Friday, February 13, 2015

Musings

Has anyone noticed that the media today,  does a very poor job?   Well,  firstly one must have some idea of what the medias "JOB" really is.  Their job is to advance the knowledge of their readership,  so that a best informed public,  can make better decisions about how to configure society,  to improve the life of all citizens.    Obviously that has not been the case lately. 
A free people,  within a republic,  requires that,  across a very broad spectrum of life,  have specific information,  that is true,  about the various things that concern their social,  political and economic well being.  Misinformation leads to mistakes being made,  people voting and acting against their own best interests and that eventually leads to such chaos that a free republic can no longer exist.  With everyone scurrying and struggling for mere self preservation,  the niceties of civilization vanish quite quickly and people come to rely on  strong men as a way to preserve what they have.

There was a time in history when,  people had so little information about how the world actually worked,  they turned to the most powerful force that the human condition could muster to keep people working together peacefully.  That force turned out to be superstition and it's provenance depended upon everyone's fear and ignorance of the unknown.  Since there was little about the world that was known,  the field was wide open for leadership to step forward and offer their own theories of what was what,  and how things should be.  Quite unsurprisingly,  their notion of "governance"  was that they should be taken at their word for everything,  and that since "the gods" had ordained what they said,  no compromise could be permitted.

This,  of course,  gave the leadership absolute power,  with which to do whatever they wanted,  with zero accountability for their failures.  Hardly a wonder that they regarded the people they ruled with extremely low esteem.  After all,  why would you have any respect for people who slavishly followed orders and,  on your mere word,  would put people to death?  The rulers did not feel any need to provide for their people,  and therefore left them to hazard the vagaries of life alone.  They only paid any attention to the needs of the populace,  when the people were needed to wage wars,  which were usually fought to take over the hard won fortunes of others,  who had somehow managed to prosper by self sacrifice and hard work.

You're in a village somewhere in prehistoric times.  You've either noticed or been told that seeds from a fruit or vegetable,  could be planted and they would grow into more fruit and vegetables.  So you follow the course and eventually,  step by small step,  you manage a workable farm.  Now you have food when others are at the tender mercies of chance discoveries of groves.  So you've got bushels of tomatoes,  while many have none.  They look at you and someone says to himself,  I've got the warriors,  let's simply force him off of his farm and take his crops!  So they do that and you have to move (if you're lucky enough to be allowed to live).  

In the next stage of social development,  some farmer gets an idea.  If he can supply the chief with some of his crop,  then perhaps the chief will protect him and his farm from other would be raiders.  This turns out to be a pretty beneficial arrangement for a good long while and there is peace in the land,  until a larger horde of raiders overcomes the local lord.  

This looting raiding and waring goes on for quite sometime,  until the next good idea comes along,  some wise leader realizes that,  if he offers people protections and some rights,  more people will follow him than others,  so he quickly builds a much larger and therefore more powerful tribe.  This goes on for sometime and as the idea of civil rights and protections allows leaders to build greater villages,  and villages become cities,  a civilization gets underway.  These things did not happen quickly mind you,  each step probably took several generations or more.  As the problems of governing cities came up,  some cities failed to solve them,  enforced unworkable solutions and  failed.  While other cities with smarter leadership,  found solutions and thrived.  

For the most part, as civilizations grew,  the needs of the people being ruled had to be dealt with in some amicable way.  If a ruler sought to impose draconian laws,  laws that people had too much trouble living within,  the obvious solution was to get rid of the ruler.  Rulers,  on the other hand,  had limited ability to fight within their own societies,  since they would essentially be fighting with their own people and that almost always leads to civil disaster.

The thing is,  as a society ages and the rules become sophisticated enough to handle the most pressing problems,  the rulers become quite entrenched.  It is this "entrenchment" that gives them the power to become very arbitrary indeed,  about the ways they can rule.  So that,  after a few generations,  the leaders have so much power,  they can and do spend and waste and eviscerate whatever passes for a sort of "public treasury".  The "government" needs money to spend on things like soldiers pay,  uniforms and equipment,  buildings and shrines/monuments/palaces,  as well as grants and payoffs to people who managed to gain standing within the society,  such that they have control over fiefdoms,  or are followed by enough citizens that they can foment resistance to the rules.  Such things must be handled delicately,  since power centers can and do shift.  

