(Scottish) Independence

"I'm in an abusive relationship".

There, you've said it. Its taken so long for you to get to this point, but here you are. You've said it.

Its taken you so long because the abuse isn't painted in bold strokes. It is not physical. There are no cuts or bruises, let alone broken arms.

No, this isn't a physical thing. He just chips away at you. Nothing major, just little comments here and there. But they all add up. You have no self-belief. Your ambition is curbed. When you do well he feels inadequate. That sort of thing. You are in your place; under his control; at the mercy of his insecurities.

Leaving him is unimaginable. Sometimes the thought flits across your mind, but you push it away just as quickly. After all, you're married. You have kids together, and a house. You are a part of his family, and he's a part of yours. Not ever having believed in yourself, you are dependent upon him; emotionally, financially.

All of this bears down on you, makes a way out seem impossible. You could never cause such an upset, such an upheaval.

But there is a part of you -  something deep down, something youthful and full of hope - that is gasping for breath. Every now and then it screams in frustration and anguish. 'Let me out! I have work to do, places to go, people to see; dreams to fulfill. Let me out!'

One day it all gets too much. You begin to allow the thought into your head. Leaving him. How about it?

You ask friends. The majority take the pragmatic approach. Yes, he might not be the best guy in the world; and sure, things sound like they can be bad. But let's face it, you have too much to lose. You need his money. How will you survive without him? And the kids. It will upset them too much. Its all too risky. Best thing is to maybe try to talk to him, tell him your concerns. Come to a compromise. He's not so bad, really. Be strong. Its all okay, maybe its just a phase you're going through. After all, you've been together this long. Why throw it all away?

They have a point, you think. What would I do? How would I support myself? There would be so much to think about, so many things that could go wrong. Your self-belief begins to buckle, as it always has.

But one of your friends - your oldest friend, that special one - says something different.

Go for it.

I've never liked him. I've seen the effect he's had on you. I've seen you wilt. Its killed me. I've been waiting for you to pluck up the courage to ask me this. Please, be brave. Leave him. Do it because your heart knows its the right thing to do. Don't think of the consequences. Don't let fear rule your life any longer. Its not too late for you. You are so special and have so much potential. For too many years I've seen it trampled all over. And you'll never know that potential until you truly test yourself. I want to see you flower again.

Things will sort themselves out. But please god, leave him. I'll be here for you. I know it all seems impossible - so much to sort out, so much to go through - but I'll be here. All you have to do is decide. Make that decision. Tick that box. Once you've made it then things will fall into place.

It won't be easy. There will be extremely hard times. But I promise, you won't regret it. Be brave.

You're so confused. Do I follow my heart or my head?

Which will it be?

Democratic / Autocratic

Democracy               -                       Autocracy
Poly                          -                       Mono
Equal                        -                       Unequal
Horizontal                -                       Vertical
Dynamic                   -                       Static

The task before parliamentary socialism is that of articulating and advocating its policies to an ill-educated electorate in a society where there is freedom to choose one's representatives;

in short, where there is always the danger that the electorate will choose self rather than society.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p.120

You are stranded on a desert island with ten other people. Every one of them is under ten years old, apart from one who is an elderly gentleman. You must begin to make collective decisions in order to survive on the island. You decide upon a democratic system in order to make your decisions.

These under tens are a particularly headstrong group, and have a number of their own ideas as to how best to spend your time on the island. Every view is heard and each is put to the vote. Majority rules.

How long will you survive?

The main requisite for a functioning democracy is maturity. 

This can be defined as the ability to not only know and understand the self - and thus to know what is best for the self - but to also know and understand the whole (i.e. society) - and to know what is best for the whole.

Look around at society and ask:

1. How many have the ability to work out what is best for themselves?
2. How many have the ability to work out what is best for their families?
3. How many have the ability to work out what is best for their community?
4. How many have the ability to work out what is best for their society?

A democracy takes for granted that those within it have all four of these abilities. Not only that, it also assumes that they can put aside the first three in favour of the last, number 4. Because it may be that what is best for you, your family or your immediate community is not best for the majority of people.

Again; look around at you and ask: are we capable of democracy?

Every time you see a piece of litter left in the street, or dog-mess left on the pavement, you are seeing a demonstration of why democracy does not work. Or to be more precise, why we are currently incapable of democracy.

When someone litters or leaves dog-mess, they are showing you that they do not think communally. These are selfish acts, committed by people who do not think of the wider affect that their actions will have.

When it comes to voting, do you think these people will be weighing up the options in light of what is best for the greater good? Or will they cast their vote in light of their own self-interest? 

Molly Dineen: But do you not think its important to be democratic?

Earl of Romney: Well, its a sort of excuse isn't it?

MD: For what?

ER: For consulting everybody and doing what nobody wants.

MD: Do you believe in democracy?

ER: No, I don't.

MD: What do you believe in?

