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Improbable Democracy The New Human Rights Movement, Sept 9, 2017 Peter Joseph
I'm Peter Joseph and I founded a
non-profit a long time ago called The Zeitgeist Movement
and it's an organization that still has numerous chapters,
hundreds of chapters in 60 countries and we've done about a
thousand public awareness events since its inception.
And beyond that social experiments working in the hope
to unify the world in a common direction,
desperately needed of course due to the ecological crisis and
the social instability that we're seeing emerge.
I also produce educational and socially conscious activist media
including these two books.
I wish I'd brought some books actually but I couldn't
get the weight in my luggage or I would have given you all some.
The 'Zeitgeist Movement Defined' was the original text,
kind of a joint effort but mostly written by myself, produced in 2013.
It's the root thesis of The Zeitgeist Movement
and it advocates in pretty extended technical detail what
we do and what we promote.
The second book, 'The New Human Rights Movement',
was published by BenBella earlier this year
and it takes a more social justice approach
and a public health approach if you will,
focusing on what really underscores a stable, healthy and peaceful society
including the active reduction of intergroup conflict,
oppression, bigotry, racism, xenophobia and so on,
something that this country and the world is
starting to see a resurgence of.
Today's talk will be more or less a derivative of this book,
specifically in regard to the history, structure and nature of modern political economy.
Again since I refuse to repeat my talks,
and you can go on and see about 20 or 30 hours of my lectures online,
I apologize if this moves quickly for those that are new.
But if anything is unclear - this will be about 45 minutes or so
and I'm definitely always into questions - so make some notes
if anything jumps out at you.
So to jump to the work's conclusion for the sake of clarity
the bottom line is that without the removal
of socioeconomic inequality -
meaning the various levels of inequity we see both domestically
and internationally as linked to economic roots -
there's a serious need for concern about what the future holds.
Unannounced to most, there's a strong public health argument
against the existence of economic stratification and class.
And by extension this means that there is a strong public health argument
against the mechanisms of our society that create
this destructive imbalance,
namely the market system of economics:
a system that is also leading to the destruction of our habitat
due to its archaic basis in cyclical consumption,
perpetuating a built-in incentive to create waste,
inspire more purchases to create more jobs ...
And when you step back and take all this in,
you realize that an economy powered by consumerism,
which is what it is, is in fact not an economy at all.
A real economy by definition is about
the strategic and efficient use of materials and means to preserve sustainability
in the process of meeting human needs.
Yet our system does the opposite:
not only inspiring vast wealth imbalance,
limiting in fact the well-being of 60% of the human population today,
in the context of relative and absolute poverty,
but also in the sense that the entire system is really backwards
in terms of extended sustainability and effectively earthly economic goals;
a complete omission from all economic textbooks.
And it's worth pointing out that this seed of unsustainability really wasn't
easily to recognize centuries ago,
as the process and means of production was quite manual and arduous.
But since the Industrial Revolution
and the introduction of mechanization and increased efficiency -
increased production I should say because it's not really efficient, it's just
the more of production that we're able to increase -
the tables have turned.
What was once an agrarian economy that worked to meet
core needs of a scarce society, generating jobs to facilitate those needs,
has transformed into an economy that has become so productive
that our sense of social inclusion
must now be manipulated
by marketing and advertising,
producing a neurotic, insatiable and materialistic culture
seeking to buy, own and accumulate
simply for the sake of buying, owning and accumulating.
And without that value system, the economy wouldn't work today.
So coming back to my broad point here,
the current state of evolution of the market economy
not only requires an insecure, immature and selfish population,
it also requires that nothing really work too well, for too long:
planned obsolescence.
For true preservation, efficiency and sustainability
is really the enemy of market economics.
It's the enemy of the foundation of our society
and the result as we see
is enormous amounts of waste, pollution and resource overshoot.
And it's interesting today with all the talk
about ecological degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss and so on,
very rarely do people speak of the most important consequence of this:
we're not destroying the earth,
we're destroying our future capacity to coexist peacefully
and productively as a growing species.
We're setting the stage for new forms of unnecessary scarcity and limitation.
And this is and will continue to translate
into more extreme degrees of socioeconomic inequality,
reducing public health,
and this increased socioeconomic inequality as social science has long confirmed,
will fuel further social fragmentation,
conflict and disorder, both domestically and internationally.
