnected institutions, these structures.

The current neoliberal elite who effectively rule the planet have reached as close to absolute power as any elite in human history. And because they have near-absolute power, they have a near-absolute control of the official narratives about our societies and our “enemies”, those who stand in their way to global domination.

No questions about Skripals

One needs only to look at the narrative about the two men, caught on CCTV cameras, who have recently been accused by our political and media class of using a chemical agent to try to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia back in March.

I don’t claim to know whether Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov work for the Russian security services, or whether they were dispatched by Vladimir Putin on a mission to Salisbury to kill the Skripals.

What is clear, however, is that the British intelligence services have been feeding the British corporate media a self-serving, drip-drip narrative from the outset – and that the media have shown precisely no interest at any point in testing any part of this narrative or even questioning it. They have been entirely passive, which means their readers – us – have been entirely passive too.

That there are questions about the narrative to be raised is obvious if you turn away from the compliant corporate media and seek out the views of independent-minded, one-time insiders such as Craig Murray.

A former British ambassador, Murray is asking questions that may prove to be pertinent or not. But at this stage, when all we have to rely on is what the intelligence services are selectively providing, these kinds of doubts should be driving the inquiries of any serious journalist covering the story. But as is so often the case, not only are these questions not being raised or investigated, but anyone like Murray who thinks critically – who assumes that the powerful will seek to promote their interests and avoid accountability – is instantly dismissed as a conspiracy theorist or in Putin’s pocket.

That is no meaningful kind of critique. Many of the questions that have been raised – like why there are so many gaps in the CCTV record of the movements of both the Skripals and the two assumed assassins – could be answered if there was an interest in doing so. The evasion and the smears simply suggest that power intends to remain unaccountable, that it is keeping itself concealed, that the narrative is more important than the truth.

And that is reason enough to move from questioning the narrative to distrusting it.

Ripples on a lake

Although journalists typically have a largely passive relationship to power, in stark contrast to their image as a tenacious watchdog, even more fundamental than control over the narrative is the ideology that guides these narratives.  Ideology ensures the power-system is invisible not only to us, those who are abused and exploited by it, but also to those who benefit from it.

It is precisely because power resides in structures and ideology, rather than individuals, that it is so hard to see. And the power-structures themselves are made yet more difficult to identify because the narratives created about our societies are designed to conceal those structures and ideology – where real power resides – by focusing instead on individuals.

That is why our newspapers and TV shows are full of stories about personalities – celebrities, royalty, criminals, politicians. They are made visible so that we do not notice the ideological structures we live inside that are supposed to remain invisible.

News and entertainment are the ripples on a lake, not the lake itself. But the ripples could not exist without the lake that forms and shapes them.

Up against the screen

If this sounds like hyperbole, let’s stand back from our particular ideological system – neoliberalism – and consider earlier ideological systems in the hope that they offer some perspective. At the moment, we are like someone standing right up against an IMAX screen, so close that we cannot see that there is a screen or even guess that there is a complete picture. All we see are moving colours and pixels. Maybe we can briefly infer a mouth, the wheel of a vehicle, a gun.

Before neoliberalism there were other systems of rule. There was, for example, feudalism that appropriated a communal resource – land – exclusively for an aristocracy. It exploited the masses by forcing them to toil on the land for a pittance to generate the wealth that supported castles, a clergy, manor houses, art collections and armies. For several centuries the power of this tiny elite went largely unquestioned.

But then a class of entrepreneurs emerged, challenging the landed artistocracy with a new means of industrialised production. They built factories and took advantage of scales of economy that slightly widened the circle of privilege, creating a middle class. That elite, and the middle-class that enjoyed crumbs from their master’s table, lived off the exploitation of children in work houses and the labour of a new urban poor in slum housing.

These eras were systematically corrupt, enabling the elites of those times to extend and entrench their power. Each elite produced justifications to placate the masses who were being exploited, to brainwash them into believing the system existed as part of a natural order or even for their benefit. The aristocracy relied on a divine right of kings, the capitalist class on the guiding hand of the free market and bogus claims of equality of opportunity.

In another hundred years, if we still exist as a species, our system will look no less corrupt – probably more so – than its predecessors.

Neoliberalism, late-stage capitalism, plutocratic rule by corporations – whatever you wish to call it – has allowed a tiny elite to stash away more wealth and accrue more power than any feudal monarch could ever have dreamt of. And because of the global reach of this elite, its corruption is more endemic, more complete, more destructive than any ever known to mankind.

A foreign policy elite can destroy the world several times over with nuclear weapons. A globalised corporate elite is filling the oceans with the debris from our consumption, chopping down the forest-lungs of our planet for palm-oil plantations so we can satisfy our craving for biscuits and cake. And our media and intelligence services are jointly crafting a narrative of bogeymen and James Bond villains – both in Hollywood movies, and in our news programmes – to make us fearful and pliable.

Assumptions of inevitability

Most of us abuse our own small-power thoughtlessly, even self-righteously. We tell ourselves that we gave the kids a “good spanking” because they were naughty, rather than because we established with them early on a power relationship that confusingly taught them that the use of force and coercion came with a parental stamp of approval.

Those in greater power – from minions in the media to executives of major corporations – are no different. They are as incapable of questioning the ideology and the narrative – how inevitable and “right” our neoliberal system is – as the rest of us. But they play a vital part in maintaining and entrenching that system nonetheless.

David Cromwell and David Edwards of Media Lens have provided two analogies – in the context of the media – that help explain how it is possible for individuals and groups to assist and enforce systems of power without having any conscious intention to do so, and without being aware that they are contributing to something harmful. Without, in short, being aware that they are conspiring in the system.

The first:

When a shoal of fish instantly changes direction, it looks for all the world as though the movement was synchronised by some guiding hand. Journalists – all trained and selected for obedience by media all seeking to maximise profits within state-capitalist society – tend to respond to events in the same way.

The second:

Place a square wooden framework on a flat surface and pour into it a stream of ball bearings, marbles, or other round objects. Some of the balls may bounce out, but many will form a layer within the wooden framework; others will then find a place atop this first layer. In this way, the flow of ball bearings steadily builds new layers that inevitably produce a pyramid-style shape. This experiment is used to demonstrate how near-perfect crystalline structures such as snowflakes arise in nature without conscious design.

The system – whether feudalism, capitalism, neoliberalism – emerges out of the real-world circumstances of those seeking power most ruthlessly. In a time when the key resource was land, a class emerged justifying why it should have exclusive rights to control that land and the labour needed to make it productive. When industrial processes developed, a class emerged demanding that it had proprietary rights to those processes and to the labour needed to make them productive.

Our place in the pyramid

In these situations, we need to draw on something like Darwin’s evolutionary “survival of the fittest” principle. Those few who are most hungry for power, those with least empathy, will rise to the top of the pyramid, finding themselves best-placed to exploit the people below. They will rationalise this exploitation as a divine right, or as evidence of their inherently superior skills, or as proof of the efficiency of the market.

And below them, like the layers of ball bearings, will be those who can help them maintain and expand their power: those who have the skills, education and socialisation to increase profits and sell brands.

All of this should be obvious, even non-controversial. It fits what we experience of our small-power lives. Does bigger power operate differently? After all, if those at the top of the power-pyramid were not hungry for power, even psychopathic in its pursuit, if they were caring and humane, worried primarily about the well-being of their workforce and the planet, they would be social workers and environmental activists, not CEOs of media empires and arms manufacturers.

And yet, base your political thinking on what should be truisms, articulate a worldview that distrusts those with the most power because they are the most capable of – and committed to – misusing it, and you will be derided. You will be called a conspiracy theorist, dismissed as deluded. You will be accused of wearing a tinfoil hat, of sour grapes, of being anti-American, a social warrior, paranoid, an Israel-hater or anti-semitic, pro-Putin, pro-Assad, a Marxist.

None of this should surprise us either. Because power – not just the people in the system, but the system itself – will use whatever tools it has to protect itself. It is easier to deride critics as unhinged, especially when you control the media, the politicians and the education system, than it is to provide a counter-argument.

In fact, it is vital to prevent any argument or real debate from taking place. Because the moment we think about the arguments, weigh them, use our critical faculties, there is a real danger that the scales will fall from our eyes. There is a real threat that we will move back from the screen, and see the whole picture.

Can we see the complete picture of the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury; or the US election that led to Trump being made president; or the revolution in Ukraine; or the causes and trajectory of fighting in Syria, and before it Libya and Iraq; or the campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party; or the true implications of the banking crisis a decade ago?

Profit, not ethics

Just as a feudal elite was driven, not by ethics, but by the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of land; just as early capitalists were driven, not by ethics, but by the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of mechanisation; so neoliberalism is driven not by ethics but the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of the planet.

The only truth we can know is that the western power-elite is determined to finish the task of making its power fully global, expanding it from near-absolute to absolute. It cares nothing for you or your grand-children. It is a cold-calculating system, not a friend or neighbour. It lives for the instant gratification of wealth accumulation, not concern about the planet’s fate tomorrow.

And because of that it is structurally bound to undermine or discredit anyone, any group, any state that stands in the way of achieving its absolute dominion.

If that is not the thought we hold uppermost in our minds as we listen to a politician, read a newspaper, watch a film or TV show, absorb an ad, or engage on social media, then we are sleepwalking into a future the most powerful, the most ruthless, the least caring have designed for us.

Step back, and take a look at the whole screen. And decide whether this is really the future you wish for your grand-children.

True Heroes Don’t Die: Their Hearts Get Eaten again and again

Today’s hero in popular culture is a corrupted version of Milton’s Satan, a collaborator with the rigged game of a tyrannical God. His errors are the violations of God’s law, but God does not really mind since he knows that humans could never follow these arbitrary rules. Satan is God’s deniability.1

Shelley (and Mark Twain)2 recognized this and therefore sought a heroic character who does not pretend to compete with God and refuses to deny his alliance with humanity.

This mistake denies him a simple death and condemns him to the punishment of repetition.3 The inability to prevent the recurrence of history and all the pain this brings.

In Portugal, the parliamentary budget debates of the past years – at least as reported in the national media – gave more attention to the German finance minister (as representative of the richest EU state and the banks domiciled there, who are leading creditors to subordinate member-states like Greece and Portugal) than to the vocal complaints of Portuguese citizens.4 This is even more bizarre when considering the preliminary conclusions about the catastrophic fires in our country in 2017.5 For decades now we have been told that the failures, the mistakes, of European democracies (especially in Southern Europe) have been caused by the absence of heroic leadership (whether by individuals or parties). Such heroism would mean that elected representatives and governments would make the hard choices against the will of their electorates needed to remedy the “errors of fiscal irresponsibility” that are the cause of our misery. Of course, discretion or good taste impede calls for “heroic autocrats” these days.6 The “heroism” is supposed to be more anonymous and perhaps less accountable. This raises the questions of what are those “errors” and what “heroism” really means in this context.

1. The Portuguese national poet Luís Camões wrote a sonnet in which he says that he would have been ruined by “love alone” – his errors were incidental.7

Camões, however, was a pre-Revolutionary poet and we might assume that he was lamenting failed love, more than history. The point is that while all love fails—it is the pre-condition of humanity and therefore it is reborn.

  1. What does ERROR mean? ERROR can be best understood today as the inadequacy of the human individually, and as a species, to respond perfectly to the environment. Sometimes error or creativity is just what is needed by a stagnant culture. This is the central thesis of Morse Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos.8 In this book, Peckham began to ask the question “whether there is a biological explanation for the arts?” Any answer to this question must begin with the fact that humans are born into a world in which they are dependent on others (in particular, adults) for food and protection for a rather long time compared to other animals. Furthermore, virtually everything humans do to survive must be taught and learned. And as anyone can observe it is virtually impossible to learn anything perfectly – so humans spend most of their time making “mistakes”. We have learned at least since the 19th century to distinguish between mistakes that are errors, mistakes that are crimes, and mistakes that are “creative”. Therefore it probably makes more sense NOT to ask “do we learn from mistakes?” but what do we mean when we say we have “learned” anything?
  2. Consider the meaning of “hero” and “heroism”. Heroism is a role.9 In Western culture the basic models for heroes are derived from interpreting classical Greek and Roman mythology. In fact Os Lusíadas, for which Camões is most famous, is also an explicit comparison with ancient Greek heroism. The hero, as we all know, is by definition an exception. Something she or he does has to be beyond what the majority do – otherwise it would be indistinguishable from the behaviour of that majority. If the majority follows conventional rules of behaviour, then heroism is and heroes are unconventional – that is to say first of all mistakes, failure for whatever reason to behave in accordance with conventions.