ER: A benevolent government of the well informed [...] The way democracy works, its so irresponsible

MD: Irresponsible?

ER: Yes, people say, 'what's he done for me' or 'I don't like the look of his face, I wouldn't trust that fellow' - haven't you heard people say that?

MD: Yes

ER: Well is that the way to use your vote?

Dialogue from documentary 'The Lords' Tale' by Molly Dineen

If the situation calls for authoritarianism, then it is proper to be an authoritarian; and if the situation calls for democracy, one should be democratic. 'Good authority' that sets necessary limits is a lost art in many families and schools, having been confused with punitiveness, regimentation, and rigidity.

At the same time, 'democracy' has almost been deified as the definitive, universal end-state model for decision-making, whether the active MEMEs in a group can handle it or not.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p.279

Molly Dineen
: Why do you feel so strongly?

Baroness Miller: I'll tell you why I do. If they decided to reform the House of Lords - which is fine - I still say its the finest rising chamber in the world - but if they felt that the hereditary peers' [...] time has come and they want to revise it, reform it, do whatever they will, then do it for all of us.

[...] At the end of the day, why am I in the Lords, Molly, I ask myself. I'm there because a Prime Minister sent me - its modern day patronage. And when you saw the glee of all those noble Lords on the other side, that, finally, they'd somehow got rid of the hereditary peers, and they're so thrilled. But have they ever stopped to think, why are they there? Tony Blair sent a whole reef of them in lately.

[...] Will we be better at scrutinising legislation because its modern day patronage?

MD: They would argue because you personally earned it, and not your father

BM: Well maybe they would argue that, but I would say that I'd rather have patronage of several hundred years ago, when the noble lords, who have served this country well, can look at it dispassionately, and they do not owe their position here to this Prime Minister, or the one before.

Dialogue from 'The Lords' Tale', a documentary by Molly Dineen

Debates about which leadership form is 'the best,' whether in the General Assembly of the United Nations or in a university management seminar, miss the point.

The argument should turn on what are the prevailing Life Conditions and which MEMEs will awaken. Once the color(s) are identified, the appropriate leadership follows naturally.

[Don Beck & Christopher Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p. 126

The history of societies shows a constant tendency toward the formation of a nobility as the apex and crown of any given society.

It would seem that all efforts at socialization have as their ideal some kind of aristocracy, of rule of the best, even though this goal may not be admitted.

The holders of power, whether they have been kings or an anonymous group, have always been willing to further the rise of a nobility by protection and the granting of privileges. This has been so no matter what the nature of the nobility: political, by birth, by selection and education.

The favoured nobility has always basked in the sunlight; but from a certain stage of development on, its place in the sun, its privileged state, has always constituted a temptation and led to its corruption.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p.348

If a number of individuals were to undergo (psychoanalysis) separately, and - provided their motive was strong enough - were to experience a change of attitude, they could subsequently form a group, a leading minority, which might become the nucleus of a larger body of people. 

Their numbers could be increased

a. by individual treatment
b. by suggestion through authority

The great mass of people is led by its suggestibility. It cannot be changed in its attitude, only in its behaviour. The latter depends on the authority of leaders whose attitude has been really changed.

A nation consists of the sum of its individuals, and its character corresponds to the moral average. Nobody is immune to a nationwide evil unless he is unshakably convinced of the danger of his own character being tainted by the same evil.

But the immunity of the nation depends entirely upon the existence of a leading minority immune to the evil and capable of combatting the powerful suggestive effect of seemingly possible wish-fulfilments.

[C. J. Jung]
'Techniques of attitude change conductive to world peace (Memorandum to UNESCO)', Civilization in Transition, p. 609-10, 612

It is just conceivable that Brexit will eventually turn out to be a good thing. I gravely doubt it, but I’m not qualified to judge. And that is the point. I wasn’t qualified to vote in the referendum. Nor were you, unless you have a PhD in economics or are an expert in a relevant field such as history.

Am I being elitist? Of course. What’s wrong with that?

We want elite surgeons who know their anatomy, elite pilots who know how to fly, elite engineers to build safe bridges, elite athletes to win at the Olympics for Team GB, elite architects to design beautiful buildings, elite teachers and professors to educate the next generation and help them join the elite.

In the same way, to decide the affairs of state, as we live in a representative democracy, we can at least hope to elect elite parliamentarians, guided and advised by elite, highly educated civil servants. Not politicians who abdicate their democratic responsibility and hand important decisions over to people like me.

[Richard Dawkins]
'Richard Dawkins: We need a new party - the European Party'

The essential thing in a good and healthy aristocracy is, however, that it does not feel itself to be a function (of the monarchy or of the commonwealth) but as their meaning and supreme justification - that it therefore accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable men who for its sake have to be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and instruments. 

