Of course, it is not just about alcohol (or any other intoxicant). It is about any moral, ethical or legal issue. It is about unintended consequences. It is also about politics and meta-politics and the influence of religion, race, money etc. over it. It is about racism and anti-immigration. It is about religious bigotry. It is about gender bias. It is about organization and mobilization. It is about rural versus urban life. It is about conservatism versus liberalism. It is about the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie. It is about solidarity. It is about crime and punishment. It is about Human Nature. It is about what is radical in a time and place and what is not. Finally, it is about economics.
All these are connected in real life. The Great Dilemma of real world politics is, however, that the lesson from it seems to be that single issue politics is most likely to succeed in the short term.
But an opposite lesson is that it is also guaranteed to fail in the medium or long term. That’s one of the reasons why real political change is so difficult to achieve.
There are many sub-lessons too, for example in the way the Women’s Suffrage movement thought about Prohibition before and after this great mistake.
Still, in spite of its relevance, we have to keep in mind that times have changed in some very fundamental ways. Just to give a small example, we have no H. L. Mencken now. Nor F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nor even an FDR.
The Mainstream Media has transformed, across the political spectrum, into something I can’t express without using some very very derogatory words. There is widespread TV now, which is far worse than even the Mainstream Media.
Not to mention the technological and economic changes.
And the core specific issue is going to be super-relevant because a whole new generation of intoxicants are on the way. And they are coming from the top, not from the immigrants, but the local heroes of the New Global Establishment. You won’t be able to stop them. You will only be able to regulate them, if you don’t want to repeat history catastrophically.
Have you started thinking about that?
It is not really now. It was aired in 2011. And it was aired on PBS, which is part of the Mainstream Media. Even so, PBS is somewhat special case. Sitting here in India, it seems very special.
The Prohibition itself (the 18th Amendment) started in 1917 and ended in 1933. Till recently, it was not that unusual to see such programs on Mainstream TV almost 80 years after the whole affair ended. To some extent, on some channels in some countries, it still happens. Could it have been made (and shown) before 1933?
In the coming years (or months, or days, who knows in these times) even this kind of History lesson may become hard to get because now History is being re-written like never before, at least since Enlightenment.
Where will future generations find the truth (as much as it can be found, even with best efforts). Some Select Few might still have access to it, but even that does not seem certain now.
How long will PBS last as it exists today?
Big Data and Big Information and Smaller Knowledge and Tiny (or Zero) Understanding. And what is Wisdom? Back to thousands of years ago, perhaps.
What will politics mean then? What does it already mean? Have we reached a point of no return?
But what about Prohibition of the original intoxicant: alcohol? Is it gone forever, or at least everywhere? Not at all. It still exists in many places. Just as it did in the US back then. And it is following almost the same trajectory. And in these places, it can cause even more problems, if not for any other reason than simply because of poverty and the stigma.
Even in the past, Prohibition has been used politically in many other countries. For example, it was used (the movement of it), perhaps not that rigidly, but still as a rallying cry for reform by someone as illustrious as Gandhi. And most Gandhian (or those who call themselves Gandhian: the gap is getting larger as with any other ideology), still argue for it in some or the other form.
In places where it is still used, the reasons given (often very valid ones) are almost the same as for Prohibition in the US. The biggest similarity has been, perhaps in all cases of Prohibition, the support of women, particularly rural women. That support is based on just as valid grounds as the one in the documentary. Another big similarity is that, for similar reasons, it can swing elections. Many politicians have once again realized the political utility of it. Most probably they have known all along, but they didn’t believe it could swing elections.
A party in existential crisis in 2015 won the state elections by promising Prohibition and kept that promise. Seeing the success, others also started talking about it.
Same valid reasons, justifications and grievances. The same disastrous results. The same long term positive effects. Or may be not the last part, may be not in all cases.
I personally have little to do with it. Strange as it may sound, as alcohol use is widespread in India even with the enormous stigma, I hadn’t actually even seen an alcoholic drink till the age of around 25 or more likely 27. It wasn’t till the age of 38 that I had tried out one spoonful out of a glass that someone in a celebration had ordered. Now I have been to many conferences where there are (usually paid) banquets where liquour is served and I have tasted a glass or two several kinds of alcoholic drinks.
However, it is almost embarrassing to admit that I still haven’t developed a taste for such drinks. Not that I have ever been against alcohol as such. Nor do I have anything against those who drink.
One reason for me is that they are so bitter (particularly beer) and we don’t like bitter in India! We like sweets, lots of sweets. Very sweet. Too much sweet. The kind a westerner might taste and say (perhaps silently, Ugh!). I did too (liked sweet, that is). I still do, but not the ‘sweets’ themselves, just the taste sweet. Moderate sweet. Have I become Europeanized. That is, to some extent, a fact worth taking for granted for all those who are ‘well-educated’ and live in urban areas.
There is a very large number of Indians that drinks, so they must like it for some reasons, but I am not sure whether bitterness is one of them.
I am sure there are many many people in India who have actually never tasted alcohol in their whole life, as they consider it a sin, as did so many people the world over and throughout history.
But I can’t resist repeating again. The world is changing radically. In fact, the word radical isn’t even enough to describe that change.
For both who drink and those who don’t drink. Or those somewhere in between, like me.