However the heroes of classical antiquity – at least as conventionally presented – were part of what might be called the divine universe. Their acts were mistakes – violations of the conventions among the deities, errors made by gods and demi-gods. Man was at best a conduit, not an agent. To the extent that heroism was relevant to humans it was by virtue of human submission to the gods. One of the best examples of this is the myth of Sisyphus.10

  1. Until the late 18th century this divine drama – at least in Europe had been transferred from the celestial to the terrestrial monarchical system. One can see this in the arts of the period. The transfer of divine law from the ancient gods, to the Church and then to monarchies, did not go unchallenged, as the English Civil War demonstrated. Milton defended his staunch republicanism by turning Satan into the hero of his Paradise Lost.

However by 1789, the convention of divine law – whether vested in the Church or in the monarch – was threatened by what turned out to be a major cultural crisis, but exploded in the French Revolution. Critics of the Revolution, both contemporary and since then have blamed the mass violence and wars triggered by the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy on a massive error: the belief that human equality and democracy could substitute for what was now called “natural law”. Opposed to this was a wide spread optimism that having swept away the obstacles of kings and priests, it would be possible to create a religion of humanity. In fact, in the first years of the Revolution there was a movement to reorganise religion in France by creating a cult with appropriate rites and festivals as a substitute for the Catholic Church. What is important here is that significant participants in the Revolution recognised that the abolition of the monarchy and the secularisation of the Catholic clergy were negative acts and that a culture, especially one undergoing change needs positive acts. So while opponents of the Revolution preferred to focus on violence and destruction, the most dedicated – in this sense, “heroic” – participants knew that a revolution had to be creative to survive. They had to be unconventional in the creation of new conventions.

Two major English poets were especially known for their support of the French Revolution. Both wrote works, which interpreted the heroic role and thus created new ideas of heroes and heroism. However, they came to disagree profoundly both on the consequences of the Revolution (in their day) and the meaning of heroes and heroism.

For purposes of simplification, there was a negative and a positive form of heroism. These were exemplified in the works of Byron (negative) and Shelley (positive).

Shelley introduced his positive hero by contrasting Prometheus with Satan, who was the hero of Milton’s Paradise Lost. In his introduction to the play Prometheus Unbound he wrote:

The only imaginary being, resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends.11

The hero imagined by Byron — today we still have the term “Byronic hero” – was very different. Although recognising that the conventional rules of behaviour were no longer adequate, the Byronic hero sees this as an individual error. In the end this error is incorrigible and can only bring death. The development of this conception of heroism can be seen in the four cantos of Childe Harold. In this narrative poem Byron effectively describes his transformation to an enthusiast of the Revolution to one who laments its failure and the defeat of Napoleon and finally resigns to death in the belief that the Revolution was futile, pointless, that nothing can be changed.12

Shelley completely opposes the view Byron espouses in the Canto IV.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
 From its own wreck the thing it contemplates; Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent; This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
 Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free; This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.13

  1. A century ago another revolution shook and shocked the West – the October Revolution. It too was a signal of the crisis and an attempt to transcend it. Again the roles of heroism had to be reinterpreted. The reaction to the October Revolution was at least, if not more, violent (because of technological developments) than that triggered by the French Revolution.

The negative heroism (Byron) became violently opposed to the positive heroism (Shelley). Attempts to understand this conflict have been distorted by what can only be called a sloppy use of the terms and an even sloppier explanation of the forces and political entities involved. For example whereas the history of the period from 1917 until 1945 was seen as a collective struggle for socialism in Russia and wherever it was supported in the world on one hand. The alternative explanation has been that the struggle has been for individual liberty. Thus the hero in the West ostensibly fights against all forms of social control, which inhibit his individualism. The hero in the “East” on the other hand fights for the integrity of the society and the strength of collectivity.

The principal theorists of what might call Byronic heroism in politics were Isaiah Berlin in Britain and Leo Strauss in the US.14 The complement to this Byronic form of politics has been an economic doctrine called the Austrian School15 but also neo-liberalism. There was a negative reaction to the French Revolution, which only saw the violence and the anarchy. And there was the negative reaction to the October revolution in the 20th century. Strauss and Hitler were right in line in hating communism. So was Churchill. Berlin too. They hated the optimism and hope of the October revolution. They had to worry about their own masses, who wanted to be free and to benefit from their own labour.

In fact, after 1945 it was still communism/socialism, which enjoyed the enthusiasm of most of the masses in Europe and rest of world. Contrary to the images created by Hollywood, most people in Europe knew that it was the Soviet Union that had defeated Hitler’s empire and communists who had been the most disciplined resistance to fascism in the occupied territories. 70 years later the record is public about how much money and political pressure the US had to devote to persuade Europeans not to vote for the optimism of the October Revolution.16

  1. In 1989 the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the so-called “socialist bloc”, left the West with what might be called a “Byronic victory”. Ostensibly this has been the triumph of the individual over all forms of collectivity/disparagingly called “collectivism”. But what does that really mean? What is the actual end of Byron’s notion of heroism and its derivatives “negative romanticism” and negative liberty?
  2. The apparent victory of negative heroism has actually left us with the death of value. The hero’s acts are violent, fervent and ultimately futile – and what is worse, he knows it and accepts the destruction as the price.

This was an answer by those for whom the revolutions had failed and although revolt may have been inevitable, in the end it was necessary to admit that “god was right”, “monarchy was best” and “humans are incorrigible”.

The consequences of this collapse could already be seen in the ascendancy of Austrian/neo-liberal economic doctrines beginning in the 1970s. This was coupled ironically with an abandonment of any pretence that democracy – in the sense of popular rule for the general welfare – was an acceptable social system. This is ironic because from 1945 until 1974, nearly the entire world was engaged in struggle to obtain the promises of democracy whether that inspired by 1789 or by 1917. Just when more countries became independent than at any time in history, democracy and a social state were abandoned as the primary model of political-social order. The hero in all of this was the entrepreneur or politician or even military officer who was willing to take the hard decisions needed to suppress popular, democratic aspirations for the sake of the supreme human objective of personal profit.

Despite numerous economic crises, not to mention endless wars, there is still a widely propagated belief that the problems will be solved by more heroism, negative heroism that is. The heroes in our society are supposed to act deliberately against their own interests or against the interests of those they ostensibly represent. This is the Byronic heroism which if carefully analysed can be seen as the font of nihilism – not creativity or humanity. The Byronic hero has resigned to defeat, accepts the world as hopelessly corrupt and therefore the gods/ potentates as the least possible evil. It is the heroism of suicide.

In fact, many ordinary people resist this kind of heroism because it is obvious that it is a death wish.

The contrast to this heroism is positive heroism that for purposes of simplicity can be identified with Shelley – in particular, Shelley’s reinterpretation of the Prometheus myth in his dramatic-lyric poem Prometheus Unbound. This enigmatic poem is a deliberate response to Byron’s underlying nihilism. It poses the conflict between individualism and society as a pseudo-problem – one created by subservience to the gods. In other words he says that the game between god and man has been rigged and there is no way out except to stop playing on god’s terms. It is god (the gods) who creates the conditions under which man is opposed to himself and to his fellow creatures. The individual that Byron described and supposed he lived was a product of his desire to be reconciled with authority to be happily submissive. Shelley’s Prometheus refuses to play god’s game. In doing so he becomes emblematic for the refusal to be divided and exploited by the gods.

Shelley’s freedom is exactly Berlin’s positive liberty – the ability to create one’s own systems and structures or what is generally called in political science self-determination. Negative liberty, which Berlin from his sinecure at Oxford espoused as the only defensible form, is merely freedom with in a system one cannot change, as freedom to buy and sell in the free market or capitalism.

In Act IV, Shelley does not describe a utopia – a nowhere in which there is nothing to do and all questions are answered, all problems are solved. That is the usual opposition to the vision of Shelley and the positive Romantics or the committed revolutionaries of 1789 and 1917. Instead Shelley shifts from a drama in which Prometheus has had to deal with his oppressor and tormenter as punishment for bringing man fire (knowledge), to Prometheus as the emblem of all human potential when knowledge is attainable by all and can be used to live in the world. The meaning of the heart that grows back each time it is consumed is precisely the opposite of Byron’s song of futility in Childe Harold. It is the heart – the love of man – that is renewed in the struggle to live and use the knowledge attainable. Prometheus has not sacrificed himself. It is not a Christian parable because Shelley’s Prometheus is not a surrogate – he is everyman, unmediated in life itself and without god or any other tyrant to dominate him. Prometheus is not everyman as an individual. One ought perhaps to say Prometheus is only comprehensible as Man or Humanity. The liberal individual of the Enlightenment was the imitation of god, god the autocrat, the tyrant. Shelley believed that this individual was an insidious fiction – and for humanity a very destructive fiction.

From 1789 until 1918 the key social event for humanists was the French Revolution. From 1918 until 1989 the key social event was the October Revolution. The October Revolution magnified the French Revolution to a global scale. 1989 can be seen as the final collapse of the French Revolution as the central ideal of what is paraded as “Western humanism”.

Of course that does not mean that the ideals of the French Revolution and October Revolution were extinguished, only that the potential of Western states to promote humanism in whatever form collapsed.

One of the reasons for this collapse can be seen in the prevalence of what has been called “negative Romanticism” and its negative (nihilistic) hero. Nietzsche anticipated this, essentially arguing that the Byronic hero – the possessive individual (in the sense of defined by property, rather than humanity) – was a destructive ideal. In that sense Nietzsche did not promote fascism, as is often supposed – although his sister did – but prophesied its destructive power.

The October Revolution globalised the French Revolution and it was met by globalised fascism leading to the Second World War, which was an even more violent reaction than the wars against Napoleon. Although the Soviet Union, led by its own Napoleonic figure in the form of Stalin, was able to defeat the centre of European fascism, it was only at the cost of a kind of “Congress” solution in 1945 with the NATO under US dominance emerging as the power to isolate the Soviet Union and prevent the expansion of the ideals of the October Revolution.17

WWII destroyed European control over its empires and ironically magnified the influence of the Soviet Union beyond its own ambitions for change in the world system. Thus from 1945 until 1975, revolutions continued to threaten the new “Congress” dispensation.18

By 1989, however, the Soviet Union was exhausted and so were all the countries that had struggled to become independent based on the ideals of 1789 or 1917.

1989 marked what must unfortunately be seen both politically and economically, but also socially and ecologically, as the consequences of the “negative liberty”, negative heroism, and above all the nihilistic response to the French Revolution – a return to divine despotism and clerical domination.

“Heroism” is by definition an act that violates convention, an error – at least in the eyes of those who feel compelled to follow conventional rules of behaviour. That heroism is an exception. So how can human society be organised “heroically” when that would mean constantly violating any conventions – any rules that might be agreed for the benefit of human life?

The hero as we have learned to appreciate him has always been a part of the deity – his violations were always within the confines of what the gods decreed – and priests interpreted.

For Shelley there were no gods. Prometheus joined the human condition, the human species. He took fire to share with humanity. He did not bring divine perfection—the gods were never perfect either. Shelley’s Prometheus was chained to the Earth like humans are as a species. In his view the renewing heart, is not a brief illusion.

However the potential of positive heroism has not been exhausted. It has merely lost its historical agents. Prometheus has had his heart consumed and now must bear its slow but sure replacement.

  1. Plausible deniability is a concept attributed to the US national security policy to characterise the imperative of covert action. The principle is simply that any covert action should only be performed if, should it be exposed, it is possible to deny official responsibility for the action. Then CIA director William Colby explained the doctrine as understood by the Agency in hearings before the so-called “Church Committee”, (US Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities) on 16 September 1975.
  2. Mark Twain (1909/1962) Letters from the Earth. Twain’s satirical treatment of the Creation is presented in the form of correspondence between Satan and his heavenly brethren, the archangels.
  3. Another version of this article was delivered at the VI Conference of CITCEM, University of Porto, expected publication in 2018. The conference theme was derived from the Camões Sonnet No. 193.
  4. At the time, the German finance minister was Wolfgang Schäuble (from 2009-2017) Schäuble has been a CDU member of the German federal parliament since 1972, the longest serving active member of the party that has dominated German politics since 1949.
  5. 2017 there were massive forest fires throughout central Portugal. In one notorious case, Pedrógrau Grande, many people were burned alive in their cars as they tried to escape via the few roads in that rural area. Preliminary investigations showed that aside from the natural conditions conducive to fires, the failure to invest in training and equipment for local forest management and fire departments and the chronic neglect of the rural areas by national government aggravated the damage immensely.
  6. Portugal’s autocrat (1928-1968), António de Oliveira Salazar was initially invested with wide powers as finance minister on the pretext that courageous fiscal authority was needed to save Portugal.
  7. Camoes, Luís. Erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente Sonnet CXCIII (My errors, cruel fortune and ardent love, trans. Richard Zenith, 2006.)

    Erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente/
    em minha perdição se conjuraram;/
    os erros e a fortuna sobejaram,/
    que para mim bastava o amor somente.Tudo passei; mas tenho tão presente/
    a grande dor das cousas que passaram,/
    que as magoadas iras me ensinaram/
    a não querer já nunca ser contente.Errei todo o discurso de meus anos;/
    dei causa [a] que a Fortuna castigasse/
    as minhas mal fundadas esperanças./

    De amor não vi senão breves enganos./
    Oh! quem tanto pudesse que fartasse/
    este meu duro génio de vinganças!/

  8. Peckham, Morse. Man’s Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior and the Arts, (1965).
  9. Carlyle, Thomas. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, (1841), James Fraser, London. All societies set up heroes who embody their values. Heroes are essentially a religious way of looking at life. Jesus is a hero, too. Prometheus is a type of Jesus.
  10. Camus, Albert (1955) – The Myth of Sisyphus (first published in French in 1942).
  11. Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1927). Complete Poetical Works. Published by Oxford University Press. London, p. 201.
  12. Byron, George Gordon (1936). Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and other Romantic Poems, Published by Doubleday. New York, p. 173. For example, Stanza CV (Canto IV):

    And from the planks, far shatter’d o’er rocks,/
    Built me a little bark of hope, once more/
    To battle with the ocean and the shocks/
    Of the loud breakers, ad the ceaseless roar/
    Which rushes on the solitary shore/
    Where all lies founder’d that was ever dear/
    But could I gather from the wave-worn store/
    Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?/
    There woos no home, nor hope, or life, save what is here/.

  13. Shelley, p. 264.
  14. Berlin, Isaiah (1958) Two Concepts of Liberty. Leo Strauss was a German-American political philosopher and proponent of “natural law” doctrine, who while a professor at the University of Chicago has been credited as the intellectual mentor for what is called in the US “neo-conservatism”. Although Berlin is often considered a “liberal” whereas Strauss is considered a conservative/ reactionary, a principal historical motivation in both is their venomous reaction to the Russian Revolution.
  15. The Austrian School of economic dogma. Its most notorious contemporary propagandist was Milton Friedman. However Friedman was simply a populist acolyte of the economic theorists who were spawned in the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after WWII found their home in the United States, many of whom gave birth to what was known as the “Chicago School” since it was spawned at the University of Chicago (along with a host of unsavoury German-speakers from north of the Salzach river).
  16. Agee, Philip/Wolf, Louis (1978) – Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe. Lyle Stuart and Dorset Press. New York,  This is just one of several books/collections which drew attention to the covert operations of the US government to manipulate elections throughout Western Europe after World War II, principally to prevent popular European communist parties from winning elections.
  17. See NSC-68, promulgated in 1947, this policy document defined the US national security strategy and objectives. It remained classified until the late 1970s.
  18. Of the three key US diplomats of the so-called Cold War era, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and Henry Kissinger, it is telling that Kissinger’s academic focus was on the political order created by the reactionary Congress of Vienna, designed to suppress democratic and revolutionary movements after the defeat of Napoleon.

The West has Performed a “Philosophical Coup” Against the Left

It has been happening for quite some time, but no one has been paying much attention: Western academia, mainstream media, and the most visible propagandists, were trying to convince the world that 1) ideology has died, or at least became irrelevant 2) in case it did not die, the Left is actually… hold your breath…right-wing!

Especially the Left that is holding power, particularly in Asia and in Latin America, is being ‘re-defined’ in London, Paris and Washington. The Western propaganda gurus are apparently rejuvenated lately, as there are great budgets available to them, in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere. They are openly told to go after certain countries, particularly Russia, China and Iran.

This is an extremely complex but important development. You see, the West has been losing, and so has capitalism and especially imperialism, which is synonymous with neo-colonialism.

People all over the world had enough. Even certain groups inside the imperialist countries, have had enough.

The main problem is that after decades, during which philosophy has been locked up, imprisoned, inside the decaying aulas of the toothless universities, most people have lost any idea what really disgusts them; what they are against, and what they desire.

Philosophy and such deep and essential topics like ‘in what direction the world should be evolving’, are not discussed at UNESCO meetings anymore, as they are not debated by talk show hosts and ‘public intellectuals’, at least not in the open.

Light pop music, horror movies, the promotion of selfish, often infantile values and desires, never really deeply satisfied the masses, but they damaged them, reducing people’s ability to think freely, to analyze and to make sober and well-informed conclusions.

‘-isms’ have been spat at, particularly the left-wing ‘-isms’. Increasingly, the left was smeared and then compared to the extreme right, even with fascism. In fact, pronouncing Communism and fascism in one breath, became tremendously well rewarded. In the West, thousands of ‘thinkers’ and ideologues made a great living doing nothing else than that.

*****

This essay has been inspired by an exchange with an Irish academic, who called, in his email to me, one of ‘my’ publications (NEO – New Eastern Outlook), an ‘extreme right-wing Russian nationalist magazine’.

I exploded, wrote back, clarifying that NEO is a left-wing, internationalist magazine, and that the people who are running it have nothing to do with anything right-wing, whatsoever. But I soon realized that this was not about the evidence, but about something very different.

Bizarre and unpleasant exchange did not end there. The academic declared, after watching my film (which I describe as a ‘poetic documentary’) about North Korea (Faces of North Korea), that I am wrong and that the DPRK is not Communist, nor socialist.

I was supposed to participate in his book project, but I withdrew. My friend Eduardo Galeano used to say about such people: “I don’t know for whom he works, and he wouldn’t tell”.

Similar, confusing messages are coming from everywhere, whenever I go to Europe or North America, or whenever I tune in to their television or radio channels. Something twisted is being broadcast, day and night. Political reality gets extremely fuzzy. Great left-wing political leaders are called names: demagogues, populists, even worse. And those constant, insane Cold War propagandist comparisons of Stalin and Hitler (any logical comparisons never appear, like Hitler = Churchill, German Nazism = European colonialism, etc.).

The biggest problem is that a great majority of Western citizens have succumbed to this propaganda. They are not capable of questioning anything related to these issues anymore, and were they to want to question, they don’t even know where to search for the sources that could effectively challenge the official dogma.

They are indoctrinated, but they think that they are free. Not only that, they don’t realize that they are deeply conditioned and brainwashed: they actually think that they are in a position to preach, obliged to enlighten others, instructing the world with what they have been taught. And so, they speak and write, get paid for it. They join the U.N., ‘international cultural institutions’ and the NGOs, universities, and they continue spreading all those dogmas developed by the Western ideologues for one and the only purpose: to exploit and to control the world. They do not present these fabrications as theses, but as facts. Of course, there are no facts behind what they are preaching, as there is no hard evidence, but who would search for the evidence, and how? Even the Internet is not so easy to navigate, anymore, and Western bookstores are nowhere as diverse as those in China or Russia.

 *****

Back to the main issue: it is essential for the West to discredit socialism, Communism, and also all anti-imperialist movements that are now getting stronger all over the world.

In fact, many propagandists in London, Paris and Washington, are clearly realizing that the West and its control over the world, is almost finished. The more they are aware of this fact, the more aggressively they go after their adversaries (their jobs often depend on that control, and the privileges of their nation, of course, too).

Attacking socialists or Communists who are holding power in Asia or Latin America, is not enough, anymore.

Now the Empire is spreading pessimism, defeatism and dark nihilism, both at home and abroad (please read my latest book: Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism). “All people are the same”, it says. Sounds nice, but what it means is actually extremely sinister: “All people are maniacal egotists like us, mass murderers like us, and, of course, thieves!”

Terms and definitions get all mixed up, confused. Nothing is defined precisely.

For instance, when the left-wing governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, began cleaning the most polluted city on Earth, building public transportation, providing the poor with social housing, several Indonesian NGOs paid by the West, as well as countless individuals, began calling ‘Ahok” a ‘right-winger’, because he was evicting petite capitalist street vendors and thugs who were shamelessly blocking the few sidewalks that the turbo-capitalist Jakarta has in its possession. Thugs and street vendors, who flourished during the fascist, anti-Communist dictatorship, have been terrorizing the city and its mainly poor dwellers for decades. But the argument went: “The Governor is against the little people”.

There was actually a ‘great danger’ that this deeply popular governor could make it to a much higher post, even the highest one in the country. That would be unacceptable, and the servile ‘city planners’, academics and ‘civil society’ groups shamelessly teamed up against him. First, he was discredited (being called right-wing), then accused of insulting religion (Islam) and finally, thrown into prison. He is rotting there until now, for being a true socialist (a word that is even still illegal to pronounce in Indonesia, as it is being connected with Communism).

The Jakarta scenario is, of course, no exception. The same is happening in the Philippines. The West and its local lackeys are attacking, with the same twisted ‘logic’ and zeal, countries such as Venezuela, Brazil, but especially China, Iran and Russia.

To call China by what it really is: ‘Communist (with the Chinese characteristics) and presently the most successful country on Earth”, would be totally unacceptable, anywhere in the West or its ‘client’ states. That would greatly boost China’s popularity. Why? Because even deep in the dark belly of the capitalist and imperialist beast – Europe and North America – the common people actually want something ‘left-wing’, something socialist, even Communist. They were told to hate it, to trash it publicly, and they do. But deep inside, many are still longing for it.

The Empire knows psychological warfare extremely well: to discredit China, it really has to be called capitalist. Or call it imperialist. Say it is ‘like us’. (“Like us” is definitely not good. The people on all continents hate ‘us’). Say that China is not helping African people by building infrastructure, hospitals and schools (although that is precisely what China is doing, if you ask Africans – something that no Western journo is bothering to do). Say that China is ‘following its own interests’, and that it is doing business (again, these days, a dirty word, except in a few Southeast Asian helplessly corrupt and servile ‘client’ states).

The same is true when it comes to Russia. The foreign policy of Russia is clearly anti-imperialist. In many ways, it is still that good old Soviet foreign policy – internationalist, egalitarian, based on humanism. Present-day Russian diplomats are brilliant, soft-spoken philosophers. The West can never match them. Therefore, it smears them, their country and everything that it stands for. President Putin is portrayed as some right-wing strongman and lunatic, and Russia as a capitalist state. It is thorough nonsense, as Russia is in many ways, increasingly, similar to its close ally – China. Russia counts on a mixed economy with a great accent on social welfare, and it is a country that is ready to defend and protect those who are brutalized by Western neo-colonialism. It occupies nobody, overthrows no governments. It is increasingly a good, solid and compassionate country, but the more it is, the more demonized it gets. The better it behaves, the more it gets smeared, mostly by being called ‘capitalist’, ‘right-wing’, an ‘oligarchy’. Well, great propaganda barks for sure; the Western demagogues and intelligence officers certainly know their trade.

Syria, oh, how is it being defined by the Western demagogues! How it is being defamed! It is never called by what it really has been for decades – a Pan-Arab socialist state! Its ‘regime’ (a favorite British derogatory term, which I actually love to use against their own, British fascist, stale, passive-aggressive monarchy) is constantly branded as ‘dictatorial’. You will never hear expressions like ‘socialist’ or ‘internationalist’. You know why? Because, let me repeat it again, these terms, deep inside, evoke sympathy in the ears of people worldwide, even in the hearts of some Westerners, subconsciously.

‘Socialist’, ‘serving the people’ – you may smear it, but that is what people really want, and wanted for decades and centuries. That is what they have fought for, were dying for; on the barricades. Some instincts are still there, in people’s hearts, or do you think that they were sacrificing their lives in order to be governed by individuals like Macron or May?

Therefore, the socialists, not some European pseudo-traitors-socialists, but true socialists and Communists, are constantly branded by the West as ‘populists’, demagogues and often, even as right-wingers.

This negative, nihilist, depressing propaganda blurs and confuses the people everywhere. It calls white, black, and black, white. It labels Communists as fascists, and then declares that both fascists and Communists are the same.

Now the people, at least those who are the most exposed to the Western mass media, are ‘unable to commit themselves’ to anything, from political labels, to revolutionary ideals, and even to each other. They go ‘by issues’, arrogantly selfish (hundreds of millions of atomized centers of the universe) in both personal lives and in politics. In London or Paris, not to speak of New York City, those who are believed to be the ‘most educated’, are sadly the most conditioned, indoctrinated and feeble.

