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Transhumanism: Religion in Plain Sight – Part 3

This article features a selection of quotes from the book Homo Deus, each accompanied by my notes, comments, and references to related media.

Transhumanism: Humanity in ‘Upgrade Mode’

Part 3 of this article series features my expansion of Ncaps 31-40 for the book Homo Deus (as discussed in the Introduction, which also includes the full list), as a basis for identifying points of significance and referencing a variety of relevant media.

Themes covered in Part 3 include Dialectics of Government, Principles of Revolution, Submission to Authority, Continuity of The Establishment, Emotional Decision-Making, Elite Minority Rule, Conceits of Modernity, Social Instability, Civilized Barbarism, Collectively Believed Fictions, Society as Entrapment, Hindsight via History, Suppression of Awareness, Ideological Bio-Engineering, Prophetic Sci-Fi, Modern Forms of Religion, Rationalized Immorality, Incongruous Speech, Hypocrisy of Civilization.

Part 1 (Ncaps 01-15)
Part 2 (Ncaps 16-30)

Note: All italics and bold are my own, which I use to emphasise words, phrases, and sentences; and to recontextualize the passages (I also recommend reading the original sources I have quoted from to consider them in their original contexts).

NC31

‘State Organization’ via Loyalist Employment’ Throughout the ‘Networks of Society’, and the Dialectical Relationship with Sister Parties’

Why are revolutions so rare? Why do the masses sometimes clap and cheer for centuries on end, doing everything the man on the balcony commands them, even though they could in theory charge forward at any moment and tear him to pieces? Ceauşescu and his cronies dominated 20 million Romanians for four decades because they ensured three vital conditions. First, they placed loyal communist apparatchiks in control of all networks of cooperation, such as the army, trade unions and even sports associations. Second, they prevented the creation of any rival organisations—whether political, economic or social—which might serve as a basis for anti-communist cooperation. Third, they relied on the support of sister communist parties in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Despite occasional tensions, these parties helped each other in times of need, or at least guaranteed that no outsider poked his nose into the socialist paradise. Under such conditions, despite all the hardship and suffering inflicted on them by the ruling elite, the 20 million Romanians were unable to organise any effective opposition.” p158

Re-31

The real point here is the principle that the Majority is, in essence, composed of people who exist in a state of willing submissiveness to Authority; and hence, who will obediently follow its commands regardless of “all the hardship and suffering inflicted on them by the ruling elite”. The question Harari uses to frame this passage of ‘why revolutions are so rare’ is ultimately irrelevant, as Harari himself will indicate in the next passage (NC32).

Escape From Freedom (Book)

The Fear of Freedom, by Erich Fromm (1942)

This book offers a highly perceptive examination of the psychological reasons for why people invariably submit to authorities—meaning that they do so irrespectively of the character and commands of any particular authority. The following portion of text is composed of a few relevant passages in the book:

Nothing is more difficult for the average man to bear than the feeling of not being identified with a larger group. The frightened individual seeks for somebody/something to tie his self to because he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer; hence he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by elimination of this burden: the self.
 As long as one is an integral part of world, unaware of possibilities and responsibilities of individual action, one does not need to be afraid of it—once becoming an individual, one stands alone and faces the world in all its perilous and overpowering aspects. Once an individual faces the world outside of himself as a completely separate entity, creating an unbearable state of powerlessness and aloneness, two courses re-open to him: progress to ‘positive freedom’ by relating himself spontaneously to world in love and work, in genuine expression of his emotional, sensuous and intellectual capacities—or to give up his freedom by eliminating gap that has arisen between the individual self and the world.
 The course of escape is characterized by its compulsive character, like every escape from threatening panic; and also by an almost complete surrender of individuality and integrity of the self (in principle, a solution found in all neurotic phenomena)—assuages unbearable anxiety and makes life possible by avoiding panic, yet does not solve underlying problem and is paid for by a kind of life that often consists only of automatic or compulsive activities.

In one section of the book, Fromm examines Adolf Hitler’s words (as expressed in Mein Kampf) within the context of “the authoritarian character”—for the reason that Hitler not only studied mass psychology, but also spoke openly about such factors in his book, explaining how and why the masses are inclined to submit to a ruler:

“Like a woman […] who will submit to the strong man rather than dominate the weakling, thus the masses love the ruler rather than the suppliant, and inwardly they are far more satisfied by a doctrine which tolerates no rival than by the grant of liberal freedom; they often feel at a loss what to do with it, and even feel themselves deserted.”

The Masses rejection of the freedom implied by Democracy is a theme examined substantially in Fromm’s works—that the principle of “escape” via submission to Authority evidently applies to both dictatorships and democracies alike:

“The principal social avenues of escape in our time are the submission to a leader, as has happened in Fascist countries, and the compulsive conforming as is prevalent in our own democracy.”

NC32

The Pseudo-‘Devolution of Control’ via a Revolution-Hijacking ‘Smokescreen Party’, towards ‘Establishment’-Continuity

Yet when power slipped from the hands of the clumsy organiser on the balcony, it did not pass to the masses in the square. Though numerous and enthusiastic, the crowds did not know how to organise themselves. Hence just as in Russia in 1917, power passed to a small group of political players whose only asset was good organisation. The Romanian Revolution was hijacked by the self-proclaimed National Salvation Front, which was in fact a smokescreen for the moderate wing of the Communist Party. The Front had no real ties to the demonstrating crowds. It was manned by mid-ranking party officials, and led by Ion Iliescu, a former member of the Communist Party’s central committee and one-time head of the propaganda department. Iliescu and his comrades in the National Salvation Front reinvented themselves as democratic politicians, proclaimed to any available microphone that they were the leaders of the revolution, and then used their long experience and network of cronies to take control of the country and pocket its resources.
  “In communist Romania almost everything was owned by the state. Democratic Romania quickly privatised its assets, selling them at bargain prices to the ex-communists, who alone grasped what was happening and collaborated to feather each other’s nests. Government companies that controlled national infrastructure and natural resources were sold to former communist officials at end-of-season prices while the party’s foot soldiers bought houses and apartments for pennies. Ion Iliescu was elected president of Romania, while his colleagues became ministers, parliament members, bank directors and multimillionaires. The new Romanian elite that controls the country to this day is composed mostly of former communists and their families. The masses who risked their necks in Timişoara and Bucharest settled for scraps, because they did not know how to cooperate and how to create an efficient organisation to look after their own interests. p159
  “A similar fate befell the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. What television did in 1989, Facebook and Twitter did in 2011. The new media helped the masses coordinate their activities, so that thousands of people flooded the streets and squares at the right moment and toppled the Mubarak regime. However, it is one thing to bring 100,000 people to Tahrir Square, and quite another to get a grip on the political machinery, shake the right hands in the right back rooms and run a country effectively. Consequently, when Mubarak stepped down the demonstrators could not fill the vacuum. Egypt had only two institutions sufficiently organised to rule the country: the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence the revolution was hijacked first by the Brotherhood, and eventually by the army. The Romanian ex-communists and the Egyptian generals were not more intelligent or nimble- fingered than either the old dictators or the demonstrators in Bucharest and Cairo. Their advantage lay in flexible cooperation. They cooperated better than the crowds, and they were willing to show far more flexibility than the hidebound Ceauşescu and Mubarak.” p160

Re-32

The sequence Harari describes in this particular revolution is simply an example of the underlying principle of the Majority being dependant on Authority; and therefore, the process by which the masses are led to ‘revolt’ is nothing but another aspect of the dialectics of Government. The ‘hijacking of the revolution’ via ‘smokescreen parties’ whilst the ‘revolting masses cannot effectively organize to take political control’ is a misrepresentation of the essential basis of Society, which is that the Masses constitute a collective of people who are implicitly subordinate to Authority—the ordinary person is simply not inclined to be a leader in the true sense of the word.
 Those who are inclined to be leaders are of a substantially different nature than the regular person, primarily in their proclivity for showmanship in public. Thus the relationship between the Masses and Leaders is mediated through the ‘world stage’ on which, for example, the dramatic sequence of ‘Revolution’ is played-out by a dramatis personae of leaders, who involve the masses in a kind of call-and-response way, so as to create the illusion of their effective participation.
 However, the reality is that the ‘Establishment’ continues throughout all changes of leadership—because Society is in essence a relationship between a Majority who are of implicit submissiveness towards Authority of any kind; and who are hence made to feel—by way of a dramatic presentation of Leadership and Politics—that their thoughts and actions are of consequence in the formation of Society.
 This principle is indicated in the examples Harari describes, in that the ‘revolution’ ultimately led the masses – who supposedly caused the revolution – to become re-ruled under a similar kind of domination.

Animal Farm (Novella)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945 Novella) is an excellent allegory of this principle, even though it was designed to allude to a particular event (the Russian Revolution). Effectively, the story illustrates the sequence by which a ‘revolution’ is brought about by the leadership class, so as to make the populace feel that society is being made more just. But whatever things may change, one thing does not: the masses never have control of anything whatsoever—and they often end up under a similar or worse regime having supported a ‘revolution’ to ‘liberate’ them from the former one.
 The line from the story: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” alludes to the principle I am identifying here; and which is obfuscated by the dramatic paradigm through which Society functions: that there is an essential difference between people who lead (always a minority) and people who follow (always the vast majority); and the nature of each – including their mutual dependency on one another – must always be obscured by a drama in which ordinary people are flattered with the appearance of having an actual effect on the direction of society.