I apologize if this idea is new to some of you here
as it is something I have written and talked about a great deal in the past,
linking socioeconomic inequality and economics
to increased violence, heart disease, mental health disorders,
child abuse, loss of lifespan and so on.
But I encourage you to look into this largely ignored public health issue
because it's the most critical one, and no one's really talking about it.
The central message of this talk -
as rambley as it's going to be due to the limitations I had in creating it -
is that our economy poses many serious problems,
not only as an instrument of human manipulation in terms of politics that we see,
but as a structural phenomenon
in its root core foundational logic.
Or more bluntly, the real problem -
in stark contradiction to our prevailing
entrepreneurial romanticism and free-market mythology -
is the very nature of business itself:
the inherent dynamics and incentives that are immutable
to the logic of engaging and winning in competitive trade
is the binding destructive force
that while creating the world we see, with some material positives of course,
is also simultaneously destroying it
at a far more rapid rate, in the context of sustainability
and a loss of democracy, as I will discuss.
And with all the debate today about party systems and corruption and
lobbying and war and so on, you will notice,
with the exception of say conversations about democratic socialism
or other more - more or less - passive
still ultimately pro-market socioeconomic adjustments
the political landscape shows very little real reflection
on what the structure of our economy is actually doing.
Even worse,
those rare few who do approach in a critical and thoughtful way
are quickly dismissed by myopic and emotional impulsive reactions
and symbolic irrationality.
In fact I would have to argue that the greatest failure in the world today
is that of creativity, and an expanded sense of possibility.
People are afraid of things they can't see of course
or don't understand or haven't learned about -
a kind of indoctrination and laziness continues to limit the debate
of what our future could be,
locked into bogus identity politics, isms,
unnuanced childish distractions of left and right,
alt right, centric,
capitalist, socialist, communist,
and a host of other unnuanced labels
that serve only to keep people thinking categorically,
ignorant, polarized, and easily manipulated.
The power of language and the associative symbolic myopic nature
of political discourse now blinds us,
and it's time we snap out of it
and expand our sense of possibility.
Brings me to part one - Structuralism: Culture and Biology.
Again I've spoken a great deal about things like structuralism in the past
and this will be more of an overview of it.
And if you want to look into this concept as I will go through a bit,
I encourage it.
But the details by which I'm gonna go through this will be relatively advanced.
I'm going to expand the context of structuralism
from the influence of culture, environment and social system
to include how those inputs interact with our biology,
given the biopsychosocial nature of the organisms that we are.
While there is ongoing debate about time scales of biological evolution,
specifically with respect to the human brain and behavioral variability,
it's safe to say that if you took a newborn child from say 25,000 years ago,
and raised him or her today,
the characteristics of that child, and eventually adult,
would be indiscernible from the average person born in the present day.
Likewise it is a fact that we modern humans can trace our genetic lineage
to a woman from East Africa commonly termed 'Mitochondrial Eve'
who lived roughly 150,000 years ago.
Hence we are all African, we have all been set in motion so to speak,
with the same basic genetic makeup.
And while there have certainly been selective genetic changes in groups
such as the development of different skin colors and
physical features due to exposure to different areas of the planet,
the idea that any groups of humans on this planet are genetically superior or inferior,
or perhaps having developed novel cultural behaviors driven by genetics
is completely unfounded.
And what this means
is that the vast array of human behavior we have seen historically on the cultural level,
from the routine human sacrifice of the Aztecs
to the polygamy of Mormonism
to the end of cannibalism of the Amazonian Yanomami tribe,
to many other examples, can only be
linked to the influence of environment
and the social institutions and traditions
of a given society and period.
This is not to discount the role of biology,
evolutionary psychology, or in effect what is,
again the biopsychosocial synergy of our existence.
This isn't about behaviorism, in lieu of say BF Skinner.
The nature of our brains and our genetics have an integral role
in all outcomes of behavior on some level.
But they are not actively deterministic influences
when it comes to the phenomenon of culture.
Sorry to drill this in:
pop society loves to separate nature, nurture,
or more accurately genetics and environment.
Yet biological evolution is also a kind of molding
of our genetic makeup through natural selection,
which basically started with a single-cell organism some 3.5 billion years ago.
The complexity of your form, who you are physically,
is really an environmental outcome,
and with this kind of genetic play-doh that's
been utilized since the single-celled organism.
And it's evolved through environmental interactions
into the complex organisms we are today, driven by environment.
Now the reason I bring all this up is because
one outstanding myth that leads to a set of other myths
we have in support of the way the world is,
is that "society reflects our immutable human nature,"
as if in the long term our nature can be called "fixed."