It is quite remarkable that in some parts of the world like Southeast Asia, the West has managed to create an absolutely bizarre West-lookalike-but-not-really-alike ‘upper class’, by injecting an idiotic type of education and cheap ‘cultural values’ (I will address this issue soon, in my upcoming essay). The result is – obedient and soulless countries unable to create anything new and substantial.

*****

All of this, just in order to prevent the world from following its instincts – from choosing socialism and Communism.

You see, the task of the Western regime is tremendous: to break, to pervert, the natural reflexes of human beings. Whenever people anywhere in the world have been given a true opportunity, they voted, or fought for, some type of socialism, or Communism.

Basically, all the countries of Latin America selected, democratically, left-wing governments. And they were overthrown by the West and by their lackeys. It is happening to this day. Millions have been dying in the process.

In Africa – precisely the same. It began with Patrice Lumumba and his murder, and it never stopped. Fascist monsters and mentally sick individuals were injected from abroad, and paid to govern.

Asia? Absolute horror: from the socialist Iran in 1950’s to internationalist, Communist Indonesia before 1965, people wanted Communism and got murdered, raped and in the end, robbed of everything. By whom: by the West and its apparatchiks and local spooks from the colonial era. Countries that resisted and won, like China, and Vietnam, are now much better off than others.

They all wanted socialism, all over the world: The Middle East, too, and yes, Europe as well! It truly takes great discipline and continuous brainwashing, to forget that the US and UK intelligence services prevented Europeans in France, Italy and even West Germany, from voting in Communists after WWII. Nazis were employed to intimidate and to murder left-wing candidates. Then they were shipped to South America, where they either ‘retired’, or began collaborating with the fascist pro-Western regimes. I know it: I spoke, couple of decades ago, to those old beasts who were allowed to escape with their loot of gold teeth from the concentration camps – to Paraguay, Argentina, Chile.

Destroying the natural human longing for socialism is the main task of the Western regimes, be they ‘constitutional monarchies’ or ‘guided multi-party hoaxes’.

The result is total global schizophrenia. Intuitively, people desire something, but they are told that it is wrong, and then they are ordered what to desire (unless they want to become unemployable).

It is the same with love and sex. We, men, are told that our bodies should be longing for certain types of women. Women are instructed what type of man to desire.

It is the same with jobs, or how people pass their free time: banging into mobile phones, playing degenerate video games, and studying some nonsense at university, just to get a diploma that certifies them as some good future servants of the regime.

What did they do to people, really? Adults, fathers and mothers, ‘respected’ individuals are moving their fingers all over the phone monitors, playing infantile games and making babyish faces, while taking their own photographs at every corner. European intellectual cinema has collapsed, as well as literature. And everyone is grinning like idiots. And almost everyone is suicidal.

It is clearly a post-coup situation. It is abnormal.

Pathological. Almost nobody is happy. Everyone pretends to be happy.

You see, deep inside, people like to dream about a better world, they like to commit, even sacrifice themselves for another being, or for an ideal, or revolution.

This insanity, which the West has spread, just so its dear capitalism and neo-colonialism stays in control of the planet, will not last much longer.

Soon, people will realize that there is nothing more glorious than to build his or her country, to improve conditions all over the world, to clean up our environment, to love and to fully commit to that love.

Before that, however, the lies have to be exposed. White is white and black is black. War is war, peace is peace. Aggressors are aggressors and victims are victims.

The West has immobilized people all over the world with its filthy, depressing lies. It stares at humans, like a cobra stares at a tiny, poor mouse.

Soon, I am sure the world will rise and demand the truth! With the truth, the psychological balance will return. People will learn how to dream again. With dreams, the insanity that the West has been spreading will be confronted. Imperialism will shout, howl; it will try to bite everything that moves, but relatively quickly, it will lose all its power and, hopefully, kick the bucket. I believe in it. Millions are now, again, ready to fight for it.

Education vs. The Passions that Rule Our Lives

I pulled two items a few days ago from my filing cabinets — call them “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” They are separated by a span of 30 years. They are two dots directly connected by a long and more or less horizontal straight line. There is no arc. Thing 1 coming up after this.

My cabinets house a vast “diary of a mad optimist.” Yes, for the cynics, I am an optimist. Mad — at a lot of things for sure — but always hopeful. Being a realist too, I have been hopeful, if not expectant, that thinking, listening, and writing carefully to unpack and face, unfiltered by any lens, the implications of what we thought we “knew,” and then behaving accordingly, might give humanity not just a better chance of keeping themselves alive but justify the effort. I thought such things would make life more worth living than doing this.

After feeling pains in our eyes, we announce with “humanitarian” pride that we are bothered by “the optics,” the sight, mind you—of refugee children torn from their mother’s arms, screaming and crying, as they are held in chain-link cages and sent to Wisconsin while the mothers are deported to the hell they fled. The sight is what bothers us. The reality, if we can arrange to not see it, not so much—especially after we build that big, beautiful Wall to block the view. And because it sounds “deep” that “perception is more important than reality,” we believe it—and believe it “strongly” because it “worked” for a Barbie doll in stilettos—my god! She is rich! She won! And read her awesome book: The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Life and Work. My, what strength! By all appearances, no weakness there! A true winner, living the American Dream!

Whatever we can get ourselves to believe, and believe strongly, and say “with strength,” we believe we must therefore know—at least think we know—and can all the more easily get others to believe we know. When we speak with strength, those who believe perception trumps reality will surely feel we know, for winning their credulity is all that matters, for when we have their vote, and soon their money, we’ve got just about everything. And we can don a jacket that reads on the back for the world (not the wearer) to see: “I really don’t care. Do you?” Then, jet off to “see” in a show of concern the sufferings of little children.  But …

What if all my library cards amount to a Royal Flush, and trump, in reality, the Trump Card whose face value I assess in this essay as being worthy of a flush, bigly? What if, despite perception, the more important reality should be this: The principal occupation of 98% of the human brain is to frantically shop around (or rummage about) for a new pair of shades for the remaining 2% of it: blackout blinds for the feint-of-heart, the scared, the scarred, the scalawag, the xenophobe, the autocrat, and the comfortably ignorant bigot alike. With such a sunscreen to block all light on anything that may hurt the eyes outside the private temple of the Church of Self, one’s body can be gainfully employed, Duty-Free of taxing responsibility. No photos! No video! No fake journalists! CNN: you are the worst! The press is the Enemy of the People. Thus one can then do their job, any job, he or she would, in their shade, be “humbled, honored, and privileged” to execute: From managing a cigarette factory, speaking for a President, dismantling the EPA, scheduling trains to Auschwitz, or acting as head of ICE. If asked, “But is the job you are doing humane?” He or she may stutter … uh … and stutter more … uh … until they find the Romans 13 roller shade and their voice: “What kind of insulting question is that? I believe it’s the law. My job is to enforce the law, and, by God, if we are going to have a country, we need laws, I am going to enforce the laws. That is what I am going to do.”

Thus even Aristophanes knew how a sausage vender could rise to a Tyrant’s Everest on his own petards with the help of banners, hats, and the throngs who do not read books because propaganda and beer are more … exciting and relaxing for basking in the schadenfreude. The Greeks knew this: Beware the man who would sell you anything—from an AR-15 to Fentanyl, from steaks to vodka, from a degree from his own university to a MAGA hat made in China, from a condo —- to himself as a candidate to command the power of a military and economy unknown in the history of humanity. Who is this sausage vender? How would it be wrong to answer: A bankrupt casino mafia don in elf’s clothing and golf shoes, a man rich enough to buy a porn’s star’s body (while his wife gives birth to his son) and then believe he could buy her silence because he believes when you’re rich, you can do anything, even grab a country by the pussy. As the Greeks might say: A man who would sell you anything is a man who would do so because he has already sold out of everything worth having: his own soul.

Sometimes, in my heart-sick desperation, I fear that nearly half of America has bowed to the psychopath we have collectively created in our own image, needful to relieve ourselves of the burden of our own guilt, from the weight of our daily responsibility: to bear the pain or shame of the thoughtful brain, of “thinking what we do.” Because Knowledge entails the Responsibility its possession thrusts upon us, in our weakness and fear we have sought an out and forked over our brains and consciousness to the perception of a stronger and more brazen man’s Will to Power. Obviously he knows better what to do than I! We have bought the hook that a wealthy man is a “successful” man, that a successful man is a “smart man,” that a smart man is a wise man and is thus a “true leader” of people, and that such a man cannot be bought—nor already sold out. We believe that a man without shame has nothing to be ashamed of, and in his shameless presence find our refreshment. We have bought that hook because he has sold it to us—in the abject poverty of our critical intelligence.

The pursuit of knowledge is a too-difficult proposition, for as knowledge grows in complexity and relevance, so does its burden on our sleep and behavior. Faith instead will do, and by calling it “knowledge by faith” we turn the trick of unloading our brain to lighten our step, and thus we go … sailing. I am sorry to say that, among others, certainly the “evangelicals” (“knowing by faith” their “prosperity gospel”) have, in their bliss-born ignorance, rendered themselves blind to the implications of what they have done. They have bowed to a liar, a thief, a clown, and offered to him, this Golden Cow, the last shard of their souls as a burnt offering.

May I say I saw this was coming, knew this was coming, and have suffered every moment since a certain student’s essay was handed to me and the year it took me to unpack the blackened box of its ashen implications.

Let me close these opening remarks with this. Three minutes ago I was sent this message from a dear friend: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work. But neither are you free to abandon it.” (The Talmud)

To my friend: Yes, Laura. That is my work, my life. In that light, I stand until I cannot, and I will say and do what I must, as we each must find our place to make the big picture more bearable to look upon.

Thing #1:

These are my old notes on a fellow teacher’s assignment, a sample student essay, and my own written response after reading it.

*****

[Journal Entry: October 29, 1989]

A colleague of mine, when teaching his Writing 101 classes, has made a regular practice of having each of his students, college freshmen and sophomores, write an essay on the subject of “The Three Passions that Rule My Life.” The inspirational model of the assignment is Bertrand Russell’s prologue to his three-volume autobiography (the first volume of which was published in 1967):

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy─ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness─that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I have sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upwards toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

The students of Writing 101 were to read these words, and with all due thought and consideration, pen their own. More than a year ago [ed. note: the winter of 1988], Julian showed me a few repre­sent­ative samples of these student essays (with their authors’ names appropriately and carefully inked out), suspecting that I might find their words of some interest. This is what one young male (in his early twenties) had to say:

The Easy Life

I want a successful life, a life of ease with only a few thorns, a life of leisure with little pain. In light of this I have created many more passions such as a search for education, a desire for wealth, and a need for health.

I seek an education to earn money with. An easy life starts with hard days at school. Some may get lucky and win the lottery while others may be happy living off low wages but I want the most money for my abilities. An education will not increase my intelli­gence but it will improve the chances of employment in a high paying position that is not only easy on the body but also challenging to the mind.

I desire wealth because it will buy me a better life. People often say money cannot buy happiness, but I will be happy when I have the money to buy everything I want. I can only be content in a big house full of spicy food and comfortable furnishings, a garage with a nice new car and expensive snow skis.

I need to be healthy to live a better life. I want to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor. All the money in the world would do me no good if I were not vigorous enough to spend it. I want to be in good shape while spending my money, instead of spending it on an expensive sick bed or giving it away to some doctor who can spend it on something more gratifying.

Perhaps those of us who are not teachers, and not acquainted with the thoughts of contemporary college students, might read this as satire, black humor or clever jest, for the alternative is nearly impossible to believe. How is it possible for this human being to put into words the substance of his own soul and not cringe at the picture he has painted of himself? How can he not shudder at the cold vacuum at the heart of this narcissistic portrait of utter self-absorption? How can Russell’s words fall, without resonance, indeed, without effect, upon his ears?

How? Because not once in this student’s career has he been challenged, compelled to examine his own beliefs and values. Not once has he been asked to spell out the logical implications and presuppositions of his own words, least of all on the printed page. He has been allowed to grow and flourish (or merely get older), protected from perceiving the material, social, and ethical consequences of his own thoughts and behavior. He has been taught self-esteem, at the expense of self-consciousness. His beliefs and feelings have been “respected,” and have festered, unexamined, unanalyzed, uncriticized by teachers who have been trained to do everything except challenge him to open his mind to his fellow human beings and to the world that gave him birth and now sustains his life.