NC33

Anti-Logical, Emotionally-Determined, Socio-Compelled ‘Behavioural Accordance’, via the ‘Threat-Promise’-Basis of ‘Hierarchies’ in ‘Collectively Imagined, Naturally Inviolable Orders’

33a

Sapiens don’t behave according to a cold mathematical logic, but rather according to a warm social logic. We are ruled by emotions […] once you observe the behaviour of human masses you discover a completely different reality. Most human kingdoms and empires were extremely unequal, yet many of them were surprisingly stable and efficient. In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh sprawled on comfortable cushions inside a cool and sumptuous palace, wearing golden sandals and gem-studded tunics, while beautiful maids popped sweet grapes into his mouth. Through the open window he could see the peasants in the fields, toiling in dirty rags under a merciless sun, and blessed was the peasant who had a cucumber to eat at the end of the day. Yet the peasants rarely revolted.” p165

33b

“…since 1 million people cannot make decisions collectively, each group might sprout a small ruling elite. What if one elite offers the other [10%], keeping [90%]? The leaders of the second group might well accept this unfair offer, siphon most of the [money] into their Swiss bank accounts, while preventing rebellion among their followers with a combination of sticks and carrots. The leadership might threaten to severely punish dissidents forthwith, while promising the meek and patient everlasting rewards in the afterlife. This is what happened in ancient Egypt and eighteenth-century Prussia, and this is how things still work out in numerous countries around the world.”

33c

“Such threats and promises often succeed in creating stable human hierarchies and mass-cooperation networks, as long as people believe that they reflect the inevitable laws of nature or the divine commands of God, rather than just human whims. All large-scale human cooperation is ultimately based on our belief in imagined orders. These are sets of rules that, despite existing only in our imagination, we believe to be as real and inviolable as gravity. ‘If you sacrifice ten bulls to the sky god, the rain will come; if you honour your parents, you will go to heaven; and if you don’t believe what I am telling you—you’ll go to hell.’ As long as all [people] living in a particular locality believe in the same stories, they all follow the same rules, making it easy to predict the behaviour of strangers and to organise mass-cooperation networks. Sapiens often use visual marks such as a turban, a beard or a business suit to signal ‘you can trust me, I believe in the same story as you’.” p166

Re-33a

The first key point here needs an important correction: Harari is right in saying that people do not behave according to logic, but according to emotion—specifically, a “social logic”, meaning a manner which is subservient to Society. The correction is that he presents this principle as being innate to human beings, when it is not: it is induced by the very existence of Society, being an all-encompassing system of association from which meaning is determined. In other words, a human being by nature is intelligent—meaning that his behaviour is not ruled by either logic or emotion; but is guided by the harmony between logic and emotion. This natural harmony, however, is disrupted by Society – merely by its encompassment of the individual – to the point of making unimaginable a life in this world outside of Society.
 In every society there exists a few individuals who – for whatever the cause – have retained their natural capacity for thought in harmony with emotion, i.e. the continuous integrity of rational thought; and this fact is almost always precluded by sociologists’ descriptions of Man’s mechanisms of delusion, in their presentation of it as a proclivity of mankind. Works such as the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger (1957) is such an example, in that — as with the study of psychology in general — it is very perceptive and deep in its descriptions of psychological processes.

Re-33b

The Majority being unable to make collective decisions; the necessity of a small ruling elite; and the ‘carrot and stick’, ‘threat—promise’ techniques of rule: all of these are essential principles of Society, disguised under different forms within different societies and eras. In ‘totalitarian’ societies, these aspects are explicit and are advocated by a cultural paradigm of flattery, i.e. that these aspects are necessary and righteous. In ‘democratic’ societies, these aspects are inexplicit and are concealed by a cultural paradigm of flattery, i.e. that these aspects are natural and righteous. The phrase “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” comes to mind here.

Re-33c

Harari raises two important principles here: firstly, that human hierarchies (i.e. Society) are based upon “imagined orders” which are collectively believed to reflect the Laws of Nature or God; and secondly, that the strength of the belief in the naturalness and inviolability of these laws (as determined by the leader class and adopted by the populace) is what gives stability to a society.
 This second principle becomes more important to recognise in times when the traditional beliefs of a society have been undermined; and even more so, when no fixed “imagined order” has been established to take the place of the former one. In other words, the eras of Modernity and Post-Modernity – in which we ‘believe’ we have been ‘enlightened’ to the illusions of our traditional beliefs (i.e. Religion) – yet evidently, only so far as to establish an “imagined order” of fluctuating beliefs ranging the various spheres of life, producing confusion and instability.
 The key point is not to say that the traditional religion was ‘true’ or ‘good’; but that ‘a society which believes in a set of rules, holding them to be naturally inviolable’, will be a relatively stable society in the long term—and this stability creates a fundamental humaneness, i.e. irrespective of the society’s illusions and the objectively inhumane customs they involve. Conversely, a society in which the ‘set of rules’ are not ‘fixed by Nature or God’ but are continuously ‘reinvented’ by men, will be increasingly unstable in the long term; and consequently, it will increasingly become inhumane on a far grander scale than that of a society grounded in tradition—even the ‘worst’ society.

Barbaric Civilization: A Critical Sociology of Genocide, by Christopher John Powell (2011)

Although there are non-violent forms of inhumaneness in modern society – i.e. which far surpass the inhumanness of fixed-belief societies – the violent forms are the most obvious ones, as addressed by this (unread) book on my shelf:

“From its beginnings in the early twelfth century, the Western civilizing process has involved two interconnected transformations: the monopolization of military force by sovereign states and the cultivation in individuals of habits and dispositions of the kind that we call ‘civilized.’ The combined forward movement of these processes channels violent struggles for social dominance into symbolic performances. But even as the civilizing process frees many subjects from the threat of direct physical force, violence accumulates behind the scenes and at the margins of the social order, kept there by a deeply habituated performance of dominance and subordination […] genocides [being] variable outcomes of a common underlying social system, [raises] unsettling questions about the contradictions of Western civilization and the possibility of a world without genocide.”

If one honestly compares Civilization with any kind of uncivilized society, he would quickly realise that the scale of the most undeniable inhumanities wrought by Civilization is not even remotely feasible by non-civilized societies. And if one contemplates further – especially whilst also reading substantial works in the fields of history sociology – he would see that there is much about Civilization that we take for granted as being normal, natural, and even sophisticated, but which is actually degenerate if not inhumane.
 This point, I should add, also applies to the presentation of Anarchy—the meaning of which has been altered from what the word should denote – i.e. without ‘archy’: a suffix meaning a ‘form of government or rule’ – to a concept inseparable from the activity of violence and the state of chaos. But this representation nevertheless be taken at face value, it is undeniable that even the most ‘anarchic’ Anarchy could never come close to the systematic inhumaneness historically committed by Civilization.
 The act of placing Civilization in a more appropriate context (i.e. than the one it puts itself in) is not so as to elevate or advocate primitivism (or anarchy): the point is that we are not living in primitive society, but in civilized society—which is actually a superstructure built upon the foundational principles of primitive society. And this superstructure includes the sophisticated ‘dressing-up’ of itself as being humanely ‘advanced’, when it is essentially not even different. However its ends are different—and this is the point I am making here: to understand these essential principles of Society; and to understand the manner, purpose, and consequences of their utilization by Civilization towards different ends than traditional (i.e. non-civilized) societies.

NC34

An Inter-Subjective Reality’ via Socially-Pressured Rounds of ‘Mutual Confirmation’, in the ‘Web of Meaning’ which Overrides ‘Objective/Subjective Reality’

34a

Inter-subjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans. Many of the most important agents in history are inter-subjective. Money, for example, has no objective value. You cannot eat, drink or wear a dollar bill. Yet as long as billions of people believe in its value, you can use it to buy food, beverages and clothing.” p168
 “It is relatively easy to accept that money is an inter-subjective reality. Most people are also happy to acknowledge that ancient Greek gods, evil empires and the values of alien cultures exist only in the imagination. Yet we don’t want to accept that our God, our nation or our values are mere fictions, because these are the things that give meaning to our lives. We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another.” p169

34b

Why does a particular action—such as getting married in church, fasting on Ramadan or voting on election day—seem meaningful to me? Because my parents also think it is meaningful, as do my brothers, my neighbours, people in nearby cities and even the residents of far-off countries. And why do all these people think it is meaningful? Because their friends and neighbours also share the same view. People constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in a self-perpetuating loop. Each round of mutual confirmation tightens the web of meaning further, until you have little choice but to believe what everyone else believes. Yet over decades and centuries the web of meaning unravels and a new web is spun in its place. To study history means to watch the spinning and unravelling of these webs, and to realise that what seems to people in one age the most important thing in life becomes utterly meaningless to their descendants.” p170

Re-34a

This ‘collective hallucination’ is an essential principle of Society, in that all societies want to believe their own fictions; assisted by the need to acknowledge the ‘obvious falsehoods’ of all different societies: older ones, rival ones, and distant ones. Harari correctly points out that most people derive meaning only from within this “network of stories they tell one another”—thereby creating and sustaining this ‘collective hallucination’ by mutual reinforcement.

Re-34b

The prime significance of the “web of meaning” is that one has “little choice but to believe what everyone else believes.” One who recognizes this principle should also recognize that Society is a kind of entrapment—which Harari’s term “web” appropriately alludes to.
 My article Allegories of Individuality & Society addresses this point via an examination of allegories concerning the themes of ‘worldview’ and ‘opinions’. Together, these allegories highlight the eternal principles regarding the emotional coercion and psychological conditioning of the Individual—by the essence of Society.