After eviscerating their treasuries,  (usually done by second or third generation leaders who have not the knowledge or the good sense about how to rule) a lunkhead in power decides that,  the best way to replenish the treasury is to wage war on some more prosperous neighbor.  Failing to realize that war is a very expensive undertaking,  such that it usually creates more debt than the spoils will pay.  Worse yet,  the conquered prosperous entity,  will no longer continue to prosper.  Leaving the foolhardy ruler with an even bigger deficit than he started with.  The Romans were the first to solve this problem by using threats and coercion,  as well as agreements to conquer,  rather than wage outright war in many instances.  Saving warfare for only when it was a strategic necessity,  such as to secure trade routes and borders.  But alas,  entropy sets in and in the succession of rulers,  usually from father to son,  unfit rulers come to power with truly dreadful concepts about ruling a nation.  In history we see this happen time and again,  so it should come as no surprise that absolute rule gave way to parliamentary forms of governance.  Where a "free" people,  have a level of freedom to diversify,  to learn new things and develop new techniques,  the social structure becomes increasingly complex.  Ever higher levels of stability are needed from government to allow the often time consuming processes of discovery,  and to assimilate new discoveries and learn of the impact they will eventually have on the society.

While instability chases technicians away,  causes investigation and discovery processes to slow or cease,  society falls into decline and everyone suffers,  until things reach such an abysmal state that power then shifts,  often with catastrophic results.  Because people,  no matter their station in a society,  feel the over arching need for self preservation,  if their contributions are not sufficiently recognized by that society,  then the search for a better way begins to take hold.  So that the real choice for the leadership is,  either find some way to recognize the contributions of all,  or risk propelling the search for a better way,  to grow to disastrous proportions.

If wars are so unprofitable,  how does one go about getting the populace behind them?  The answer is enter PROPAGANDA!  The trick is to tell lots and lots of made up lies,  to trick people into thinking they are being threatened and get them to fear,  all while offering them the idea that there will be the spoils of war for them to enjoy. So,  this then becomes the dodge that ill configured leadership uses to distract people away from the shortcomings their own leadership has caused,  and direct the discontent towards another object,  so as to preserve the leaders mandate for an extended period of time. 

While those are the way the mechanics of early civilizations worked,  clearly with today's highly technical societies,  many of those same elements are still at work today and must be paid attention to.  After all, not all people are capable of engaging the highest levels of technological skills and developments,  but they still have the self preservation impulses.  Let them get out of balance and the entire social structure is doomed.  Any mere attempt to simply defeat "the masses" will fail for two very good reasons.  One is that the effort to impose very strict controls on "the masses" is costly and highly resource consuming,  while at the very same time,  it also requires a concomitant ratcheting up of restraints upon the upper classes,  that undermines the processes of learning,  discovery and innovation,  such that life across the boards becomes ever less palatable for all concerned.  Until,  finally,  people of every stripe are looking for anything that seems to offer a more desirable change.

Parliamentary systems are designed to allow people to seek change within the existing structures.  That works only if they system does not become "ossified",  so well entrenched that it no longer responds to the public's needs and resists making the changes that are needed,  to ensure that order and stability are maintained by public acceptance of the rules,  rather than by the use of force to enforce them.  Governments tend to fill,  over time,  with people who see and seek only the powers that office will give them,  while ignoring or being unaware of the responsibilities that make government able to discharge it's responsibilities.  They categorize people in need as mere parasites,  and do not see need to use gov't powers to mollify these peoples concerns.  If left unchecked this is a dangerous disease being allowed to fester and grow,  and which,  if left unchecked,  can and will create truly massive problems for governance.

The formula we can extract from the lessons of history are that,  it is infinitely better and more profitable,  to keep improving governance to keep and hold the widest acceptance of the people,  rather than allowing things to stagnate and devolve to where force must be used to obtain compliance.  

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