Balloonland

stuff gets examined.

Sabotaged by the Past

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. . . The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.

-Jared Diamond, “Collapse”

You hear now and then, especially within the circles of interneterati that the concept of a “political party” has been made obsolete by the internet, which supposedly allows a form of “direct democracy,” wherein everybody on the internet decides how things will go based on popular debate and opinion, instead of by the actions of possibly ulterior motivated representatives.  – kind of like consumerism for ideas. Great, this sounds good! Once we convince everyone to ditch our obsolete political systems, we’ll be all set.

Of course, humans have a bit of a problem getting rid of obsolete stuff.  The vast majority of our societies are made of stuff that may have served some really important purpose in the past, but has been kept around because we’re used to them. Humans like stuff that makes them feel comfortable, safe, and important. And that’s what most obsolete ideas are all about.

Christian Baggage

I’m casting this in the Christian context, because that’s the organized religion I have the best experience with, having once been an altar boy and having gone to Catholic School as a child.  I’m inclined to think these experiences were pivotal in my casting aside the teachings and beliefs of the whole thing, but that’s just my take. I do think that everything here can be applied to other large organized religions to some extent or other.

Religion is a great developmental tool for cultures and civilizations – it gets everybody on the same page with a very compelling set of  reasons why to listen. If you have a large population of people who are too busy to sweat the finer details of existence and (after)life, telling them through the local religion is a great way to put their minds at ease and get them working for the team. Religions consistently serve as the vehicle for control messages put in pace either by the hierarchy of the religion, or by political figures and groups that have sway with the hierarchy.

The problem with this, of course, is turning off the things that have been wired into your religion after you don’t need them any more. A religion serves as a great comfort and feeling of being looked after for all sorts of people who don’t feel like or can’t examine the question, and the legacy of previously circumstantial/political additions can be hard to get rid of.

For Instance: Back when Christianity was a new thing and didn’t have many adherents, it was a good that the followers it did have had as many babies as possible to grow the flock. Making this happen was easily accomplished by having “go forth and multiply” as part of God’s message to his people. This was also useful when Christianity served as the state religion of aspiring empires and growing cultures – all those babies had  because people felt sexy, then cast as made to please God are also good soldiers, workers, and missionaries. Having God tell them to do so, and that additionally any mis-use of the sexual urge is bad, is an awesome way of accomplishing growth.

Sadly, from this no doubt ancient urging to make lots of babies, we’re stuck with developing nations that have been heavily influenced by religious groups (as developing nations are the sort of places that really want, and benefit from, the unifying and strengthening message of religion) and are suffering from issues of fast-growing populations due to a religious dislike of contraception. From this urge reproduce unhampered we also have lost confused and/or dangerous people who try to improve their self-perceived standing in God’s eyes by blowing up abortion clinics, Religious leaders and groups that will brook no discussion of birth control, and in a related manner all sorts of pointless, It-Makes-Me-and-God-Uncomfortable objections to gay marriage.

All of this leading to a world with many severe problems derived from population management problems, and arguments over things that waste energy that would be better placed somewhere else. Humanity, and what has become effectively humanity’s dominate culture (“Internet-Enabled Consumption”) has safely passed the point where it’s in danger of dying out due to a teetering population, lack of growth material or space, or hostile enemy cultures. It’s now endangered by its own success. We no longer need to force people to play the group game, have sex only for the babies and stuff. We can relax, let people deviate. It may be the only way we can save ourselves from our success.

Class Entitled Materialism

Up until very recently, the vast majority of human population was found in the local equivalents of “under-classes” – peasants, working poor, labourers, and so on. A very small percentage of humans were members of “privileged classes.”  Members of the under-classes couldn’t expect much out of life in a materialistic or career satisfaction way in most cases – their work was usually hard, thankless, and absolutely necessary to the function of their culture. They generally had to derive their warm fuzzies from their families, communities, occupational peers, and so on. The privileged classes, on the other hand, could expect and even demand all sorts of materialistic and accomplishment-based rewards. They, too, served an important role in their cultures.

Then the Industrial Revolution and various other related changes happened, culminating in planet-gripping consumerism, and suddenly the masses of humans on the earth were promoted from under-foot and forgettable but necessary cogs to People Who Matter. Unfortunately, the minimal needs and satisfaction requirements of their under-class heritage were not brought along, as humans like being rewarded and a civilization of white-collar workers who were happy sharing a modest house with their extended family wouldn’t drive capitalism very well. “Suddenly” (compared to the length of time where under-classes got very little back) 95% of human population expected, and was happily supplied with all the fancy clothes, home décor, trips, education, and personal indulgence previously limited to the 5% of humans that represented the privileged classes. Comparing the current world state to this model, The “First World” easily assumes the role of the “privileged class,” in that even our “have nots” frequently carry cell phones, eat fast food, and reasonably expect to own a car, with the “developing world” acting as our promotion-eager “under class” as it (often recklessly) offers up its workforces and resources to our self-rewarding habits in an effort to catch up.

The impact of this on the earth and its health should be pretty obvious.  The earth would be in a far better state if we were still in a state where it only needed to provide resources to make cell phones, home theatres, and personal automobiles, as well as the discretionary power sources required for these things to 5% of the total human population rather than an ever-growing majority

I’m not suggesting that the vast majority of humanity does not deserve things. I’m suggesting that our standards and thought patterns have been set by antique notions that merit and status are important, and are best represented by material property. This kind of thinking can probably be traced right back to prehistoric tribes where strong guys handy with clubs defeated all potential rivals for leadership of a tribe, then reinforced their claim by having the nicest clubs, best furs, most meat-based diet, and most loyal hench-clubbers around. It is obviously perpetuated by the world economy and its emphasis on capitalism, where financial success is the only scale of merit that is important. It’s killing us, though. We’re burning through our resource base faster than it can either be renewed or replaced with new substitutes just so everyone in North America can have a new car and state-of-the-art cell phone. We’re distorting things to serve this massive demand, permanently damaging critical natural systems and our own perceptions, ignoring rules we set in more sober states of mind, and re-writing reality to suit the situation.

We need to re-evaluate what it means to be successful in life. This would necessarily require an evaluation of what ‘success” means, which is pretty heavily guarded by tradition.

Conclusion

There are many more examples of strongly-held now-damaging ideas that I could quite happily ramble on about, but I think this has gone far enough. For those of you who like the exercise, think racism/cultural superiority (“European-derived civilization is superior to the often older civilizations that crumbled and/or badly mutated when hijacked by and stuffed full of European-derived values, weapons, and industry: Discuss”), Meat, and Sexism.

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