It's a legitimizing establishment-preserving myth,
for if society is a reflection of our immutable human nature, well guess what -
there's no reason to attempt to change society.
We see this worldview throughout recorded history
to one degree or another especially in the realm of political economy and philosophy.
In fact I am unaware of any historically recognized political or economic theorist
that didn't propagate the false notion that humanity's
apparent brute, selfish and competitive nature
was simply an immutable law of our existence
and something to be dealt with.
For example Thomas Hobbes, considered the father of political philosophy,
famously proposed that humanity's state was one "of war,"
therefore he implied in fact
that a dictatorial sovereign power and hierarchy was actually needed
to oversee and control society.
When Charles Darwin came along with his theory of evolution
his 'survival of the fittest' notion was quickly bastardized,
distorted to support elitism, oppression and dominant power.
This misconception further added fuel to yet another highly influential economist,
someone of particular despotism: Thomas Malthus.
While Malthus' fatalism is different from general human nature myths,
his theory of population, if you're familiar,
is still generally accepted today, albeit rarely verbalized,
as it is very politically inconvenient to talk about something like this,
with the basic idea that the poor of the world cannot be helped
since nature will always be in deficiency to some degree
in meeting an inevitable growing population.
Malthus even went so far in his time to criticize Europe's Poor Laws as they were called
and rejected the idea of social compassion when it came to poverty.
He stated "To act consistently therefore we should facilitate,
instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede,
the operations of nature in producing this mortality.
Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor we should encourage
contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower,
crowd more people into the houses and court the return of the plague.
In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools,
and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations.
But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies
for ravaging diseases, and those benevolent but much mistaken men,
who have thought they were doing a service to mankind
by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders."
As an aside I wish to point out
that much of the world as it exists today
begins to make a whole lot of sense
when you consider the influence of Malthus, who is
probably one of the first world economists of the British East India Company,
coupled with the haphazard conception of social Darwinism.
Whether noted in public policy or not,
this overall worldview is clearly in the general philosophy,
[in] the back pockets of big business and world governance,
justifying continued inequality, social dominance, oppression,
rampant poverty, and the vast, direct and structural violence
inherent to our economic system.
... once again from the inherent dynamics incentives
of an economy based on scarcity and trade-strategizing dominance,
which I'm going to expand upon in the next section.
Trade strategizing dominance:
I want that phrase to stick with you guys.
This Malthusian, socially Darwinistic perspective
is a significant reason why we have seen very little real progress
in the developing poverty-stricken and disease-laden nations today,
or even in the relative poverty and homeless crisis
we see in the affluent nations.
I'm sorry to say it is an unspoken yet ever-present value system and mindset
that the poor should suffer and die, and the rich should live and prosper.
And it is this manifest structural violence that kills more people
than all the wars, dictators and plagues combined.
Estimates put this death toll at about 18 million a year
due to socioeconomic inequality.
That's numerous holocausts a year.
That's more than communism claimed to kill in a century,
in 6 years,
due to socioeconomic inequality and poverty.
Meanwhile, 5 people today have more wealth in the entire 50% of the world.
So tangent aside,
and returning to my central point regarding biological determinism,
culture and the various naturalist myth's "appeal to nature" fallacies
we find that preserve the status quo,
show through cognitive neuroscience and other studies,
prove, and there's no reason to assume,
that there's any kind of predominant, competitive, acquisitive
narrow self-interest in-group out-group biased society propensity
which is some "law of nature."
In the same way there is no reason to conclude poverty is a social inevitability.
The human mind is an extremely powerful and flexible system
when it comes to behavior.
It can be an organ of thoughtfulness,
compassion, extensionality and collaborative incentive,
as evidenced by the later stage development of our frontal cortex,
or it can be an organ of fear, hate, selfishness and domination
as evidenced by our older, lower so-called reptilian areas
such as the amygdala and limbic system.
And when you combine the power of culture -
the fact every word I'm saying has been taught to me,
the fact that I'm an amalgamation of everything that I've been born into,
the fact that I'm not wearing a Victorian gown right now -
is because I've learned through this society the way I should be
or in the sense of the feedback system,
the way I will end up invariably being
because of my exposures to the environment.
And you combine this force with the variability you see in our mind and biology
as proven by cognitive neuroscience,
and this is my point, we realize a kind of dynamic structuralism
that very much underscores and controls
what we call our consciousness or free will.