Its fundamental faith must be that society should not exist for the sake of society but only as foundation and scaffolding upon which a select species of being is able to raise itself to its higher task and in general to a higher existence: like those sun-seeking climbing plants of Java - they are named sipo matador - which clasp an oak-tree with their tendrils so long and often that at last, high above it but supported by it, they can unfold their crowns in the open light and display their happiness. 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 25

“The mass will never rule except in abstracto. Consequently the question ... is not whether ideal democracy is realizable, but rather to what point and in what degree democracy is desirable, possible, and realizable at a given moment."

Oligarchy will always remain; but it may be possible to put some limit and restraint on the absoluteness of oligarchy. This cannot be effectively done by a utopian and sentimental idealism concerning the possibilities of democracy.

“Nothing but a serene and frank examination of the oligarchical dangers of a democracy will enable us to minimize these dangers, even though they can never be entirely avoided.”

[James Burnham]
The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, p.151

Envy is not simply a resentment of others for having more than oneself. It also has a moral element, because democratic morality makes all inequalities seem wrong and unfair.

In aristocracy, the experience of hierarchy and privilege is softened by the principles that provided a rationale for inequality. Democracy provides no such rationale. Thus, “the least superiority held by one member of society over another appears as an unjustifiable privilege.”

The belief in equality sharpens the experience of relative hardship, then, by adding a sense of injustice to it.

Tocqueville […] explains that the nature of industrial enterprises threatens to trap low-level workers in jobs and situations that do not admit of change. For those workers, the hopes kindled by the new egalitarian politics are more illusion than reality.

[Dana Jalbert Stauffer]
‘“The Most Common Sickness of Our Time”: Tocqueville on Democratic Restlessness’, The Review of Politics 80 (2018), p.451

Aristocrats enjoy a tranquil sense of superiority.

But in a democracy, “since each person is surrounded by a million others who possess quite similar or analogous advantages, pride becomes exigent and jealous; it fastens on trifles and defends them stubbornly.”

The men of democracies are eager to show off any advantages they acquire, because they are uncertain of their superiority. They feel the need to confirm it both to themselves and to others.

[Dana Jalbert Stauffer]
‘“The Most Common Sickness of Our Time”: Tocqueville on Democratic Restlessness’, The Review of Politics 80 (2018), p.452

Democracy is [...] an acceptable legitimating tool only as long as its practices exist within, and are broadly supportive of, liberal assumptions.

When democratic majorities reject aspects of liberalism - as electorates throughout western Europe and America have done in recent years - a growing chorus of leading voices denounce democracy and the unwisdom of the masses.

American elites have periodically assayed the possibility of severely limiting democracy, believing that democracy will undermine policies preferred by experts. In particular, those favoring the expansion of liberalism beyond the nationstate, and thus policies that increase economic integration and the effective erasure of borders, have increasingly become proponents of further constraining democracy.

One such authority is Jason Brennan of Georgetown University, who has argued in a book entitled Against Democracy that voters are consistently ill-informed and even ignorant, and that democratic government thus will ultimately reflect the deficiencies of the electorate. Other libertarian-leaning liberals such as Bryan Caplan, Jeffrey Friedman, and Damon Root believe that when democracy threatens the substantive commitments of liberalism - which they maintain will be unavoidably the case, since uneducated and uninformed voters are illiberal - it might be better simply to consider ways to jettison democracy.

Brennan has instead called for rule by an "epistocracy," a governing elite with tested and proven knowledge to efficiently and effectively govern a modern liberal and capitalist state and social order.

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.157

Limited / Limitless

Limited                            -                      Limitless
Circular                           -                      Linear 
Conserve                          -                      Progress  
Completion                      -                      Perfection
Earth                                -                      Heaven 
Sacred                              -                      Profane 
Wisdom                           -                      Cleverness 

Religion is a sophisticated system of limitations. It gives us reasons to draw boundaries and designate no-go-zones. Without an encompassing and binding narrative like religion, we are at the mercy of our expansive urges.

Sacredness implies limits - "only at this time", "only by these people." 

Nietzsche suggests that the development of a culture must happen at a certain pace, a careful pace.
This, then, is the job of the conservative - to slow the pace to an andante and to prevent it from progressing too quickly.

It is the prudent imposition of boundaries - of knowing how and where to stop - that is the keynote of traditional wisdom.

But Spengler suggests that modern man - Faustian man - is driven by a 'deep necessity' to transcend all limits, including the limits that our bodies present us with. 

The traditional home of infinitude is the transcendent realm, the realm of Being, but because it is shut off from us we end up looking for mundane solutions. Instead of the transcendent realm we turn to its surrogate, the virtual realm - a world without limits, which offers the possibility of being, and having, everything, and which promises a sort of heaven on earth.

Perhaps the question is not, "Can The Matrix ever become a reality?" 

Rather, "What will stop The Matrix from becoming a reality?"

In other words, is technology inevitably taking us toward this destination? If so, when do we put the brakes on?

Another way to look at it is to ask, "If we had the appropriate technology now, would it happen?"

