I recently reconnected with an old buddy who’s now living in Scotland, after years in the Canary Islands. He travels a lot, has the same wife as always, and his boys are outgrowing him. We used to romp around in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Then he came back, worked on Wall Street, wrote a book about it that got published. Did an Internet startup that raised tons of VC (and which still exists). He exited, wrote another book—a social critique that also got published. Then he got out of it all and moved to the Canarys. He just finished two masters degrees at St. Andrews, and is just about done with a PhD, all humanities.
Since the early 2000s with us, it’s always been about a mutual interest in philosophy and society. We used to be at loggerheads on things; Big Surprise. I woke up this morning to his comments on my AHS Presentation on Epistemology and Sociology, as well as my 9-Part Anarchy Begins at Home Series. He’s very private now, so I won’t recount his email, even anonymously. But he basically agrees with a lot, with some qualifications.
I thought my detailed reply (exclamations & all, which I typically reserve for personal communication) might itself make a decent blog post to share with you, with a few editing touches here & there.
Well that was a nice surprise over morning coffee, because I thought you’d hate it. Hope all you were working on over the last couple of weeks went well. Feel free to tell me about it.
I think we’re getting somewhere, after many years. I very much like my slant on things from the epistemological angle, specifically, “what is the quality of your knowledge?,” contrasting the Paleolithic and Neolithic. Someone in comments on my blog the other day was going on about The Bell Curve. I responded, “yea, how do you think the average cubical warrior would fair on an IQ test developed by hunter gathers?” Ha! Imagine.
But I agree with you about organization, qualified as: centralized, authoritarian, hierarchical. A few points:
- Organization is pretty natural. Couples do it, close friends, families, tribes, small social groups.
- The pertinent question: is whomever is taking primary lead someone you can go to and look in the eye? Yes: generally healthy. No: unhealthy, dehumanizing.
- Small, tribe modeled, natural organizations DO NOT SCALE. They are wholly unlike massive church, state, and corporate organizations (institutions) (there’s your Trinity, but a nefarious one).
State. Contrast a small town-city council with DC… In the former, concerned citizens can go to the town hall meeting (that often used to also be the local church, and schoolhouse! – Trinity again) and raise a ruckus when they perceive things to be going wrong. Everyone had social power and even though organized, it shared social power in human/humane ways. Now think of casting a vote for someone in DC, writing your congressman, or senator, or getting them on the phone. It does not scale. Good luck with that and how’s it working out for you?
Church. Contrast the local community church with the massive top down hierarchies we have today; with people at the top claiming, in one fashion or another, that they have an exclusive line on the Divine. As you know, I’m technically atheist, but I’m not a-tradition, a-sacredness, a-sanctuary, a-contemplation, a-ritual, a-community, a-values, a-moral, or anything of the sort. I simply don’t believe in inhuman/inhumane authority, i.e., hierarchical, cloistered, out of sight—whether a King or a God.
Near the end of our last email exchanges, I became pretty good friends with Nancy and Kevin (husband & wife) who lived in our loft complex, both ministers in San Jose. They met at Harvard Divinity. She was the minister for the local Unitarian Universalist church that was a short walk from the lofts (a minister who walks to work to her church!!! Awesome!). He was the minister of a non-denominational, liberal Christian church. What a contrast to discuss religion with them! A total joy, actually, because to my mind, they Get It. It’s about traditions, rituals, ancestral wisdom and community, to name just a few—oh, and metaphor/symbolism over literalism. They thought of me as a “secular humanist” and in fact, Nancy had a good many SHs in her congregation. I attended a funeral for a mutual good friend in the lofts at her church, who passed from cancer. Best funeral—celebration—I have ever attended.
So now, when I discuss atheism with people—who can’t seem to differentiate the hierarchical and “divinely” authoritarian, from the shared human values, human traditions and human rituals church ought to be about—I suggest they check out the Unitarians. …About the funeral. It was really more about ancestor worship and the wisdom and traditions they learned and passed down, than about some Jealous and Terrible God. Good stuff. I’m a fan.
Corporatism, to round out the Nefarious Trinity.
