Saturday 6 December 2008

Collectivism and The Individual

It has often been observed- correctly- that one of the key groups to whom collective forms of living appeal are- people who quite clearly don't fancy actually getting their hands dirty.
Moggs, of course, in her inimitable way, is quite correct in her assumptions of why, in a personal sense, collective and communal forms of living sound more appealing to people like me on a personal level.

At the end of the day, most of us are selfish. Most of us are attracted to socio-political models which we believe would deliver better for us, as individuals.

So yes, one of the key attractions for me of a scheme of collective living is...
It would work better for people like me.
Naturally, I happen to believe it would also be better for the vast majority of us.

Put in selfish terms, I believe that the type of system which would ultimately deliver me a more fulfilling lifestyle as an individual, would partly for that very reason, be better for everyone.

And it goes back to the social contract itself, that system of deals we all make with eachother to find a framework within which to live.

And yes, it goes back to the type of deal I think it would make more sense for myself and people like myself to be able to make.
A deal of far greater benefit to all sides of the equation.

One of the problems with the modern drive towards universal equality and the destruction of hereditary caste systems, is we missed something very important. Yes, all men should certainly be treated equally, with no one being BORN special. No one should acquire advantages simply for being in the right place at the right time. And that's not just so that THEY get an unfair advantage. It's the rest of us get the best deal.
In other words, the problem isn't NECESSARILY in having elites. Since people aren't in fact clones, since in fact, people do indeed have very varied strengths and weaknesses, any sensible arrangement must take that into account and therefore- the perfect arrangement implicitly allows for an element of elitism.

This of course, is one of the reasons Nietzsche sometimes makes people uncomfortable.

Because the problem with aristocracy isn't the principle, it's the mode of selection. Having positions in an elite being determined by inheritance, is a bad way to select an elite and thus the elite in question soon degenerates.

And the aristocracy as it was never fulfilled any kind of useful function anyway.
It was an aristocracy that generally, wasn't worth the social effort to maintain. The people keeping this elite, weren't getting value for it.
They were not, by and large, worth their exalted status.

And in a sense, perhaps an elite shouldn't have exalted status at all.
So- how then are they an elite, if they don't have exalted status?

And it goes back to root of human systems.
There is something badly missing from our world today. A failing in our systems.
And yes, it actually is rooted deep in the Protestant work ethic which lies at the heart of modern Capitalist thought.
A curious casting away of centuries of advance, the creating of a new type of human being that could ONLY exist because of the increasing complexity of the human society existing.
In short, the creation of an intellectual elite. An intellectual elite whose cost was taken on.

And yes, that's a shockingly elitist thing to say. But yes, having an intellectual elite, is a cost. And not one that modern society seems to want to take on. Which is why we don't have one.
Seemingly, we'd rather pay for an UNDERCLASS, have that as our cost, than pay to support an intellectual elite.

Moggs often refers to my dislike of Protestantism. THAT is at the heart of my dislike of it as a thought system. That it deliberately set out to destroy that important human development. The setting up of collective operations to free increasing numbers of people from having to fend for themselves. To allow the creation of a supported intellectual elite, a development which got stopped in its tracks. And for which humanity as a whole is now suffering.

Because whatever criticism is levelled at Catholicism, it's strength as a thought system, was in a very important development.
And whilst I don't think it was- long term- the best solution, it was still a very good solution. It only had one flaw.
Monks didn't have children.
Had the Church understood that far from being celibate, the very people that tended to become monks and priests, were the very people who SHOULD be breeding as much as possible, then the system would have been nearly perfect.

Because the Church were half right. They were right that for the intellectual elite of the western world to be freed from having to worry about domestic life, specifically, child rearing, was better for society as a whole. But, they were wrong to think that they shouldn't reproduce.

It goes back to understanding how human society advances in the first place.
Sedentary life made new deals possible.
Not everyone any longer needs to do the routine tasks that people once did out on the savannah.
Not everybody needs to go hunting.

So now a use can be found for people who were totally useless out on the savannah. They don't need to starve. In fact, it's better NOT to let them starve. Because they pay their way in other ways, ways that served no purpose on the savannah. Yes, they weren't the fittest in that way of living. When they had to fend for themselves, they died. No use for the frail aesthete out there.
But now they could live. And if others did for them the tasks that they would have died once because they were useless at- like hunting, farming, building homes, etc, these once useless people now gave back. Gave society something it COULDN'T have had, if it hadn't made that deal with those who once would have been useless.