NC35

Incredulity of ‘Mass-Hallucination’ via a Society-Encompassing ‘Web of Meaning’

35a

“…thread by thread, medieval civilisation spun its web of meaning, trapping [the nobleman] and his contemporaries like flies. It was inconceivable to [him] that all these stories were just figments of the imagination. Maybe his parents and uncles were wrong. But the minstrels too, and all his friends, and the village girls, the learned priest, the baron on the other side of the river, the Pope in Rome, the Provençal and Sicilian knights, and even the very Muslims—is it possible that they were all hallucinating?

35b

And the years pass. As the historian watches, the web of meaning unravels and another is spun in its stead. [The nobleman’s] parents die, followed by all his siblings and friends. Instead of minstrels singing about the crusades, the new fashion is stage plays about tragic love affairs. The family castle burns to the ground and, when it is rebuilt, no trace is found of Grandpa Henry’s sword. The church windows shatter in a winter storm and the replacement glass no longer depicts Godfrey of Bouillon and the sinners in hell, but rather the great triumph of the king of England over the king of France. The local priest has stopped calling the Pope ‘our holy father’—he is now referred to as ‘that devil in Rome’. In the nearby university scholars pore over ancient Greek manuscripts, dissect dead bodies and whisper quietly behind closed doors that perhaps there is no such thing as the soul. And the years continue to pass. Where the castle once stood, there is now a shopping mall. In the local cinema they are screening Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the umpteenth time. In an empty church a bored vicar is overjoyed to see two Japanese tourists. He explains at length about the stained-glass windows, while they politely smile, nodding in complete incomprehension. On the steps outside a gaggle of teenagers are playing with their iPhones. They watch a new YouTube remix of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. ‘Imagine there’s no heaven,’ sings Lennon, ‘it’s easy if you try.’ A Pakistani street cleaner is sweeping the pavement, while a nearby radio broadcasts the news: the carnage in Syria continues, and the Security Council’s meeting has ended in an impasse.
  “Suddenly a hole in time opens, a mysterious ray of light illuminates the face of one of the teenagers, who announces: ‘I am going to fight the infidels and liberate the Holy Land!’ Infidels and Holy Land? These words no longer carry any meaning for most people in today’s England. Even the vicar would probably think the teenager is having some sort of psychotic episode. In contrast, if an English youth decided to join Amnesty International and travel to Syria to protect the human rights of refugees, he will be seen as a hero. In the Middle Ages people would have thought he had gone bonkers. Nobody in twelfth-century England knew what human rights were. You want to travel to the Middle East and risk your life not in order to kill Muslims, but to protect one group of Muslims from another? You must be out of your mind.”

35c

That’s how history unfolds. People weave a web of meaning, believe in it with all their heart, but sooner or later the web unravels, and when we look back we cannot understand how anybody could have taken it seriously. With hindsight, going on crusade in the hope of reaching Paradise sounds like utter madness. With hindsight, the Cold War seems even madder. How come thirty years ago people were willing to risk nuclear holocaust because of their belief in a communist paradise? A hundred years hence, our belief in democracy and human rights might look equally incomprehensible to our descendants.” p173

Re-35a

The “web of meaning” that ‘traps people like flies’, is an essential principle of Society. In regard to the individual – any individual in any society – the fact that everyone around him believes and acts in accordance to certain collectively held ‘truths’ makes it almost impossible for him to believe otherwise. In other words, the pressure to adopt these ‘truths’ is simply far too great for him to resist—to the point that he cannot ‘afford’ even to allow the acknowledgement of whatever discrepancies in logic or fact are constituent to these ‘truths’.
 The reason for the immensity of this pressure is the fact that, if these ‘truths’ are, in actuality, significantly false, then the alternative to one’s conformity to them must be alienation at the least, if not ostracization—because all of these other people in society are not going to collectively acknowledge the falsities of the very ‘truths’ which their lives are centered around. Therefore, if one acknowledges and pronounces it, he will implicitly find himself alienated from society and everyone he knows in it, regardless of how they react to what he thinks—because the two parties will no longer have a common code of meaning to share.
 This principle also applies should one merely acknowledge the socially established falsities, i.e. without pronouncing them; and still, if he masks his acknowledgement under the pretence of conformity (as the character Winston does in the novel 1984: “For the first time, he perceived that if you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”—1984 Quotes #10). Even this is situation is so utterly intolerable to the vast majority of human beings, that upon the first perception of a fundamental discrepancy in their society’s belief system, they will suppress it before it has the chance to fully surface to consciousness—thereby establishing the “social logic” mode that Harari claims to be a natural characteristic of Man, in which thought and behaviour is ‘ruled by Emotion, in service to Society’.
  Thus when Harari says of the average person that it is “inconceivable” to him that his society is based on fictions, which yet everyone believes in, the expression is not accurate enough—because it implies that this circumstance has ‘duped’ the man to the point that the truth is beyond his ability to perceive it; when in fact it has intimidated him into psycho-spiritual submission, taunting him with the (real) threat:

“Yes, it is true. I am a very big Lie. But as you can see, everyone you know believes it. Everyone. That’s a fact, my friend. And I am your friend. Not your ‘best’ friend, but your most important friend; your most essential friend. For you sense what awaits you should you acknowledge my lies, let alone pronounce them as such: a fate which will not be by my hand, but which will be by your own. It is simply the way of things in this world:
 Go down the path of the Truth, and you will be alone. But go along with the path of the Lie, and I will guarantee you that which you had taken for granted up until this moment; that which everyone craves and depends upon more than they can afford to know; and that which I can guarantee you for the rest of your life, no matter what the circumstances: to belong…

Re-35b

This passage is a good illustration of how the belief system of a society is gradually transformed into something like it’s opposite. The key point is that the populace who believe ‘the truth’ in the new society do so on precisely the same basis as the populace who believed ‘the truth’ in the old society—including the automatic (and necessary) consideration of the beliefs and actions of each other’s society as being ‘insane’. The passage nicely assists the previous point regarding people’s beliefs, in that they are determined by the ‘web of meaning’ not one of them had any hand in creating; and that individuals ‘trapped’ in this web are thus ‘ruled by emotion’, which overrides their logical faculties.

Re-35c

This point relates to the value of reading history – especially socio-history, like Harari’s – in that it provides a hindsight to the workings of Society, which one can then use to help interpret his own. Anyone who genuinely does this will realise (as Harari says) that one’s own society is based upon (elite-created) fictions, which everyone conforms to now as if they are ‘obviously true’ … and which everyone will disown in the future as being ‘obviously false’, when such beliefs — i.e. ‘new truths — are established.
 The path of the Lie is to simply go along with this process by being a member of any particular society, without acknowledging that Society is based upon this eternal process of spinning a ‘web of meaning’ which everyone believes to be true … until this web is unravelled and a new one is spun in its place—which again everyone believes to be true … and so on. The key point is not the availability of hindsight, but the desire to use it, i.e. in order to discern the true nature of one’s own society and the phenomenon of Society itself.
 But as the price of doing so it too high for most people, the pressure to retain belongingness to Society and the World – i.e. as they appear to be – results in an inversion of the natural need and desire to understand life and the world, producing a mode of being which is ‘ruled by emotion’ and orientated towards psychological comfort and security—including the total subordination of one’s logic and rationality towards that end.
 Even in our own Post-Modern era, in which the orienting beliefs of society are being transformed from generation to generation, people refuse to acknowledge this historical process of ongoing web-spun fictions which are nevertheless commonly adopted as truth. Thus, when Harari says that the dominant beliefs of present society might look incomprehensible to our descendants, people really know this already; and yet they continue to “believe in it with all their hearts”—because that is the price of belonging to Society.

NC36

The Consumption of ‘Objective Reality’ by ‘Ideological Fictionin its Directing of ‘Bio-Engineering’, towards the Merging of ‘Biology’ with ‘History’

During the twenty-first century the border between history and biology is likely to blur not because we will discover biological explanations for historical events, but rather because ideological fictions will rewrite DNA strands; political and economic interests will redesign the climate; and the geography of mountains and rivers will give way to cyberspace. As human fictions are translated into genetic and electronic codes, the inter-subjective reality will swallow up the objective reality and biology will merge with history. In the twenty-first century fiction might thereby become the most potent force on earth, surpassing even wayward asteroids and natural selection. Hence if we want to understand our future, cracking genomes and crunching numbers is hardly enough. We must also decipher the fictions that give meaning to the world.” p177

Re-36

This passage highlights the progression of Science from developing understanding of Man, Society, and Nature, to ideologically engineering all three. Hence, understanding these ideologies will become especially necessary in understanding people, societies, and natural phenomena—because all three will have been tampered with to such a degree that their natural aspects will be far more difficult to discern than they have ever been.
 This point also brings to mind the significance of Science Fiction, in that these ideologies are expressed through this genre. In fact, this is the actual purpose of the genre: to acclimatize society to a range of futuristic possibilities, amongst which will be the ones that are intended to be implemented.

What Inspires Them: Science Fiction‘s Impact on Science Reality, by Peter W. Singer (Chapter from the book: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, 2009)

To highlight its cultural significance, this article goes some ways to showing how Science Fiction is intimately related to scientific reality; and how this relationship has a considerable impact on society. One section of the article is headed “Through the Looking Glass: Sci-Fi Predictions”, and begins thus:

“Part of the popularity and influence of science fiction comes from its remarkable record at foreshadowing the future. For a fictional genre that often takes place in settings that don’t even exist, science fiction has forecast real world technologies, as well as resulting dilemmas, with stunning accuracy.”

