Saturday, 20 January 2018

A view of History

   The reason for my disparaging view of mainstream politicians, i.e. Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime-Minister-in-Waiting Scheer, and their mainstream political Parties, i.e. the Red Party of Industrial Free-Market Capitalism that pretends to care about the middle-class and the Blue Party of Industrial Free-Market Capitalism that only supports the wealthy classes, is because they subscribe to the notion that paying a bottom wage as a living wage is somehow going to destroy the economy. Whereas all these agglomerations of pundits, theorists, and their tame intellectuals are perfectly fine that the annualized income of those CEOs and Board Members at the top of their various corporations take home more money in the first hour between midnight and 1:00 O'Clock on the 1st of January than the total annual take-home pay of the lowest two fifths of the population. It does bother me that there is a group of people who love to believe that they somehow 'deserve' to earn more than, to pick my own example, 200 times what I do. They are certainly not 200 times smarter, nor 200 times stronger, nor 200 times more anything than I am. They may be 200 times more avaricious, but this should not be a laudable characteristic. What truly concerns me about this situation is that I take a different view of history than the vast majority of people in my world, and I see something they are busily ignoring, and that is, this situation is neither new, nor unique to us, now. Because there are, broadly speaking, two ways to look a history, one being as a linear sequence of unique events, the other being a cyclical sequence of similar patterns. Obviously, I favour the latter, and therefore see a pattern that does not bode well for anything in the coming decades.
   It is very easy to subscribe the the former view; it is the default view of Western European-based society and informs our language and perception of everything in the past.We see increasingly complex life-forms and multivaried ecosystems through the time-line of geology, and conclude that we are the epitome of life. We perceive changes in technology through the existence of humanity, from chipping stone tools, to smelting and working with metals, from hard bronze to development of steel, and conclude that all technological changes are improvements. We have accumulated knowledge over time, and in recent centuries, that accumulation has accelerated and conclude that we must be smarter than our ancestors because they apparently did not. Moreover, every situation the past appears unique and each culture is different. Obviously a Roman Senator differs from a Feudal Prince, which, in turn differs significantly from a Member of Parliament.

   But this view of the past does not match the paleontological record. There have been several instances of highly complex ecosystems developing over millions of years, which have been almost utterly eradicated due to some global catastrophe and had to start again from very few survivors. Improvements in technology have not been linear. We have, for example, lost all knowledge of how some technologies of the past worked and even the best archaeological investigation cannot tell us enough about it to recreate them. We have gone through periods of so-called Dark Ages, when human societies fragmented from highly complex civilizations into very simple and rudimentary tribal entities. For example, people are quite disturbed to learn that Roman ruins are actually older than Norman ones, because the Roman ones are obviously more impressive. During this period a huge amount of knowledge and technology was lost, and this has repeated several times in recorded history. Finally, the comparison between different politicial structures is akin to comparing the huge number of differences between me and a dog, or between a dog and a cow. However, there are also a great many similarities between all three species, starting with the fact that we are all mammals, and so every bone of my hand compares to similar bones in the paw or a dog or the lower leg of the cow, or the circulatory blood system and so on. Our morphology, the observation that different things are also similar in significant ways, is more similar than different. That is the foundation of a cyclical view of history, where one can look at the past, and see the similarities in the patterns that repeat throughout time.
   This morphology allows us to look at dozens of empires that rose and fell, to see overall patterns that repeat, time and again, and then compare those political entities with ours of the present day. Look past the superficial forms at those patterns and it becomes obvious that, if history doesn't repeat, it rhymes. It allows me -- and increasingly many others -- to observe that the United States is a world empire, if not in name, then certainly in form, according to any definition you would care to try and apply. Canada fills the role of a wealthy Satrapy, which is allowed to exist as we do because it is psychologically and politically convenient.
   This morphology is also why I can compare our current and increasing, economic disparity with France in the third quarter of the 18th Century, or Russia in the last quarter of the 19th Century, or Rome in the second half of the Fourth Century and observe that the pattern of events that transpired to create that disparity, then and now, is much the same, with much the same arguments being used to justify it.
   But that same morphological view also informs me that every society that has allowed the elites and their sycophantic supporters to delude and fool themselves into believing that it is fine to have such a high level of disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest has dissolved. Almost every time, that dissolution was extremely violent. Even without external pressures, and despite a strong common culture, complex societies have fragmented into violent conflict and dissolved. Sometimes they recover and reconstitute themselves into a new structure for a couple of hundred years, before dissolving temporarily into violence, as the Roman world did. Sometimes they disappear entirely. So my concern is just that: that every empire dissolves, and every empire breaks up, and most of them involve violence. And thus we percieve that the U.S. is currently an empire very close to dissolution. That concerns me.

   I, therefore, see a pattern that does not bode well for anything in the coming decades. I see a pattern that, for the moment, still has the poorest able to put food on their tables and mostly keep a roof over their heads. But I also see an increasing number who no longer perceive any benefit in our current electoral system that refuses to change, who have stopped bothering to vote, who are under increasing pressure to try and maintain their lifestyle, and who are increasingly angry and polarized. To the south, this has become quite acute these past three decades. In Mexico, and across the overpopulated Arab world, when food prices soared in 2011, it resulted in massive unrest and violence and chaos that has not really resolved itself. For the many who ascribe to the linear view of history, these are unique events. For me, and those who ascribe to a morphological view, these are inevitable consequences of our current policies, and if no major change happens, it will be coming here, soon.

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