Pictured here, in this student’s essay, is a man, a child, no, a worm, whose first words are “I want,” and who then proceeds to equate a successful life, which he “wants,” with “a life of ease,” which he also wants, while remaining utterly incapable of seeing the contradiction. Here is a person whose first passion is the avoidance of pain. And whose pain? His own. He feels no other. Here is a human who seeks, above all, leisure for himself. He mentions no friends or family, perhaps because he has none, or perhaps because he takes them for granted and does not notice; nor does he mention the rest of humanity, perhaps because he doesn’t wish to draw attention to the reality that his leisure is a function of other people’s labor.

Being pragmatic, he seeks devices by which he might achieve his leisure. The first device he finds is money. He would consider himself “lucky” to win the lottery, but, being a realist, is aware that this is improbable. An education seems a better bet. An education for him is a tool with which he intends to “get money.” Other tools would do, but they could get him into trouble, if not jail, jeopardizing his dream of future leisure. And if education didn’t work as a tool to get money, it would not be relevant to any of his concerns, for learning about the world, past and present, outside the periphery of his own flesh, is merely his contingent instrument for acquiring the easy life.

In his view, the easy life begins unfortunately with hard days at school, empty days devoid of the excitement of finding profound answers to his questions, for he has no questions, least of all questions his school could ever answer, or even help to answer. Education will increase his chances of obtaining a high paying “position” (a job does not interest him). He believes this because this is what his parents and teachers have told him. They have told him that he must pay attention in school because what he is being taught might one day be of use to him. Thus he has learned that what is not of use to him is not worthy of his attention.

The position he seeks in life is not only easy on the body but challenging to the mind. Challenges to the mind, he has heard, are good things. Challenges to his body are things with which he is more familiar and finds them difficult, and now knows he does not want them. It does not occur to him to suspect that challenges to the mind might be equally difficult and therefore incompatible with the easy life he values most. This possibility would be a challenge to his mind, and no doubt he has failed, for that reason, to consider it.

Being a doctor is of no value, except insofar as it enables one to buy hard goods and real estate. The services of a doctor mean nothing, for if our young man should become ill and need them, he would have to “give money away” to him, “some doctor” who would take that money and spend it on something more grati­fying. This would be a bad thing, for giving money away and getting no self-gratification in return would be tantamount to an act of generosity. He wants his health, therefore, lest he be deprived of the pleasures of spending money, and be made jealous of doctors who would take his money, buy nice new cars, expensive snow skis, and houses full of spicy food.

But should he ever go to school to become a doctor himself, it would be, of course, to obtain the most money for his abilities, chief of which would be the ability to do anything for a buck, including performing the super-human task of enduring at least 10 years of medical training for an occupation he disdains as unworthy of being paid.

This man desires wealth because it will buy him a better life. Better lives, for this person, are on a par with commodi­ties purchased, rather than worlds constructed by our own human hands, minds, and hearts.

This man will be happy when he has the money to buy everything he wants. His wants and needs are fused as one in his mind. And money, instead of being a medium of exchange of value for value, is merely the incarnation, the material embodiment of the power by which he will have others produce what he will consume.

He can only be content in a big house, built by the labor of others who have accepted those challenges to the body which he has rejected, a house full of spicy foods─foods planted, cultivated, harvested, processed, cooked, and served by the efforts of others, spicy food to satiate his sensitive and discriminating Epicurean palate. It will be a house full of comfortable furnishings obtained by money, instead of work. In his house, he must have a garage with a nice new car and expensive snow skis. The car must be new, rather than functional and efficient, else the wrong message might be conveyed to the neighbors who he believes, perhaps rightly, share his aspir­ations. The skis must be “expensive,” else his peers will be unimpressed. His house will be full, full of everything─except other human beings. For here is the human being whose concern for future generations has utterly terminated with not merely his own, but himself.

Our student, an archetype of the late twentieth century, has written little, but implied much in the interstices of his words. Our student, it seems, has not yet discovered the mirror into which he could gaze upon the face of his own soul. Should the day arrive when he finds it, he shall hear, with Russell, the cries of pain of a soul in famine, reverberating in his heart, and we too shall suffer with him, and be sorry for him. Yet he lives, for now, making a mockery of what human life should be.

Herd-Mediocrity and The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

The Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is committed to mediocrity. In fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism celebrates it. Everywhere the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism reigns supreme, mediocrity follows, due to the fact mediocrity is the order and the criterion of any type of hierarchy founded on the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Indeed, as Nietzsche states, under such rubric “one and all [is] adjusted…to the most dubious mediocrity”.1, as the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism concerns itself, foremost, with the propagation, the celebration, and the production of mediocrity, in and across, the stratums of everyday life and socio-economic existence. The reason is due the fact that mediocrity is most profitable and the most obdurate socio-economic substance any socio-economic formation or narrative can fashion for itself.  Meaning, mediocrity increases capitalist profit and the chances of duration, longevity, and resilience, pertaining to any ruling power.

Mediocrity is a congealed, unyielding, mass of citizens, intolerant to social change, novelty and liberty in the sense that mediocrity wants its own suppression, enslavement, and homogenization, which any ruling power can readily accommodate easily. Mediocrity is a herd, according to Nietzsche:

It is a bulbous mass stringently against [differences] of all kinds. [That is,] conservative…par excellence, slow to adopt, reluctant to let go, and [highly] enduring in the midst of …tremendous change and mixture of elements. Mediocrity [is]… consolidated and solidified [around a grounding] truth. [Its herd is always mediocre and solid.2

In this regard, for Nietzsche, herd-mediocrity is “inertia…[where] the middle… is considered the highest and most valuable”3 in the sense that this middle-of-the-road “herd mentality is forever directed towards stand still and [its] preservation”.4 And, due to this fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is dead-set on manufacturing, maintaining, and celebrating mediocrity of all types and kinds in its attempt to preserve and profit from its totalitarian supremacy.

Moreover, mediocrity of all types and kinds is where capital accumulates in the greatest number, as mediocrity is the dictatorial center, the average median and middle, which houses the greatest number of generic people, thus, the greatest sum of potential capital; i.e., surplus value. Mediocrity is profitable. It is the most generic and the most average; therefore, mediocrity, atop of being obdurate and unyielding to any type of change, is also the biggest reservoir of untapped capitalist profit, hence, the increasing emphasis and focus by bourgeois-state-capitalism, on averages, medians, and generic middles etc., that is, the dictatorship of the middle and/or the dictatorship of mediocrity. For example:

In its effort to maximize profit and its supremacy, the logic of capitalism ever-increasingly propels itself towards the lowest common denominator, [in search of maximum profit], where capital, authority and legitimacy is most robust, concentrated and abundant, namely where the majority resides. This means that all types of commodities are increasingly trite, pointless, disposable and/or identical. Whether politically and/or economically, all commodities are increasingly purged of substance, rareness, spirit and/or individuality so as to mimic the average stereotypes of the median majority. The lowest common denominator, located in the most basic average general median, is the most profitable, the most powerful and the most fixed position with the parameters of [bourgeois-state-capitalism].5

Consequently, mediocrity is the most inflexible form and profitable form the general-population can be fashioned into. And, this is exactly what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, which is imprinted upon all the stratums of everyday life, does and/or attempts to do, at all times and in all spaces in and across of the capitalist-system. As a result, mediocrity personified, exterminates heterogeneity, plurality, and diversity, through maudlin, sappy, popular tastes and generic ways of life, which, in fanatic fashion hunt, trap, and asphyxiate, all that is truly different, novel, heterogeneous, plural and post-modern. The goal of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is to produce, disseminate, and propagate, endless rounds, stops and starts, of fashionable mediocrity; i.e., profitable mediocrity, which can again breed ever-new rounds of profitable mediocrity, ad nauseam.

Profitability breeds profitability. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. And, mediocrity can only see, believe, and understand its own kind, namely, universal mediocrity as “herd-[mediocrity] seeks [only] to preserve one type…itself”6, and more importantly, it “hates those who detach themselves [from it]…[and thus it] turns the hatred of the all…against them”.7 Therefore, mediocrity only celebrates its own kind in a sort of lame over-excessive jubilation, such is what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism does, or attempts to do, through its omnipresent spectacle, showered onto the general-population and the art-world. The point is to captivate and manufacture herd-mediocrity long enough in order to siphon capitalist profits out of this herd-mediocrity, all the while placing these capitalist profits into the hands of a state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

Consequently, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism “presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than ‘that which appears is good [and] that which is good, appears”.8 This omnipresent positivity is then channeled into capitalist consumption whereupon commodities connected to the herd-majority, and a sense of belonging to this herd-majority, are designed to embody this omnipresent positivity, which is manufactured by the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism through its controlling media-outlets, star-personalities and incessant, bourgeois-propaganda.  Hence, the primary reason why the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism has to be smashed, deconstructed, and fragmented beyond recognition since the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism endlessly promotes mediocrity ad nauseam, namely, a type of bourgeois-capitalism mediocrity, which ultimately, stifles innovation, creativity, plurality, heterogeneity and the flourishing of post-modernism. Namely, the progress, plurality and diversity stemming from all the independent micro-narratives interweaving the island-pockets of post-modernity, dotting the capitalist-system.

According to Nietzsche, meta-narratives lack verity and grounding truth. They are imposed onto the world so as to make sense of it, a meta-narrative “decides the character of appearance, [namely] reality”.9 However, for Nietzsche, there is “no limit to ways in which the world can be interpreted”10, because as Nietzsche states, “underneath it all…there is no grand unity…[all] is perspectival appearance, whose origin lies in us. To this extent…the denial of …a truthful world, [or] being, is…the only way of thinking”.11 The reason is due to the fact any meta-narrative lacks universal validity in the sense that any meta-narrative is an illusory manifestation of the will to power in its attempt to establish and impose its own despotic dominion on the world.

According to Nietzsche, “it is our needs that interpret the world…[that is] our lust to rule”12, which imposes meaning and sense onto the world. And, out of this will to power, meta-narratives like the Enlightenment and bourgeois-capitalism have developed and encroached upon western civilizations in a authoritarian manner. They have been utilized to build despotic dominions, both conceptual and material, pertaining to how the general-population thinks and acts within society.  Without meta-narratives, according to Nietzsche:

An infinite plurality of perspectives [awaits]…[as] there are not facts, [or truths, to hold us]. Everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive [and a matter of] our opinion. What man things is nothing but what he himself has imported into them… [via his or her] will to power.13

In effect, for Nietzsche, plurality, flux, incommensurability, and partial incomprehensibility is the underlying human condition in the sense that humans can never possess a complete comprehension and mastery over reality, phenomena and/or situations. They understand only partially from the finite limits of their positional perspectives, which are forever fleeting, due to the inherent flux and existential anarchy of existence. All that meta-narratives do is impose a one-dimensional interpretation on events and phenomena, impeding plurality, heterogeneity, and the flourishing of post-modernism so as to flatter a totalitarian point of view, that is, an arbitrary/artificial meta-narrative designed to monopolize interpretation, power and knowledge.

For Nietzsche, such overarching perspectives, like the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, are designed to cultivate converts, namely, a herd of followers. Meta-narratives, like bourgeois-capitalism, require converts; i.e., believers, in order to establish their despotic dominion over reality. As a result, these converts are forced to exercise a certain level of self-denial and deception, on others and themselves, in order to manifest the plausibility and effect of truth, pertaining to the illusory universal verity of the ruling meta-narrative, in this case, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

For Nietzsche, any “truth is…the consequence of an illusion”10, derived from its particular perspective; i.e., narrative, and believers must learn to deny their internal disbelief and impose the “artificially built chimera”14, both on themselves and others, which in essence, is all that a meta-narrative is, namely, a chimera. That is, a perspective arbitrarily and artificially imposed and applied to the world and reality, which is inherently without universal verity, other than, “as a tool of power [exercised by] the will to power”.15 Subsequently, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is but an arbitrary/artificial conglomeration of wills to power, forming one giant will to power, designed to despotically impose an arbitrary/artificial order on the variability of phenomena, reality and socio-economic existence, devoid of any verity other than the accumulation and monopolization of power in the hands of a select few.

Moreover, according to Nietzsche, “for every age and every new type of [society] …new truths…[new] delusions,…new values”16 are enunciated, for which the general-population must learn to abide by and accept as timeless verities. It is in this regard that the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism transforms the general-population into an obedient, docile, herd-mediocrity, reflecting its bogus verities and baseless beliefs. Initially, “the program of [bourgeois-capitalist] Enlightenment…was the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy. [Yet] knowledge, which is power, knows no obstacles [and has resulted] in the enslavement of men [and] compliance with the world’s rulers”.17 As a result, the Enlightenment, through its meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, cunningly continues to exercise totalitarian control and domination over mankind, which is forced to increasingly accept and internalize a false, one-dimensional, abbreviated world-view imposed upon it. Herd-mediocrity is a product of this imposition and enslavement.

