Sunday, December 9, 2018
5 a.m. Let’s address people’s request for clarification of something you said on February 17, 2006. In the context of the challenge of our time, you said “a society’s accumulation of wealth is not necessarily to the benefit of any but a predatory few. (And this is how it always has been in uncontrolled society. Remind us sometime to speak of the models that have succeeded.)”
The fact that you did not intend to copy the first part of the paragraph shows that you were misconstruing what we meant, at least to some extent.
[The complete paragraph read: “The death of materialism as an operating principle leaves your time at a loss. The poor cannot look to achieving your American standard of living. Americans living it – and Europeans – know that it isn’t an answer to meaning anyway. And the hypertrophy of concentration of wealth demonstrates in any case that a society’s accumulation of wealth is not necessarily to the benefit of any but a predatory few. (And this is how it always has been in uncontrolled society. Remind us sometime to speak of the models that have succeeded.)”]
The maldistribution of resources and rewards is a symptom; it is not itself the problem.
I see it, as soon as you say it. Materialism sets accumulation as the measurement, and is itself the problem and would be even if distribution were fair or exactly the same for one and all or were mitigated by periodic redistribution or even my draconian levelling.
Let’s not move in that direction, because that is a very large topic that will blur the point. That is, assuming you want the question answered.
We do. And I thought, writing it down, “For all my reading in history, I don’t know what you are referring to.”
That’s because you are looking for examples to answer the wrong question. It isn’t about result; it is about process. You don’t live in “result” except as preparatory ground for further “process.”
You mean, I take it, that past results are the determination from which we exert free will in the present moment.
More or less. You might say, people who are satisfied with past results attempt to preserve them; those who are not, attempt to change – that is, undermine, overthrow – them. Naturally the result is a state of war, either cold, hot, or sporadic. But this deals more with temperament than with ideology, because depending upon the issue under consideration, anyone is for maintenance (conservative) or overthrow (liberal) – and nobody is on only the same side of the maintenance / overthrow fence on every issue.
Thus, people defining themselves as liberal or conservative are misleading themselves?
Let’s say they are blurring the issue.
Would you care to clarify the issue?
You are – anyone is – liberal or conservative in approach to any given concern, and of course this is not limited to politics or statecraft. You may be more often liberal than conservative, or vice versa, but if you once realize that we are describing temperament – inclination of mind, call it – rather than a rigid membership in this army or that one, suddenly you realize that the presumption of incompatibility, of a necessary tension between opposing forces is not the same as a necessary tension between opposing people.
I don’t think it’s clear yet.
If everything could be accurately weighed according to its position on a scale established on any one issue, then yes, you’d have two (or more) populations divided beyond hope of reconciliation by compromise or by increased understanding. But since members of Army A (so to speak) are actually also members of Army B on a different issue, it should be clear that what is happening is people grouping by comfort-level more than by belief or even vested interest.
Was that last bit right, “vested interest”?
It was. Now, let’s not lose sight of the question we’re looking at. It wasn’t, liberal v. conservative, it was models that have succeeded. And we meant, not (as you assumed) models that have succeeded in restraining greed or imbalance etc., but models that have succeeded as societies.
It’s true, I did think you meant the former.
Your times encourage you all to think in terms of fixing something broken. That is why you experience yourselves as at war. That sense is what fuels the opposition, automatically and continuously, on both sides.
Instead of looking at societies that have succeeded in fixing something (that is, in undermining or overthrowing something that exists), let us look at a couple of attributes of a successful society. This is not an inclusive list, and of course does not describe a perfect society, for such society does not and cannot exist.
Because there are too many kinds of people, with too many kinds of needs, for one size to fit all. A society that is stable and prosperous and relatively equitable may necessarily be somewhat stifling to a certain kind of person, or, one might say, to a person at a certain time of life. Swiss security may come at the price of Swiss smugness. Scandinavian concern for universal welfare may come at the price of an implied and accepted conformity. And so forth. And of course the opposite applies equally, and in fact not so much “the opposite,” which implies a binary polarity, but various differing ways of being. Any excellence implies a corresponding defect somewhere, noticed or (more usually) not.
So, a society that may be described as having succeeded need not be described as being perfect. As we say, that is not and cannot be the case.
“The best is the enemy of the good.”
It always is. To search for an impossible perfection is to automatically reject what is. Now, this can be good or bad; we’re merely pointing out that it must be so. (And, of course, by “good or bad” we really mean, in this context, pleasing or displeasing to the observer.)
The first question is, “a society that succeeds” – at what? No society succeeds or ever could succeed at everything. So let’s start by saying a society that succeeds at giving its members a sense of participating in a true community, not a bunch of unrelated individuals like a sack of shot. A tribe does that. Your American Indians, your aborigines in Australia, your primitive peoples all over the world: primarily held together by a sense of being an extended family. Tied usually by mutual interdependence. Highly motivated and regulated by what you might call a social sense of humor, that renders certain social offences not so much wrong as ludicrous. Invisibly governed by a shared assumption that every member is a member for life. You can see, perhaps, that this description has nothing to do with economics or technology or ideology or state of civilization. The Oneida or Amana or Mormon communities functioned in a somewhat tribal fashion. The Amish. Immigrant ghettos to a lesser degree, in so far as we concentrate on them looking out for one another as brothers among strangers, so to speak.
The “success” we are looking at here is a sense of being included in a community that cares about you. Such community could exist on a larger scale, but of course it becomes more difficult to maintain a tribal closeness among thousands, let alone hundreds of millions. America’s secret (that it has to a large degree lost sight of) was the huge number of overlapping societies its members could belong to.
I vaguely remember reading about this, years ago.
Consider us your version of NZT.
Very funny. [This refers to the drug in the Netflix series “Limitless” that gave users access to everything they had ever experienced – until the drug wore off –.]
But we aren’t really kidding. What is access to guidance but access to more of your mind? The fact that we offer you something you read or heard or experienced long ago doesn’t mean we don’t exist, and doesn’t mean we’re out of material. Or do you think this is all random?
It’s 6 a.m. We haven’t gotten quite what I thought we might.
Impatience again. This isn’t a ten-minute exploration, unless you choose to truncate it. By now you have learned that side-trails are not really lost time.
To finish for the moment. If you can belong to various organizations, you can experience different levels of membership. You may be a newbie in one, a master in a second, a willing worker in the ranks in a third. Same “you,” same lifetime, but many different levels of experience, hence many different satisfactions. You don’t have to measure yourself by only one yardstick, hence an obscure existence in one may be balanced by frustration in a second and perhaps by excellence in a third. It makes for balance for everyone. Enough for now; we’ve barely begun.
If you say so. Our thanks, as always.