A meta-organization is an organization for organizations, which can implement a specific or multiple specific organizations; use them as necessary; and dissolve them when the aims have been achieved.
Global meta-politics can be thought of as the prime mover behind the globalized politics of today. It gives the impression of political choice where none actually exists. Or a choice like between Coke and Pepsi. Or Coke and Diet Coke.
Where choices actually exist (hopefully), the political organizations implemented by a meta-organization aim to demolish them and replace them with a standard globalized two-party political system, as practiced in the Imperial Headquarters of the 20th and (particularly) the 21st century. The two parties undergo constant changes as and when required. Their names preferably remain constant for as long as possible, but their politics can be very fluid, dictated less by the popular needs or demands and more by the aims of the meta-organization.
In fact, one of the jobs of the implemented organizations is to shape the demands of the people, and often the needs of the people to make even (electoral) democracies serve the goals of the meta-organization(s). This is one of the key aspects of meta-politics.
In some cases, new parties — beyond the standard two or the number of existing parties — may also be implemented, if that is what is required to shift the equilibrium towards the desired outcomes. This usually is needed when one or more parties cannot be brought under the requisite degree of control of the meta-organization.
Often though, it is easier to infiltrate the existing parties to change their nature. Or to ‘win them over’ if that is possible. Some meta-organizations are very good at winning committed people over, and thus winning over organizations. They are relentless and have unlimited patience. It is as if they operate in cosmological time.
A one-party system can also be allowed, depending on the local circumstances. The advantage of a one party system is that you just have to win over one party for that whole region. Even if you can’t win that party over, it is easier to negotiate with just one party. The disadvantage is that the party can go ‘rogue’. It is very easy to locate an example of a rogue one party system. Think N. K.
Even when a one party system goes rogue, it serves a very useful purpose: That of a Bogeyman. You can divert the blame for anything and everything (even untrue things) on the Bogeyman. You can manufacture problems and, in the name of attacking the Bogeyman, you can attack anyone you want. Those would usually be your enemies, or those who need to be scapegoated.
The implementation details, as always, are not really important as long as the implementation is effective and efficient. As we know in engineering, it first has to be effective and only then to be efficient. Efficiency without effectiveness is meaningless.
Come to think of it, meta-organizations work on the basis of philosophies which have strong cosmological underpinnings. It is difficult to situate them on the conventional Left-Right political scale, even though they may appear to be on that scale at a very clear point at any given moment of time.
What does being an Empire in the 21st century mean? Apart from most of what it meant in the past, it means things like this.
What are the aims of the meta-organization(s)? Well, the immediate or medium term goals may vary a great deal, as much as they need to, sometimes as much as they can, but the highest goal is some kind of The Greater Good or The Higher Cause. There is, you know, always a Higher Cause, to justify whatever it is that you are doing. Ethics? Morality? Legality? The answer is always The Greater Good. The Higher Cause.
What Good? What Cause? Good for whom? Cause for what? Cause for whom? The cost of that? Who pays the cost? Who benefits? That is all decided by the top-brass of the meta-organization(s), behind closed doors and away from the limelight, of course. After they decide, and when it comes to implementation and enforcement, white can become black and black can become white — public consumption of the propaganda. It might be made to appear that the beneficiary is paying the cost and the actual payer is the beneficiary.
What may be communicated to the implemented organizations may, therefore, be completely different from what is actually decided by the top-brass. The top-brass is always in the shadows. Or, sometimes, hiding in plain sight. They are above accountability and such other nonsense. Those are for lesser mortals.
One kind of implementation that has been found quite effective and efficient in recent years is based on comedy and comedians, or even comic characters, perhaps.
Make no mistake though. Global meta-politics is no laughing matter, except perhaps in the darkest Coenian sense. Jordan Peele was spot on when he said horror and comedy are similar. They are similar not just in (the making of) fiction, but also in reality. It took me years to realize this.
An example of meta-organization? Well, I could give you one so that you can verify the theory, but I don’t have the guts, or even the stamina.
Is there only one meta-organization or are there multiple ones in the world? Frankly speaking, Who Knows? What we do know is that they are there. Or IT is there. Some call them/it the Deep (Global) State, but that has now got conspiracy theory connotations.
Some of the goals of global meta-politics have already been achieved. Some are in the process of being achieved. Some still face challenges in some parts of the world.
Simplistic, of course, but a case of idealized analysis.
I haven’t watched the last one above, as I have an acute allergy to Reality Shows of any kind whatsoever, although everything is becoming just that now. This is also the reason I don’t watch any TV news.
Perhaps I too am in a Reality Show somehow. Who Knows? (Or, Who Isn’t?)
More examples of comedic implementations of political organizations? The same again. No guts or stamina.
To be fair, many of us often end up being Useful Idiots for meta-organizations. Some of us realize this sooner or later. Some of us just don’t. Till the end of their lives. It is some of these who often end up apparently ruling the world, or parts of it. It may be pointed out that these can belong to the Left, the Right, or the Centre, although the term seems to have originated from the Left, which was led by people, who — while they talked of the Proletariat as The Elect of Communism — belonged to the Elite and were Intellectuals. They didn’t mind having idiots on their side, but they had contempt for them, as the term suggests.
Leaving aside the liberals (in early and mid-twentieth century: there are hardly any real liberals today, only neo-liberals at best) and the bourgeoisie, who were supposedly termed Useful Idiots by some communists (when the former partly supported the latter), there is no rational or empirical reason to believe that there are no idiots among the Proletariat.