It may already be happening, bit by bit, one advance after another.

We look at The Matrix and are horrified, and yet we covet and praise the contemporary 'advances' that may lead us toward it.

[…] the technological imperative: ‘If an experiment can be done, it will be done; if the knowledge is available, it will be applied.’

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p.179

The trouble about valuing means above ends – which as confirmed by Keynes, is the attitude of modern economics - is that it destroys man's freedom and power to choose the ends he really favours; the development of means, as it were, dictates the choice of ends. 

Obvious examples are the pursuit of supersonic transport speeds and the immense efforts made to land men on the moon. The conception of these aims was not the result of insight into real human needs and aspirations, which technology is meant to serve, but solely of the fact that the necessary technical means appeared to be available.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p.42-3

The rule in biological evolution is plain: The immediate individual bodily effects of functioning shall never be allowed to impinge upon the individual genetic coding.

The gene pool of the population is however subject to change under a natural selection which will recognize differences, especially differences in ability to achieve more adaptive functioning. The barrier which prohibits 'Lamarckian' inheritance precisely protects the gene system from too rapid change under possibly capricious environmental demands.

But in cultures and social system [...] there is no equivalent barrier.

Innovations become irreversibly adopted into the on-going system without being tested for long-time viability; and necessary changes are resisted by the core of conservative individuals without any assurance that these particular changes are the ones to resist.

Individual comfort and discomfort become the only criteria for choice of social change and the basic contrast of logical typing between member and the category is forgotten until new discomforts are (inevitably) created by the new state of affairs.

Fear of individual death and grief propose that it would be 'good' to eliminate epidemic disease and only after 100 years of preventive medicine do we discover that the population is overgrown. And so on.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 238

The machine metaphor, stressing bigger and more efficient operations in wordly society, stands in sharp contrast to Amish thinking about the use of tools.

The logic of expanded technology points toward infinite industrial growth and infinite energy consumption. The energy crisis is for the Amish a crisis not of supply but of use, not of technology but of morality.

By carefully restricting the use of machine-developed energy, the Amish "have become the only true masters of technology."

The Amish have problems, but with respect to energy and the balancing of human life with machines, they have mastered one of the contradictions so puzzling to modern society.

By holding technology at a distance, by exercising restraint and moderations, and by accepting limitations and living within then, the Amish have maintained the integrity of their family and community life.

They have escaped many of the noxious side effects of ambitious technology - haste, aimlessness, distraction, violence, waste, and disintegration.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 383-4

Bostrom calls this the Technological Completion Conjecture:

If scientific- and technological-development efforts do not effectively cease, then all impor­t­­­ant basic capabilities that could be obtained through some possible technology will be obtained.

In light of this, he suspects that the farther into the future one looks the less likely it seems that life will continue as it is. He favors the far ends of possibility: humanity becomes transcendent or it perishes.

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?


The Amish are inutitively aware of the danger of large-scale enterprises [...] Limitless technology is, for them, greed and a denial of wisdom.

Amish economic thinking is subjected to a traditional wisdom requiring the restraint of selfishness, greed, leisure, and expansionist thinking.

The future of the Amish will be determined not solely by technology, or the means to life, but by the definition they themselves give to life.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 396

Many argue that posthuman space will be more virtual than real.

Individuals may consist of uploaded minds living as data patterns on supercomputers or users engaged in completely immersive virtual realities.

Postgenderists contend that these types of existences are not gender-specific thus allowing individuals to morph their virtual appearances and sexuality at will.


The body, that inconvenient reminder of mortality, is plucked, pierced, etched, pummelled, pumped up, shrunk and remoulded [...] What seems a celebration of the body, then, may also cloak a virulent anti-materialism - a desire to gather this raw, perishable stuff into the less corruptible forms of art or discourse.

The resurrection of the body returns as the tattoo parlour and the cosmetic surgeon's consulting-room. To reduce this obstreperous stuff to so much clay in our hands is a fantasy of mastering the unmasterable.

It is a disavowal of death, a refusal of the limit which is ourselves.

For all its love affair with matter, in the shape of Tuscan villas and double brandies, capitalist society harbours a secret hatred of the stuff. It is a culture shot through with fantasy, idealist to its core, powered by a disembodied will which dreams of pounding Nature to pieces. It makes an idol out of matter, but cannot stomach the resistance it offers to its grandiose schemes.

Taming the Mississippi and piercing your navel are just earlier and later versions of the same ideology. Having moulded the landscape to our own image and likeness, we have now begun to recraft ourselves. Civil engineering has been joined by cosmetic surgery.

'Personalizing' the body may be a way of denying its essential impersonality. Its impersonality lies in the fact that it belongs to the species before it belongs to me; and there are some aspects of the species-body - death, vulnerability, sickness and the like - that we may well prefer to thrust into oblivion.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.164-6

Religion has invisible purposes beyond what the literal-minded scientistic-scientifiers identify - one of which is to protect us from scientism, that is, them.