Indeed, once established, according to Nietzsche, “the herd…consolidates its mediocrity and always goes against everything new and exceptional. The power of the herd [and its] institutions,…[is meant to] grind the unique into uniformity and turn it into herd”.18 Herd-mediocrity is the essential substance and reason for the longevity of bourgeois-capitalism and its ever-accumulating profits. It provides the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy of bourgeois-capitalism with a bottomless reservoir of available and exploitable, capitalist profits while simultaneously providing the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism with an endless procession of religious, capitalist converts, ready to sing its praises. It is in this regard that, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, “in service of the present age, [the] Enlightenment [has] become [the] wholesale deception of the masses”.19 Through its cherished meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the Enlightenment turns “the evolution of the machine…into…the machinery of domination…[wherefore] technical and social tendencies, [now] interwoven, converge in the total schematization of men”.20 And, the end result is mediocrity, profitable-mediocrity, the most treasured output of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, that is, herd-mediocrity.

The meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is a machine, an ideational comprehensive framework, both material and conceptual, where all questions, problems and/or situations have their black and white answers/interpretations, yes and no procedures, where, all social-ills have their easy-fix solutions and scapegoats. And once, ingrained and programmed into the general-population, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism wreaks havoc in and across the everyday life of the workforce/population, grinding it down into an ironclad herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, which can only serve capitalist profitability and bourgeois-capitalism-authority, all the while leaving the workforce/population confused, dumbfounded, brainwashed and/or socially embittered.

Notwithstanding, the consolidated red-thread weaving this herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, is the red-thread of the Enlightenment, that is, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, whose underlying “prime directive is forever to maximize the accumulation and extraction of …capital, by any means necessary…as soon as possible”.21 Consequently, herd-mediocrity is the primary product of the red-thread, that is, bourgeois-capitalism, not the other way around. In fact, without the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the herd becomes post-modern, plural, poly-rational, and fully heterogeneous, devoid of bourgeois sensibilities, tastes and/or any overarching bourgeois status quo. When post-modernism reaches its nth degree, post-modernism will as well reach the pinnacle of its development, maturity, diversity, plurality and heterogeneity, which can only mean the total deconstruction of bourgeois-capitalism. Without the red-thread of bourgeois-capitalism, total insurrection, and the realization of full-fledge post-modernism, pure, simple, and unadulterated, devoid of any overarching authority and/or unified logic, other than, the poly-logic of multiplicity, plurality, heterogeneity, and pragmatic egalitarianism, whereupon all decision-making-authority is shared in relative equal measure.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols, Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 75.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 461.
  3. Ibid, p. 159.
  4. Ibid, p. 162.
  5. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016).
  6. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 161-162.
  7. Ibid, p. 157.
  8. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983) p. 12.
  9. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 149.
  10. Ibid, p. 326.
  11. Ibid, pp. 13-15.
  12. Ibid, pp. 267-269.
  13. Ibid, pp. 327-328.
  14. Ibid, p. 302.
  15. Ibid, p. 266-267.
  16. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  17. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) pp. 3-4.
  18. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  19. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) p. 42.
  20. Ibid, p. 35.
  21. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural- Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016.).

Jordan Peterson and Social-Darwinism

I do not normally respond to people I have respect for, and consider, on most counts, a genuine activist, but I have to take issue with Mr. Rancourt’s recent article about the validity of Jordan Peterson’s notion of dominance hierarchy.

The reason is because there is a myopic, narrow-minded bias to Jordan Peterson’s theory of dominance hierarchies, a bias which supports the bourgeois status quo and attacks all things or theories which might lead to positive, radical, social change.

First and foremost, Mr. Rancourt’s experiments in critical pedagogy at the University of Ottawa, were revolutionary and showed us, on the radical left, what a post-bourgeois education-system would look like if bourgeois-capitalism collapsed. And, more importantly, Mr. Rancourt’s experiment in critical pedagogy showed us on the radical left that such an anarchist education-system can work, and work quite well, given the absence of the bourgeois-academic-system and its tyrannical bureaucracy. For this, Mr. Rancourt deserves genuine praise.

However, Mr. Rancourt’s  experiment in critical pedagogy broke the fundamental rule of the bourgeois-university; i.e., “intelligence is obedience and obedience is intelligence”, and for his radical transgression, Mr. Rancourt faced the full blunt of bourgeois-fascism, both from his former employer and the bourgeois-justice-system. If Marx’s famous statement, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various way, the point, however, is to change it”1, applies anywhere, it applies to Mr. Rancourt’s courage in persisting with his experiment to its conclusion, regardless of consequences.

Notwithstanding, I have always found that those in the hard sciences, if they happen to make the jump into radical political philosophy and social activism, tend, after their initial radical left-wing splash, to drift towards the far-right of the political-spectrum, depending on the individual. An extreme, but poignant, example of this tendency is Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose radical politics for social luddite revolution, in a characteristic black and white dichotomy, a dichotomy stringently engineered and honed for success in the hard sciences, eventually led to Mr. Kaczynski’s calcification into radical cynicism and a type of authoritarian, right-wing, program of action. All of which happened after he encountered the plurality, flexibility and nihilism found in the humanities and certain strands of political philosophy. In effect, departing from the seemingly secure grounds of the hard sciences, and discovering, according to Paul Feyerabend, that “anything goes”.2 Mr. Kaczynski hardened himself, over time, into a political killing machine. One just needs to read Mr. Kaczynski’s literature, most recently his book, Anti-Tech. Revolution, to get a sense of his rigid, despotic, authoritarianism.

Of course, I am not saying Mr. Rancourt is anywhere close to being this out of touch, but Mr. Rancourt, has slowly drifted to the right of the political-spectrum, as of late, whether, this is his gentle support of Iran, Vladimir Putin, or most recently, Jordan Peterson. The basic point of radical left politics is to do away with authoritarianism in all its shapes and forms, from an Iranian dictatorship to the bourgeois-capitalism of the United-States.

Subsequently, contrary to Mr. Rancourt’s recent article with Jordan Peterson, we are fundamentally dealing with a proponent of Social-Darwinism. That is, a form of Social-Darwinian-Ideology, which is, in my estimation, only designed to serve and buttress the bourgeois status quo and the bourgeois-aristocracy, as rightfully legitimate and worthy of their positions, academic and/or otherwise; specifically, that their most esteemed bourgeois-aristocratic members are worthy of their elevated positions in and across the dominance hierarchy.

Contrary to Mr. Peterson, the fact is that any honest intellectual, looking at our society today, can factually see that the best and brightest do not always, or if ever, occupy the upper-echelons of any contemporary dominance hierarchy, academia, politics, business, sex, etcetera. In actuality, today the reverse is the case in the sense that we see constantly that the best and brightest are being left behind, or are forced to remain on the lower rungs of bourgeois-society, scrounging for their existence while the system favors and promotes an obedient herd-mediocrity at every level. That is, those individuals who best subserviently, ideologically, and obediently buttress and propagate the bourgeois status quo, towing, with certain docile obedience, the dominant ideological tenets of bourgeois-capitalism, bourgeois-academia, bourgeois-elites, and the overall, bourgeois status quo.

I would argue that Mr. Peterson is one of these obedient bourgeois-ideologues, who cunningly, playing the outsider for the cameras, has cultivated for himself a disenfranchised herd of followers whom he is now trying to appease and put back into bourgeois-subservience via his brand of pop-psychology. Indeed, this herd of followers was susceptible to Mr. Peterson’s Social-Darwinism because most people have never encountered “real” radical left-politics in the classroom, other than the lame centrist-liberalism, which is now peddled as hip and edgy on University campuses. Subsequently, one of the reasons for Mr. Peterson’s recent popularity is that the bourgeois-university has persistently, for 35 years or so, been purging radical academics from the sanctified halls of its universities in favor of obedient, docile, neoliberal, bourgeois-cogs, which readily defend and peddle bourgeois-academic-mediocrity and the bourgeois status quo ad nauseam. How easily we forget that Einstein did most of his ground-breaking physics as an outcast, an outcast of bourgeois-academia, which essentially forced Einstein to moonlight as a physicist by night and a patent-clerk by day. And not much has changed today in and across bourgeois-universities.

Clearly, Jordan Peterson is one of the proponents and ideologues of the conventional bourgeois status quo in the sense that the man was at the center of Canadian bourgeois-academia for some 20 years or more. He resided in the comfortable womb-like center of conservative bourgeois-academia, wallowing in its profitable-mediocrity. He was a tenured professor, a protector of the bourgeois scientific tradition, an upper-class Torontonian, a right-wing, anti-communist crusader etc., bent to prevent the liberalization of Canadian universities and its student body. This is a man who has endlessly championed the fundamental rule of bourgeois-academia: “obedience is intelligence and intelligence is obedience”. What a shocker! Now Peterson is taking this bourgeois-academic-principle to the masses, evangelizing the uneducated and the narrow-minded educated about the transformative powers of obedience, the legitimacy of bourgeois-authority, all of which is being filtered into the minutia of our everyday lives. Clean your room, stand up straight, trust your western bourgeois-governments and myopic scientific results, and please, salute all bourgeois-aristocrats higher-up on the dominance ladder for they are your social better and your emblems to socially emulate etc.!

Mr. Peterson is the equivalent of a bourgeois-conservative’s wet-dream, a throw-back to 1930s social engineering. The man is against all forms of radical social change and social mobility which might threaten the current rank and file of our bourgeois dominance hierarchies. Everything new and different is bad, everything tradition, bourgeois, and homogenized, is good. He, in fact, alleviates bourgeois-aristocratic anxieties by vindicating their pathological greed, their lust for power, and their down-right selfishness by arguing that whatever one’s station in life, or in society, be it upper, or lower, in a dominance hierarchy etc., is fundamentally based on Darwinian natural selection. So straighten-up and fly-right, bucko! Because you and your neighbor, whatever your positions are, in and across the dominance hierarchy, are rightfully warranted by Darwinian natural selection. Therefore, inequality of all types and kinds is valid, legitimate, and more importantly, biologically necessary for our species’ survival. This type of logic is pure, ideological, nonsense, which reeks of 19th century crackpot, Social-Darwinism.

Indeed, surrounded by hapless ignorant sycophants, Mr. Peterson is fond of quoting Nietzsche, as if Nietzsche’s work reflects Social-Darwinian-Ideology. However, Nietzsche is not a proponent of Social-Darwinism. He is against Social-Darwinism and stated as much on more than one occasion. Nietzsche would shriek in horror at Peterson’s proposition that a dominance hierarchy is legitimated on the Darwinian grounds of natural selection.

In fact, to the contrary, Nietzsche argued that across western civilizations and western cultures, it is the most mediocre of our species which are the most apt to succeed in reaching the top of bourgeois dominance hierarchies because these herd-animals embody and represent the most enduring, conservative, and brutish characteristics of our species; i.e., the inhuman and the average. Their propensity for the inhuman and averageness gives them an advantage over more evolved humans.  As Nietzsche states, “mediocrity always goes against everything new and exceptional [since] the new is always against the herd. The [herd] grinds the unique into uniformity and turns it into herd”.3 However, it is the job, according to Nietzsche, of the herdsman “to retain…the herd, flatter it, work with [it, in order to] consolidate its mediocrity”4 and direct it against any exceptional uber-mensch.

Jordan Peterson is certainly Nietzsche’s herdsman and has always been so. He is not an uber-mensch since, according to Nietzsche, an uber-mensch is an individual deserving of our admiration because this individual extends and expends, him or herself, over the abyss, living creatively, solitarily, and differently against the parameters set by herd-mediocrity. Ironically, the uber-mensch is both without followers and constantly subjected to the cruelty of the herd and the herdsman. For Nietzsche, “it is the object of herd education [via the herdsman] to create in the herd member…a definite faith concerning the nature of man”5, wherefore, “inertia…[and] the middle is considered the highest and the most valuable”.5 In a nutshell, this is Mr. Peterson’s whole academic project: (1) to solidify the bourgeois status quo while championing herd-mediocrity as the highest and most valuable attributes, when climbing any bourgeois dominance hierarchy; and, (2) Peterson’s academic project consists in marshaling the vindictiveness embodied in herd-mediocrity against all that is different, plural, and exceptional, namely, all that is not generic, average, and a part of the bourgeois status quo, namely, all that reflects post-modernism.

