When I start blaming others I have to remind myself: The world is mad. No one is at the controls. All governments operate like Bart Simpson saying ‘sniff my butt’, ‘pee on that lampost’ to a dog doing its own thing, hoping their near simultaneous commands will be interpreted as controlling the dog- when in fact nothing is controlling it. Corporations all act out of self-interest, ie. primitive childish behaviour at best. At worst they cause major problems of oppression, resource depletion and pollution. But to be ‘against’ them is to play the same game of failing to integrate with all the disparate elements of life.
One major step forward is to understand that the highly unsophisticated mainstream approach to stories and their power (though co-opted by business and derailed into mere selling) results in us LIVING stories created by others. When we have an unsophisticated grasp of the power of stories to describe psychological (broadly speaking) processes rather than real life in all its complexity we suffer some kind of ‘story deficiency’. We end up trying to make our lives ‘like a story’. Usually some kind of fairy story, an heroic quest, a love story. When life lacks interesting experiences (which techno-capitalism tends to encourage) then we look for stories to live vicariously; we can easily project a story on the world that can be very destructive. The whole debacle in Iraq was because a story gripped the US neocons- ‘Saddam is the new Hitler’.
The more cut off we are from everyday realities the easier it is to imagine we can live ‘a story’- everywhere we are encouraged to narrowly ‘follow our passion’ at the expense of developing a sane and rounded existence. Of course ‘sane’ doesn’t mean doing a humdrum job and watching TV- when over half the population of the US and the UK have some mental health issues in their lives- ordinary life as depicted in commercials and by mainstream media must be suspected as a major cause of insanity.
Instead of banning things and opposing things we must ignore them and give less attention to them- this is another ‘sophisticated’ tenet of any new way of thinking. In our primitive modern society we give MORE attention to that which is disabling, thus fuelling it. The most extreme case is terrorism, which could not exist without the oxygen of free publicity. But newspapers say “if we didn’t report it the internet would”- you see the problem.
Science offers no help in the process of becoming wiser, but it does provide some useful psychological and anthropological evidence of how humans work. Many psychiatrists and psychological experts specialise in the disease they have. A depressed psychiatrist will be trying to cure a depressed patient. An obsessive will be studying and helping an obsessive. Does this matter? You decide.
Companies and institutions love meetings and groups- it is a way of turning contemplation into action. But contemplation takes time and a lack of noise. Every moment of our ‘doing nothing’ time is there to be colonised by TV, Internet and fun consumer activities. Sitting quietly and doing nothing is valuable- boring Sundays in the UK when nothing was open contributed more to sanity than Sunday shopping.
A new kind of thinking will make doing things without ego gratification normal and healthy. Charitable work (as in much of the East) will be secret and low key- not a form of corporate advertising as it now is.
Unfortunately we are now at a stage when only those with an abnormal need for ego gratification seek employment at the higher level in government and corporate institutions. A ‘normal’ person would simply not put up with the kind of double talk and posturing needed to be a public figure these days. The talk is all of transparency- but this transparency is what forces ‘leaders’ to follow the crowd ie. old and pervasive stories that grip the populace.
There is no solution- the next step is not a coercion of one part of the populace to do what their betters think is…better. That way lies the tyranny of Pol Pot and other modern primitives. The only way forward is to integrate the need for action with the need for acting wisely- which includes, very often, doing nothing. Currently the childish notion of ‘any action is better than nothing’ is widely accepted.
It is an ancient form of wisdom to accept that crowds only act sensibly in times of mutual danger. This is why many ancient people would elect a war leader and sack him as soon as a war is over. Then the crowd is dissipated, since only in smallish groups can the intricacies and lack of drama of real decision making be appreciated. Governments hate losing power so they oppose such decentralisation. But this leaves them with a problem- a large, pissed off crowd. How do they deal with it? The method of a war leader is coercion and appeal to the general good- which in a war is obvious. The reason why modern governments invest in bogus wars on drugs and terrorism is that it enables them to coerce people en masse and yet keep them from decentralising and taking away the delightful feeling of power that governments have. What is this power? Not the power to get things done, rather it is a feeling of importance, the delightful sensation of receiving a great deal of attention- ego gratification. If you have ever been on TV you’ll know the feeling.
The dangerous form of ego gratification means doing unwise things because on a temporary level it ‘feels good’. Only when this is under self-observation, ie. you are perfectly aware of what you are doing, is any progress made in eliminating unwise behaviour. I stood for parliament some years ago as an experiment. Within ten minutes of attending my first political hustings I saw that modern democratic politics is 95% about getting elected or re-elected and 5% about doing something helpful. And that 5% of action has to be newsworthy. Since most really important stuff -isn’t, then any politician is either mad, an idiot or ‘normal’ but suffering from an abnormal need for ego gratification. I know a few politicians and they are lovely folk- kind and helpful- but they do not acknowledge they are in the game solely because it’s a game they want to win. If the prime minister stood up and said that getting elected is EXACTLY the same as winning at Monopoly he’d be sacked for being ‘not serious’. Some politicians seem genuinely astounded that they can’t ‘get things done’. One thinks of the ‘cones hotline’ of John Major- even that, a phone line to report too many cones on the motorway failed after a few months. The ambitious ones are blind to this, holding on to power is their game, and the delight of being in power is reward enough. Playing at being a real leader is a small price to pay.
I am not advocating that we remove politicians- someone has to empty the garbage as they say- but what is required is a new kind of thinking where instead of ‘civics’ we are taught ‘psychologics’ where the real motivations of those who seek power are revealed to school and university students.
There are many ways that the new kind of thinking could take hold- first we need to teach at school that in the world, man’s circumstances- his machines and businesses and institutions have a life of their own that is not being directed. There is NO PLAN. And there never can be until we integrate the desire for action with that of contemplation divorced from ego gratification.