We can see in the corpus of inscriptions (on graves) accounts of people erecting fountains or even temples to their favourite gods after these succeeded where doctors failed. Indeed we rarely look at religion’s benefits in limiting the intervention bias and its iatrogenics: in a large set of circumstances (marginal disease), anything that takes you away from the doctor and allows you to do nothing (hence gives nature a chance to do its work) will be beneficial.

I believe in the heuristics of religion and blindly accommodate its rules (as an Orthodox Christian, I can cheat once in a while, as it is part of the game). Among other things the role of religion is to tame the iatrogenics of abundance - fasting makes you lose your sense of entitlement.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 364-5

Much has been gained when the feeling has at last been instilled into the masses (into the shallow-pates and greedyguts of every sort) that there are things they must not touch; that there are holy experiences before which they have to take off their shoes and keep their unclean hands away - it is almost their highest advance towards humanity. 

Conversely, there is perhaps nothing about the so-called cultured, the believers in 'modern ideas', that arouses so much disgust as their lack of shame, the self-satisfied insolence of eye and hand with which they touch, lick and fumble with everything; and it is possible that more relative nobility of taste and reverential tact is to be discovered today among the people, among the lower orders and especially among peasants, than among the newspaper-reading demi-monde of the spirit, the cultured.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 263

The historical sense […] to which we Europeans lay claim as our speciality, has come to us in the wake of the mad and fascinating semi-barbarism into which Europe has been plunged through the democratic mingling of classes and races […]

The past of every form and mode of life, of cultures that formerly lay close beside or on top of one another, streams into us 'modern souls' thanks to this mingling, our instincts now run back in all directions, we ourselves are a kind of chaos [...]

Through our semi-barbarism in body and desires we have secret access everywhere such as a noble age never had, above all the access to the labyrinth of unfinished cultures and to every semi-barbarism which has ever existed on earth; and, in so far as the most considerable part of human culture hitherto has been semi-barbarism, "historical sense' means virtually the sense and instinct for everything, the taste and tongue for everything: which at once proves it to be an ignoble sense. 

We enjoy Homer again, for instance: perhaps it is our happiest advance that we know how to appreciate Homer, whom the men of a noble culture […] cannot and could not assimilate so easily - whom they hardly permitted themselves to enjoy. The very definite Yes and No of their palate, their easily aroused disgust, their hesitant reserve with regard to everything strange, their horror of the tastelessness even of a lively curiosity, and in general that unwillingness of a noble and self-sufficient culture to admit to a new desire, a dissatisfaction with one's own culture, an admiration for what is foreign: all this disposes them unfavourably towards even the best things in the world which are not their property and could not become their prey - and no sense is so unintelligible to such men as the historical sense and its obsequious plebeian curiosity. 

That as men of the 'historical sense’ we have our virtues is not to be denied - we are unpretentious, selfless, modest, brave, full of self-restraint, full of devotion, very grateful, very patient, very accommodating - with all that, we are perhaps not very 'tasteful'. 

Let us finally confess it to ourselves: that which we men of the "historical sense' find hardest to grasp, to feel, taste, love, that which at bottom finds us prejudiced and almost hostile, is just what is complete and wholly mature in every art and culture, that which constitutes actual nobility in works and in men, their moment of smooth sea and halcyon self-sufficiency, the goldness and coldness displayed by all things which have become perfect. 

Perhaps our great virtue of the historical sense necessarily stands opposed to good taste, or to the very best taste at any rate [...]

Measure is alien to us, let us admit it to ourselves; what we itch for is the infinite, the unmeasured. Like a rider on a charging steed we let fall the reins before the infinite, we modern men, like semi-barbarians - and attain our state of bliss only when we are most – in danger.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 224

This prime feeling of a loosing, Erlösung, solution, of the Soul in the Infinite, of a liberation from all material heaviness which the highest moments of our music always awaken, sets free also the energy of depth that is in the Faustian soul: 

whereas the effect of Classical art-work is to bind and to bound, and the body-feeling secures, brings back the eye from distance to a Near and Still that is saturated with beauty.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, Vol. 1, p. 177-8

It is preeminently in the generations and castes that conserve a people that we encounter such recrudescences of old instincts, while such atavisms are improbable wherever races, habits, and valuations change too rapidly. 

For tempo is as significant for the development of peoples as it is in music: in our case, an andante of development is altogether necessary as the andante of a passionate and slow spirit; and that is after all the value of the spirit of conservative generations.

The Jews [...] are beyond all doubt the strongest, toughest and purest race at present living in Europe; they know how to prevail even under the worst conditions (better even than under favourable ones), by means of virtues which one would like to stamp as vices -- thanks above all to a resolute faith which does not need to be ashamed before 'modern ideas'; 

they change, when they change, only in the way in which the Russian Empire makes its conquests - an empire that has time and is not of yesterday - : namely, according to the principle as slowly as possible’! 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 10 and Beyond Good and Evil, 251

If the nature of change is such that nothing is left for the fathers to teach their sons, or for the sons to accept from their fathers, family life collapses. 