Neo-liberals, one can’t emphasize enough, are only superficially liberal and superficially progressive. So much so, that any neo-conservative today (and sometimes even old-fashioned conservatives) can easily pass off as liberals (meaning neo-liberals), just by having a facade, a fake persona, and practicing some rituals associated with liberalism. This, I have seen first hand, innumerable times. You can easily spot it from online data, if you like.
In case of many people (a lot of people, in fact), it may be a bit unfair to say ‘fake persona’. More accurately, it is the persona that they have to maintain to conform and comply to fit in to whatever group they have associated themselves with, even when they know better. So it applies not just to liberals (or neo-liberals), but to any other ideological/cultural group. This has never been more true than today, in the age of social media and Internet and Behaviour Prediction and Modification.
Where on the political spectrum (Left, Right, Centre) do most of them (Useful Idiots) belong at the current time? Not hard to guess, is it?
Language is a funny thing. While such people are called Useful Idiots, with some justification, they need not actually be idiots. The right word is Suckers, for they are usually committed people and so don’t care so much about their personal benefit as they do for The Higher Cause or The Greater Good. To quote Somerset Maugham from The Razor’s Edge:
[After the three temptations of the Devil] Jesus said: Get thee hence, Satan. That’s the end of the story according to the good simple Matthew. But it wasn’t. The devil was sly and he came to Jesus once more and said: If thou wilt accept shame and disgrace, scourging, a crown of thorns and death on the cross, thou shalt save the human race, for greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus fell. The devil laughed till his sides ached, for he knew the evil men would commit in the name of their redeemer…
This is the definition of the Most Useful Idiot for meta-organizations and their implemented specific organizations (or combinations of them).
They don’t always end up being crucified (in a manner of speaking, lest someone gets offended), but often they can be. And then they can be martyrs or icons for their Higher Causes, if they get lucky. They can continue to be Useful Idiots even after their life ends.
But Maugham also wrote:
…self-sacrifice is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn’t matter; it may be worthwhile or it may be worthless. No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself, man for a moment is greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son.
In my profession, and in allied professions, people don’t fall for Saving the World. But they easily fall for Changing the World. Honestly speaking, it’s not falling most of the time, not even an excuse really. It’s just a fig leaf rationalization.
One of the eternal questions, then. Where to draw the line? How to know whether it is worthwhile or not? How to know that you are not just being a Useful Idiot, paving the way for Greater Evil, masquerading as Higher Cause or Greater Good?
For example, in writing The Razor’s Edge, did Maugham himself become a Useful Idiot? Not so easy to answer.
By the way, like so many negative terms, Useful Idiot can also be just a plain abuse term, without any meaning or justification. Even for this, it is hard to draw the line. Still, one can find some solace in the fact that when it is used simply as a term of abuse, it is quite often used by people who are themselves Useful Idiots. Or worse: just plain idiots, or at most, Flying Monkeys. This last one may account for a majority of its usage.
An alternative and less offensive term for Useful Idiot is Useful Innocent. A Dog Whistle for Useful Idiot is Forest Gump. A more gruesome, Get-Out-ish Dog Whistle is (Human) Natural Resources. What are our Natural Resources doing IN THEM?
To borrow words from Arundhati Roy, the Dog Whistles for the term Useful Idiot are saying (perhaps looking down from their satellites), “What is our intelligence, our talent, our knowledge, our ideas doing in their brains?”. They are our raw materials. Their bodies are our instruments. And if they don’t realize this, we will have to teach them to behave. For the Greater Good or for the Higher Cause. If they don’t comply, we can always play the narcissism card, one of the Magic Words.
The trouble with using terms like Useful Idiot or Flying Monkey is that they are only used for individuals. In practice, however, whole groups or organizations or institutions can function as Useful Idiots or Flying Monkeys.
There are so many psychological (negative-abusive) terms involving the word ‘narcissism’ that one feels like coining another one: Narcissism of Useful Idiot. Here is an exemplar of this phenomenon:
How dare a country of 1.3 billion people do that in a democracy, against MY wishes?
Keeping aside the total misrepresentation of facts and of turning black into white and white into black, or black into blacker and white into whiter, you can also note here that, for The New York Times (and their ilk), Ronald Reagan is officially a ‘liberal’ now. Are you still surprised? Who does the Narcissistic Useful Idiot (or is he one of those hiding in plain sight?) of a branch of a meta-organization want? George Bush Sr. in India? Bill Clinton? George Bush Jr., the Neo-conservative? Barack Obama, the Great Neo-liberal of the 21st Century? Donald Trump, a mish-mash maverick of Neo-conservatism plus Neo-liberalism, more to the right of both? No, that’s not far enough. More likely A.H. (without the defeat in the World War and the end of the Third Reich), perhaps with a touch of Netanyahu, or someone more extreme from that country (which country?).
Talk of victims becoming perpetrators.
Why did I skip directly from Ronald Reagan to Trump and Netanyahu? That is because India in the late 1960s and 1970s was not the same as the US in the same period. India was barely out of a long period of colonialism, whereas the US was at the peak of its Imperial Triumph and national prosperity.
