Thesis Number: #9 (Page 3 of 10)
Traditional communities are shattered when they lose their commons. The impact is transmitted inter-generationally. Hunger, crime and violence result from the erosion of life-affirming cultural norms and practices. Around the world, many people are committed to alleviating such suffering. Offended by the atrocities of poverty, homelessness and ecocide, reform activists seek change. And yet, their efforts have failed to erase the blights on the human landscape. There is a reason for the disappointing outcome of all their work. They apply palliatives to symptoms. Flaws in the foundations of society are left free to run riot over each new generation.
Defects in the structure of society automatically reproduce poverty in all of its manifestations. These are symptoms of a distressed society (Harrison 2012). Despite all the strenuous efforts of non-governmental organisations, hundreds of millions of people remain in poverty, alienated from their birthright – the natural right of access to the riches of both nature and society, the value of which is synthesised into a single stream of revenue: rent. Meanwhile, the internal dynamics of the life-wrecking system go unchallenged.
People do protest against bogeymen like bankers and their bonuses. Politicians are censured for not keeping their word. Corporations are attacked for trampling on eco-systems. But the structural flaws that permissively encourage these forms of anti-social behaviour remain cloaked in mystery. The institutionalised nature of that process of exploitation is a matter of historical record. So why do governments continue to disregard that knowledge when they promote their “evidence-based reforms”?
In the 19th century an English judge introduced the concept of “wilful blindness”. He instructed a jury on how someone could “wilfully shut his eyes” to an illegal act (Heffernan 2011: 2). That principle was most recently applied in the Enron case. Two men at the top of that commodity-trading corporation claimed to be innocent of the frauds that cost thousands of Americans their life’s savings. They were convicted after Judge Simeon Lake explained to the jury: “Knowledge can be inferred if the defendant deliberately blinded himself to the existence of a fact”.
To assert that politicians are wilfully blind is to accuse them of dishonesty. In fairness, most of them genuinely want to improve the lives of their constituents. To account for the failures of governance, therefore, we must conclude that they really do not know what they are doing. This, however, requires explanation. The best theory may be labelled induced ignorance. Politicians (indeed, all of us) are victims of a process of misinformation that shuts minds to a dishonourable part of European history (but see Box 2). How do we account for this pathological state?
From Socialism to Oligarchy
Some did escape indoctrination. Karl Marx is a notable case. But opportunities for reform, such as those of the 20th century, were wasted. Critics of capitalism failed to forensically concentrate on the market economy’s structural flaws. Socialism is a notorious example of the failure to reconceive the foundations in ways that were sympathetic to people’s needs. Thus, erstwhile champions of the socialist paradigm have allowed the rent-seeking virus to re-colonise their territories. Ex-Soviet nations are now run for the benefit of oligarchs. Bloody violence in the streets of Kiev in February 2014 registered the Ukrainian people’s opposition to the corrupt culture that enriched the resource rent seekers. The lessons have not been learnt in China, which is following Russia in alienating the nation’s rents to a minority of citizens.
Over the centuries, most people understood that they were being deprived of an equal share of their nation’s riches. They repeatedly registered their discontent. To meet this challenge, a cost-effective way of containing dissent had to be developed. The cheapest method (one that conserved rents for consumption by the rent-seekers) was to school each new generation into a set of beliefs that deluded people into accepting their lot in life. This was achieved by moulding language in ways that mangled minds, and therefore people’s behaviour.