The life, work, and happiness of all societies depend on certain ‘psychological structures' which are infinitely precious and highly vulnerable. Social cohesion, co-operation, mutual respect, and above all self-respect, courage in the face of adversity, and the ability to bear hardship – all this and much else disintegrates and disappears when these ‘psychological structures' are gravely damaged. A man is destroyed by the inner conviction of uselessness. 

No amount of economic growth can compensate for such losses - though this may be an idle reflection, since economic growth is normally inhibited by them. None of these awesome problems figure noticeably in the cosy theories of most of our development economists.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p.161

Everything happens slowly. 

In my indigenous culture, everything takes time, and long consideration, and many sleepings on it. It might even be generations before we go, ‘Yeah, alright, we’ll bring that in.’

[Tyson Yunkaporta]
'Talking Indigenous Thinking | Tyson Yunkaporta' (YouTube)

Should the pursuit of science be constrained?

Obviously, scientific experimentation must be carried out in accordance with society's view of ethical behaviour. Science must not travel independently from the social needs of communities. 

Science does not have great wisdom. Rather it accumulates and cleverly analyzes particular information which supplies it with skills. It does not have an overall view based on general understanding. Science is massively powerful, potentially useful and, of course, can be beneficial. But as it solves problems, so it creates others. 

Scientific achievement produces both expected and unexpected results and the latter, quite often, can do more damage in the long term than the former do good.

[...] technology, industry, the economy and science must all serve the true needs of society. Stability and contentment should not be sacrificed so as to further the development of our tools.

Modernists do not accept that each generation has a duty to commit to a contract between the past, the present and the future. They do not see themselves as guardians of continuity but rather as agents of constantly accelerating change. And they think only fleetingly of its potential consequences. 

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p. 180, 183-4

In short, we can say today that man is far too clever to be able to survive without wisdom. 

The exclusion of wisdom from economics, science, and technology was something which we could perhaps get away with for a little while, as long as we were relatively unsuccessful; but now that we have become very successful, the problem of spiritual and moral truth moves into the central position.

From an economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence. 

We must study the economics of permanence. Nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities. There can be 'growth' towards a limited objective, but there cannot be unlimited, generalised growth. It is more than likely, as Gandhi said, that 'Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not for every man's greed'. Permanence is incompatible with a predatory attitude which rejoices in the fact that 'what were luxuries for our fathers have become necessities for us'.

The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom.

The economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and, in fact, have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure. Scientific or technological 'solutions’ which poison the environment or degrade the social structure and man himself are of no benefit, no matter how brilliantly conceived or how great their superficial attraction. 

Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.

The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure. 

[The insights of wisdom] enable us to see the hollowness and fundamental unsatisfactoriness of a life devoted primarily to the pursuit of material ends, to the neglect of the spiritual. Such a life necessarily sets man against man and nation against nation, because man's needs are infinite and infinitude can be achieved only in the spiritual realm, never in the material. 

Man assuredly needs to rise above this humdrum 'world'; wisdom shows him the way to do it; without wisdom, he is driven to build up a monster economy, which destroys the world, and to seek fantastic satisfactions, like landing a man on the moon. Instead of overcoming the 'world' by moving towards saintliness, he tries to overcome it by gaining preeminence in wealth, power, science, or indeed any imaginable 'sport'.

How could we even begin to disarm greed and envy? Perhaps by being much less greedy and envious ourselves; perhaps by resisting the temptation of letting our luxuries become needs; and perhaps by even scrutinising our needs to see if they cannot be simplified and reduced. 

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p. 26, 30-1

We are less interested in breaking through certain limits, with or without cause, than in putting in doubt the right to posit such limits in the first place. In a word, we do not believe that there exists, in all rigor, a ... text, closed upon itself, complete with its inside and outside.

[Jacques Derrida]
Dissemination, p. 130

And yet, to live we must impose limits, arbitrary as they may be. 

For primitive societies the natural world (which usually changes only slowly) provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of security. 

In the modern world it is human society that dominates nature rather than the other way around, and modern society changes very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable framework.

The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

[Ted Kaczynski]
Industrial Society and its Future, 49, 50

Whereas formerly the limits of human endurance have imposed limits on the development of societies, industrial-technological society will be able to pass those limits by modifying human beings, whether by psychological methods or biological methods or both. 

In the future, social systems will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human being will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system. 

The Industrial Revolution has radically altered man’s environment and way of life, and it is only to be expected that as technology is increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.

[Ted Kaczynski]
Industrial Society and its Future, 151, 160

I have come to see that all of the questions raised in these essays - the questions raised in my lifetime of non-fiction writing, and maybe my fiction too - could be said to come back to one word: limits.