Society now had art, poetry, science.

THAT was the real payback of sedentary life. The agreement by society to divide labour. To create castes; Farmers, hunters, warriors and- a new caste which seemingly lived off the labours of others. The intellectual caste.

Now it has always been an important factor in any human culture, just how this social group is seen, how it is recruited and formed and what arrangements are made for its existence.
And trying to find ways of doing that fairly, has been a recurring human problem.

Because this caste doesn't and never has formed the 'aristocracy', who basically descend from the old hunter and warrior castes. The decision making castes, in the earlier systems. The intellectual caste has always, in practice, depended on other castes totally for its existence. Its existence has always been fragile.

And the solution adopted right from the very start of human society, was to create an apparent use for such a caste. To create a reason why everyone else should provide for a caste that doesn't appear to do anything, but whose existence becomes increasingly essential.
The solution was, to create religion.
As long as you have an organised religion, and looking after Gods is a function of human society, you can justify supporting an intellectual elite. The intellectual elite can be justified on the grounds that they are doing something. What they ACTUALLY contribute is very different, of course, to what they appear to be doing.

But at various times in human history, the material wealth and state of technological development has been such that humanity has almost been able to temporarily break free of that.
When it has created aristocracies with enough material wealth to take on the burden themselves of maintaining intellectual elites.
Aristocrats so rich that they demonstrated their social benevolence by paying the intellectual elite.
The Romans did it of course. And so did Rennaisance Italy. The Medici, the Sforza, the Estensi, the Della Scala, they were mostly pretty horrible people, but they did mankind a favour.
The Pope was quite prepared to put up with the odd rumour that Da Vinci was cutting up corpses in the Vatican, nor frankly did he much care what Da Vinci's theological opinions were.
The man was a genius. Therefore, the Church would pay for him. Pay for him to live, however he wanted to live.
The Church accepted that was a price worth paying.
This wasn't one of those things that could be costed.

My main opposition to Protestant thought was that Protestant ethics killed the Renaissance in its tracks. One of their main arguments against Catholicism, was in fact, hitting at the REAL point of Catholicism.
The whole point of medieval Catholicism, was that it had built up a system for freeing an intellectual class from the obligation of providing for themselves. Never before had such a high proportion of human beings been freed of worrying about how to feed and house themselves. Protestantism regarded that as idleness inspired by the devil, and its response was cultural barbarism.

What has been amazing, is that human society has still progressed in spite of mutilating itself this way. In spite of having taken on some of the more ludicrous assumptions of Protestant thought.

And one of those flawed assumptions is this. That society should NOT have any groups of people who are, on the face of it, a cost, in social terms.
And yet ironically, of course we DO have a whole class of such.
Only it's the wrong group. Therefore, we lose out.

One of my main observations about the current set up is, no it really doesn't suit me, a more collective system of living WOULD suit me better, but would also mean society as a whole would get more out of it.

As it is, the bit I actually get paid for, is actually a cost.
As things stand, I genuinely am a cost.

What I do is pretty pointless really. It's a result of following archaic organisitional systems.
If the infrastructure, or bits of it, weren't owned separately, paying people to market things from one bit of it to another, would be totally superfluous to requirements. My energy is actually pretty much wasted, and the cost of my wasted energy is paid for by others. So the fact is, society is actually already paying me to do nothing- from a social point of view. Me and millions like me. We earn our money out of flaws in the system- the flaw being that when equipment wears out, we don't have a simple system of simply replacing the machinery, we go through this rigmarole of buying and selling. And because we do, I get paid.

What's the real point I'm trying to make here?
Well, the real point is, there aren't actually a whole range of tasks you can find for someone like me which actually have a constructive, tangible and immediate payback.

But, nevertheless, I still have to waste forty hours plus a week, on things that really are no good to man nor beast. All society has actually achieved in my case, is finding a way to waste my time and energy. Because it won't actually pay me to do nothing. Bizarrely, in my case, society would ACTUALLY benefit more by paying me exactly what it pays me now- to do nothing.

Note I say SOCIETY, not my employers.

Why it would benefit, is having that time free, I'd be able to do far more constructive things. Things a Capitalist economy just doesn't pay people to do.