Mind you, the prosperity of the US, like that of other Free World (or First World) Countries in general (including of the Scandinavian countries and of Switzerland) was financed from the following most important sources:
Old-style marauding colonialism, plus conquest of whole continents
Slave trade that lasted centuries
Usurpation from temporary colonies around the world where the US waged wars, maintained military bases and arranged coup d’etats (talk of hypocrisy about meddling in the elections of other countries), as necessary, to ensure their own prosperity, that is the prosperity of their Elites (and to some extent of their populations, at the expense of the Global South).
F. D. Roosevelt’s (whatever may have been his compulsions) New-Deal, which was welfare-based (inspired by aspects of Socialism) and still one of the bases of the relative prosperity of the US society today, which, by the way, Ronald Reagan and his successors began to demolish. And the results are in front of us.
Major scientific and technological innovations carried out by government agencies, funded by taxpayer dollars (mostly of the non-rich) and handed out, as part of corporate subsidies, to the corporations and the filthy-rich. Internet is just one example.
India, on the other hand, in the late 1960s and 1970s was barely out of colonialism. It had no colonies. No outside military bases. No slave trade. No usurpation from temporary colonies. And no New Deal, no Marshall Plan, no Reforms of the Willy Brandt variety. It couldn’t even be a small Oasis in the Desert to be created with colonial support by expelling people living there for ages, providing Absolution for centuries of virulent anti-semitism and innumerable pogroms and constant persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. And so India, like many other former colonies, attempted a bit of Socialism. The truth is Socialism in India never really took off. All we had was License-Permit Raj and the continuation of most of the colonial apparatus (to this day), barring some changes which can’t be dismissed out of hand, but were far from sufficient for the sub-continent sized country with the second largest population in the world. This was augmented by Crony Industrialism (manufacture-based). Then, soon after the Berlin wall fell, it turned into Crony Capitalism (purely capital-based). Then it further turned into another kind of Crony Capitalism (purely speculation-based) as the 21st Century dawned. Finally, it has turned into, what can only be called Corporate Crony-ism, like in most of the world. That’s where we are now. No sign of Ram Manohar Lohia (only the ghosts of him and other Socialists — of some or the other kind — like Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Nehru and so on: even Vivekananda, the supposed hero of the current dispensation, declared himself at one point to be a Socialist, all of whom are national heroes of almost all political parties in India, even when they don’t realize or deliberately ignore the Socialist connections of these figures). No sign, at present, of Bernie Sanders.
I wonder whether such comparisons or categories are all that suitable to India. Just compare India and the US from various points of view, including those data-based. Keep in mind the demographics, in particular. Then you will get an idea of what monumental nonsense this Collective-Narcissism-of-the-Useful-Idiot variety is peddling.
The Global South is still very much under colonialism: neo-colonialism, quite apart from the continuation of the old colonial apparatus. Wealth is still moving from the Global South to the Global North. Wealth doesn’t get created out of thin air. It has to come from somewhere, even if it can increase within limits. Do your basic math properly, if you are really interested in equitable global wealth, not just the wealth of a tiny number and to some extent their hanger ons.
Why, for one thing, is income/wealth inequality the highest perhaps in history today? Globally also, but among the highest particularly in India (also the US, by the way)? Where has all the wealth gone (whether new was created or not)? From where?
What India actually needed was Willy Brandt (even without the Marshall Plan). Or, at least, an FDR with a New Deal (without the Imperialism). So that some kind of social welfare and educational infrastructure and healthcare and scientific development could take hold in India, affordable for all of the population. That never happened. Why that never happened is a different story (partly covered above), but the blame was not so much on the label Socialism (or even the ideas of Socialism) as on the charlatans who hijacked that label. Just like the global neo-liberals of today have hijacked liberalism and progressivism and feminism and even LGBTQ and racial/immigrant rights.
If the current rulers of India are Bernie Sanders (based on his claims: he is yet to come to power), then I am Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Stanley Kubrick and Mozart combined. Or may be more.
Willy Brandt is mentioned above solely in the context of the Reforms he initiated in West Germany, leading to the Welfare State there, due to which Germany is still prosperous today, with relatively less degree of income inequality (in spite of Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel, another one the newest ‘liberal’ icons). Something similar happened in other European countries. These Reforms, ironically (or perhaps not) were crucial in bringing down the Soviet Empire. Tragically (or one should say, villainously), the word Reforms (and even Liberalization) has come to mean the very opposite of what it did for Willy Brandt and even for the Scandinavian countries, especially in the context of India. This is what neo-liberalism truly means: transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, where rich means extremely, obscenely, filthy rich, not your teacher-professor-middle-class-rich.
To recap the above few paragraphs:
I Wanted Ronald Reagan. India Kept Electing Bernie Sanders.
Coming from the person it does, this is the very definition of Corporate Crony-ism. Forget about Crony Capitalism. We are long past that.
Moving on, in fact, as far as individuals are concerned, one may wonder if there is even a single one of us (including those in the top brass of the meta-organizations) who is not, in some sense, a Useful Idiot. In the words of Bob Dylan, We Gotta Serve Somebody:
If you are talking about the problems of the world or the society, and you insist on talking only about the individuals, then you are not really going to get anywhere. That is, if you are indeed honestly trying to get somewhere.
One can also find solace in the fact that one of the causes of the downfall of communism was that they thought that no one will ever realize that they are being used as Useful Idiots for The Higher Cause.