Let’s have a little fun:

If, for argument sake, we accept Mr. Peterson’s theory and ludicrous claims concerning the fact that only the most powerful; i.e., the best and the brightest of the human species get to the top of a dominance hierarchy, sexual or otherwise, then, why is Mr. Peterson bemoaning, according to his own deluded conspiratorial perceptions, the rise of the radical left in academia (which is, in fact, totally the opposite). That is, why is Mr. Peterson bemoaning the rise of another red-specter haunting the nooks and crannies of western bourgeois-civilization, when, by his own theoretical admissions, this red-specter would constitute the product of natural selection; i.e., the scientific fact that the cream always rises to the top. And, if Marxism and communism is the cream, then natural selection shall give onto Caesar what rightfully belongs onto Caesar. In effect, his own Social-Darwinian-Ideology can be utilized to vindicate the rise of communism, Marxism and/or the rise of radical liberalism in academia, including the rise of political correctness. The fact is you cannot apply, in any deterministic fashion, biology to socio-economic conditions, hence, the fact Jordan Peterson’s theory of dominance hierarchy is bourgeois-ideology in disguise, and a fallacy. Because, if natural selection is the fundamental arbiter of any dominance hierarchy, then whatever rules during any historical period; i.e., slavery, paternalism, homophobia, racism, sexism, even Nazism etc., by Jordan Peterson’s own theoretical musings is deserving of our praise as that which is most legitimate, most worthy, and most apt for the continuance of our evolution at that particular time in history.

Jordan Peterson’s popularity as some sort of socio-cultural phenomenon is strictly a matter of the fact that he flatters the upper-echelons of the bourgeois-aristocracy, namely, his musings on natural selection flatter, and vindicate the exploitations, the religious illusions, and the ideological bourgeois-fetishisms of a conservative-aristocratic demographic, including their low-brow acolytes. Peterson tells these bourgeois-aristocrats, with confidence and boldness, that they are worthy of their elevated positions and social status because natural selection has made it so. This is their cross to bear as superior beings. After-all, it is the bourgeois-aristocracy which gives Jordan Peterson air-time in the mainstream-media. Few socialist theoreticians are given mainstream air-time like Peterson, despite the fact there are many socialist theoreticians who run circles around Mr. Peterson, possessing far more deserving research and theoretical outputs. In fact, these socialist theoreticians, for the most part, have been relegated to obscurity and marginality by the bourgeois status quo and bourgeois-academia. The fact is Jordan Peterson is first and foremost a conservative bourgeois-ideologue, the lightning rod for a low-brow right-wing fad, propagated by elitist bourgeois-aristocrats to piss-off the left, make a little money, and reassert their conservative, regressive mind-sets. The tragedy in all of this is those segments of the workforce/population, which have swallowed the cool-aid and who, in the end, will be left footing the bill for such a spectacle.

The fundamental message, in the end, which Jordan Peterson peddles like another Doctor Phil, is that what happens to you in life is your own doing. Granted, Peterson states life is brutish and a war of all against all, but ultimately, where you end up in the grand scheme of things, according to Peterson, is the result of your own choices and individual actions; i.e., free-will. And free-will, for any philosopher is contestable. For Peterson, there are no bias bourgeois-institutions, no global economic reasons, no cultural reasons, or for that matter, no other scientific biological reasons, for the things that happen to a person. In the final analysis, according to Peterson, what happens is your own fault, for better or for worse. The world only cherishes and remembers the winners, the higher species, not the losers. Is Bill Cosby a higher species? Is Harvey Weinstein a higher species? Is Donald Trump a more evolved species?

These depraved sub-humans occupy, or have occupied, the upper-echelons of the bourgeois-aristocracy for decades, comporting themselves as the brutish savage Mr. Peterson so eloquently champions. Yet, are these the creatures young men should emulate! Is this natural selection at work, sifting and separating, the strong from the weak? Dominance hierarchies may be strictly based on deterministic biology in the animal kingdom, namely, hierarchy may be founded solely on natural selection in nature, as Darwin stipulates, as animals are at the mercy of their natural instincts, but humans are not, despite being a type of mammal.

Also, Peter Kropotkin observed the principle of mutual-aid at work in nature and in direct contrast to Darwinian natural selection, wherefore animals among themselves and among each other, according to Kropotkin, would collaborate for their mutual advancement, survival, benefit, and support. That is, these species, supposedly at war, could be seen helping each other in an altruistic manner climb the dominance ladder together. Such examples are endless; thus, maybe Darwin got it wrong, and animals as well can overcome the brutality of natural selection.

The fact is humans construct all sorts of hierarchies based on all sorts of premises and principles, not just some mechanistic law of Darwinian natural selection. Moreover, not all humans construct hierarchies. Some live communally, sharing in relative equal measure. There are no biological imperatives which determine a dominance hierarchy. Socially speaking, sometimes there are hierarchies, sometimes there are not, and sometimes we, as humans, alternate between various hierarchies simultaneously. In a hair-dresser’s domain, he/she rules, but in the classroom, you rule if you are the educator etc.

Even anarchist horizontal hierarchies are possible for the human species given the right socio-economic conditions like the overthrow of bourgeois-capitalism. Consequently, not being deterministically governed by dominance or natural selection a society can rid itself of any form of dominance hierarchy and has done so throughout history. There is no deterministic biological imperative by which we, today, must live under the thumb of a bourgeois-aristocracy, academic, political, economic etc., if we so choose.  And, more importantly, the overthrow of bourgeois-state-capitalism, contrary to Jordan Peterson, may very well be more progressive, more in tune with natural selection, and an overall better emblem of justice than the current myopic, narrow-minded, bias, bourgeois-justice we are currently forced to live with. In sum, decision-making-authority can be equally shared, in relative equal measure, among all citizens. Money and capital can be distributed equally among any citizenry etc., dominance can be defined in a multiplicity of manners. We do not have to subscribe to Mr. Peterson’s authoritarian definition of dominance.

Jordan Peterson argues for a singular dominance hierarchy solely based on some sort of might equals right biological imperative, wherefore, the most powerful get all the sex they could ever want, and the weak are relegated to obscurity and the dust-bin of history. Subsequently, maybe its high-time we jettison Jordan Peterson’s ad hoc Social-Darwinian-Ideology to the dust-bin of history, and let the chips fall where they may, and while we are at it, why not do the same with bourgeois-academia, bourgeois-aristocracy and bourgeois-capitalism, and, once again, let the chips fall where they may.

  1. Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”, The Marx-Engels Reader. ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1978) p. 145.
  2. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 163.
  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  4. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  5. Ibid, p. 159.

Just How Much Do We Love One Another?

On the day of the Parkland massacre, Valentine’s Day, I made a decision, one long in the making since my days as a Philosophy student and instructor nearly fifty years ago.

I had been for decades outwardly idle — “submissive” would be a better word — while watching the world be shaped by people’s interests in certain things (mainly about making money, buying lots of guns, going to church, and feeling good about themselves) and by their equally selective lack of interest in certain other things, such as logic and vigorous, intelligent debate about our connections to one another, and our impacts upon the larger world. I had been told many times by many people that logic, history, science, studies in the foundations of ethics, and reading in general “Just aren’t my passions.”

But inwardly, and quietly, I had been, all those years, observing, reading, and writing much in my journals, and sharing my findings only a little, until recently. My fateful decision was to do this:

I sent a long and significant letter (a small book) to important distant friends the day after that student massacre. As a direct result, predictably as the sun’s setting, I have been cast from their lives.  I wrote that letter for the general reasons I will state here and for the particular reasons given within the letter itself. The letter explained why I made the decision I did, to speak up in a written document rather than in airy personal conversations in which words and meanings are neither understood nor remembered because minds are heated and fogged by fire and smoke, driven more by the dragons of our reptilian hind brain than guided by the light of our brain’s more recent developments. Knowing the trouble I could cause, and the price I might pay, I did so against the urging of everyone whose opinions I faithfully sought. I must live or die with that decision that was, necessarily, my own. As my remaining and now increasingly lonely days permit, I will offer the substance of my cares, concerns, and reasonings to anyone interested, but will not demand, nor even ask, anyone to be actually interested. As my mind is my own to make up, so too it is for each of us to do the same. And like it or not, the implications of that fact have been, and will continue to be, global.

Right or wrong, but with my shingle out for open written debate, I now have much to say about many things, after living a long life of learning and traveling the globe—and being publicly silent, too circumspectly careful, about the most important things. I have been outwardly quiet lest I be branded the cause of “personal offense” and ejected from family and polite society by people who wrongly think I do not love them—all because I argue that Proposition A is false or that Decision B is illegal and fundamentally unethical, for complex reasons no one “has time” to read about or the depth of education to understand (being too busy making money and raising a family, and feeling great about doing so). I have tried to be accommodating and polite and unobtrusive. I have been taken to be an odd combination of “very smart,” “highly useful” —and “duly deferential” to executive decisions that time and again have proven to be fatally wrong. Thus, I have concluded that I have been making an exceedingly terrible mistake of my own.

I had always been asking myself, “How much do we really love one another? Enough to study hard and seek the truth about what we are doing to each other?” My hypothesis, now confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt, was that something horrible has gone wrong in our society that now manifests itself as the outward symptoms of a virus whose periodic outbreaks blood-stain the pages of our entire history. I claim that we do not love our children, nor one another, nor future generations, quite enough to find out the implications of what we are doing—or failing to do. Decades of thinking and searching out the facts (and trying to falsify my own theory about which I have been publicly silent for most of my life) have led me to this conclusion:

This world has been shaped by our frequent and mysterious lack of curiosity about what is true, the implications of our presumptions, and equally by our manufactured ignorance and enabled arrogance; in other words by our lack of interest in genuinely understanding ourselves, our fellows, and the world. As of this day, I have ceased to acquiesce in the face of narcissistic power that 1) assumes—and now literally asserts—that only its own feelings and decisions matter and that, by direct implication, mine own do not; 2) seeks out the company of only like-minded people; 3) seeks to threaten, ignore, or muzzle anyone who begs to differ; and 4) does not know the difference between a fact and a feeling nor between a rational argument and verbal abuse.

In the interests of “getting along with each other,” because we claim to love one another, we have, in fact, chosen to act in ways that permit aggressiveness, ignorance, and malignant narcissism to be reinforced and rewarded in our children and among those to whom we believe we must submit in order to “keep the peace,” “enjoy life,” and “earn a living.” We all think our children are important, most important, in our lives, and that it is their personal happiness (and our own) that is most important. But the trouble is this: Everyone believes this, but it could not possibly be true. Family A’s children cannot really be more important than Family B’s children, however truly important everyone may be. But as this false belief is acted upon across a society, poisonous consequences show themselves.

Because everyone thinks their children are special and must be treated “carefully,” and that their bosses must be treated with extra special deference lest they lose their jobs, a global situation develops in which no one, no individual person, is willing to take responsibility for the reinforcement and enablement of ignorance and egomania, showing itself in the proliferation of weapons, the perversion of religion, the election of Trump, and the perpetuation of sexual and economic predation by many of the most powerful people in the world, people who have in fact risen to power precisely because we each have done our part, deferentially, to allow it all to happen. There is a private, though never a public, cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, and we fail to see that just about everyone is doing this. Doing what? Refusing (out of fear of personal harm or lust for personal gain) to stand up and blow the public whistle against “BS,” that is, against corporate fraud, financial predation, money laundering, tax evasion, racist hatred, religious bigotry, manipulative lies, all manner of political corruption, and invincible ignorance with its contempt for higher education and a sneering suspicion of anything that smacks of literate and scientific intelligence.

My short answer: All of us need to learn the poisonous patterns of pseudo-argument and see them for what they are: strategically ill-motivated substitutes for coherent reasoning, all intended for two destructive purposes: manipulating an intellectually defenseless audience and, if one can pull it off, deceiving oneself to anesthetize the conscience while shifting responsibility. Introductory logic textbooks catalog the jungle of formal and informal fallacies, often identified by their Latin names, and antiseptically defined. They are all symptomatic of a diseased and thoughtless desire, not to get at the truth, but avoid it, or should it be necessary, to confront it, grab it by the throat, and drown it in the nearest bathtub.

“Molly coddling” is the generic term for respecting another’s “feelings” (even our own) above a respect for truth, rationality, and the avoidance of the growth of self-delusion. Turning our backs to the facts, we forget that facts bite us in the ass—in due time. If every employee submits unquestioningly to their bosses, our bosses come to believe that they cannot be wrong and increasingly grow arrogant and presumptuous about their powers, knowledge, skills, and wisdom. They then rationalize their stroked “feelings” (enabled by their parents, peers, shareholders, or underlings) as proof of their ethical superiority and command of reality. Financial “success” adds pragmatic fuel to the “confirmation” that they are right, just, good, and deserving of all they have. Underlings buy into the whole story of how their bosses make a fortune and, in so doing, become not only more tolerant of abuse but wish to imitate what they see as “leadership” behaviors.

