Thesis Number: #1 (Page 6 of 7)
Learn, or Lament
The cult of the individual was developed to camouflage the activities of those who erased the authentic culture of people in their traditional communities. With the agricultural and industrial revolutions, the rise in productivity would have allowed those communities to develop their traditions of mutual respect in ways that cannot, now, be conceived. The legacy – inscribed in the historical record – is one of systematic perversion of people’s right to evolve their customs and communities in directions that suited the needs of everyone, not just the rent-grabbing minority.
To retain control over the social rents, the elites were obliged to mess with people’s minds. Two examples:
- The concept of progress, developed in England in the 18th century, was deployed as an ideological tool. The dispossessed had to be persuaded that, no matter how dire their condition, patience would be rewarded sometime in the future.
- The concept of happiness was employed to render palatable the written constitution of the US, and the unwritten constitution of the UK. Jeremy Bentham’s felicific calculus married science with sophistry in a formula that was supposed to calculate ways of achieving happiness for the greatest number of people.
But happiness is contingent on prior access to the resources that render a decent lifestyle possible. And Bentham remained silent on the need to redistribute the resources of the commons so that every person may work to achieve his or her happiness. It was left to an American journalist to resuscitate the notion of community with its distinctive source of revenue. Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (1879) animated a popular debate that enabled people to recover their knowledge about the unique role played by rent in the lives of their forefathers. But despite the democratic mandate that was extended to the rent-as-public-revenue policy (in Britain, in the form of the People’s Budget ) the will of the people was killed off by the rear-guard action of landowners.
The Welfare State in the 20th century sought to compensate for the deprivation that blighted people’s lives in the rich industrial nations. People’s rights as individuals were listed in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But those rights were not consolidated by also enforcing the complementary rights of society. The declarations were conspicuously silent on everyone’s equal right of access to the benefits flowing from nature and society.
By accepting as normal the privatisation of the flows of rent – the value generated by the distinctive services of both nature and society – we conspire in the appropriation of people’s Labour of Love. We abuse the social side of life in an act of sacrilege that dehumanises, separating people from their essence as social beings. We degrade our material selves into metaphysical ciphers (Metaman and the Sacred Money Scam). This is the basis of the corruption of morality, the deadweight losses imposed on economic enterprise, and the perversion of culture, as the goodness in each of us is channelled into a barbaric process that inflicts humiliation on others. Everyone loses.
Our collective trauma can be overcome. By working to understand the pathologies of modern society, we engage with others in the quest for change. This can turn into another Great Awakening (Thesis ♯3).