Idiocy, by the way, is also often mixed up with just plain ignorance or the lack of exposure, so one has to be careful while using this term. In this sense, it is a phenomenon that interacts with privilege, the lack of which is highly correlated with ignorance and lack of exposure. This, the best among the communists, did realize.
The keyword is ‘correlated’. There is no guarantee, of course, that the privileged will not be ignorant, or lack exposure, or be idiots.
About the lack of guts, Trump, as many of us know and acknowledge, is quite an easy target, so not much guts required, nor much stamina, nor much scholarship. In New York and Washington, D.C., for example, anyone, even (or one should say especially) federal government employees can take potshots publicly, as part of their official duties, at Trump.
Unless, of course, you live in a place dominated by While Supremacists in the USA. Or, if you are an undocumented immigrant in that country (or any other Free World country).
N.K. is also an easy target: From outside N. K.
A. H. is also an easy target. After the end of The Third Reich.
Without the implant. Actually, there is an implant, but it’s not yet physical-AI type. It’s something that was a word. Now it has been made into another Magic Word. It’s effect is, in fact, magical, just like the implant which makes you see what they want you to see and only that. To be accurate, there isn’t just a word. There is a lot of training for those who have to do the killing. For the rest, there is whole lot of propaganda. However, the word under consideration crystallizes the effect of both these. It also acts as a trigger word.
There are many such magical words. More about them later.
Which word? You probably have guessed it. Otherwise, not now.
While using these terms, however, one has to be really fair in applying them. Consider, for example, American Exceptionalism, as practiced and articulated ad nauseam by not only ‘populists’ (that much abused term), but by American Presidents themselves, Democrats included.
How many times did Barack Obama (let alone others), the Nobel Peace Price winner and the great symbol of American Democracy and ‘liberalism’, as well as a target of Conspiracy Theories, use the phrases “the Greatest Nation on Earth” or “the Greatest Country on Earth” for the USA (the in-group, as against the out-group of the rest of the world) in his presidential addresses, no less? Was he widely panned for this by the ‘educated’ and ‘balanced’ media, or called out by even the psychologists who work on Collective Narcissism? Did he get applause whenever he uttered these words?
Don’t just go blaming the unwashed masses.
About the connection between Collective Narcissism and other phenomena, one needs to be noted in this context. There are Conspiracy Theories and then there are real conspiracies. It is not considered odd to accuse an individual or a relatively small/weak group of a conspiracy (it is commonplace, in fact, even in courts of law), but somehow powerful and ultra-powerful groups, with a LOT to loose and a LOT to gain and the least chances of being discovered, are considered incapable of indulging in conspiracies. What kind of logic is that? Do we not know that power (at least tends to) corrupt?
In any case, The Greater Good or The Higher Cause do not necessarily need to rely on conspiracies in the usual sense of the word.
Digression aside, the worst will be when there will be just one group. Like in K. A. O.
Philip K. Dick has already proved to be a better predictor of our technological and moral/ethical/legal future. Some of what he predicted has almost been realized (the qualifier ‘almost’ is only for the good part of what he predicted). And it has been normalized. Pre-crime, for instance. Perfectly normal now. Moral. The Right Thing to Do. So much so that to oppose it is to become a hate figure: In the age when Human Behaviour Prediction (and Modification) is the Top Product of our economy and going up, with no dip in the graph in sight in the foreseeable future. And to think that just a few years ago there was a Spielberg movie made about this as a cautionary tale about a dystopia. The Wikipedia page of the movie, in fact, refers to the movie as a neo-noir science-fiction film. I always thought it was a dystopian science-fiction film, a genre in which Philip K. Dick excelled. Talk about Orwellian nature of truth.
It’s not the individuals, it’s the meta-organization, stupid. Individuals are not important for the meta-organization(s), as they can come in the way of The Greater Good or The Higher Cause. At least their version of it. They come under collateral damage. Sometimes, if necessary, organizations and institutions can also come under collateral damage.
Individuals are easy targets. Even the most powerful individuals are relatively easy targets. Powerful organizations are not. Powerful meta-organizations most certainly are not. The adjective in the last sentence is redundant, because meta-organizations are, by definition, powerful. Ultra-powerful is a better description.
Is there an alternative to the bleak scenarios suggested above? There are always better alternatives. How much better is one question. For a very good one (alternative, that is), another questions is, are we up to it? How do we make sure that The Greater Good or The Higher Cause does not corrupt whatever we try? Is there a way through lesser causes? (Lesser causes do not include empty rituals and cosmetics or even superficial measures. Definitely not mere ‘optics’.) Without collateral damage? What about the meta-organization(s)?
Talking of causes, what is crime and, particularly, punishment, the current obsession, or, to be accurate, the current state of this old obsession:
My usage of the term meta-organization above is different from the one used in Management Studies, as far as I can tell, although I am not an expert in that area. I didn’t really know that this term existed. I do know however, that most terms in that area are very much sanitized and anti-septic, so they are unlikely to be of use in the above context, unless they are used with a large dose of irony.
The term metapolitics is also used in metalinguistics, but that’s not the same sense as used here.
If it has not already been made clear, always beware of The Greater Good (TGG) or The Higher Cause (THC), whoever might be arguing for it and under whatever circumstances. If you argue against some questionable actions or proposals and your argument finally runs into TGG or THC wall, then take it as a sign of great danger ahead.