Modernity is a machine for destroying limits. 

The ideology of the Machine - the liberation of individual desire - sees our world as a blank slate to be written on afresh when the old limits of nature and culture are washed away. 

This is our faith: that breaking boundaries leads to happiness, that boundaries are barriers rather than opportunities. We strain against all limits. It is who we are.

[Paul Kingsnorth]
'Want is the Acid'

Both socialism and capitalism are products of the European Enlightenment and are thus modernizing and anti-traditional forces. In contrast, distributism seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life.

[Thomas Storck]
'Capitalism and Distributism: two systems at war', Beyond Capitalism & Socialism, p. 75

So long as that moral tradition is alive, so long as stealing other people’s wives is reprobated or being faithful to a spouse is admired, there are limits to the extent to which the wildest profligate in Balham can disturb the balances of the sexes.

So any land-grabber would very rapidly find that there were limits to the extent to which he could buy up land in an Irish or Spanish or Serbian village […] In an atmosphere of capitalism the man who lays field to field is flattered; but in an atmosphere of property he is promptly jeered at or possible stoned. 

The result is that the village has not sunk into plutocracy or the suburb into polygamy. 

[G. K. Chesterton]
The Outline of Sanity, p. 35

[…] a people who had really found out what fun it is to make things would never want to make most of them with a machine. Sculptors do not want to turn a statue out with a lathe or painters to print off a picture as a pattern, and a craftsman who was really capable of making pots or pans would be no readier to condescend to what is called manufacturing them. 

But, anyhow, a world in which there were many independent men would probably be a world in which there were more individual craftsmen. When we have created anything like such a world, we may trust it to feel more than the modern world does the danger of machinery deadening creation, and the value of what it deadens. 

And I suggested that such a world might very well make special provision about machines, as we all do about weapons; admitting them for particular purposes, but keeping watch on them in particular ways.

[G. K. Chesterton]
The Outline of Sanity, p. 179

Any night, the starry heavens give us at the same moment impressions that 3,700 years apart in time, for that is the distance in light-years from the extreme outer limit to the earth […]

This aspect - an image, I repeat, and not a matter of experimental knowledge - is for the Faustian a high and noble aspect, but for the Apollinian it would have been woeful and terrible, an annihilation of the most profound conditions of his being. And he would have felt it as sheer salvation when after all a limit, however remote, had been found. 

But we, driven by the deep necessity that is in us, must simply ask ourselves the new question: Is there anything outside this system? Are there aggregates of such systems, at such distances that even the dimensions established by our astronomy are small by comparison? 

As far as sense-observations are concerned, it seems that an absolute limit has been reached; neither light nor gravitation can give a sign of existence through this outer space, void of mass. But for us it is a simple necessity of thought

Our spiritual passion, our unresting need to actualize our existence-idea in symbols, suffers under this limitation of our sense-perceptions.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, p.332

[…] Jaspers, like Heidegger, speaks of man's impulse to embrace being, not as this or that particular being, but as pure and total being.

This impulse is destined to fail in all its positive forms. Pure being may present itself outside us through a “ciphered language,” by means of symbols, but in its essence it is “transcendent” in the negative sense, thus impossible to be attained in any way.

The cutting of all bonds, the intolerance of all limits, the pure and incoercible impulse to overcome without any determined goal, to always move on beyond any given state, experience, or idea, and naturally and even more beyond any human attachment to a given person, fearing neither contradictions nor destructions, thus pure movement, with all that that implies of dissolution—“advancing with a devouring fire that leaves nothing behind itself,” to use an expression from an ancient wisdom tradition, though it applies to a very different context—these essential characteristics that some have already recognized in Nietzsche can be explained precisely as so many forms in which the transcendent acts and manifests

But the fact that this is not recognized and admitted as such, the fact, therefore, that this energy remains in the closed circle of immanence and of “life," generates a higher voltage than the circuit can sustain. This fact, moreover, may be the true and deeper cause of the final / collapse of Nietzsche the man. 

It is clear, even in this particular respect, how important Nietzsche is as a symbolic figure for our entire investigation. His case illustrates in precise terms what can, and indeed must, occur in a human type in which transcendence has awakened, yes, but who is uncentered with regard to it. 

“It is decisive how man lives defeat (or failure or foundering - Scheitern): whether it remains hidden in order to crush him in the end, or whether it appears unveiled, placing itself in front of the inescapable limits of his own Dasein; either he seeks solutions and palliatives that are inconsistent and fantastic, or else he frankly keeps silence on account of the presence of the inexplicable.”

At that point, nothing is left but faith.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 51-2, 98-9

Contemporary circumstances have only accelerated the demise of the liberal arts […] While few of today's professors of the humanities are able to articulate grounds for protest, I would think the humanities of old would be able to muster a powerful argument against this tendency. Its warning would be simple, recalling its oldest lessons: at the end of the path of liberation lies enslavement.

