Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mixing Cold Capitalism with Hot Politics

It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. ~Noam Chomsky

I have been known to fix computers (and more explicitly networks), but I'm not a "computer repairman." Much of my adult life has been devoted to the search for truth--beginning with the painfully familial extending naturally outward to the local, the national, and beyond to the international, and I would even say, the cosmic.

What is humankind's place in the grand scheme of things? What is my place in the family, the community, the state, and the cross-cultural? What is the nature of the self? What is human nature? What is the nature of human society? What is natural (fixed in the human genome) as contrasted by what is artificial or historical (the combination of culturally-inherited behavior, attitudes, and beliefs, as well also the institutions)--distinguishing biochemical genes from cultural DNA.

Understanding the use and abuse of power, spanning the nuclear family to the nuclear nation, constitutes the core curriculum of the social sciences. The first lesson is that truth is subversive: in the family, in the workplace, in the school, and in the state. What Galileo saw was trivial. He observed moons circling Jupiter. Power seeks the maintenance of power, not truth. When power controls mass communication, as it does so in the context of corporate ownership of the mass media, precipitates a clash of intentions. The overt stated intention of journalism as an enterprise speaking the truth collides with the maintenance of power. Within the context of the abusive family, the truth is hidden by mental violence in the form of threats, and by direct physical violence. Within the context of the modern nation-state, the suppression of truth is maintained less so by violence than by sharp constraints on what is thinkable. Propaganda is culturally plausible substitutes for truth--in service to centralized power. Education in the family and education in the state-sponsored schools is ineluctably propaganda. Wherever power is arbitrary propaganda is present.

The presence of variable systems of social behavior is an expression of the human genetic system, and of a biological adaptive strategy.

Whether or not humans possess a free will is curiously debatable. We are profoundly constrained by DNA, and yet possess choices constrained also by what is culturally permissible to imagine. The principle battle within large, modern human cultures is the battle over "The Thinkable." What constitutes conscious thought; and what is inculcated unconscious dogma." In a functional sense, the maintenance of a functional social system takes biological precedence over ideas of truth and justice. Truth is subordinate to functionality.

Biologically, the degree to which humans can found social systems on concepts of truth and justice is unknown, but the moral imperative is to act as if this is possible. A cogent argument can be made that concomitant with the radical expansion of the human population following the technological invention of agriculture, the general human condition deteriorated. With the advent of the Enlightenment (the end of feudalism and monarchy) the general human conditions in Europe improved. Perhaps two factors are central: understanding sanitation, and expanding the realm of "The Thinkable" among the masses.

Power and wealth work hard to constrain the thinkable. The powerful are content with what is. The status quo defines a cultural snapshot. The educational system (run by the state, in service to the status quo) constricts and contracts what is thinkable.

The great achievements of the intellectual class have been realized by those who have constructively and insightfully disconnected from education-as-propaganda. The intellectual has gained freedom from"the ignorance of the educated class."

Whether one studies the dynamics of evolutionary biology or the dynamics of international affairs (at a historical juncture where the nation-state is dogma), the two intersect in the study of power: the dynamics of chemical energy at one end, and the dynamics of cultural energy at the other.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. ~ Albert Einstein

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