You think A. H. or Stalin corrupted the system? You are dead wrong. They did their part. It worked for them because they could employ some TGG or THC in their service.
Hawthorne was the first critic to notice London’s obsession with “Anglo-Saxon superiority”. He commented that “The sea-flung Northmen, great muscled, deep-chested, sprung from the elements, men of sword and sweep… the dominant races come down out of the North … a great race, half the earth its heritage and all the sea! In three score generations it rules the world!” London told his friend, Cloudesley Johns: “I do not believe in the universal brotherhood of man… I believe my race is the salt of the earth… Socialism is not an ideal system devised for the happiness of all men; it is devised for the happiness of certain kindred races. It is devised so as to give more strength to these certain kindred favoured races so that they may survive and inherit the earth to the extinction of the lesser, weaker races.”
And here is David Lloyd George, the last Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who also believed in many Socialist ideas, like most liberals of that time:
In September 1936 David Lloyd George visited Nazi Germany. On his return to Britain he wrote: “I have just returned from a visit to Germany. … I have now seen the famous German leader and also something of the great change he has effected…. One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will, and a dauntless heart. He is the national Leader. He is also securing them against that constant dread of starvation which is one of the most poignant memories of the last years of the war and the first years of the Peace. The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old prewar militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism.”
Not even on the horizon of Nazism? In 1936? Even without the benefit of the hindsight?
Here is Winston Churchill, not quoted out of context, but in full. The full quote is very long, so I don’t copy it here. Here is an example of how he is viewed in India. Even within the UK, people try to deny or pretend not to know the major part of his legacy.
Is it any wonder then that not much thought was given even in 1936 to the dangers of Nazism? Racism was not invented by A. H. Nor was nationalism. Nor Eugenics. Nor anti-semitism. Nor genocide. Nor militarism. Not even Fascism. Not even World War or Global Domination. It will be more accurate to say that all these invented A. H. and Nazism.
A. H. and Nazism are considered the original and singular Epitome of Pure and Ultimate Evil. Does that fit with the above cold, bare facts, especially given that some of the weapons of mass destruction they did not even have access to?
Ultimate, perhaps, may be, in an historical sense. Epitome, Pure and Original, definitely not.
As the current wisdom from some of the really wisest people goes: Know Thyself. Not just as a protection from the ever widening reach of the algorithms and perhaps to cut yourself off from the rest of the people (an unintended interpretation?), but also to know the evil within us, which Hannah Arendt and others talked about. The individual evil that ultimately forms the Collective Evil.
Thyself means you. Not me. Not that other person. Not that third person. You. Thy-self.
To know me is my job. My business. My-self.
The Algebra of Evil
There is individual evil and there is collective evil. There is a simple but terrifying relationship between the two, which can roughly be expressed algebraically as:
E = a * (E_S) + b * exp(e_s, n) + c * exp(e_p, n)
where E is the total collective evil, e (>1) is the individual evil, S denotes collective social circumstances, s denotes individual circumstances and p denotes the personal. The co-efficients are a, b and c. n is the number of individuals in the collective. Underscore denotes subscript.
Of course, the actual equation is unknown. The crux of the matter is that the relationship between individual evil and collective evil is exponential, so even teeny-tiny bits of individual evils, when joined together, give a very large value of collective evil, because the combining effect is multiplicative. That is what matters, exponentially more than the individual evil.
In this equation, the role played by personal individual evil is negligible. It is the collective part that makes the magnitude of total evil in the world as dangerous as it is.
It is a simple lesson, but most of our salaries depends on not understanding this simple relationship. Or it interferes with whatever Higher Cause we are affiliated with. Understanding it is considered so dangerous that you may be denounced and ex-communicated (or worse) for articulating it.
Oh, I am aware of the criticism of the Stanford experiment and of the Milgram Experiment. What I have learnt in research is that, often, if you are shown results that you like, the experimental flaws can be excused and ignored, but if the results are not to your liking (or to the liking of those who pay your salary), then the experiment is scrutinized heavily and likely to be declared faulty. The degree of scrutiny is how you can identify this tendency.
Who decides what are the good results? That brings us back to meta-organization(s).
But we do love to put it all on the individual and imagine a happy ending (at least sort of) and ignore our own part in the resulting evil:
This particular episode, by the way, is one of the best representations of the Behviourist world-view (the dominant philosophy of today, on which modern AI is based) come to (virtual) life. Even the great Rainer Werner Fassbinder reportedly fell to its lure.
Except that the A**hole God of USS Callister won’t be an individual. Even if an individual, it won’t be a socially inept vulnerable and isolated individual with widely known weaknesses and no allies.
It will be like it is now. The identity will be unknown. We will not be sure about the very existence of such a God. Like that of Big Brother (or O’Brien for that matter) in 1984. We won’t even know if there is zero God, one God or many such Gods. Why not many?
And on our way to that, we are not going to worry much about the unintended consequences:
It’s not that no one has any idea about the exponential relationship between individual evil and collective evil. It is quite intuitive and it can be found even in popular wisdom, such as the Hindi saying which says 1 and 1 make 11. Or the Bundle of Sticks fable. Yes, that is solidarity and it is assumed to be a Good Thing. But like all things with possibilities for good, we somehow collectively tend to go towards the possibilities for bad.