And we can't expect to change our society or civilization
without understanding ourselves;
what influences us and our shared biological reactions.
This mythology that we are strong, individual, rational human beings
walking the earth with complete conscious control, is a myth,
as paradoxical and complex as that is to say to yourself
because your brain is telling you something different all the time.
Now, stepping back, I first heard the term "structuralism"
used by Johan Galtung of the Gandhi Institute,
As a scholar of Gandhi he had this to say,
which I think is an insightful qualification.
"Gandhi saw conflict in the deeper sense
as something that was built into social structures,
not into the persons
Colonialism was a structure and caste was a structure;
both of them filled with persons performing their duties according to their roles or statuses.
The evil was in the structure, not in the person who carried out his obligations.
Exploitation is violence,
but it is quite clear Gandhi sees it as a structural relationship
more than the intended evil inflicted upon innocent victims by evil men.
It's a deeply thoughtful and compassionate and systemic type of perspective,
that's dramatically limited in the modern world.
The profoundness of this,
that we humans can become subservient to social institutions and systems,
takes a while to sink in.
To believe this is to admit to yourself
that depending on the nuances of your biology and social condition,
you can effectively be manipulated
by larger order forces beyond your control.
And most people's egos once again have a very difficult time with this idea,
as it contradicts again everything that your experience is telling you.
But the truth is, the social condition or culture you find yourself [in],
how society is organized and incentivized,
plays a profound role in your sense of identity
while pinging or exciting
parts of your brain that amplify the probability
of certain behaviors to occur, or not.
If you generate a social structure that creates
a culture of insecurity and fear like we have today,
you're going to excite older parts of the brain:
the limbic system that compound,
but are in effect primitive, old primate reactions
such as competition and violence, apathy.
In contrast if you have a structure that creates a sense of safety,
fairness, justice, security,
you will bypass primitive brain reactions
and excite areas of the mind related to higher order intellectual functions,
leading to a strong sense of trust,
social capital, collaboration, empathy and so on.
In fact, this structuralist perspective forces us
to rethink our ideas of morality and ethics.
The conclusion is that morality and ethics can really only follow
from the social or environmental condition
and are in fact painfully subjective from the standpoint of history.
And if you need evidence of that think of the countless soldiers raised
by wonderful church-going families who never had a violent bone in their bodies
who, sanctioned by their government,
are incentivized by some abstract external threat
and are willing to murder other human beings
that they have never met, in the military.
Or perhaps consider the numerous studies done by people
who have been tested for their sense of responsibility or lack thereof,
such as the Milgram experiment,
the shock experiment I suspect some of you have heard of.
They're incentivized to hurt others under the protection that it isn't really their fault
because they're just following orders.
Or perhaps the Rwandan genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in a 4-month period,
all sanctioned by government and propagandized media
creating a vicious period of mass hypnosis in effect
that was based on a kind of distorted class war that didn't actually even exist.
So I hope my point is clear.
You're not an individual in any technical sense.
We are all deeply vulnerable to the social structures,
dominant institutions and culture
that invariably guide our perception,
and accentuate and attenuate,
attenuate aspects of our brain chemistry.
And since we can't change our brains in biology, at least in the short term,
at least not now to any relevant degree
(someone could debate transhumanism and things like that)
this means that we're left with one real option.
If you want to change human behavioral patterns and the institutions
that are political, economic and philosophical,
you have to change the structure we find ourselves,
or better yet to use a medical term,
you have to change the social precondition.
And the most powerful precondition ever-present in our lives
will be found to be the economic structure
as I'll explain in the next section.
Part 2 Origins: Power, Class and Inequality
In this section I'm going to go through the history of our economy:
where it came from and the core attributes that define it.
If I was to frame the academic context of this analysis
it would be one of cultural anthropology,
a subject I hope people will look into,
with the theme being how the logic of our existence today,
especially that of our economy,
has been carved out over time by external forces
which could be termed geographical determinism,
like sand and wind that erode mountains over time.
Roughly 12,000 years ago the human species transitioned
from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies,
tribes foraging and hunting with no agricultural skills,
to farm-cultivating settled societies.
This was termed the Neolithic Revolution.
In form this change marked a kind of technological shift.
Like the advent of mechanization and the Industrial Revolution,
this development of agriculture was basically the application of new
technology, as primitive as it seems.
I point this out because it's worth noting
that the most influential characteristic of a civilization
is the kind of technological means it has, and how its applied.
