by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Now back to the question I posed in Part 1: How can we deal with the fact that we have become terribly dependent? We depend on persons or organizations that we have no actual contact with. We are very atomized. “Almost anything” could be imposed on us by far-away decision makers.
In this article I am looking at the amazing difficulty we have in banding together to accomplish something. We need ways for the voice of common sense to be heard, and for people to follow it. Yet we find ourselves, like the people who attend the World Cup match, in close contact with thousands of others but without a way to really unite.
A “Show” Parliament
I would chalk some blame up to the fact that we were taught in school that a democracy solves its problems by having a parliament. The word ‘parliament’ is derived from the French parler, to speak. Supposedly we talk out our problems.
In fact this does not happen. The parliaments of nations – and the European Union has a European Parliament – are places where politicians gather and put on a show of policy-making. As we have learned in recent decades, they only rubber-stamp the decisions made by a higher group that carefully hides its identity.
The existence of a controlling group at the top was biologically predictable. We are a typical mammal species in that we have a male hierarchy. (Some mammal species have strictly female leaders; examples are lion and elephant.) Human males are driven to the alpha role, and it’s reasonable to assume that some have perfected the art.
My topic, in this multi-part essay, is “human dependence on the group.” That is a separate issue from the takeover of the population by a secret group of bosses (‘the cabal’). Of course the two problems are connected, but at the moment I must concentrate on the dependence problem.
People Look Upward for Help
It would be one thing to live in a society where a few at the top visibly control all the people and all the resources. But we in ‘democracies’ don’t see that. We see something more amorphous and more benign.
Ah, you young generation, you are lucky that some of us who are still ticking can remember a different world. In that world – in my case, the United States – we had actual living, breathing members of Congress who ‘argued the case.’ (Not all did so, but we never need a full house; it suffices to have a handful of smarties.)
We also had – you won’t believe this – a responsible press. At least a modicum of journalists sought the truth, and saw it as their duty to inform people what was going on. They specialized in rooting out corruption.
So, I grew up thinking there were two institutions – Congress and the press – that we should turn to when in trouble. At this stage I am wondering if “someone” deliberately enticed us to think those entities would help – so that one day we would find ourselves up a certain creek, sans paddle.
Hmm. Another helper, so we thought, was the Supreme Court. And to get there you would use a super-helpful group called the American Civil Liberties Union. Boy, could they identify a constitutional issue and see that it got sorted in favor of the little guy.
At present you cannot get help from Congress, the mainstream press, or the courts, or even the ACLU. Indeed all those seem to be “against the people” now. What a situation!
The Ongoing Need for Uppies
My ‘conspiracy’ position is that we didn’t accidentally lose the help of our natural leaders – men and women in Congress, the press, and the judicial system – but that it all got shut down by careful planning. That is, the bosses at the top were well aware of our practice of looking upward for help, so they made sure we no longer have “uppies” that we can turn to.
You may say that social media has replaced previous structures. I doubt it. It’s nice to be able to communicate with persons we have not met, and to bounce ideas around without having to have them vetted first. But when it comes to decision-making, only persons in ‘official’ roles can make the decisions we need. Your yakking to blogs is a waste of time.
Say everybody was showing concern, on the Internet, about such-and-such a problem. Even a huge groundswell of interest does not automatically result in action. I have seen many issues in which the folks on the Net had it right but that did not move the officials one jot.
My argument here is that the habit of looking to the uppies is probably hard-wired in the human brain. As children we look to parents, and later we look to the scout leader, the office manager, or whoever carries authority. And therefore we had better finds the means to keep on doing this.
I would go so far as to guess that society is like a nervous system with information coming in from many nerves and being sent up to a brain. There, the material can be dealt with. The owner of each individual brain applies experience and knowledge, as well as the basic biology of evaluating and reasoning. Emotions help to push a decision. It works.
The Problem of Trust
Keep in mind that may of the things we do every day are run by our brain in an unconscious way. An example of this is the ease with which we walk down stairs. It takes a great deal of muscular coordination and balance; it takes mental calculation of how deep each stair is. But no one ever gives it a second thought.
Much of our social interaction may be like that. When acting with another person we are taking measurements of them. For one thing, we size up our status compared to theirs. Just like chickens in a pecking order, we unconsciously know who is above us and below us. Granted it’s flexible. Your female boss at work is above you, but if you are prettier than she, you know you are above her in that way.
One of the things we measure all the time vis a vis any person we interact with, is the degree to which they can be trusted. In general, you can’t trust a stranger. You have had no experience with him, and so haven’t marked down in your little mental notebook whether he is a good risk or not.
Social class is a guide. You are likely to know that persons in your social class will play fair with you and others won’t. Who do you consider to be in your social class? Probably those who live on your street, those who speak with your accent, those who share some handicap or some hobby. Perhaps the little boxes on Facebook that announce the person’s favorite movie are meant to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, and trust the wheat.
It is hard to trust a huge group of people. It can be assumed that the group will include some of your type and some strangers. There is an unsettling unpredictability. So, using our inbuilt caution, we’re very reluctant to place trust in any group as a whole. We worry that some clever bastards in there – known in sociobiology as ‘free riders’ – will make chumps of us.
So far it has been noted that: People look upward. People will always need to see someone at the top. Decisions get made as in a nervous system.
As for our interactions with our fellow man (beyond the intimate group), we are always aware of every individual’s status – high or low. It can be judged on sight or on hearing their voice.
We can only interact with people we know and trust. Thus it is hard to deal with a huge group. One does not want to be made a fool of by trusting strangers.
The Predictions of Dr Richard Day
As indicated above, I take our current dearth of leadership to be a well-planned phenomenon. Let me mention just two of the hundred or more “secrets” that Richard Day, MD, shared with his audience of physicians and medical students at a 1969 dinner. He worked for Rockefeller and said that he was allowed to share some knowledge of the future, in order to help the doctors adjust to it when it arrived.
One thing was that emigration to the Sunbelt (southwestern states, such as Arizona) would be encouraged, as people in a new environment are easier to direct. They will have few traditions and will go along with the new cultural items they find there, such as a pre-paid medical insurance system.
Another futuristic scenario Dr Day provided was that people would have big trouble getting housing, and would be encouraged to live in apartments with strangers. The benefit for the person running all of this (the Rockefellers, presumably) was that people living with strangers would never know how much the flat-mates could be trusted!
In general, Dr Day admitted to there being a goal of insecurity for all. Wow. He even said there would be more train accidents and more bridge failures – something I have seen in Yahoo news headlines a lot in the last two years. Clearly he meant they would be made to occur.
In sum, our predicament of living in a dependent way today may have come about partly by happenstance and partly by wicked design.
Please stay tuned for Part 4 of “Selfishness and Human Dependence.”
— Mary W Maxwell lives in Adelaide. She is an eclectic. Her first four books were on sociobiology. She edited “The Sociobiological Imagination” (State University Press of New York) in 1991.