Coming back to evil, it’s just that the common fallacy, useful for meta-organization(s), is to think that the solution lies in curtailing individual evil, whereas the solution is somehow through curtailing collective evil, because that’s where the exponential part is. The exponent is in the collective, and in the circumstances.
This, of course, is far easier said than done. It’s a very hard problem with probably a very hard solution and we don’t want a very hard solution.
One thing is sure though. The solution is NOT Skinner’s Conditioning or Reinforcement Learning for Humans. That is not a solution: It is the evil itself. It is a learning algorithm for the society that ultimately maximizes collective evil. And it is guaranteed to converge.
What about Supervised Learning and Unsupervised Learning? More about that later.
The path could be through the old-fashioned Post-Enlightenment ideas of allowing the innate, natural potential for the best in individuals and groups to be realized by the society. It’s a slow and hard solution and we only vaguely know how to implement it. But then the meta-organizations have almost cosmological patience. That needs to be kept in mind. Nature itself works slowly. Only disasters and calamities happen very fast.
Where we need to be fast is in avoiding paths that are guaranteed to lead to disasters and calamities.
But we prefer a greedy approach that gives quick, quantifiable results. Even that, we can’t do very well.
This is the dark side of solidarity, which we like to avoid thinking about. But by saying this, I don’t mean this. That’s the risk of pointing out the dark side of solidarity.
Why is this so? If only one knew the answer to that. Still, there are partial explanations.
By the way, where does Alex, the Ultra-violent kid of Clockwork Orange, go when he is ‘cured’? He joins the mainstream and becomes a Warrior for Mechanized Superhuman Collective Evil. You may recall that his equally ultra-violent buddies (fellow group members) had already joined Law Enforcement, without the necessity of being cured in any way whatsoever – as they were. They were the ones who, as Law Enforcement Agents, tormented him between his first cure and his second cure. He gets killed in self-defence by a Flawed Hero, but the Mechanized Collective Evil not only lives on, and is made further Superhuman by Collectives of Psychos who Make the World Safe for Democracy. So It Goes.
But we need at an example of real collective evil, that is, collective evil in real life, not fiction? Here is one:
All episodes in this documentary series are chilling, but one stands out in particular, because it deals with a globally organized phenomenon, and therefore much more dangerous:
Season 2, Episode 4: The Marching Orders
I have been kind of preoccupied with Collective Evil for a long time, but this one still ‘blew my mind away’. For some more moral context, have you watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grapes?
After watching this episode, does the phrase ‘rape, abduction and (possible) murder’ (as in Rape and Pillage during wars in the centuries and years gone by) come to your mind? Is #MeToo allowed for victims of that? You probably owe your prosperity and may be even your existence to that. As Peete Seeger said, we are all descendants of Good Killers (good meaning efficient).
Here we have Robert Mueller, following in the tradition of that Great One – J. Edgar Hoover – among those Making the World Safe for Democracy. He is an authority relied on in this area of research and implementation even by the ‘radical left’ whistle-blowing exceptional media outlet, right on the fringes of investigative journalism, including and particularly that goes against the powers that be (a very rare thing these days). He is as important a figure in the History of Evil as Dick Cheney, whose wet dreams Barack Obama lived, before Trump arrived in the White House.
There are many worse but similar examples of Collective Evil that I could give from real life, documented ones. Well researched one. No guts.
Not valid because based on anecdotal evidence? Be honest with yourself.
Law of Standing Up
Standing up for anything non-trivial that goes against the powers that be has never been easy. It makes them see you (in a not-benevolent manner). That is why the Monty Pythons told us that one of the way to avoid being seen is not to stand up:
It is not entirely true that you can’t stand up for anything. The above sketch may be a little exaggerated (as intended). The thing is, at least in democracies (or societies containing many groups), you can stand up for someone or something within very strict constraints. For truth and justice, for example. Or for those who are being wronged. Or against something: falsehood or injustice.
The Law of Standing Up describes one of the constraints for such standing up. It says:
If you stand up for everyone (who is being wronged), no one will stand up for you.
This is not very obvious from conscious reasoning, but most people know it intuitively. And they obey this law, because not obeying it is one of the most costly things an individual can do in his or her life.
See, it works like this. There are many groups in the world. Many organizations (implemented or not) and many institutions. And, of course, there are more than seven billion individuals. You have to choose which group(s) you get yourself affiliated with. The affiliations can change, but as long as you have them, you have to keep something in mind, which is inviolable. In principle, standing up for those who are being wronged is acceptable (almost) everywhere. However, in practice, whatever may be your affiliations, there are certain groups or organizations or individuals that you are NOT supposed to stand up for, NO MATTER WHAT.
The world works by conflicts. For that to happen, under no condition should anyone stand up for everyone. For if that were to be encouraged, many of the conflicts may get resolved, which are needed for THC or TGG, that is, for the meta-organizations. The unsaid assumption, therefore, is:
This assumption is what makes it so dangerous to stand up for everyone. There are certain people (groups, organizations) you simply cannot be allowed to stand up for, even if they are being wronged, depending on your affiliations.
If you oppose a group, you not only become the enemy of the group, you become the personal enemy of every individual in the group. You will be targeted accordingly.
If you stand up for everyone, then you will have to, at some point or the other, whatever may be your preferred affiliation, oppose everyone. Then everyone will become your enemy. Your personal enemy.
