Towards a Just Society

For more than three decades, for nearly half of my life, I have been engaged in an independent audit of the human condition, and have come to the incredible, mind boggling conclusion that the human species is the victim of a massive delusion, and that the source of this delusion is the culture to which humanity became habituated as it languished for more than half a million years in the ‘state of nature;’ that the most pernicious component, the major source of human suffering and misery down the ages has been the culture precipitated by the sere and extreme conditions and circumstances that existed at the beginning of the human story.

The major obstacle to creating positive developments, in contemporary social systems, is the fact that human beings cannot apply their intelligence to certain critically important areas of existence; all our efforts are nullified and made futile by the fact that, as the man called Jesus declaimed, we do not, and possibly cannot know what we are doing in certain very critical areas of existence.

In the life of every individual, organization and nation there is an ever increasing difference between concept and precept, between the values, ideals and ethics to which we aspire, and the patterns of behavior that we actually engage in.

We create the perception, in our utterances, in every form of expression, in our propaganda, in the spin we put on every issue, that we are civilized and moral beings, but our actions belie that image; they expose the irreducible, inescapable fact that we are still savages, moreover, and very dangerously, that we are savages who have developed weapons of mass destruction.

The most difficult notion for any human being to confront is that there is any truth in this assertion, but I pose the question, were we savages close akin to other groups of predators before we invented agriculture and began to climb the steep incline towards civilization?

If the answer to this question is “yes,” I ask you to consider when did the change occur that transformed the culture from that to which the human species became habituated during the upwards of half a million years that the human species languished in a “state of nature?”

The accurate description of the problem that would make it more amenable to solution is, how do we break habits that have been practiced and therefore reinforced for upwards of half a million years, moreover how do we extinguish attitudes and patterns of behavior whose practice is automatic and reflexive, little mediated by conscious thought or by the dictates of conscience?

I suggest that despite the monumental advances in the social sciences that have occurred during the past century and one half, we remain blind, oblivious and blissfully unaware of the impact and vast implications of our early history; especially about the implications and impact of those attitudes and patterns of behavior to which the species became habituated in the ‘state of nature.’

I hold that we have not changed significantly during the ten thousand years of the Ancient Era; nor, have we become very different, culturally, in the two thousand years of the Modern Era; that we continue to be agents of coercion based culture; and, this is reflected in all we do.

In her very belated and grudging concession speech Senator Hilary Clinton proclaimed:

Now the journey ahead will not be easy. Some will say we can’t do it. That it’s too hard. That we’re just not up to the task. But for as long as America has existed, it has been the American way to reject “can’t do” claims, and to choose instead to stretch the boundaries of the possible through hard work, determination, and a pioneering spirit.

She is abstracting from and completely ignoring the evidence, the overwhelming evidence that is indicative of fifty years of abject failure by both major political parties, failure to combat poverty and crime, failure to educate the young; failure to provide a viable healthcare system, failure to prevent, or recover from the catastrophe visited on the city of New Orleans; failure implicit in the plundering of the Social Security Fund, failure to control the skyrocketing prices of petroleum products; failure implicit in the fact that the cream of the American crop of young men and women have been killed in wars that were exercises in futility, in Vietnam and now in Iraq; failure to find the will to confront and overcome the potentially deadly and catastrophic problem of global warming; she is completely oblivious and blissfully unaware of the fact that coercion based culture, is obviously and demonstrably not up to the task, that this has become an anachronism.

Without the means, the no longer morally and ethically accepted means, coercion to motivate people to work hard, to pay attention and apply themselves in school; without the means to socialize Americans to the attitudes and patterns of behavior necessary for societal functioning — this is a society that has lost its way; it has been deprived of the vigor or creativity required to fashion solutions to urgent and pressing problems.

It has visibly and unmistakably deteriorated into a social system in which individuals are simply going through the motions of existence, drifting aimlessly, beset by anomie, even as they apply outmoded, outdated, palpably unworkable prescriptions that perennially fail – except that these serve to perpetuate the status quo.

This is made abundantly, unmistakably clear in a recent speech by Senator Barack Obama who declaimed:

Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

This speech has convinced me that Senator Barack Obama is just another moth irresistibly attracted to the intense, incandescent lure of political power; that he will perpetuate and reinforce the monumental blunder made by those who decided the shape of the world after the Second World War; the blunder that precipitated hostilities from the very outset; that has driven a seemingly interminable and irresolvable conflict that has lasted, thus far, for six decades; and, more and more with each passing day, seems likely to result in World War Three.

The suffering of the Jewish people consequent to the Diasporas is an undeniable and inescapable fact; but this suffering, intense as it was, catastrophic as it was, only Africans could claim to have suffered more, cannot in any way justify or legitimize the creation of a Jewish State out of land originally purchased from Arab Sheiks to create agricultural settlements.

This modern demonstration that might is right, that money can buy anything, can justify anything – must be seen for what it was; a gigantic, monumental snafu; and rectified before it results in immeasurably more destruction and misery than it has already caused.
The naïveté and inexperience of Senator Obama is palpably apparent in the fact that he used again and again, the descriptive term “Holocaust,” instead of the more accurate label “Shoah;” and, apparently has no appreciation whatsoever of the dread implications of his choice of terminology.

I reiterate my question to the Jewish people – To expiate and atone for the killing of six million Jews by Nazi Germany, as horrific a crime as that was, do you require that humanity destroy the civilizations it has so laboriously and painstakingly constructed?