Hence we have the likes of Michael Cohen, Sam Nunberg, and half of Congress, who outwardly bow to Trump as their “Mentor,” for example, while Roger Stone asserts that he saw Trump as a nice piece of “horseflesh” to back and exploit in a “race” to advance a personal agenda. Hence we have Weinstein and his “Director’s Couch.” Hence we have the NFL issue a threatening directive about what will constitute “patriotism” in their players. Hence we have a Mark Zuckerberg who has been neither able nor willing to understand the power and the implications of the global machine he has been building, how malefactors could exploit its “mere tools” to turn countries inside out and upside down by hitting targeted ignorant people who lack even the vestigial powers of rational analysis that would help them distinguish news from propaganda. He claims his “virtue” created his “success” by “connecting people globally” and “sellings ads” that selectively target them (more often than not with malice aforethought). Devils and the Lords of Mayhem are often not who we think they are. They are brilliant but selectively thoughtless people who seek to “impact the world” and garner “personal wealth” and thus “make the world a better place.” Still, the executives of “Cambridge Analytica” (a name itself reeking of arrogant pretension) do win the award for being the creeps of the century, for being exactly who they appear to be in surveillance videos.

Education and non-egoistic thoughtfulness take a distant back seat to ego and money and the building of one’s dream home and career and family. Genuine mutual human respect, thoughts about how our individual beliefs and actions impact society when likewise acted upon by others, and the humble willingness to admit we might be factually wrong about a whole lot of things, begin to rapidly shrink—or are stillborn in our childhood. We see the ultimate corruption of politics, of business, and of familial relationships in which the scientifically ignorant, the fundamentally incompetent, the ethically bankrupt, and the psychologically diseased seize power and wield it over others to the ultimate detriment of everyone. Historically, this has been the fatal formula for the rise of autocracy, fascism, oligarchy, tribal conflict, the collapse of countries, and the outbreak of war—all of which we thought we were trying to avoid in the first place.

Someday, the power of ignorance, arrogance, and malignant narcissism may learn that it only exists, and persists, because too many people have acquiesced in silence, fearfully or greedily or naively, but utterly mistakenly.  Meanwhile, our purported “love of one another” is proving, yet again, to be nothing of the sort.

Conflict Theory and Biosphere Annihilation

In a recent article titled “Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts“, I pointed out that existing conflict theory pays little attention to the extinction-causing conflict being ongoingly generated by human over-consumption in the finite planetary biosphere (and, among other outcomes, currently resulting in 200 species extinctions daily). I also mentioned that this conflict is sometimes inadequately identified as a conflict caused by capitalism’s drive for unending economic growth in a finite environment.

I would like to explain the psychological origin of this biosphere-annihilating conflict and how this origin has nurtured the incredibly destructive aspects of capitalism (and socialism, for that matter) from the beginning. I would also like to explain what we can do about it.

Before I do, however, let me briefly illustrate why this particular conflict configuration is so important by offering you a taste of the most recent research evidence in relation to the climate catastrophe and biosphere annihilation and why the time to resolve this conflict is rapidly running out (assuming, problematically, that we can avert nuclear war in the meantime).

In an article reporting a recent speech by Professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, whose research led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate CFC damage to the Ozone Layer, environmental journalist Robert Hunziker summarizes Anderson’s position as follows:

The chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare.1

But if you think that sounds drastic, other recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.2

So, if we are in the process of annihilating Earth’s biosphere, which will precipitate human extinction in the near term, why aren’t we paying much more attention to the origin of this fundamental conflict? And then developing a precisely focused strategy for transcending it?

The answer to these two questions is simply this: the origin of this conflict is particularly unpalatable and, from my careful observation, most people, including conflict theorists, aren’t anxious to focus on it.

So why are human beings over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere? Or more accurately, why are human beings who have the opportunity to do so (which doesn’t include those impoverished people living in Africa, Asia, Central/South America or anywhere else) over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere?

They are doing so because they were terrorized into unconsciously equating consumption with a meaningful life by parents and other adults who had already internalized this same ‘learning’.

Let me explain how this happens.

At the moment of birth, a baby is genetically programmed to feel and express their feelings in response to the stimuli, both internal and external, that the baby registers. For example, as soon after birth as a baby feels hungry, they will signal that need, usually by crying or screaming. An attentive parent (or other suitable adult) will usually respond to this need by feeding the baby and the baby will express their satisfaction with this outcome, perhaps with a facial expression, in a way that most aware parents and adults will have no difficulty identifying. Similarly, if the baby is cold, in pain or experiencing any other stimulus, the baby will express their need, probably by making a loud noise. Given that babies cannot immediately use a cultural language, they use the language that was given to them by evolution: particularly audibly expressed noise of various types that an aware adult will quickly learn to interpret.

Of course, from the initial moments after birth and throughout the next few months, a baby will experience an increasing range of stimuli – including internal stimuli such as the needs for listening, understanding and love, as well as external stimuli ranging from a wet nappy to a diverse set of parental, social, climate and environmental stimuli – and will develop a diverse and expanding range of ways, now including a wider range of emotional expression but eventually starting to include spoken language, of expressing their responses, including satisfaction and enjoyment, if appropriate, to these stimuli.

At some vital point, however, and certainly within the child’s first eighteen months, the child’s parents and the other significant adults in the child’s life, will start to routinely and actively interfere with the child’s emotional expression (and thus deny them satisfaction of the unique needs being expressed in each case) in order to compel the child to do as the parent/adult wishes. Of course, this is essential if you want the child to be obedient – a socially compliant slave – rather than to follow their own Self-will.

One of the critically important ways in which this denial of emotional expression occurs seems benign enough: Children who are crying, angry or frightened are scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as food or a toy – to distract them instead. Unfortunately, the distractive items become addictive drugs. Unable to have their emotional needs met, the child learns to seek relief by acquiring the material substitutes offered by the parent. But as this emotional deprivation endlessly expands because the child has been denied the listening, understanding and love to develop the capacity to listen to, love and understand themself, so too does the ‘need’ for material acquisition endlessly expand.

As an aside, this explains why most violence is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources. The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need. And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs. In essence, no amount of money and other assets can replace the love denied a child that would allow them to feel and act on their feelings.

Of course, the individual who consumes more than they need and uses direct violence, or simply takes advantage of structural violence, to do so is never aware of their deeply suppressed emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met. Although, I admit, this is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs. Consequently, with their emotional needs now unconsciously ‘hidden’ from the individual, they will endlessly project that the needs they want met are, in fact, material.

This is the reason why members of the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family and the Koch brothers, as well as the world’s other billionaires and millionaires, seek material wealth and are willing to do so by taking advantage of structures of exploitation held in place by the US military. They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids who were never loved and do not know how to love themself or others now.

Tragically, however, this fate is not exclusive to the world’s wealthy even if they illustrate the point most graphically. As indicated above, virtually all people who live in material cultures have suffered this fate and this is readily illustrated by their ongoing excessive consumption – especially their meat-eating, fossil-fueled travel and acquisition of an endless stream of assets – in a planetary biosphere that has long been signaling ‘Enough!’

As an aside, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism. Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

If you want to read (a great deal) more detail of the explanation presented above, you will find it in Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

So what can we do?

Well, I would start by profoundly changing our conception of sound parenting by emphasizing the importance of nisteling to children – see Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ – and making ‘My Promise to Children’.

For those adults who feel incapable of nisteling or living out such a promise, I encourage you to consider doing the emotional healing necessary by ‘Putting Feelings First’.

If you already feel capable of responding powerfully to this extinction-threatening conflict between human consumption and the Earth’s biosphere, you are welcome to consider joining those who are participating in the fifteen-year strategy to reduce consumption and achieve self-reliance explained in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ and/or to consider using sound nonviolent strategy to conduct your climate or environment campaign. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

You are also welcome to consider signing the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.

As the material simplicity of Mohandas K. Gandhi demonstrated: Consumption is not life.

If you are not able to emulate Gandhi (at least ‘in spirit’) by living modestly, it is your own emotional dysfunctionality – particularly unconscious fear – that is the problem that needs to be addressed.

  1. Robert Hunziker, “There Is No Time Left“, Dissident Voice, February 19, 2018.
  2. Robert Hunziker. “Insect Decimination Upstages Global Warming“, Dissident Voice, March 27, 2018.

Creating Right Relationship

Within many areas of contemporary life there is a growing momentum for fundamental change. Inequality and injustice are being resolutely challenged and environments in which Right Relationships can evolve are being consistently and powerfully demanded. The establishing of right relationships is a principle hallmark of the unique times we are living in, it sits alongside those other perennial values of goodness: justice freedom and sharing. Perennial qualities that have been held deep within the hearts of humanity for eons though consistently denied and not expressed.

Our current modes of living are characterized by certain dominant ideals: competition; reward and punishment; and desire being some of the leading players. Individually each of these creates divisions; collectively they form an interwoven barrier to all forms of right relationship, a barrier that at times seems impenetrable. Such habitual ways of living are rooted in a view of human nature which maintains that humanity is inherently competitive and selfish, and that desire for personal gain, pleasure and power is not only inevitable but is actually a positive thing, driving personal development and collective gain. Devotees of this view hold that without such motivating forces most people would be overcome by lethargy and do nothing – and then where would we be?

This argument, ardently promoted by the patrons of the socio-economic order, encourages the adoption of values and ways of living that are not only detrimental to the well-being of human beings, it is utterly false. Humanity is a group; we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is a fact all of us know or sense to be true, however faintly. Mankind’s early survival depended upon the ability to work collectively, and so it is again now. We must learn to cooperate once more, to build sharing into our lives and to cultivate right relationships with one another — across national boundaries, race, religions and gender, within ourselves and between humanity and the natural world.

Exploitation, prejudice and intolerance in whatever form constitute the antithesis of right relationship. This destructive, violent trinity occurs in all parts of the world; flowing primarily from ignorance, poverty and inequality it is perpetuated by the current economic system and the architecture of democracy, which revolves around money and big business. Right relationships are corrupted when excessive wealth and power reside in the hands of a privileged elite, such imbalances cultivate false notions of self-worth — high and low – feeding the destructive duality of dependency and entitlement.

Right relationship within all areas of society depends upon a number of interlocking values being in place, complementary colors that when made manifest result in harmony. Social justice is essential and this requires that equality be established: equality of opportunity; gender and race equality, equality before the law, and equality within systems of democratic governance — where equality should be inherent but is often absent. Tolerance and understanding are also required, tolerance of differences, of alternative views, beliefs and practices; tolerance of the unfamiliar, tolerance of ‘the other’, of mistakes and of failure (something education and many parents need to adopt); the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know’, and to thereby allow the brain to be quiet.

The pressure to succeed, or at least not to fail, is colossal, particularly amongst young people who face enormous pressure to adopt the all-pervasive material values, which champion individual success and stigmatize failure. This pressure is a major obstacle to the creation of right relationship within oneself and with others and is a primary cause of stress and anxiety. Fragmentation adds to the internal disharmony, which flows out into the collective atmosphere in which we all live, feeding social tensions and divisions, denying peace – or rather shattering peace, for, free from disorder, peace eternally IS.

Collective harmony relies on there being right relationship with all living forms and the complex ecological patterns of life of this most beautiful world. In order to establish this, the way we live needs to fundamentally alter. In developed nations and increasingly in developing regions, life for many has been reduced to a materialistic game of consumption and hedonism, and both are as poisonous as each other. Consumerism is the root ingredient in the global catastrophe that is climate change. Sold as a way of life by its chief benefactors, it provides a hollow imitation of happiness called pleasure and builds an addictive prison of dependency and attachment in which mental illnesses and environmental abuse proliferate. Through the agitation of desire on which its survival is dependent, discontent, disharmony and disease are caused and maintained, all of which deny the manifestation of right relationship with oneself, with others and with the abundant earth.

If social harmony, peace and environmental integrity are to be brought about, right relationship within the individual is essential. It all begins, and indeed ends with us, with the way we live our daily lives; the way we think, speak and act. Actions that proceed from a position of selfishness and attachment trample on right relationships and result in conflict and suffering; when harmlessness and responsibility are the guiding principles harmony arises. The recognition that humanity is one is the primary requirement for change; the realization of this fundamental fact will light a fuse of truth and clarity that will burn away all that is false, all that divides and all that denies right relationships.