January 27, 2009

Why Does the World Feel Wrong?

Those of us who want little more than peace and freedom don’t run the world.  Pursuing freedom contradicts controlling others, so we can reason that people who pursue power have some motivations separate from our own.

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Too often, I have assumed that the people working for the state take the jobs only because of the easy hours and good pay, benefits, and retirement.  For the predator, though, it offers all these things with the appetizing fringe benefit of satisfying their criminal urges without the risk of retribution.

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After considering the possibility that psychopaths have taken control of society, we find volumes of evidence to support the hypothesis.  Did Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot sympathize with their victims or have any sense of guilt?  More recently, among Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, or Clinton , can we point to one who even exhibits a façade resembling normality?  Obviously not—these lists name one person after another who has zero accountability to a rational morality.  If people like this could make their way to the highest levels of power, what does that say about lower offices?

It suggests people like this have control over the levers of power everywhere.  We live at a time when the population at large cannot achieve its wants, yet few seem to know why.  As one example, polls consistently indicate that educational matters concern the public, yet decade after decade, schooling gets quantitatively worse.  What a mystery!  Evidently, if we believe our well-meaning masters, 2,000 years of Western civilization has not yet determined effective ways to transmit key knowledge to younger generations.   However, what happens if we suspend our belief in their benevolence for a moment and consider other possibilities?  If schools fail to achieve their stated goals over several decades, might some groups see this as a success?


Read the rest.

1 comment:

Luis Fernandez said...

"Those of us who want little more than peace and freedom don’t run the world."

I've been thinking about this sentiment for a while now, and I think I have to reject it. Not the "don't run the world part"... but the "want little more than peace and freedom" part. I think that there's this romantization that the majority of people in the world "want little more than peace and freedom", but the more I think about it, the less I agree with the notion.

Sure, on the macro level we all in theory want peace and freedom. But on the micro level, when things begin to effect our daily lives, our interests quickly expand beyond this narrow view. If I'm going to deal with someone, I'm going to make sure that the terms are agreeable; if I'm going to be taxed, I'm going to make sure I agree with where the money is going; etc. The ideal of "peace and freedom" quickly gets replaced with "peace and freedom so long as you don't screw me over and don't piss me off".

The author writes, "Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I had assumed that the people who wield power feel similarly about moral issues as I do—I just couldn’t see why they commit and justify unethical behavior. I already knew that states operate according to a code that the rest of us don’t follow in our own lives. Nevertheless, I assumed that a man who acts without regard to moral laws must feel guilty about it. Then, one day, I stumbled onto this idea: Suppose he doesn’t." But here's the interesting part... to many, these "moral laws" amount to little more than the aforementioned "don't screw me over and don't piss me off" criteria. As the size of the sample population grows, this criteria is generalized, it must be generalized to accomodate the broader audience: it becomes "don't screw with me too much and don't piss me off too much". Eventually, these "moral laws" get so generic that they lose any meaning whatsoever. It becomes ok to screw with someone, so long as it is done to everyone and the screwing is done equally. And should someone adhere to a rigid "moral law", those who fall outside "moral behavior" are quick to dismiss the "laws", seeing them as arbitrary and discriminatory.

I think that's where much of this "world feeling wrong" sentiment comes from. Our attitudes towards the micro (to a certain extent) necessitate the present clusterfuck situation in the macro. But yet we delude ourselves into thinking that on a macro level, what we really want is simply "peace and freedom". Rather than admit that our behavior leads to a contradiction, we blame those we put in charge to look after our interests. It couldn't be our own fault, after all.