THE ROOTS OF DICTATORSHIP
By Roland Watson
The review I have given of modern social conditions makes it clear that we are a long way from accomplishing our social goals. And, as we have seen throughout the analysis presented in the University of Life, there are many reasons for this. However, there is a basic linkage, which we can understand, and which we must confront.
The fundamental problem is that we have not yet found a way to establish equality as our governing principle. And, the reason in turn for this is that many people are doing everything in their power to prevent it. Society is riddled with dictatorship, which is in opposition to equality. The question is: Why is there so much dictatorship in human society?
The chain of the human experience
There is a chain in the human experience that has ten links, which leads inexorably to dictatorship, and which I will now describe.
1. Life conditions. We have to begin at the beginning, with the basic conditions of life. The fundamental forms of the life experience are that it is in many ways unknown; uncertain; regularly a difficult struggle and full of pain; unfair; and, ultimately, in one way at least, everyone loses. Every living thing dies.
2. Personal selfishness. These conditions in turn lead to personal selfishness. The evolutionary form of our genetically programmed instincts is to seek to minimize our struggle and to ensure survival, both for ourselves and our family. Hence, we view everything in the context of this, our own self-interest. Furthermore, personal selfishness leads to group selfishness, all the way to species selfishness.
3. Competition. Self-interest in turn generates competition, since our self-interest is often in - or it seems to be in - conflict with the self-interest of other people, and species.
4. Conflict. Competing self-interests are regularly resolved through conflict, either because there appears to be no other option, or because one individual perceives an advantage and initiates a conflict to promote his or her self-interest, and to defeat the others.
5. Social structure. Individuals form groups, since there is strength in numbers, to gain this advantage. And, through this interpersonal competition and conflict rise to all levels of society, and forms of social organization, including between all manner of groups.
6. Social values. Society in turn glorifies this competition and conflict, and its winners - but not the losers, and through this reinforces personal selfishness.
7. Inequality. In competitions and conflicts there are winners, a few, and losers, often many. The sum is regularly not even zero. It is negative. Because of this, inequality is created.
8. Winners and losers. Winning a competition or conflict may be due to merit, but in many cases it is due to other factors, foremost among them chance, or that the competition is rigged in some way. Even more, winning in one competition increases the chances that you will win in the next. You learn how to win. You carry forward technical advantages, and rewards, derived from the prior competition. And, you take pride in being a winner. You feel a strong compulsion to defend this. Likewise, if you lose, this increases the chances that you will lose in the next competition. Indeed, losing itself can be addictive.
9. Dictatorship. The advantages that winners of prior competitions carry into new ones can reach the point or take the form where they - the winners - are able to dictate the terms - the rules - of the new competitions. They are in a position to guarantee that they will win. In other words, it is not even a competition anymore. The inequality created by the initial competitions is perpetuated, and leads to structurally ingrained dictatorship.
10. Determinism. A final life condition is that we are born with free will. We have the ability to shape the circumstances of our lives. However, when our lives are reconfigured by society such that we become the subjects of structurally ingrained dictatorship, with no possibility of winning or even of just opting out of the game, we effectively lose this will. It is taken away from us. We become determined. Also, we are led by the dictators to believe that this determinism is itself a basic, immutable condition of life.
This is unacceptable, and it must be fought. We therefore need to attack the weak points in the chain. Also, we must understand that the clarity that derives from this discussion will not be present when we actually confront society, and attempt to get it to change.
Indeed, society is rarely clear. Rather, it is vague and ambiguous. And, much of this is purposeful. It is the intentional outcome of the tactics that are used by the leaders of our social institutions. On the other hand, ambiguity also arises as an unintentional consequence of this "hidden" competition, between free will and determinism.
One of the best ways to see this is to consider the "hidden biases" of society, which can also be termed "modern doublethink."
According to George Orwell, from his book 1984:
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... This process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision. But it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt."
In the regular public debate over values, these are the values with which we should be most concerned.
- We believe we can control things, but we can't.
- We believe perfection is possible, but it isn't.
- We say we are interested in substance, but we revere appearance.
- We say we care about other people, but we don't.
- We say we want to cooperate, but we actively compete.
- We say we are patient and tolerant, but we are not.
- We say we value diversity, but we seek subjugation and conformity.
- We say we want peace, but we glorify war.
- We believe in equality, but we want to be better than other people.
- We believe we are equal, but we require leaders.
- We want everyone to be free, but other people should do what we tell them to do.
- We say we are not sheep, but we live in fear.
- We say we want to conserve nature, but we consume more.
- We think we are better than animals, but we are animal.
- We say we have absolute ethics, but we change them to suit the situation.
- We say we seek the truth, but we sacrifice it for convenience.
- We say we want a life - get a life!, but we really want a career.
- We say we strive for knowledge and wisdom, but we really desire success.
In the next two articles, I will explain how we can break the cycle and escape from dictatorship, in all its forms.
© Roland Watson 2015