This is perhaps the part where we may have come to see eye to eye more than anything, and I think it’s more my fault than yours. The gist of our disagreement previously was that I would use the word “moral” in the context of capitalism, and that was like oil and water to you, an impassible dichotomy. Yin-Yang, Mind-Body, Flesh-Spirit, etc. While I’m still not a fan of splitting things into the muscle or spirit, I have come to realize that again, it’s a problem of scale. In the ancient world of families and tribes (which may be a meaningless distinction anyway), there was no real need I can see to regard the human as anything but an integrated whole. It’s only the massive scaling that for benefit of clarity and efficacy, it became expedient to split: State (muscle), and Church (spirit). And then came the Corporation—which both Church and State are, technically—in order to keep people occupied, productive, submissive, coddled, entertained, self-satisfied. The corporation to the church and the state, is basically the material Zoo Keeper: as in, The Zoo Human.
What I failed to do previously was realize that the corporation is just an arm of—a facilitator—the two other massive institutions of the Nefarious Trinity.
Corporations are State statutory entities created FOR NO OTHER PRIMARY PURPOSE THAN TO SHIELD OWNERS AND OFFICERS FROM PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. It has nothing to do with business, or even very successful business that becomes “capitalist” (by which I mean: accumulation and reinvestment of productive profits for growth). Now, consider by similarity and not contrast: The State is an entity distinguished by its Sovereign Immunity (regardless of the US Constitution, which is but a fart in the wind). Similarly, the Institutional Church is an entity designed to pass moral judgment, itself being doctrinally immune from such moral judgment (think Encyclicals, Dispensations, Indulgences, Revelations, Prophesies—all designed to keep the church ahead of evolving social awareness and judgment—an ultimate vice-president of Divine authority). What connects them all? Special status: legally, forcefully, divenely. Trifecta!
The reason I used the word “morality” in the past—admittedly a Randian influence—is because I wasn’t properly differentiating productive, entrepreneurial activities on smaller scales from Church/State institutional gamesmanship that is the modern, massive, multi-national corporation supporting both. Moral, simply because I consider helping people—and doing it in extra-Mother Teresa ways, i.e., beyond squalor and its celebration—to be an exercise in morality. I was thinking: invention, entrepreneurism, risk taking, production, achievement—all in the context of raising people up, both by employing them in the trade of time/labor for an exchangeable commodity (money) and raising up everyone—society—in terms of health, shelter, food, clothing, warmth, and even leisure entertainment. I think ministering to people’s spiritual needs is only half of morality, because what moral good is a healthy spiritual mind, without a healthy happy body?
…And while both the formerly mentioned productive business entrepreneurs and massive corporations help people, I’ve come to realize that the latter comes bundled with a lot of huge downsides to consider, chief among which is perhaps the cubicle phenomenon which, incidentally, I find far more nefarious than the industrial factory worker phenomenon—where at least, people were working with their minds and bodies (integration of the whole).
The natural human business unit is a proprietorship (personal liability) or a partnership (equal and several liability), where such liability for actions is not shielded by statute, backed by the force of State. This is a wholesome, moral, efficient (by means of hard-nosed business dynamics, not lobbying for laws for entry barriers) means of helping and lifting one’s fellow man and society in terms of a Neolithic, agrarian efficient innovation to make best use of the capital assets that agriculture created like plowed & tended fields, equipment, livestock. In this context, business is a discipline like any other, and like art, and even sports, fills a human void that creates a greater whole than sums of constituent parts.
In summary, we have a problem of scaling. What is natural in principle ought not be scaled to lengths that become inhuman and inhumane. And they are inhuman and inhumane by being the principal means in society to provide a breeding ground, refuge, and playground for human predators—who not only get off scott free, but who enjoy being the most celebrated among us. Neolithic societal institutionalism is an exercise in worshipping and exalting the most successful human predators. And it evolves. The Stalins, Hitlers and Pol Pots of earlier decades are probably not so possible anymore. Human predators are clever and stay a few steps ahead. Without massive institutional, hierarchical organizations, human predators would have no choice but to do their own predation themselves, and face the risk and potential consequences—a human disincentive in itself that we have undercut and leapfrogged in too many ways.
The Nefarious Trinity is an institutional organization that serves principally to protect and shield human predation by other humans from obvious detection, by means of hierarchy and authority. Worse by consequence, it’s a simple scam at the same time: serving not only a protective role, but one of exhalation and celebrity.
In the end, we love the predators the most, and that’s what it’s cleverly all about.