If a society existed which was able to say 'We can see you're intelligent and you enjoy studying things for their own sake. And re-interpreting and evaluating things. And communicating your thoughts on this. Ultimately, we can see that this could have a possible payback. Maybe not immediately, or in tangible terms, but it's probable that the more time you spend doing your favorite activity- thinking- the more likely it is that you'll think of something important. We understand that offering you a life where you simply travel, observe, study, without any clearly defined objective, is kind of a cost. But in social terms, it's probably worth it in the long run. You'll probably produce a high volume of writing, and a lot of it would be of far better quality with a higher grade of thought involved than it would otherwise be', then such a society would suit me best.

I have said before that the main problem the Capitalist system has is in finding ways to waste human energy for forty hours a week. That really, human technology means that most of this energy, is simply wasting energy. It's caused by being wedded to the Protestant work ethic; if it can't be made to LOOK useful, it's not work, and you won't be paid for it. If you're not doing forty hours of useful looking work, you won't have a roof over your head.
But most of it is quite useless.

Company A exists to sell photocopiers. It sells them largely to companies manufacturing and selling phone systems, fax machines, other equipment which companies use to- buy and sell.
So all most of us actually do is create work for eachother.
Work that actually doesn't need to be done at ALL. Only we need to create the work, because we think we need to work to get paid.
It's a fairly stupid premise, when you look at it.

Most of the work, most of us do, we do to create work for other people.

And the stupidest bit is this. We nod our heads wisely when we hear someone say 'It's good because it creates jobs'.

Can't you say how stupid a statement that is?
It's good because it makes work?

People just keep missing the point. The problem is in the fixed value system for human labour. We're creating work for the simple reason OUR SYSTEMS CAN GET BY WITHOUT SO MUCH WORK BEING DONE.
Simplify the system, divide the workload out more equitably and actually ask yourself just how much we need to do, we're getting somewhere.

Workerless factories are actually technologically possible. We think they're a bad thing.
Doesn't that show you the problem?
We're actually frightened of a world in which- less work needs to be done by people.

We actually can afford to have a world in which everybody has a high standard of living, and everybody works a compulsory sixteen hour week to pay their way- then gets paid on a points system for any surplus they do.

Because such a system is doable.

And from my own point of view, I personally feel that if my task for sixteen hours a week was say, writing Wikipedia articles or something similar, that would be a far more valuable social contribution than anything the existing system will pay me to do.
And of course, then I'd earn points to exchange for material goods and luxuries for any surplus I did.
And I'll be honest, I'd mainly exchange them for- Cocaine, I'm sure. In a society that allowed me to freely do that. But since I'd be making a social contribution in exchange for that, that would be fair. Not only that, it would kind of be re-investment. Because thinking and writing is what I enjoy. I have a tendency to be a workaholic, when it's something I enjoy, so it's highly likely I'd end up writing, one way or another about sixty to seventy hours a week, I'd be using the Cocaine mainly as fuel.

Proof of the pudding. This blog already has probably over five million words on it already. In my free time, I've already written the equivalent of several volumes, in under two years.

Moggs says part of the benefits of the collective system I propose is that it would allow people like me, essentially to have servants.
Well yes, of course. But not just me- everyone. Everyone would have servants, in that sense. Except we'd all kind of be servants too.

I'm suggesting that every person does sixteen hours compulsory work a week, in part of a co-operative system.
Some would spend their sixteen hours doing the laundry for their commune.
Some would spend their sixteen hours cooking for the commune.
Some would spend their sixteen hours raising the children.
Some would spend their sixteen hours operating the factories.
Some would spend their sixteen hours growing crops.
Some would spend their sixteen hours policing the streets.
some would spend their sixteen hours nursing the sick.
Some would spend their sixteen hours exploring space (though quite obviously they wouldn't be able to work it like that, they'd have to do some months on, some months off, clearly SOME careers would HAVE to be like that)
And some would spend their sixteen hours collating and editing human knowledge, it being seen that the propagation and interpreting of human knowledge, is a valuable function. So yes, I don't see why having a class of people whose task it is to constantly update Wikipedia, which could now be seen as a global resource, shouldn't be something society as a whole wouldn't see as a cost it was prepared to carry.

I must admit, I'd love to do that. Love to be able to earn my way, my sixteen hours, by writing Wikipedia articles, knowing that I was adding to the central database of human knowledge.

And of course I'd do significantly extra. Not just for the points, but because I enjoyed my work.