Another question that logically arises out of these perennial, dismal, inevitably tragic environment is, how did we ever allow ourselves to arrive at this sorry pass, how did humanity come to be in this predicament?

The truth, the whole truth, and, nothing but the truth, is that at the beginning of the human story, the species embraced the only model available on which to base social interaction; the readily observable and omnipresent relations between territorial predator and their hapless prey.

This mode of social interaction produced levels of injustice and inequities that could never, and can never be rationalized or be morally acceptable by any stretch of the imagination, but this was the reality of existence in the ‘state of nature’ under Absolutist regimes, in feudal societies, in the design for human existence implicit in the social institutions of slavery and serfdom; a reality still currently deeply embedded in the mind of every individual, in the policies and actions of every social organization, social institution and social system; a reality that moreover was, and is supported and perpetuated by a small elite who are always and have been from the beginning of the human story, consciously or unconsciously, focused on, and primarily concerned with, consolidating their position and accumulating more and more power.

Consider what would be required for positive changes to occur today, what would be required to create genuine and functioning governments of the people, by the people, for the people?

This would require that the elite who have their grubby little paws on the reins of social, economic and political power, the minuscule elite that has a virtual monopoly on economic, social and political power, they would be required to preside over the dissolution and dismantling of their power; the means that they utilize to satisfy all their needs and desires.

Can human beings realistically be asked to do this? Are human beings capable of such altruism, such selflessness? Are human beings capable of dismantling the institutions of patronage and dependency that are the major components of the intangible yet monolithic and seemingly immutable culture that has been concretized by its practice during countless eons of human history?

That the very foundation of human culture, the paradigm of territorial predator and prey, and its pernicious and perennially tragic consequences and implications is morally and ethically repugnant — this is, I suggest, the source and wellspring of the delusion that is the major obstacle to creating a viable, peaceful and prosperous future for the human species.

To camouflage, obscure and make palatable this indefensible, wholly unjust and inequitable model of social interaction, required, from the very outset, a degree of dissimulation and obfuscation, and, this requirement has grown exponentially prompted by an ever increasing and rapidly expanding pool of rationality and knowledge that is diametrically opposed to, and contradicts this pattern of behavior; a circumstance which has precipitated the need for more and more deceits and obfuscations, in totality a massive delusion, a delusion which every individual unknowingly and unwittingly is a victim of to some degree: one which is designed to counter the spread and acceptance of a more rational and egalitarian ideology.
This is another very negative consequence of the learned adaptation that divided the human psyche into conscious and subconscious compartments.

As I have stated before – the division of the human psyche into two compartments was perhaps the crucial adaptation that allowed human beings to survive the ‘state of nature.’ I speculate that if members of the species had to relive the sere and extreme components of that environment continuously, if they did not have a compartment to which they could consign experiences that evoked intense fear and trepidation, they would not have been able to function.

This near unlimited capacity for self delusion that this very necessary adaptation produced, facilitated human beings being conditioned to accept the status of, and play the role of prey; this permitted acceptance of a subordinate position in which they were required to passively and without resisting, satisfy the needs and desires, the most intrusive and morally repugnant needs and desires of those who were super ordinate in this drama – in the presence of a critical component that facilitated this conditioning a powerful stimulus, for example, fear or hunger.

I suggest that this capacity for self delusion, that there existed a compartment to which memories, actions and experiences could be consigned that evoked feelings of guilt, shame etc. also facilitated human beings playing the role of predator; it permitted human beings to demonstrate insensate, unrelieved cruelty towards other human beings.

I am constrained to refer to something that is implicit in this drama of predation; that every agent of coercion based culture internalized and became adept at playing the role of predator, or prey; prompted by cues which communicated whether the other participant in the social interaction was stronger or weaker.

The other fundamental mechanism contributing to the efficient functioning of coercion based culture was the requirement that to achieve social mobility each and every individual had to attach themselves to a patron, and, completely accept and be loyal to the world view of that patron.

Human beings were socialized to engage in an unending competition for scarce food resources, the winners of this competition were recruited by patrons – on condition that they became instruments of that patron’s world view and completely and totally committed to achieving his, or very infrequently her, aims and objectives.

After upwards of half a million years, a development that marked the end of the Ancient Era occurred, humanity developed ethical systems which were diametrically opposed to the notion that might was right, that only the fittest should survive, but, these ethics and values were easily integrated into the dominant culture because of the fact that the human psyche was divided into two compartments; they were paid lip service, venerated in concept even while the patterns of behavior to which the species had become habituated continued to be practiced in precept, precipitating another triumph for ambivalence and accommodation, and initiating the extremely debilitating difference between concept and precept.

Other competing ideologies that emerged down the ages, notably Socialism and Democracy were likewise accommodated and integrated into a supremely dominant and enduring coercion based culture; they became concepts to which human beings paid lip service, notions which obscured the fact that in precept most members of the human species continued to be agents of coercion based culture.

A nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal, could continue to practice chattel slavery and utilize and brutalize indentured servants, and when this became impossible they replaced this belatedly perceived evil with the exceedingly degrading, intensely divisive institution of segregation; and when they were eventually forced to integrate the Public School system, systematically destroyed it to ensure that there could never be a level playing field in the United States of America. Moreover, and most lamentably, I have met poverty stricken and homeless Americans who are so deluded that they believe that this country is a democracy in more than concept.

To be continued…

William Virtue

     

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