Such liberation from all obstacles is finally illusory, for two simple reasons: human appetite is insatiable and the world is limited. For both of these reasons, we cannot be truly free in the modern sense. We can never attain satiation, and will be eternally driven by our desires rather than satisfied by their attainment. And in our pursuit of the satisfaction of our limitless desires, we will very quickly exhaust the planet.

Our destiny, should we enter fully down this path toward our complete liberation, is one in which we will be more governed by necessity than ever before. We will be governed not by our own capacity for self-rule but rather by circumstance, particularly the circumstances resulting from scarcity, devastation, and chaos.

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.125-6

Even if we ignore the unattractive features of “critical discourse” and consider it in the most genial light, we cannot escape the mounting evidence that calls its underlying premise - the limitless possibilities generated by modern science and modern production - into question. The promise of universal abundance has always contained egalitarian implications without which it would have carried very little moral authority.

Those implications were open to conflicting interpretations. Some people argued that it was enough to increase the general pool of goods and services, in the expectation that everyone's standard of living would rise as a result. Others demanded more radical measures designed not merely to increase the total wealth but to distribute it more equitably.

But no one who believed in progress conceived of a limit on productive capacity as a whole. No one envisioned a return to a more frugal existence; such views fell outside the progressive consensus.

The belated discovery that the earth's ecology will no longer sustain an indefinite expansion of productive forces deals the final blow to the belief in progress. A more equitable distribution of wealth, it is now clear, requires at the same time a drastic reduction in the standard of living enjoyed by the rich nations and the privileged classes.

Western nations can no longer hold up their standard of living and the enlightened, critical, and progressive culture that is entangled with it as an example for the rest of the world. Nor can the privileged classes within the West - and these include the professional class as well as the very rich - except to solve the problem of poverty by taking everyone into their own ranks. Even if this were a morally desirable solution, it is no longer feasible, since the resources required to sustain a new-class style of life, hitherto imagined to be inexhaustible, are already approaching their outer limit.

Under these conditions, the universalistic pretensions of the new class cannot be taken seriously. Indeed they are deeply offensive, not only because they embody a very narrow ideal of the good life but because the material prerequisites for this particular form of the good life cannot be made universally available.

The need for a more equitable distribution of wealth ought to be obvious, both on moral and economic grounds, and it ought to be equally obvious that economic equality cannot be achieved under an advanced system of capitalist production.

What is not so obvious is that equality now implies a more modest standard of living for all, not an extension of the lavish standards enjoyed by the favoured classes in the industrial nations to the rest of the world. 

In the twenty-first century, equality implies a recognition of limits, both moral and material, that finds little support in the progressive tradition.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.529, 532

William Rees: […] here I was encountering economic thought for the first time and being told that everything I had learned in ecology was irrelevant.

“Why should we be limited in this region to [a] population estimate?” he said, “[…] The population is 10 times greater than you said the carrying capacity was. That's because we can import from other places. And if we did run up against any constraints, technology will take care of it."

He said, “[…] economists have long shown that there are no limits to growth and carrying capacity is an irrelevant idea."

Nate Hagens: The way that I have presented it in public talks is to show an image of the tortoise and the hare - the hare is the economist and the tortoise is the ecologist. Because if that person who was a tenured economics professor in 1970 or whenever - he's probably no longer alive or retired or something - but during his lifetime it appeared that he was correct.

Meanwhile, our actual carrying capacity has been declining at a pace that entire time, and the carrying capacity for other organisms and creatures we share this blue Earth with. So it's almost one of those things that the truth will be back loaded and not really recognized until it's too late to really do something about.

William Rees: Economists believe in something called the substitution factor: We do use natural resources, but it doesn't matter because through technology, any product of nature is infinitely substitutable by something that humans can come up with.

There was a management science professor at the University of Maryland called Julian Simon, and he’s famous for this kind of statement: “We have now in our hands the technology to feed, clothe and provide energy for an ever-growing population for the next seven billion years."

Now, when you again disconnect humans from biophysical reality and you believe in ingenuity […] then everything we've been talking about becomes irrelevant. And so you have that mindset, that social construct - which is a very attractive one, keep in mind, because it does show no limits - that's what the world has bought into.

[William Rees & Nate Hagens]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

The western idea of history as a propulsive movement into the future, a progressive or Providential design climaxing in the revelation of a Second Coming, is a male formulation. No woman, I submit, could have coined such an idea, since it is a strategy of evasion of woman’s own cyclic nature, in which man dreads being caught. Evolutionary or apocalyptic history is a male wish list with a happy ending, a phallic peak.

The Greek pattern of free will to hybris to tragedy is a male drama, since woman has never been deluded (until recently) by the mirage of free will. She knows there is no free will, since she is not free. She has no choice but acceptance. Whether she desires motherhood or not, nature yokes her into the brute inflexible rhythm of procreative law.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.9-10

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