Well, of course, not literally (not seven billions plus people). The point is that all kinds of people will become not just your ideological enemies, but your personal enemies. They may then take it upon themselves to punish you and teach you a lesson. They may keep doing that.
There is security in obeying the Law of Standing Up. Being affiliated with some group(s) gives you some protection. If you follow the above assumption, then, even if you oppose some person(s) or group(s) or organizations(s), you will have the protection of those who are opposed to them, or at least of those you are affiliated with. If you don’t, you won’t get any protection from any one.
To be everyone’s enemy, you don’t have to be yourself everyone’s enemy. That is not required, even if it were possible. What is required is just that you are, in the true sense, no one’s enemy. And show it by standing up for everyone.
In the 21st century, we have seen, quite literally, the working of the world on the basis of the above assumption, which is the False Dichotomy fallacy. It’s not just common, it’s universally practiced. And now it is being encoded in AI.
Remember ‘you are either with us or against us’? That was not just George Bush Jr., who by the way, has now become almost a ‘liberal’ icon.
To give another specific example, any of Trump’s long time buddies who falls out with him, automatically gets the support of a large section of the ‘liberals’. Anyone who is not Trump is good enough now, even if he or she is far worse than Trump. So it is with other ideological orientations. It is true for even specific issues. This is due to the combination of the above assumption with excessive focus on the individual.
That is why Person-Cancelling (a super-dystopian notion) is such a big thing now. Ideally, it should be a wakeup call for everyone, because anyone, SIMPLY ANYONE, whosoever he or she may be, can get cancelled for one or the other reason. It seems to largely depend on luck. About who will get cancelled next. One of the things it reminds one of is Mao’s Cultural Revolution; only it is worse.
Even to oppose Person-Cancelling can get you into trouble. You might be cancelled yourself. Guilt by Association again. Or you might even be blatantly harassed, publicly, in the guise of reporting.
At one point in the above interview, Laura Poitras had to plead:
Can we talk about the film that I made?
The ‘interviewer’ (more like inquisitor) droned on at one point, and she finally had to engage with his “denounce Assange now, or else” drift:
But there’s propaganda, and then there are the things that I’ve mentioned, which are actual things that happened that raise serious red flags.
So tell me your theory. What’s your theory? And what’s the evidence for the theory?
[Another round of inquisition]…
[Laughs] Go do that reporting. Go ahead, I’d love for you to do that reporting. The question I have, and I don’t know if anyone has answered it, is: Was he being played or not being played? Did he know or not know? He could have been being played. But I also think the other question that you need to ask is: Do you think the DNC emails are not newsworthy? And the Podesta emails?
This is classic example of How to Kill a Good Cause, in this case, that of gender-based bias and injustice. The Useful Idiots and Flying Monkeys are in charge of this cause now, and the genuine supporters of this cause are being systematically either marginalized or targeted and ‘neutralized’, another one of those anti-septic psychopathic terms, used to great political effect.
Standing up for everyone can lead to not just cancelling by some people or groups (say, fans of a celebrity), but universal cancelling. Perhaps for all time to come. It leads to becoming fair game for everyone.
In terms of group behaviour, how on earth can Person-Cancelling be assumed to be restricted to ‘good causes’ (even if we assume that was somehow justified). It’s just about which group has more power, ultimately. And groups almost always have more power than individuals. It is socially-sanctioned vigilantism taken to its logical conclusion.
Such solidarity can be called the Lynch Mob Solidarity. It’s more common than most people want to believe.
Should we posthumously cancel Jack London, not to mention Rudyard Kipling? Even if we do that, what do we do with Sophie Scholl?
Why not death penalty for the cancelled people or of members of the cancelled groups? Why not public beheadings in the town square? With videos circulated on the Internet? Or burning cancelled people at the stake? After all, once they have been cancelled, what life do they have? Of what use they are to the society or themselves? There can at least be public entertainment at their expense, as there is/was in these two cases. Also, examples can be made for others to see.
That will teach them!
The Presumption of Innocence until proven guilty has now been turned on its head. And taken way beyond. Also normalized.
This presumption was for those accused of crimes, i.e., criminal acts. Now, it need not even be a crime. A crime may not have been committed.
One of the extremely cruel ironies of human life in a society is that, there is a conditional converse of the Law of Standing Up, which says:
If you don’t really stand up for anyone or anything (even if you pretend to), then, if you play your cards right and the circumstances favour you, there is good chance that a lot of people (even an amazingly large number of people) will stand up for you. They might even worship you. You do have to stand against something, very hatefully. Often just that is enough.
The collective psychology ensures that if people are given the following two choices:
We will make your life better (everyone says so: it need not be convincing at all, or have any credibility) and we will act strongly against (who you think are) your enemies (this one has credibility).
We will do this and this and this within this time period, using this plan or this plan to make your life definitely better (even if you are quite convincing). We will also take on your enemies (not very convincing).
Then they are more likely to go for the first choice. It is somewhat like a person saying, I may not make my own life better, I may be going down, but I will take down my enemies with me. There is, however, a self-deceptive hope that I might survive the disaster after the enemies have been taken down and my life might be better. Needless to say, the ‘enemies’ need not even be enemies.
All the worst man-made disasters have worked through collective evil. The above is just a particularly senseless version of such evil.