Bondage



When a thing reaches a certain size the bonds between its constituent parts begin to weaken. These bonds consist of the sorts of things that tie things - tie people - together; and imperative amongst them is 'trust.'

Because real trust does not function at larger scales, we must invent ways of simulating, or augmenting it. In much the same way that we augment the human eye with telescopes and microscopes in order to allow us to 'see' at non-human scales, we augment our human capacity for trust with bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is, amongst other things, a formalised simulation of 'trust.' It substitutes trust engendered through familiarity, with 'certification' by means of 'testing.' For instance,  I do not need a criminal record check (known in this country as a DBS check) in order to be around the children of friends or relatives, but I do need one in order to work with children in my community.

In modern societies we are asked to experience ourselves as a part of an increasingly large collective. If we look at the diagram above, where once circle A would have defined the boundaries of our collective, now it is defined by D.

As the perimeters of our collectives widen, the need for simulated bonds increases. If human trust fails beyond the borders of A, then any level beyond this will require artificial trust. At these levels it is our red tape that binds us; and increasing levels of scale (i.e. complexity) require increasing amounts of red tape.

The fact that we often feel bogged down by red tape is a sign that we're operating at an unhealthy scale. I'm not saying that there are too many people, rather that the way we think of ourselves - and organize ourselves - is dysfunctional.

Inasmuch as we are imbalanced in favour of the large-scale, then our remedy must involve tipping the scales back toward the small-scale. In practical terms this involves, amongst other things, devolving power; splitting our over-grown structures into smaller pieces, and reducing the scale of things to a level in which artificial trust is manageable, and in which human trust can thrive.
 




How do you define a nation?

It is a land whose citizens, in their overwhelming majority, share a common culture, sense of identity, heritage and traditional roots.

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p.48




Although there is some debate among scientists, it seems clear that approximately 50,000 years ago our species existed in pretty much its fully formed version, complete with language and art [...] There hasn’t been much evolution—biologically, at least—in the intervening tens of thousands of years.

Our species likely evolved to adapt to an environment that was native to Africa all those many millennia ago. And this environment looked very different from today’s.

We evolved to live in small groups or tribes of perhaps 20 to 50 individuals. Many of these people, in fact, would have been related to us. Certainly, all of these people would have known each other.

[David B. Feldman]
Does Truth Still Exist, or Are There Just Alternative Facts?




[...] social capital refers to the broad levels of trust and efficacy in a community. Do people generally trust one another and help one another out? Do people feel an incentive to take care of commonly held resources (for example, to clean up graffiti in public parks)?

Most studies of social capital employ two simple meaures, namely, how many organizations people belong to and how people answer a question such as, "Do you think most people would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance?"

What [researchers] have shown is that at the levels of states, provinces, cities and neighbourhoods, low social capital predicts bad health, bad self-reported health and high mortality rates [...] high degrees of income inquality come with low levels of trust and support which increases stress and harms health.

[...] we have chosen to forgo the social capital that comes from small, stable communities in exchange for unprecedented opportunities for mobility and anonymity. As a result, all measures of social epidemiology are worsening in the U.S.

[Robert Sapolsky]
'Sick of Poverty'




A true city is not an encampment for transient visitors, nor a complex of motorways, nor an ephemeral agglomeration of living quarters. 

It is a long-standing human settlement, a community spanning generations, a complex social organization inspiring commitment and pride. Every architectural blight, every symptom of social breakdown, should pierce deep into the heart of its citizens and provoke a salutary reaction. 

Siena, in Italy, is perhaps the best example of a healthy city. That is why it has maintained social stability and a negligible incidence of crime.

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p. 78




We always need both freedom and order. 

We need the freedom of lots and lots of small, autonomous units, and, at the same time, the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and co-ordination. When it comes to action, we obviously need small units, because action is a highly personal affair, and one cannot be in touch with more than a very limited number of persons at any one time. But when it comes to the world of ideas, to principles or to ethics, to the indivisibility of peace and also of ecology, we need to recognise the unity of mankind and base our actions upon this recognition. 

What I wish to emphasise is the duality of the human requirement when it comes to the question of size: there is no single answer. 

For his different purposes man needs many different structures, both small ones and large ones, some exclusive and some comprehensive. Yet people find it most difficult to keep two seemingly opposite necessities of truth in their minds at the same time. They always tend to clamour for a final solution, as if in actual life there could ever be a final solution other than death.  

For constructive work, the principal task is always the restoration of some kind of balance. Today, we suffer from an almost universal idolatry of giantism. It is therefore necessary to insist on the virtues of smallness - where this applies. (If there were a prevailing idolatry of smallness, irrespective of subject or purpose, one would have to try and exercise influence in the opposite direction.)

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p. 53-4



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