Singer then goes on to give several prominent examples, after which he compares sci-fi’s track record of forecasting with that of governments and militaries:

“By comparison, government often has a relatively poor track record when it comes to predicting the future […] Part of the reason for this pattern is that while science fiction looks forward, the military typically plans what the next war will look like by looking at how it fought the last one […]
 “There are a couple of explanations for why science fiction tends to do well in prediction, even though it is working in the world of fiction. Many science fiction writers are scientists themselves, so they are typically well equipped to stay within the rules of science, yet extrapolate forward.
 “…what sets science fiction apart from regular fiction, as well as real world science [is that] ‘the best science fiction deals more with the social consequences of technological change than the technology itself.’ It’s the combination of scientific awareness with human imagination that allows science fiction to better deal with what happens when technology is put in a complex social setting. […] ‘Science fiction at its best is about ideas. Maybe, it’s criticized for often having wooden characters or unrealistic settings, but the ideas always come first…’” […]
 “Where science fiction tends to go most wrong in its predictions is not in the technology but in the timelines. Ray Kurzweil, who makes a living out of timing technology predictions, explains: ‘Science fiction is unreliable because [there is] no requirement that the timeframe be realistic. Arthur C. Clarke chose the year 2001 as a literary device, not because that’s when he was certain AI would come to fruition.’”

Highlighting another avenue through which sci-fi impacts society, Singer mentions that “The researchers are not the only ones who grow up on this diet of science fiction. So, too, do the funders who decide which weapons programs to pay for.

On the creation of expectations directly via works of science fiction, i.e. the social acclimatization I previously mentioned:

“It is often difficult to figure out just what the future will look like, but science fiction creates both an expectation, as well as early acceptance to technologies that are not yet present. As Bill Gates explains, Star Trek paved the way for his job at selling small, easy to use computers to the public: ‘It told the world that one day computers would be everywhere.’ He sees the same happening with robots from movies like Star Wars and I, Robot. ‘The popularity of robots in fiction indicates that people are receptive to the idea that these machines will one day walk among us as helpers and even as companions.’
 “Military robot developers see the same trend when selling to the Pentagon. One explains, ‘It’s a way to make possibilities seem real, but also inevitable.’

In the section “The Lens of the Looking Glass”, Singer now almost directly addresses this ideological aspect of science fiction:

New technologies often can seem not merely incomprehensible, but unimaginable. Science fiction, though, allow us to jump that divide. It helps to take the shock out of what analysts call ‘Future-Shock.’ By allowing us to imagine the unimaginable, it helps prepare us for the future, including even in war. This preparation extends beyond future expectations; science fiction creates a frame of reference that shapes our hopes and fears about the future, as well as how we reflect on the ethics of some new technology. One set of human rights experts I queried on the laws of unmanned warfare referenced Blade Runner, Terminator, and Robocop with the same weight as they did the Geneva Conventions. At another human rights organization, two leaders even got into a debate over whether the combat scenes in Star Trek were realistic; their idea was that this could help determine whether the fictional codes of the Federation could be used as real world guides for today’s tough ethical choices in war.”

The section titled “The Feedback Loop” touches on the intimate relationship between Science and Science Fiction, further indicating the significance of the Fiction beyond its entertainment value:

“‘There’s definitely a feedback between the sciences and science fiction,’ says James Cameron […] ‘It flows both directions…Not only does science fiction inspire people to become scientists and want to ask questions about the real nature of existence and matter and reality, but what they’re finding then feeds back into the science fiction community, and gets embraced by that, and spins out a whole new generation of science fiction.’ […]
 “Perhaps we as a society ought to be paying more attention to the world of science fiction. It not only predicts and influences the future, but nothing may prepare us better to assess the consequences of a new technology than a field whose very essence is to ask questions about the moral, ethical, and societal dilemmas that new technologies might provoke.

NC37

‘Branded Corporations’ being the Modern Replacement of Religious-‘God Temples’ as Centres of Worship and the Most Important Political and Economic Hubs

The Sumerian gods fulfilled a function analogous to modern brands and corporations. Today, corporations are fictional legal entities that own property, lend money, hire employees and initiate economic enterprises. In ancient Uruk, Lagash and Shurupak the gods functioned as legal entities that could own fields and slaves, give and receive loans, pay salaries and build dams and canals. Since the gods never died, and since they had no children to fight over their inheritance, they gathered more and more property and power. An increasing number of Sumerians found themselves employed by the gods, taking loans from the gods, tilling the gods’ lands and owing taxes and tithes to the gods. Just as in present-day San Francisco John is employed by Google while Mary works for Microsoft, so in ancient Uruk one person was employed by the great god Enki while his neighbour worked for the goddess Inanna. The temples of Enki and Inanna dominated the Uruk skyline, and their divine logos branded buildings, products and clothes. For the Sumerians, Enki and Inanna were as real as Google and Microsoft are real for us. Compared to their predecessors—the ghosts and spirits of the Stone Age—the Sumerian gods were very powerful entities. It goes without saying that the gods didn’t actually run their businesses, for the simple reason that they didn’t exist anywhere except in the human imagination. Day-to-day activities were managed by the temple priests (just as Google and Microsoft need to hire flesh-and-blood humans to manage their affairs).” p183

Re-37

Harari presents this point in the reverse order: it is modern brands and corporations which fulfil a function analogous to ancient gods. The significance of this correction is that modern society – i.e. secular and scientific – is based on ancient society – i.e. pagan and religious – in that every aspect of modern society ‘fulfils an analogous function’ to aspects of ancient ones. The more one reads history and sociology, the more this fact will become apparent: either by way of scholars drawing a particular analogy between ancient and modern society—which they generally do in a way that diminishes the significance of the analogy; or by perceiving it oneself. 
 The example Harari gives here should be taken to show that modern society functions by way of priests, gods, and temples – just as ancient society did – only without acknowledging them as being such things. Instead, the modern paradigm creates the impression (in this example) that the Corporation, ‘its’ employees and ‘its’ buildings, are the products of rationality, science, and democracy—and thus they could not be further from religion. Yet in practice, all of these aspects of modernity fulfil equivalent functions of a religion; and those functions are carried out in conventions analogous to that of a religion.

Wordsworth Dictionary of Mythology (Book)

The Wordsworth Dictionary of Mythology, by Fernand Comte (1988/1994)

Mythology is a very useful subject to become familiar with, if one wants to understand the eternal principles of the world. By method of allegory, myths are designed to convey particular circumstances that can occur in life and in society; and generally, the myths that are recorded and remembered contain meanings of significance.
 I have several dictionaries of mythology, each one providing a different usefulness from the other. This particular one by Wordsworth has a few useful features, including illustrated pages, genealogical tables, and multiple modes of reference. However, the feature I found to be a great bonus is the Introduction, which has several chapters on the subject of mythology—one of which is titled “Modern Myths”.
 Under this title is another sub-section, titled “The myth of science”, which I found to be strikingly incisive; and from which I will quote several paragraphs:

The pursuit of science ‘is just as irrational and emotional in its motives and just as intolerant in its daily practices as any of the traditional religions it has taken over from … It is not enough for it that it claims that its myths alone are true; it is the only religion which has the arrogance to claim that it is not based on any myth at all, but on Reason alone, and whose particular mixture of intolerance and amorality is presented as tolerance.’ […]
Science and technology, engendered by the human mind, advance inexorably. They are always pushing back the limits of their domain without ever tackling a complete explanation, which would be beyond the ability and even the ambition of scientists. They challenge every approach to the natural world which is unfamiliar to them; Science seems to be a terrible god who drives away his rivals and makes draconian demands.
 “The fact is that science and technology are a long way from testing everything and finding an explanation for it. There is a very great area which remains outside the sphere of science and technology, and their claim to lay down the law has been greatly challenged. It seems that they have neither the knowledge nor the ability to go beyond the scientific domain, whose limits become more apparent every day. Science often conflicts with ethics, whose purpose is to protect, not govern, what science does. Science also seems unable to give a clear direction for the development of ethics.
 “Presented as fact and with methods whose efficacy grows more impressive every day, and an obvious factor in the incredible acceleration of material civilisation, science still does not provide that breakthrough into the unknown which classic mythology endeavours to reveal. It shows only one side of things, only one aspect of problems. Science deals with the invisible only to restrict it, to make it act like the visible. However, it starts off with practical and limited applications and moves, without apparently even being aware of it, towards a claim of being universal truth. It presents itself as Truth, other than which there is none; it denies everything which cannot be encompassed within its sphere. The only justification for this exclusion is subjective. It is not founded on reason, it is irrational. It does, in fact, display a mythological nature.
 “Like the classical myth, ‘scientism’ has its images: the ideal society where everything is listed, counted and measured (Aldous Huxley, Brave New World). Like the classical myth, it is separated from the man of today by time (past or future); like the classical myth, it is full of social rites, churches, and clergy; like the classical myth it is sustained by faith, sometimes even by fanaticism. In short, it has created a new form of myth.

These few paragraphs point to truths which are plainly visible; and which amount to the acknowledgement of Science as the secular religion which has taken over directly from the theological one. In both cases, it is the ‘web of meaning’ that ensures the complicity of the populace in whatever form or particularity the dominant religion takes—not reason or the desire for truth.
 Hence, people see modernity as natural, being based on reason and facts, and being the antithesis of religion—purely because that is what their religion – the inexplicit, indirect religion of Science – has indoctrinated them to believe via its inconspicuous directing of culture and society.
 One who studies history, sociology, anthropology, and some mythology, will clearly see that Society is based upon Religion: there are no societies without religion. But there are societies – ‘progressive’ societies, such as ours – which are based upon a religion which is not clearly defined and is therefore inexplicit (i.e. disguised). In such a society, the religious aspects are dispersed amongst non-theological institutions, which nevertheless function on the same basis as the theological ones did, i.e. as deities—and (as will be highlighted further in upcoming NCs) this is how these institutions are actually treated in practice.