And the other point so many have you have raised, is of course so very crucial too.
I want to have children, but I don't want the responsibility of bringing them up.

But...that's actually what society wants.

If society is going to limit itself to the only people reproducing being those who can bring up children, then society will suffer. There are many other talents to be passed on than ability to make a good parent.
Now, I'm going to be honest, I don't think my strengths are likely to lie in child rearing.
But is that really the question society should be asking, in deciding who should and should not reproduce?

So I guess my honest answer is; Do I think I should reproduce? Well, yes. Do I think I'm the best person to be employed by society to rear members of the next generation? No, clearly not.
Which is why I think that child rearing should be a job like any other, that responsibility for rearing the next generation should be in the hands of people trained by society as a whole to do just that.

Yes, a crucial part of why I believe collective living works best, is because I think we need to get rid of families. Bringing up children should be another function that we hand over to the collective, to be overseen by society as a whole.
And obviously, I partly think that for selfish reasons.

But the point is, as it stands, I'm put in a position that most people say is selfish.
I actually do believe it is better for me to reproduce and other people to bring up those children, than for me not to have children.
So quite obviously I favour a system where child rearing becomes merely another function of society as a whole and the family unit is essentially abolished.

Yes, possibly the most central part of my beliefs is the necessity to abolish the family and create a system for communal rearing of children.
It is an advance in human systematic development.
When all children are reared by specially trained nannies, and they see their parents more the way we now see older siblings.

I think we CAN free humankind from individual responsibility for rearing children, and we should.
Because once we do that, we can live freer lives.
All of us.

And love freely

So yes, I believe that the system of communal living I suggest would work out better for everyone and make better uses of most peoples lives.
And mine would certainly be one of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crushed, Nicely argued and real long.

Socialism sounds great in theory.

It sounded pretty good to me in my younger days. It looked quite attractive, but didn’t live up to its promises, is basically impossible to live with… and was rubbish in bed too ^_^

The problem with great theory is it does not always work in practice, and if a theory goes up against reality and reality wins then I figure the theory probably needs some work.

Look at who came up with it FGS! Engles and Marx… Ivory Tower City Arizona.

“From each.. …to each…” sounds reasonable and nice, great in fact. Downright Christian.

Over time I figured out, or had my nose rubbed in it by rl, that it didn’t actually work as advertised in practice. Me, I walk into a brick wall theory says should not be there I think you have got to wonder about the theory.

If people were perfect it would work, but if people were all perfect then virtually any system would work, no system at all would work even.

The problem is that it comes up against the fact that there are lots of people who naturally figure their needs are… so much greater than everyone else’s. Also others who figure if someone else is willing to work for them for free then they will just sit back and do as little as possible, like they are owed.

Now in the end if your system is to work you need to make sure those backsliders put in according to their actual means and take only their actual needs. To do that basically you need to force them, and you need a permanent apparatus of state to do that.

And what about needs? How can you really improve things under a system that effectively prevents you working a bit harder and actually benefiting in proportion for your work. Then there is that one persons improvement is another persons extravagance.

In the end to get everyone to fall in line really turns out to be oppression of all the people. Everyone looses out, on the wiggle room we all need, no privacy no liberty.

So, though I don’t approve those that milk the system, by running it, or sponging off it, I still for my own wellbeing need to ensure they can not be directly oppressed by forcing them. If I don’t then I figure it is eventually me too, some how some way.

Look at the old Soviet Union, If their system had really been as good as they said then it would not be on the “scrapheap of history”. China seems to be doing ok now, but it really isn’t pure socialism or much like communism these days. Look at Uni students trying to live in shared digs. These are bright, motivated people. Even then some people make a mess and never clean up and others always seem to do the work.

It depends on just how much squalor someone is willing to live in and how rarely and badly you are willing to contribute.

In the end it seems to me that socialism is basically a lead weight round the people’s neck.

I figure socialism gets it wrong because it looses sight of the person, it forces and dragoons the masses. I said it before it’s like the saying “look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves”. Ensure the welfare of individual people, as much as you can, and the masses get taken care of in the process, ‘cos the individual people are collectively the masses.

The other way round eventually involves Zeks.

This is practically a post in it’s own right and though I have been contributing to “Nobody Important” according to my means the last two weeks I don’t figure it is enough.. I could go on, but it would end up as long as one of yours ^_^