When very large-scale changes in applied technology occurs,
human culture and behavior tend to change as well.
Before the Neolithic Revolution,
as corroborated by numerous anthropologists
studying both existing and historical hunter-gatherer societies,
small bands and tribes operated without money or markets:
they were egalitarian.
In fact 99% of human history had no money or markets by the way,
with no economic dominance hierarchy.
It's also well established that they had much less violence
and certainly no large-scale warfare.
And while modern culture would gawk at the seemingly crude and minimalistic
reality of hunter-gatherer life today, it's thoughtfully argued
that there really existed a kind of minimalistic affluence,
a simplicity that was accepted and made people happy,
a unique distinction because it really challenges
what we think of today as progress in social success,
which unfortunately is so deeply tied to material progress.
To highlight this contrast here is a quote by anthropologist Marshall Sahlins.
"To accept that hunter-gatherers are affluent is therefore to recognize
that the present human condition of man's slaving to bridge the gap
between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means
is a tragedy of modern times.
Modern capitalist societies, however richly endowed,
dedicate themselves to the proposition of scarcity.
Inadequacy of economic means is the first principle
of the world's wealthiest peoples."
"The market-industrial system institutes scarcity in a manner completely without parallel.
Where production and distribution are arranged through the behavior of prices,
and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending,
insufficiency of material means becomes the explicit
calculable starting point of all economic activity."
I'd like to highlight this notion of a society based upon scarcity
because I'll be returning to that in a moment;
it's a very critical theme.
In modern terms,
hunter-gatherers basically had a gift economy as we'd call it today,
where they shared with no direct expectation of reciprocation.
There are even modern stories of outsiders being given handicrafts
from existing hunter-gatherer tribes
only to feel the need to give something in return,
as many in our market, effectively agrarian-based cultures do.
This reciprocal behavior was considered offensive by the tribe,
as they felt the exchange was a refusal of friendship.
British anthropologist Tim Ingold highlights that the difference between giving and exchange
has to do with a social perception based around
autonomous companionship versus involuntary obligation.
He states: "Clearly, both hunter-gatherers and agricultural cultivators
depend on their environments.
But whereas for cultivators this dependency is framed
within a structure of reciprocal obligation,
for hunter-gatherers it rests on the recognition of personal autonomy.
The contrast is between relationships based on trust
and those based on domination."
I'm going to read that final part again.
"The contrast is between relationships based on trust
and those based on domination."
This is a subtle but powerful distinction.
Cultivator society,
which almost always is a market society,
generates a social perception
NOT based upon mutual concern,
but rather trade-strategizing dominance:
gaming for survival.
So in short the Neolithic Revolution set in motion
the core framework of the modern world:
settlement, property, protection,
labor specialization, trade, governance, capacities for war, and so on.
Each one of these characteristics was born out of the natural logic
based upon the new settled, and producing paradigm,
hence the geographical determinism,
translating survival requisites into eventual tradition.
We also get the formation of a culture
that learns to perceive life through this scarcity-and-protectionist worldview.
And given disproportionate labor skills, means,
and the unequal benefits of certain geographical features (capital),
the outcomes of inequality, competition and mass conflict
were simply inevitable as this evolution continued.
In turn, ever-hardening values around competitive self-interest manifest,
with these psychological gravitations extending into sociological ones,
forming social structures, institutions and customs
derived from the scarcity, competitive and protectionist worldview once again.
Again all this was set in motion by the geographical determinism
of the Neolithic Revolution.
Now, some may ask "Why couldn't it have gone another way?"
In this book 'Man's Rise to Civilization' by Peter Farb,
he describes numerous cultures that were in fact agrarian
that lived very very differently and very egalitarianly.
So why couldn't it have gone another another way on a large scale?
If people realized they have disproportionate skills in different regions of different qualities,
why didn't just a larger, more communal connected society form
based upon the original hunter-gatherer value system and principles?
Because hunter-gatherers didn't just have a natural sense of egalitarianism per se,
they actually actively preserved their egalitarianism.
It was called reverse-dominance hierarchy by some theories
and they worked against anyone
that did rise up and start to pollute the community
with overt self-interest.
It was an active recognition in hunter-gatherer society.
Well, as I said historically it did go the other way in rare cases.
We have knowledge of agrarian First Nations people - indigenous populations - that
due to the small size of community and the benefits of their region
- effectively surplus - they did not fully succumb
to this overt competitive scarcity-based dominance outcome.