NC38

‘Personal Brand’-Myths Outliving the Actual Persons as the Modern Equivalent to the ‘Pharonic Machine’ of Ancient Egypt

“Writing and money made it possible to start collecting taxes from hundreds of thousands of people, to organise complex bureaucracies and to establish vast kingdoms. In Sumer these kingdoms were managed in the name of the gods by human priest-kings. In the neighbouring Nile Valley people went a step further, merging the priest-king with the god to create a living deity—pharaoh. The Egyptians considered pharaoh to be an actual god rather than just a divine deputy. The whole of Egypt belonged to that god, and all people had to obey his orders and pay his taxes. Just as in the Sumerian temples, so also in pharaonic Egypt the god didn’t manage his business empire by himself. Some pharaohs ruled with an iron fist, while others passed their days at banquets and festivities, but in both cases the practical work of administering Egypt was left to thousands of literate officials. Just like any other human, pharaoh had a biological body with biological needs, desires and emotions. But the biological pharaoh was of little importance. The real ruler of the Nile Valley was an imagined pharaoh that existed in the stories millions of Egyptians told one another.” p184
  “Even when the living deity died, and his body was embalmed and borne in an extravagant funerary procession to the royal necropolis outside Memphis, the bureaucracy kept going. The officials kept writing scrolls, collecting taxes, sending orders and oiling the gears of the pharaonic machine. If the Sumerian gods remind us of present-day company brands, so the living-god pharaoh can be compared to modern personal brands such as Elvis Presley, Madonna or Justin Bieber. Just like pharaoh, Elvis too had a biological body, complete with biological needs, desires and emotions. Elvis ate and drank and slept. Yet Elvis was much more than a biological body. Like pharaoh, Elvis was a story, a myth, a brand—and the brand was far more important than the biological body. During Elvis’s lifetime, the brand earned millions of dollars selling records, tickets, posters and rights, but only a small fraction of the necessary work was done by Elvis in person. Instead, most of it was done by a small army of agents, lawyers, producers and secretaries. Consequently when the biological Elvis died, for the brand it was business as usual.” p185

Re-38

Another example of Modern society being directly based upon the ways of Ancient society: modernity creates substitutes for the older forms of society it claims to have ‘progressed’ beyond; and presents those substitutes in a manner which implies evidence of this ‘progression’—with the word in itself also being used to imply an ongoing movement towards Truth and righteousness. But all that changes between these two modes of society – i.e. traditional and theological / progressive and secular – is that deification (in this case of people) is now used to promote a narcissistic worldliness, whereas before it was used to retain the traditional reverence of the god(s) of life and nature.
 In other words, modernity uses the same ancient techniques to create myths for people to worship; and it does so within a paradigm of science and entertainment, which teaches people to think that their society is ‘beyond religion’; whilst giving them equivalent substitutes for all the traditional behaviours of the religious society it has supplanted.

NC39

Algorithmic Organization’ via ‘Literated Society’ in the ‘Bureaucratic Structure of Regulations and Protocols’, making the Personality of Individuals’ Irrelevant in the Government of ‘Activities and Decisions’, thus making ‘Individual FateSystematic

Writing has thus enabled humans to organise entire societies in an algorithmic fashion […] In illiterate societies people make all calculations and decisions in their heads. In literate societies people are organised into networks, so that each person is only a small step in a huge algorithm, and it is the algorithm as a whole that makes the important decisions. This is the essence of bureaucracy. Think about a modern hospital, for example […in which the] algorithmic structure ensures that it doesn’t really matter who is the receptionist, nurse or doctor on duty. Their personality type, their political opinions and their momentary moods are irrelevant. As long as they all follow the regulations and protocols, they have a good chance of curing you. According to the algorithmic ideal, your fate is in the hands of ‘the system’, and not in the hands of the flesh-and-blood mortals who happen to man this or that post. What’s true of hospitals is also true of armies, prisons, schools, corporations—and ancient kingdoms. Of course ancient Egypt was far less technologically sophisticated than a modern hospital, but the algorithmic principle was the same. In ancient Egypt too, most decisions were made not by a single wise person, but by a network of officials linked together through papyri and stone inscriptions. Acting in the name of the living-god pharaoh, the network restructured human society and reshaped the natural world.” p187

Re-39

This passage highlights the essence of bureaucracy—that being a system of ‘regulations and protocols’ imposed upon everyone within society, in which no individual has the freedom to make decisions of any consequence. Hence, everyone is enslaved to these regulations and protocols in that – in order to function comfortably and efficientlyeveryone must adopt them as if they are good and natural—or at least not immoral. However they often are immoral, if not inhumane; but are not acknowledged as such by these very individuals, each of whom fulfil their own small part of the system.

The Moral Threat of Compartmentalization, by Dr. Cécile Rozuel (2009)

This article addresses the moral consequences of bureaucratization, via an examination of one of its most significant psychological effects: that of ‘compartmentlaizion’:

“To compartmentalize means to divide something into distinct and separate sub-sections. Psychological compartmentalization thus refers to the process through which we isolate and separate certain aspects of our personality from the rest of our personality or from our core self. This phenomenon flows from the fact that we arguably embrace multiple identities through our life, each being defined and influenced by the groups we interact with or the roles we perceive we ought to or wish to enact […]”

In the introduction, Rozuel establishes the context of the Individual being reduced to a depersonalised role, whilst the Organization is attributed with the agency—to the point of anthropomorphizing it:

“[…] people at work are encouraged to embody certain values that suit the corporate credo, to wear the company’s mask or uniform. Rarely do we see human faces, but all too often do we encounter ‘salespeople’, ‘account managers’ or ‘bankers’. If anything, our mindsets have accepted that ‘business is business’ and leaves no place for something else. Management studies have contributed to reinforce the belief that organisations are composed of ‘managers’ – as if ‘managers’ were a species in their own right. The fact is, however, that ‘managers’ are first and foremost people, individual human beings who happen to work as managers. ‘Managers’ or any type of ‘organisational actors’ are not chameleons deprived of a unique identity and changing colours to suit the setting, the performance expectations or simply to ‘get the job done’. They are primarily individuals who possess a self, a soul.
 “In a rather paradoxical twist, organisational studies have demonstrated a growing interest in anthropomorphising organisations and exploring the soul of corporations, whilst organisational members have been increasingly reduced to cogs in a complex structure or in a system with a life of its own. The moral implications of this shift are particularly significant, because people become absent from the moral equation, being replaced by ‘roles’ or ‘masks’ or ‘uniforms’. Nowadays, corporations feel, think, act – and people are nowhere to be seen, except maybe at the end of the chain, where the dire consequences of an impersonal system are felt most acutely […]
 “[…] role framework jeopardizes the significance of moral agency, moral autonomy and moral responsibility in so far as it cannot provide a stable core which would bear responsibility for actions over time.

Under the subheading “Compartmentalization in the Workplace”, Rozuel highlights the point most relevant to the passage I quoted from Harari:

The compartmentalized person is not connected to the self, and this ‘absence to one’s self’ eventually threatens their moral judgement and moral behaviour. Whenever the person is unconnected to the self, they tend to switch off their conscience and ‘act as’ an agent of the system. Their moral responsibility is nil because it is not the singular person but a non-distinctive agent who makes the decisions and implements them. Moral strength and moral consistency, on the contrary, are attributes of a whole person, that is a person who does not forget who they are when they step into the office, and who equally understand that what they do at work affect their life beyond the mere work boundaries.”

From Rozuel’s selection of illustrative examples:

“Gioia’s personal experience as a Problem Analyst for the Ford Motor Company sheds light onto the moral cost of compartmentalization in the business world. Gioia […] quickly found himself enmeshed in the corporate culture, where ‘to do the job ‘well’’ there was little room for emotion […] he adopted scripts to manage the decision-making process which was central to his job as a manager responsible for recalls of faulty cars. Scripts are necessary to deal with multiple information and prioritise tasks, but they don’t necessarily encourage ‘good decision making’. It becomes ‘a default mode of organizational cognition’ which allows otherwise morally aware people to overlook significant moral problems because they only analyse issues through existing scripts and are mentally incapable of spotting and dealing with unusual patterns […]
 “Cases of moral myopia, moral muteness and lack of moral imagination equally echo the characteristics of compartmentalization […]
 “Amy compartmentalizes so that her softer emotional self is discredited by her overwhelming ‘capitalist – you make your own money, you look out for yourself’ persona; consequently, her initial moral reluctance fades away which allows her to do her job efficiently. Yet Amy cannot help but feel that it is not quite right, not matter how well she embraces her persona. Besides, she contributes to legitimising morally questionable practices by rationalizing her moral concerns.

Rozuel concludes the article with the following:

“Compartmentalization is a fact of life, especially when it comes to separating our professional actions from our personal aspirations. We generally argue that we do not have a choice but to do what we personally condemn, that business or the workplace forces us to change our values, that psychological fragmentation ultimately keeps us sane and enables us to enjoy life in spite of our uneasiness at work. In brief, we survive because we compartmentalize. This paper has argued that this picture fails to consider the moral implications of compartmentalization. In particular, compartmentalization challenges the possibility to ascribe personal responsibility to an individual and only provides a temporary and superficial relief from pain and distress. More importantly, it limits our ability to connect to our values, to be moral agents, and to act with moral courage and moral integrity […] Compartmentalization prevents self-knowledge by allowing fragmentation of the individual, depriving us from the most important source of moral strength we possess: the self.”

