How to fix society

Written by  on November 6, 2013 

Human society has now reached a point where more and more people are starting to acknowledge that there are certain problems with how it organizes itself. Our economic and political model is destroying the balance of the biosphere at an accelerating pace while turning people – so called “citizens” – into nothing more that interchangable parts of a machine with little to no room for individual freedom and creative expression.

Politicians are lying, bankers are grabbing all the money and top executives of corporations are raking in record bonuses while the amount of people living in poverty keeps increasing. Many people have had enough and are starting to voice their discontent and I applaud them.

I have a complaint, though. I wish people would think a bit more deeply about the subject matter at hand. The monstrosities and absurdities of our system are becoming so obvious that it seems no big deal to spot them and point them out. But the depth of the discussion surrounding this topic seems pitiful to me.

First, there are people who will tell me that what we need to do is elect the “right people” into office. These people can then proceed to take the “necessary steps” to correct the situation. Excuse me if my response is mere laughter. Have these people not been paying attention? Didn’t they notice that even politicians of good will seem to have little to no power to bring about substantial change? That they seem to be in a stranglehold by corporations and unelected groups of powerful people with the ability to influence the decisions of government? The fact that this sort of talk will be considered to be “crazy conspiracy theories” by many just proves my point about the shallowness of the public debate. What? Powerful people meeting behind closed doors to further advance their agenda? Bah! Impossible! That doesn’t happen. The flipside of this comes in the form of people who have convinced themselves that there is one single overarching conspiracy controlling everything. The lazy mans way of figuring out who to blame for everything.

Related to the above are people who will actually claim that “people who don’t vote” are the problem. Voter participation routinely barely exceeds 50% even for the most major of elections and apathy of voters gets blamed for, you guessed it, not allowing us to elect the “right people” into office. I would still react with mere laughter if I didn’t find the sheer amount of people holding this opinion to be so frightening. Really? Here we have an institution, consuming humongous amounts of resources (over 50% for many countries), creating vast incentives for corruption and outright stealing, underlining this with an almost complete absence of control mechanisms (who will guard the guards? Spy on the secret service? Protect you from the police?) and personal responsibility and they are telling me that people who don’t vote are the problem? Are these people really thinking the act of voting for a representative every couple of years has the power to change a single thing besides what faces you get to stare at in the media? Have they all been conned into the belief that because there is “democracy”, that they, too, are now part of the ruling elite and get to make relevant decisions? Don’t they understand that it is precisely the act of participation by voting which gives the current system mandate for its existence? Just imagine how serious a government would be taken if only 1% of people came to the polls. It seems to me that public education has reached its goal of dumbing people down so much that they won’t notice the blatant lies and contradictions within the current system.

Then there are the people with solutions. Great! So you have thought about this and come to the conclusion that what is needed is to tax corporations. Pass laws against polluting the environment, against discrimination and for consumer protection. Raise the minimum wage, strengthen gun control, lower some benefits, raise others, add this, subsidize that, prohibit this, cut that or some other sort of arbitrary fix or tweak to the system. Now all we have to do is convince all these “apathetic voters” to realize the correctness of these solutions, vote in the “right people” into office and then everything will be much much better than it is today. I’m really sad I have to tell you this, but: you are not so smart. You may think you have figured out how exactly to change society for the better but that’s only because you haven’t thought deeply enough about the issue and you are probably vastly overestimating your ability to gather the necessary data, integrate them into a meaningful model of what is going on (by the way have you ever noticed that the map is not the territory and your model of what is going on is probably far away from reality?), correctly identify causal relationships within that model and estimate the effects of your desired changes, including all the unforeseen consequences. In other terms, you are probably way too arrogant in your supposed knowledge of where the problems lie and how to “fix them”.

There is one basic fact of history which all of these people seem to be happily ignoring; we have already tried all this. Countless times. Has it helped? What makes you think that this time it will be different? This time we will have honest politicians? This time we will pass the right laws and do the right things? I’m sorry to tell you that you have fallen prey to a grand idealistic utopianism – namely the utopian idea that it is possible to create a central government filled with honest people working towards the greatest benefit for all and actually accomplishing such a goal!

Inevitably there comes the angry response: So what is YOUR solution? Tell us how to really fix this mess if you’re so smart as to tear down all our propositions.

And because I have thought about this for a long time I am not afraid to admit that I do not know. I have no solution. I have no five steps to guaranteed prosperity. No grand plan to put a chicken into every pot and secure well-being and happiness for all. Sorry.

Ah ha! So you are just a charlatan! Happy to criticise, but not bringing any solutions to the table. You are what’s wrong with society. You should go vote for the right people.

At this point I have to erupt into laughter once again. Because they have missed the point again. And they might never get it, because it frightens them too much. The point being this: there is no one solution for it all. The best plan, the most well-meaning intentions, the most noble ideals fall flat onto their face when confronted with the messiness of human affairs. The reason for this is simple, though. It’s called complexity. Let me point out that human society is getting more complex and complicated. In an exponential manner, it seems. So what exactly makes you think that one person, or perhaps a group of people can figure out the best way of running everything? They can’t. And the delusion that they can is a very dangerous one indeed. Take a peek at history if you don’t believe me.

But OK, I’ll admit, maybe there is a solution, after all. But it doesn’t consist of what needs to be done, it consists of what we need to stop doing. Stop dictating how people should save for their retirement. Care for their health. Educate their children. Stop taking their resources to turn them into “what they need”. You don’t know what they need. Yes, probably at this point they don’t know either – but that’s because this system has stripped them of the responsibility to figure it out for themselves. So stop doing that as well!

The point this rant is trying to bring across the point, that complexity and diversity can’t be centrally planned and managed without creating atrocities such as we are witnessing today. Yes, it is frightening to think about. But only because we have been taught to not trust other people. See them as potential enemies, competitors and generally as dumb, unwashed masses too stupid to know what’s best for them. Yes, divide and conquer seems to work still just fine.

But just remember: there is strength in unity, yes, but strength is what predators rely on for survival. Do we want to model ourselves after them? We don’t need strength. I suggest what we need is another slogan: “stability through diversity”. The symbiotic approach. So stop trying to dominate other people out of fear that they might do the wrong thing. They will do what is right for them and from a myriad of these little choices a wonderful complex tapestry of human interaction might emerge. One which could never have been designed, planned or implemented by forcing everyone into it. Yet as close to perfection as nature herself.

But wouldn’t this be anarchy?! Yes indeed it would. But at least that’s something we haven’t tried yet so don’t be too afraid of it ;)

Category : Anarchy

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