But those are exceptions to the rule,
and the very fact that most of those cultures are now extinct today
shows the power of the underlying framework
of the survival mechanism set in motion.
In the words of neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky:
"Hunter-gatherers had thousands of wild sources of food to subsist on.
Agriculture changed all that, generating an overwhelming reliance
on a few dozen food sources.
Agriculture allowed for the stockpiling of surplus resources
and thus inevitably the unequal stockpiling of them -
stratification of society and the invention of classes.
Thus it has allowed for the invention of poverty."
So to summarize for clarity:
"Since the Neolithic Revolution,
we've had a process of economically-driven cultural adaptation
built around the survival requisites of the relatively new,
settled agrarian paradigm.
The evolution of post-Neolithic culture was self-guided
by systemic environmental pressures
and survival inferences - geographical determinism -
common to the natural dynamics of the new mode of production.
This gave birth the dominance-oriented incentives, values, and protections,
evolving patterns of conflict, hierarchy, elitism
and disproportional allocation of physical and social resources."
To translate in terms of modern political economy as we know it,
"You thus have the basis of property (ownership),
capital (means of production),
labor specialization (jobs), regulation (government),
and protection (law/police/military).
In other words you have grounds for what is now the ultimate mechanism of survival -
the market system of economics."
To which all of these aspects are actually intrinsic and immutable
despite the utopian ideals and abstractions of libertarians
and those effectively basking in the sociopathic free-market delusions of Ayn Rand.
Pick up any introductory textbook on market theory
and you'll notice the rationale of the market's very existence
starts with one fundamental premise:
"Resources and means are scarce."
There's no qualification other than that.
It doesn't matter if you're a billionaire,
these people still have the mindset of operating as though they're poor,
at least in terms of how they work and engage trade with others.
Their little compassion is shown in the act of competitive trade from billionaires.
In fact as social studies have shown, psychological studies have shown,
it actually gets worse the more money they get.
And from this premise - resources and means are scarce -
the architecture of not only the economy but of society itself has been derived.
I call it the root socioeconomic orientation of our world.
Root Socioeconomic Orientation.
It justifies brute competition, narrow self-interest,
elitist hierarchy, inequality, and oppression.
And the central mechanism of this system -
what keeps society divided and accentuates the endless abuse we see,
whether individual or by whatever elite minority -
is again trade-strategizing dominance:
the kernel incentive rational process.
It has been the root logic of trade
despite material progress we have seen over time,
since especially the Industrial Revolution
that ruins humanity's capacity to function
in a socially just and sustainable way.
This gaming mentality,
which is also a core prerequisite for racism, bigotry, and xenophobia,
rooted deep in the cultural norm that we live,
and this dysfunctional scarce idea
where any surplus that happens, any abundance,
can only appear to be transient.
You can't rationalize a world where there's actually enough to go around
even if it was mathematically possible,
which it actually is.
And again if you dig deep into the worldview of some of the most dominant and revered
Western political and economic philosophers from Adam Smith
to John Locke, to again Malthus, to John Stuart Mill and many others,
you find little deviation of this social preconception:
one that says it is natural for us to fight, because that's just the way it is.
In the words of John McMurtry,
"This tendency prevails from the Continental Rationalists on.
Leibniz, Spinoza, Descartes, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, for example,
more or less entirely presuppose the social regime of their day
and its constituent forms
as in some way the expression of a divine Mind,
which they see it as their rational duty
only to accept or to justify."
It's the climate of opinion.
Part 3 The State, Democracy and Fascism
If global society as we know it
has undergone a systemic unfolding from the Neolithic Revolution,
what can we learn about the nature of government
within this unfolding and climate? Well first,
we see that government actually proceeds from the economic premise of a society
and not the other way around.
It is the preordained economic mode of society
that decides what government is,
what it does and where its loyalties reside.
If you examine historical variations of social systems,
historical capitalism, communism, socialism,
feudalism, mercantilism and so on
- and you'll notice I said historical and not theoretical -
you realize that the governing architecture of those systems
served to protect and perpetuate the prevailing economic and class structures
that ultimately define them.
Feudalism for example was a structure based upon land ownership,
the means of production, labor, and class interdependence
going from the peasant up to the king.
Capitalism in contrast is based upon dynamics of private property,
buying and selling and ownership,
and the mechanism of ownership and wealth translating
into power and control.