The Trial (Novel)

The Trial, by Franz Kafka (1925 Novel)

This novel provides a good illustration of the inhuman workings of autonomous bureaucracy—which in this case, is in the form of the modern legal system. As the Shmoop guide describes:

“Although the novel came out in 1924, it described the bureaucratic structure of the court system with such devastating and prophetic precision that we can still recognize many features of The Trial’s court system in bureaucracies today.
 “Like the court system, many bureaucracies – whether it’s a school or a government, a private company or a public institution, a small firm or a multi-national conglomerate – operate according to their own rules and regulations. And like Josef K., any individual who attempts to confront the bureaucracy can only do so on its own terms, or fail miserably.
 “If you’ve ever felt the life slowly being sucked out of you as you patiently endure the Muzak on yet another customer service “help” line, you can almost understand why Josef K. seems to submit so passively to his eventual fate.”

Or from the introduction to the article: The Trial: A Bureaucratic System in Zizek’s View, by Ismaeil Jangizahy and Shahram Afrougheh, 2013:

Bureaucracy, to Kafka, is a way for people to avoid personal responsibility. Joseph K. in The Trial is tormented by this stranger, nameless bureaucracy. In neither case is the ‘enemy’ revealed, nor even the source or cause of the bureaucracy’s antagonism toward the main character. It simply is. Kafka’s characters, and his readers, are confronted with the terror of absolute helplessness. In the face of the machine, what chance does the individual have? In Kafka’s modernist allegories, the main character confronts these realities directly, but Kafka is expressing a typical modernist concern: that the modernization of commerce dehumanizes the people involved with it. Once the system takes precedence over the individual, the individual loses his autonomy. This loss of autonomy is important in the anxiety that permeates Kafka’s work. One cannot live outside of the system, nor can one exist in opposition to it. There is complicity, plain and simple, and one must live at the mercy of even the lowest agents of the system.”

Quoting Zizek: “Like God, bureaucracy is simultaneously all powerful and impenetrable, capricious, omnipresent and invisible.” And in conclusion: “As Kafka shows, success within an institution requires one to accept its rules, including its system of hierarchy, so that anything different becomes intolerable, even unthinkable.

The following passage in the novel nicely highlights the futility of the Individual’s efforts to affect the workings of the Bureaucratic Machine:

“One must lie low, no matter how much it went against the grain, and try to understand that this great organization remained, so to speak, in a state of delicate balance, and that if someone took it upon himself to alter the dispositions of things around him, he ran the risk of losing his footing and falling to destruction, while the organization would simply right itself by some compensating reaction in another part of its machinery – since everything interlocked – and remain unchanged, unless, indeed, which was very probable, it became still more rigid, more vigilant, severer, and more ruthless.

NC40

Incredible Organization’ based on Imaginary Entity’-Creation, towards Great ‘Building Projects’ and ‘Feats’

40a

Many people argue that the great building projects of ancient Egypt—all the dams and reservoirs and pyramids—must have been built by aliens from outer space. How else could a culture lacking even wheels and iron accomplish such wonders? The truth is very different. Egyptians built Lake Fayum and the pyramids not thanks to extraterrestrial help, but thanks to superb organisational skills. Relying on thousands of literate bureaucrats, pharaoh recruited tens of thousands of labourers and enough food to maintain them for years on end. When tens of thousands of labourers cooperate for several decades, they can build an artificial lake or a pyramid even with stone tools. Pharaoh himself hardly lifted a finger, of course. He didn’t collect taxes himself, he didn’t draw any architectural plans, and he certainly never picked up a shovel. But the Egyptians believed that only prayers to the living-god pharaoh and to his heavenly patron Sobek could save the Nile Valley from devastating floods and droughts. They were right. Pharaoh and Sobek were imaginary entities that did nothing to raise or lower the Nile water level, but when millions of people believed in pharaoh and Sobek and therefore cooperated to build dams and dig canals, floods and droughts became rare.

40b

“Compared to the Sumerian gods, not to mention the Stone Age spirits, the gods of ancient Egypt were truly powerful entities that founded cities, raised armies and controlled the lives of millions of humans, cows and crocodiles. It may sound strange to credit imaginary entities with building or controlling things. But nowadays we habitually say that the United States built the first nuclear bomb, that China built the Three Gorges Dam or that Google is building an autonomous car. Why not say, then, that pharaoh built a reservoir and Sobek dug a canal?” p189

Re-40a

The pyramids of Egypt are a prominent example of the historical phenomenon alluded to in this passage, which is that there are principles of social organization through which societies produce incredible feats, i.e. feats which naturally unimaginable.
 If one thoughtfully and genuinely observes and studies Human Nature and Society – meaning that one leaves behind the taken-for-granted mode of experience in which it is common to behave as though ‘things just are this way—and therefore it is natural’ – it becomes evident that there are unseen forces which mediate between human beings and their social environment, manifested in the various forms of organization inherent to Society.
 If one properly examines the kinds of feats achieved by societies of all kinds throughout history – including all the present ‘mundane’ ones we think nothing of when passing them by today – it should not only be seen as truly astonishing; but it should also raise to awareness the great disparity between the questionable competence and reliability of Authority, and the unremitting continuity of Organization throughout changes of authority (e.g. from Left to Right Wing politics) and upheavals in society (e.g. from Wartime to Peacetime).
 One part of this principle is the use of “imaginary entities” to serve as a symbolic substitute for these unseen forces, i.e. the esoteric management of these unseen forces in their symbolic representation to the populace. The effect of this management is that people are compelled to accept the symbolism as reality—purely because this ‘reality’ is being presented from the top down in the social hierarchy; and therefore, it is collectively made to feel natural.
 But even if one critically acknowledges that his society is crediting a fictional entity with events and creations, it would also be a mistake to credit the principle of ‘incredible organization’ to the actual priesthoods who administer it, i.e. particular people and groups of people. In all societies, the priesthoods exist on a basis of a methodically obfuscated contradiction: the priesthood takes credit for the organisation and projects of society which – particularly in the context of ‘unremitting continuity’ – are conceptually and practically superhuman. Whilst at the same time, the priesthood also appears to be ever liable to the most base of human follies, to which are attributed the blame for a whole range of avoidable social problems.
 The creation and presentation of fictional entities, together with the administrative priesthood, serve to obscure the nature of Order, which – if one objectively examines any society in the context of the presentation of society – can be seen to be something not of human volition, but which particular humans serve with volition by playing their roles within its principles of manifestation—the principles being eternal; and the manifestation apparently cyclical.

Re-40b

This passage highlights another example of Modernity’s conceit in claiming to have ‘advanced’ from Primitive and Pagan paradigms, whilst utilizing the very same principles towards its own ends. As Harari describes, primitives and pagans commonly referred to the various gods involved with particular activities necessary to the functioning of society. Modern citizens, however, are taught to believe that their society has progressed from these unenlightened paradigms of gods—yet they continue to partake in precisely the same behaviour, which serves to fulfil analogous functions to those of the primitives.
 As Harari points out, “we habitually say” that countries and corporations ‘did this’ and ‘is doing that’—as if they are the autonomous, god-like entities of the primitives and pagans. If one were to question people on this, I imagine they would say something along the lines of: ‘Yes, we say that, but it’s just an expression: we know they are not god-like entities.’ But here is the crucial point unveiling the socially-embedded conceit in such a response: although the English language is actually structured to support this anthropomorphizing manner of expression, thus making it practically impossible to avoid referring to things as if they were agents—the ‘expression’ is nevertheless used to credit countries and corporations with actions; and ‘their’ power to act and influence society is treated with an implicit subservience by the populace.
 In other words, it is not used as an ‘expression’, i.e. for the sake of conversational convenience: if one examines the meaning of what is said, it will be evident that the identity of the agent(s) has been obscured by reference to this non-existent entity—the referencing of which is not considered to be literal, but is in practice, being used literally.

Straight and Crooked Thinking (Book)

Straight and Crooked Thinking, by Robert H. Thouless (1930, Revised and Enlarged 1953)

In the chapter titled “The Meaning of Words”, Thouless illustrates an example which has relevance to the sociological principle of accrediting fictional entities with actions. This particular example also highlights the principle of ‘unremitting continuity’, in that the word “Germany” is evidently being used to refer a multiplicity of ‘entities’ as if they are all the same one:

“Let us consider, for example, a speech which might have been given by a patriotic but not very clear-thinking orator on our own side during the 1939 war:

‘Germany is the great menace to world peace. She invaded Belgium in 1914 although she had pledged herself by treaty to respect Belgium’s neutrality. Although she robbed France of £200,000,000 after the war of 1870, she whined to the Allies about the hardships she would suffer from their reparations demands in 1919, which were her just punishment for her guilt in starting the 1914 war. Do not let Germany’s pleas for mercy after her defeat in this war deceive you. Nothing but the annihilation of Germany can secure the future peace of the world.’