Here is a quote by Australian economist John C. Wood,
who was a scholar of a sociologist that I
often recommend named Thorstein Veblen.
And I think this summation of Veblen -
who is extremely verbose and rather complicated to read -
gets to the heart of what we're facing in terms of
the structure of government within capitalism.
He states "Veblen wrote extensively and insightfully
on the relationship between capitalist government and the class struggle.
For Veblen, the ultimate power in the capitalist system
is in the hands of the owners because they control the government.
The government is the institutionally legitimizing means of
physical coercion in any society.
As such, it exists to protect the existing social order and class structure.
This means that the primary duty of government is to enforce private property laws
and protect the privileges associated with ownership."
"Veblen repeatedly insisted that 'modern politics is business politics.'
The first principle of a capitalist government is that - to quote Veblen -
'The natural freedom of the individual
must not transverse the prescriptive rights of property.
Property rights have the indefeasibilty which attached to natural rights.'
The principle freedom of capitalism is the freedom to buy and sell."
"The laissez-faire philosophy dictates that - to quote Veblen -
'So long as there is no overt attempt on life ...
or liberty to buy and sell, the law cannot intervene,
unless it be in a precautionary way
to prevent prospective violation of property rights.'
Thus above all else, to quote Veblen again,
a 'constitutional government is a business government.'"
In a detailed 2014 study conducted by professors
Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University,
concluded in their extensive study which I recommend you read,
"the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule,
near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy."
The researchers concluded that lawmaker's
policy actions tend to support the interests of guess what-
the wealthy Wall Street and big corporations.
And what stuns me is that many in America
act like this is some anomaly,
as though the US government, and in effect the governments of the world
(because this system is just existing on
different stages and levels of incorporation in every country)
haven't always been driven by financial business interests since inception.
As though society wasn't set
to favor the wealthy minority and business elite freedom to begin with!
James Madison, the father of the US Constitution as he's referred,
made it very clear in the Federal Convention of 1787
as to why the Senate was to be created.
He stated "There ought to be so constituted
as to protect the minority of the opulent
against the majority.
The Senate therefore ought to be this body and to answer these purposes,
they ought to have permanency and stability."
Madison had a unique perspective on what he considered majority
and minority interests, and if you read his work
in the Federalist Papers, it's very unique to see how the language is used,
because ultimately there is a fundamental elitism,
which is often interpreted as against special interest minorities
but actually goes the other way.
And I hope people understand that when you really look at the foundation
of America with all of its plusses,
it really had no interest in the resolution of class differences,
and ensured, as it remains today, the disproportionate support and power
is given to the opulent rich minority.
They knew that a true democracy would force a vast redistribution of wealth
since of course, the vast majority historically have always been poor.
In fact it should be a fairly obvious feature of all national governments
that this kind of protection of the rich is structurally secured
through government policy.
And if there is any catchphrase that I am so tired of hearing,
it's this thing that people say about getting money out of politics. What?!
First, while it may seem morally sound,
it's extremely idiotic in principle given how the world operates.
In a world where everything is for sale,
in a world where gaming through trade and trade-strategizing
dominance is the prevailing ethos,
it's the most dominant mode and in fact communication in the process of our society.
Why should government be off-limits? Why not buy legislation?
In fact if we're to be consistent as a society,
it's actually poor form to object at all to this reality
of lobbying and political special interests.
We should LET the Koch brothers buy and run America! Why not?
It's the purest and most natural outcome suggested by this system:
for the billionaires to run everything, which is what this system assumes,
its natural gravitation, and you're never going to stop the force
of financial and business power as long as our society is grounded in the way it is.
And by the way, the election of Trump is not an anomaly.
It's just another step toward the natural gravitation
that our system generates: a world again run by rich monarchs.
And to some degree or another it has always been this way
since again the Neolithic Revolution.
So needless to say when it comes to the true nature of our system,
the very idea of any kind of effective democracy becomes increasingly illusory.
The system simply isn't designed to cater
to the well-being and democratic control of the general majority.
Rather it is designed to facilitate the affairs of business
and most of all the protection of big business,
which are naturally the dominant interests in the revolving door of government.
Put another way, the system is fundamentally fascist.
This is a book by Robert Brady
called 'Business as a System of Power.'
It was written in 1943 in the heat of the 2nd World War.
It is a comparative study of a number of nations
including fascist Germany, Japan, Italy and others,
and it links the root structure and incentive of business -
businesses by the way which loved the fascist institutions of this time -
to the rise of fascist controls historically,
specifically in that period which is very unique in terms of history.
And it's frightening. Because when you really read this book from 1943
and you start to dissect the structures of these economies,
it becomes euphemistic to see how they've actually changed, because they haven't.
Things really haven't changed, they've just become more politically correct
in the way the world is perceiving
the structures of totalitarianism that are actually in play.
The forward of this text was written by Robert Lynd
and I think he states the issue very well with respect to America.
"Thus political equality under the ballot was granted
on the unstated but factually double-locked assumption
that the people must refrain from seeking the extension of that equality
to the economic sphere.
In short, the attempted harmonious marriage of democracy to capitalism
doomed genuinely popular control from the start.
And all down through our national life the continuance of the Union
has depended upon the unstated condition
that the dominant member, capital,
continue to provide returns to all elements in democratic society
sufficient to disguise the underlying conflict in interests."
Sufficient to disguise the underlying conflict in interests!
"The crisis within the economic relations of capitalism was bound
to precipitate a crisis in the democratic political system."
Part 4 The New Human Rights Movement
The solution to a world at war with itself and at war with the environment
is to change again the social precondition
from one that emphasizes scarcity, competition and hierarchical dominance
to one that emphasizes and incentivizes effectively the exact opposite.
Since the Industrial Revolution humanity has been handed a gift
to change course in a completely different direction,
with the option to create in fact a strategic and sustainable abundance
to meet the world's needs:
a phenomenon Buckminster Fuller called ephemeralization,
or what Jeremy Rifkin refers to more technically as a "more-with-less" phenomenon.
As time moves forward
we're able to do more and more and more with less and less and less.
That means that we can create an increased abundance
without heavy impact on society;
they move in contrary patterns now,
as abstract and odd as that is to realize.
If strategically utilized
this pattern, if we adjust our society - adjust our economy -
will put to rest the dysfunctional social system
that is based on the exploitation of scarcity and other human beings.
Now due to a lack of time in the preparation of this as I mentioned,
it's not the scope of this talk to delve into the subject
of what a new economic precondition [is], or how to get there.
That's detailed in my book
and this slide right here, this figure
is a brief summation of the types of transitions
that the world needs to see, all of which are actually happening now.
And I'm not here to plug a book
but I do encourage anyone that wants to think about
this particular subject to read that section of it.
So in conclusion, I do want to state
that the New Human Rights Movement
has the following four realizations before anything can actually change.
Number one.
The structuralist realization that the most detrimental social patterns existing today
are sourced to a flawed economic orientation.
Number 2.
These resulting detrimental social patterns include
socioeconomic inequality as the core public health threat.
Socioeconomic inequality is the precondition for a spectrum of other problems,
also linking to unsustainable negative externalities
produced by the market:
resource overshoot, diversity loss, climate change,
endless pollution, destruction of the oceans, and so on.
Number 3. Adjusting away from this flawed economic orientation
and seeking to reduce socioeconomic inequality
and generate environmental sustainability
means shifting focus to maximize economic efficiency
through strategic, systems-based, technical design.
(something I haven't had a chance to get into
but that is what the secret of economic efficiency is: its design.)
This will reduce scarcity, reduce inequality, and reduce the environmental footprint.
It will also better harness ephemeralization as I mentioned,
moving us closer to what could be called a "post-scarcity" abundance
or post-scarcity society.
That's not a society where there's an infinite amount of everything.
It's a society where people are actually focused
on creating enough for everyone
as opposed to exploiting the fact that people don't have things.
Number 4. Accomplishing this transition will require creative initiative
and activist initiative.
The creative initiative has to do with developing the efficiency-enhancing systems
that will compose the new economic mode.
The activist initiative has to do with strategic pressure and demands
placed upon the existing power structure,
effectively coercing change from the bottom up.
Because none of this is going to come naturally.
It is antithetical
to the culture that's been created in the dominant class,
and it's going to take a kind of galvanization that the world probably hasn't seen,
even though all these paths are actually being suggested right now,
and these trends are really not surprising in terms of the
vast positive potential we can have in the future:
an equitable society where people's needs are met,
derailing all the social distortions and intergroup conflicts and bigoted patterns
that will continue to be amplified,
as long as this system continues as it does.
Thank you.


Lecture: Improbable Democracy Peter Joseph 9/8/17 [ The Zeitgeist Movement ]

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王惟惟 2018 年 11 月 29 日 に公開