“The word ‘Germany’ or a pronoun standing for it occurs twelve times in this passage. Its character as a consecutive argument depends on the word ‘Germany’ being used to point to the same thing every time it is used. But does it? It is not clear what ‘Germany’ stands for in the first sentence. It is clear that neither here nor anywhere else in this extract does it stand for the area of ground which is marked as ‘Germany’ on a map, for an area of ground cannot menace peace or invade another area of ground, or make and break a pledge, etc. It may stand either for all or for some of the inhabitants of that area of ground or for the more abstract idea of that unity which makes them a separate nation. The practical implications of the sentence do, of course, very considerably depend on which meaning ‘Germany ‘ is here meant to have.
 “The second sentence is easier. The first ‘she’ (referring, of course, to ‘Germany’) stands for that part of the German inhabitants who formed the German army in 1914, but the second ‘she’ stands for something quite different. The pledge to respect the neutrality of Belgium was given in 1839, before most of the German inhabitants of 1914 were born. And it was not made by all or any great number of the German inhabitants of that time. It was made by the small ruling group of the very undemocratic state of Prussia, who pledged themselves and all later Governments to respect the neutrality of Belgium. It is true that the rulers of Germany in 1914 were still bound by that agreement, but the form of the sentence implies that the invaders of 1914 and the givers of the pledge were the same, and this erroneous implication is the result of using the word ‘Germany’ in two senses in the single sentence. In the next sentence, the first ‘she’ refers to the rulers in 1871 of the newly founded German Empire, the second ‘she’ to German newspapers and other forms of publicity in 1919. The ‘her’ of ‘her just punishment’ refers to the whole German people (men, women, and children), since all suffered from the impoverishment which was the first result of the reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles, whereas the ‘her’ of ‘her guilt’ can only refer to those who were guilty of starting the war, who can only be those who were rulers in 1914 or who had sufficient political influence at that time to affect war policy. Plainly we have again the same word used for two groups with some overlap of membership, but many of the second group must have been dead by 1919, and many of the first group were either not born or not grown up in 1914. The suggestion that punishment and guilt are asserted of the same group is the result of using the one word ‘Germany ‘ for both groups. The ‘Germany’ of the last sentence is presumably the national unit. An area of ground cannot be annihilated, and the most ardent war propagandist does not really want to annihilate all the inhabitants of the enemy country. Germany could clearly be destroyed as a national unit without destroying any of its inhabitants—by absorbing it, for example, into some other country. The only effect of using the same word ‘Germany’ in this new sense is to make it sound as if the remedy proposed were more drastic than it really is, as if the speaker were proposing to annihilate the inhabitants of Germany.”

In the next paragraph, Thouless attempts to correct the speech so as to make it conform to reality, i.e. by detaching the word ‘Germany’ from the actions attributed to ‘it’, and replacing this metaphorical agency – which is implicitly taken literally – with reference to the groups of people who were responsible for them at the time:

It is obvious that if the speaker had wanted to make his meaning perfectly clear he would have had to substitute, for the word ‘Germany’ each time he used it, some form of words which indicated exactly what he meant each time. Then his speech would run something like this:

‘Germany is the great menace to world peace. The German army invaded Belgium in 1914, although the ruling group in Germany at that time inherited the obligation to respect Belgium’s neutrality which was entered into by the rulers of Prussia in 1839. Although the rulers of the newly founded German Empire robbed France of £200,000,000 after the war of 1870, the German newspapers and publicists in 1919 whined to the Allies about the hardships that the inhabitants of Germany would suffer from the reparations demands which were the just punishment of the German inhabitants of 1919 for having had in 1914 a Government which was guilty of starting the war. Do not let the pleas of the German publicists for mercy to the German people after the defeat of the German armies in this war deceive you. Nothing but bringing to an end the national autonomy of Germany can secure the future peace of the world’.

This semantic analysis by Thouless can serve as an illustrative example of a practise which is commonplace in modern society: to obfuscate agency, so as to preclude the accountability of the true agency, and thereby the responsibility of those who are indirectly (i.e. unwittingly) in service to it.

Finding the Organization in Organizational Theory: A Meta-Theory of the Organization as a Social Actor, by Brayden G. King & Teppo Felin, David A. Whetten (2010 Article)

The stated aim of the authors of this article is to highlight “the need for understanding, explicating, and researching the enduring, noun-like qualities of the organization […] by examining what is unique about the organization as a social actor.” The concepts of “intentionality” and “identity” are discussed in the context of organization studies; but the section titled “The Organization as a Social Actor” is the most relevant here, which begins thus:

“What does it mean to say that something is a social actor? At one level, social actors are recognizable because of the way that they are perceived and interpreted by other actors. We believe that actors have the capability to make decisions and behave of their own volition, and we hold them accountable for the decisions they make. This attribution distinguishes actors from many entities, such as common objects or geographical areas, that can only be acted upon. It is relatively uncontroversial to claim that organizations take actions. Our language reflects a reality where the organization acts and is. An organization’s actions define what it is. For example, in lay language—whether in the business press or the MBA classroom—we have no problem whatsoever saying: ‘IBM has transformed itself,’ ‘Westinghouse laid off 1,000 employees,’ or ‘Nike acted irresponsibly.’ Theoretically this linguistic reality is consistent with the notion in identity theory that each organization is a unique self or has a ‘distinctive behavioural signature’—a coherent pattern of choices that is relatively time and situation independent.”

It is also noteworthy that this form of primitivism – i.e. common reference to fictional entities as being active agents within society – can also be observed with regard to natural phenomena and abstract concepts. For example, the convention of naming storms and hurricanes—which, although not spoken of literally as fictional entities, has the effect of engendering the primitive mode of thought via the misuse of metaphor to imply fictional agency:

Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and began to rapidly intensify […] Katrina caused extensive destruction and casualties […] making Katrina the deadliest United States hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane […] Before Katrina moved ashore, schools and businesses were closed in the Miami area.” –Wikipedia

An example of abstract concepts being misused as metaphors towards the same end is ‘the year 2016’, during which many prominent celebrities passed away. Over the course of the periodic news coverage of this phenomenon, I noticed the frequent reference to ‘2016’ as have caused these deaths—i.e. as if the year ‘2016’ was an entity (and a malevolent one).

The article Is 2016 the year of celebrity deaths? by Lisa Respers France, CNN (August 30, 2016) contains typical instances of this linguistic convention, such as when the author begins:

“Enough already, 2016.” Or when quoting Chris Rock saying:

“I wish this year would stop already…”—again, as if pleading with “this year [i.e. 2016]” to “stop” killing celebrities. Or when quoting social media comments:

“Every time I see a celeb trend, I expect a death notice. 2016, this is what you‘ve done to me.”

More significant is the way diseases are spoken of as being the causes of themselves, rather than as symptoms of a cause—cancer being the most prominent example. In the middle ages, diseases were spoken of as malevolent entities which attacked a person, thereby causing him the dis-ease. The solution, of course, was to see one’s local priest and follow his proscriptions to the letter.
Today the situation is no different: diseases are spoken of as being causes in of themselves, as if they were the malevolent entities of medieval times; and the solution is to visit the local priest for treatment. And just as with the malevolent demons of old, the afflicted person is often spoken of as being in a ‘battle’ against the disease—with the help of his priest-doctor.

The key point in all of these examples is that, despite our ‘enlightenment’, the same techniques are used – by way of mediated conventions – to keep people’s mentality grounded in a primitive level of thought—primarily by maintaining the ancient habit of unquestioning the disparity between speech, thought and action regarding essential aspects of one’s society. In other words, modern society has repackaged the ancient paradigms of ignorance in a veil of superficial sophistication, so as to discourage people from utilizing the fruits of the Enlightenment—which in the internet era, now includes the abundant availability of information.
The book Straight and Crooked Thinking (referenced above) can serve as a good start towards the questioning of illogical conventions, in that it reveals common examples of “muddled reasoning”, “exposes many dishonest tricks that are frequently used in argument”, whilst “drawing examples from controversial subjects often discussed” in the author’s day. These illogical conventions concern manners of thought and (their resulting) activities of utmost consequence to society and its citizens—and yet which go almost totally unquestioned, let alone examined; and which are thereby normalized to the point of becoming unassailable.

Contents page from the book: Straight and Crooked Thinking

Another important point in this particular example of veiled primitivism, is the fact that there have been anthropologists and historians who have addressed the bias with which western civilization ‘interpreted’ the indigenous societies it invaded and studied (i.e. since the times of the explorers and the missionaries, followed by the scientific anthropologists).

Sex and Culture, by J.D. Unwin (1934)

This extensive and insightful work of anthropology features a memorable example of scholarly clarification, regarding the negative misrepresentation of non-civilized cultures, towards the positive misrepresentation of Western culture—primarily to itself. In the first chapter, titled “The Frame of Reference”, Unwin addresses the ideological misinterpretation of primitive attitudes towards ‘entities’ which are not visible:

“Let us suppose that an observer has succeeded in extracting from the natives an accurate account of their personal creed; let us further suppose that he has succeeded in reporting that creed without any intrusion of his own individual philosophy: in what terms will he state his facts? If he follows the example of ninety-nine per cent. of our authorities he will speak in terms of ‘spirits’, ‘gods’, and other such entities […] yet in my view they are scientifically inadmissible. The native terms have been translated in a manner which has concealed the natives’ attitude towards their world, and it is my further submission that the vast majority of native terms cannot be accurately translated into a civilized tongue. Modern equivalents do not exist.

 “If the view be adopted that all classifications which are based on ‘beliefs’ are inherently misleading, it follows at once that such terms as ‘animism’ and ‘animistic’ must be discarded; and the following pages will be understood more easily if the conception of ‘animism’ is banished from the mind […]”

Unwin then goes on to “state some of the reasons why, in my view, native terms cannot be translated into our language”. Collectively, they highlight the central point I have read mentioned by other scholars, which is that native language can be divided between terms which distinguish mundane things from all things which they cannot explain, i.e. the various phenomena of nature. From this, anthropologists conveniently concluded that ‘the natives see gods and spirits in everything’.

“The main points of my criticism can be tabulated thus:
 “1. If we translate a native term ‘spirits’ or ‘spiritual beings’, we create the impression that different powers are manifest in different places. We often find that the native uses the same word to denote the ‘spirit’ in each place; that is to say, the same power is manifest in different places.
 “2. Sometimes a savage will apply a singular or, collective word to ‘the dead’. If we must translate the word, ‘the dead’ most nearly approaches the native meaning, assuming that the natives employ the term in those contexts in which we use a substantive and not an adverb. If we render this term ‘spirits of the dead’, we may create the impression of an individual survival which is not part of the native conception.
 “3. Often the word which we translate ‘spirit’ is used in an adverbial context. It seems, then, that the savage may conceive of a character or of a quality. Our translation represents him as conceiving of an entity.
 “4. Often the same word is translated both as ‘spirit’ and as ‘god’. If these English words are to be accepted as alternative renderings, it follows that neither of them has that precise meaning which it is desirable that a technical term should possess.
5. Sometimes the natives employ the same term to denote various circumstances or phenomena for each of which we use a separate word. If we translate the native term by the word which we should use under similar circumstances, or in a similar reference, we create the impression that he distinguishes what actually he confuses. Sometimes we find that a native word of this description is translated ‘God’, ‘god’, ‘deity’, ‘godling’, `spirit’, ‘ghost’, ‘guardian spirit’, ‘malignant demon’, or by these or other words in their plural forms. We are then told that the members of that society believe in ‘gods’, ‘spirits’, ‘ghosts’, &c., and their rites are classified as ‘spirit-worship’ and ‘ghost-worship’; but the dual nature of the practices has been created by our translations. To the native they are one and the same thing.
 “6. The members of different societies often employ the same word to denote the power in the universe. Usually we translate this word by the same English equivalent, e.g. ‘god’; we then assume that all the societies conceive of the power in the same way. This is not a justifiable conclusion. Sometimes a study of their rites reveals an astounding variety.

After providing a variety of illustrative examples, Unwin summarises that:

“There is reason to believe, then, that some pagan creeds have not been accurately described. Indeed it is doubtful if we can discover the nature of any uncivilized belief apart from the rite which is based upon it, for a native cannot explain his ideas and we cannot trust his answers to our questions. Even if a native has succeeded in imparting his beliefs it is doubtful if great reliance can be placed upon a white man’s description of them, for there is danger that the report will either contain some articles of faith which are the echoes of the observer’s thoughts or be influenced by the observer’s individual temperament. Furthermore, even if an observer has obtained a correct idea of the native opinions, and has described them without any subjective intrusion, the report cannot be used as a basis of classification, for in all probability the English words in, which it is expressed not only misrepresent the native ideas, but also lack the precise meaning which technical terms should possess.”

In the sub-section titled “The Meaning of ‘Primitive’ and ‘Civilized’”, Unwin discusses the manner in which our ‘civilization’ has historically misrepresented itself in relation to other societies:

“In current literature the word ‘primitive’ is used in a double sense; and much confusion, both in thought and in expression, has been created thereby. In the first place, it is used to denote any society which is not civilized; but the word ‘civilized’ also lacks precise meaning […] The use of the word evolution in reference to the cultural process is also responsible for another devastating preconception […] if we base our conclusions on the cultural evidence alone, we see that in the past the cultural process has consisted of a long series of alternations, uprisings, and declines. By no means can it be represented as an ascending straight line. There has been no long, slow, gradual process towards higher things. All that has happened is that at different ‘times different human societies have occupied different positions in the cultural scale. The notion of an ever-increasing cultural process has been encouraged by our own attitude to our own peculiar culture. There is reason to believe that in some ways our own culture is incomparably richer than that of any previous known culture. This well-recognized but usually exaggerated fact, combined with a pardonable egocentricity, has produced an irrational attitude towards the changes in our own cultural condition. As rationalists we are conscious of changes in the cultural condition of our own society and in that of the various cultural strata into which our society is divided. Then, convinced that the cultural process is a progressive development and that our own culture is the most developed of all cultures, we assume that every change in our cultural condition is evidence of higher cultural development. Anything which is subsequent in time is regarded as more enlightened and more developed. Culturally, twentieth-century white man is assumed to be more ‘evolved’ than nineteenth-century white man; twenty-first century white man will be more evolved than twentieth-century white man; and so on.
 “It is a quaint and comfortable doctrine; yet until it is dispelled we shall understand neither our own culture nor that of any other society. It vitiates many of our historical judgements and plays havoc with our efforts to understand the culture of societies which have passed away. If, in the study of a society which no longer inhabits any part of the earth as an organized unit, we discover an institution which we ourselves have adopted, we call it a civilized society. If the society allowed the institution to fall into desuetude, we say that then its members were degenerate. Sometimes we applaud as more enlightened the introduction into our own society of a custom which in the culture of another society we have condemned as decadent; but this does not embarrass us; we simply rewrite the history of that society. Sometimes we find that an ancient society introduced a reform which recently we ourselves have adopted. We call attention to this strange phenomenon, and condescendingly observe how civilized those ancient men were. We forget that there is another point of view; a more disinterested spectator might remark that only recently have we become as civilized as they were. Admittedly the vague use of the word ‘civilized’ is responsible for some of this woolly thought; the word is essentially meaningless, yet masquerades as a technical term; but this is not a sufficient explanation for our culpable inexactitude. Always we assess the development of another society by comparing it with our own; always we assume that each successive change in our own culture is an improvement on that which preceded it. A similar egocentric outlook used to vitiate our understanding of the physical universe. Now it has been abandoned. We must abandon the egocentric outlook also in the study of human affairs.”

To return briefly to the conventions of modern anthropomorphism — now whilst bearing in mind Unwin’s observations — consider the following illustration of how future civilizations are likely to interpret our present one in their history books:

‘Towards the end of their civilization, the Westerners denied their own spirits with self-assurance, preferring to fashion for themselves spirits all around them: with their endless variety of ‘picture-noise’ boxes — which they had made impossible to escape the presence of — scarcely a moment passed without some imaginary entity being masqueraded as a human—be it an animal, an insect, a tree, a food, or some other ordinary object wrought by man himself. Not only this, but they became accustomed to enjoying the visions of magic displayed by these boxes, in which the laws of nature and logic were utterly transgressed; yet in a manner which seemed increasingly real to them.
‘Not satisfied with mere visions of spirits and magic, the Westerners wrought for themselves intricate electrical machines, which they initially used for abstract operations, such as calculating. From this creation they developed an obsession to invest this operating device with ‘spirit’, so as to communicate with it—as with a friend. And then, to engineer it with intelligence, so as to enlist it in mundane tasks—as with a slave. And then, to teach it to learn of itself, so as to develop intelligence beyond that of their own—as with a god.
‘Indeed, they displayed a peculiar proclivity for the worship of gods yet whilst sharing a common disdain for the notion of gods: the very mention of the word ‘god’ was commonly held in contempt; and thus it was largely reduced to an occasion for ridicule. Yet to the muddled Westerner, his homeland itself was a god; and its relations with foreign homelands was conceived of as relations between gods. He invented gods concerning all manner of state and business activity, dedicated temples to them, and payed reverence to them according to the ordained conventions—including regular offerings, which they called ‘taxes’. He also perceived as gods the forces of nature, to which he assigned names and attributed malevolence. Even the annual cycle of the earth around sun ceased to be merely recorded, and became spoken of as a god.
‘From the Westerners’ craving for more gods to worship grew an industrious project: to create for their wrought species of electrical entity an endless variety of ‘bodies’ for it inhabit—as if to fashion their own slaves … and with an eagerness to be then enslaved by them. Indeed, the Westerners began to dream of emulating the existence of these artificial entities—even before the entities were made to exist: for them, such a dream seemed to promise the key to their salvation…’

To summarise this point, our society systematically (i.e. ideologically) misrepresents the true nature of other cultures, so as to make our culture – and therefore ourselves – seem more ‘advanced’ in the ‘evolution’ of humanity. Even more than this, our culture utilizes the very same ‘primitivisms’ that  it has taught us to disregard, having ‘surpassed’ them long ago—a conceit mostly achieved simply by the superficial aspects of presentation, by which people are encouraged to consider it as logic and truth, instead of examining it for what it is.
 And so it is in this particular example: instead of scrutinizing the convention of referring to nations, corporations, and other abstractions as entities, we prefer to hold the implicitly held belief that ‘it is not meant literally’, whilst the use of such thought and speech amounts to exactly that—and thus with the very same implications as that which were held against the ‘primitives’: the ignorance of reality.
 The real dichotomy, then, is not between primitive and civilized society, as both are based on promoting an uncritical, unquestioning acceptance of the paradigm it presents to its members. The real dichotomy is between the individuals who observe, question, and try to understand their surroundings; and those who go along with the essential thoughts and mores determined by their society, so as to preserve their sense of belonging to and within it. All societies, primitive or civilized, are composed of both these types of person (albeit to a greatly disproportionate degree)—and more importantly, all people have the innate capacity to observe, question, and try to understand…


Credit to all the authors I have quoted here for their writings, which generally I found useful long before using for this article, and which I recommend to readers independently of it.

Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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