What is Socialism? (p.1003)
Socialism has been described as many things, but in essence it is a strive for brother/sisterhood, fostering unfettered equality through a planned economy. In the 20th century, one of the most significant agents of inequality was private commerce. It still is, because the more money you have, the more resources you can obtain, giving your more social worth and flexibility.
Socialism scoffs at a private economy. First, it sees individual-based prosperity as a surrogate game because as commerce ebbs and flows with fickle market, people's approaches and habits much change. Second, it sees it as heathenistic because it encourages one to make the fickle market the compass of inner value, because that is the best way to get more people "playing." To get more people chasing the dollar. This is why Capitalism is harshly criticized as being anti-moral; if one is to succeed they must flex to this market variability.
Socialism is not the solution though, as history has proven. Not only does the ideal of brother/sisterhood have little to no objective or practical feasibility, it unabashedly operates from a utopic vantage point. The Socialist utopia is simple: humans, given freedom from the restrictive forces of economic corruption, will indefinitely move toward peace and harmony. This is majorly problematic because as was seen in Native Americans, just because they achieved a balanced tribal infrastructure (which was as close to practical communism as we will ever see) did not mean they never went to war with other tribes. So this ideal of peaceful brother/sisterhood has little to do with actual peace and harmony.
Is this pessimism? I do not think so, considering part of Socialism is forecasting a world where the inhabitants "get along" well. I understand this desire, however that is not a feasible political or economic doctrine. Brother/sisterhood is also an effect. Creating a political or economic system that makes effects seem like primary causes seems to be inherently flawed.
This does not mean that Socialism's nemesis--Capitalism--is the answer. Socialism does an excellent job at illuminating Capitalism's flaws: materialism, economic caste system, and social justice determined by financial worth and viability. I just see using such a subjective qualifier (brother/sisterhood) as a slippery slope because it does not provide a working strategy for modern economics. It is cotton-candy thinking.
If brother/sisterhood are suspect, then equality ought to be reevaluated as well. Equality always slips under the radar as if it is a given virtue. As if any investigation allowing the possibility of it being otherwise is worthless. Why not look at equality with fresh eyes though? Western ideals of social justice all rest on this untouchable ideal of equality. What if we started from a different point, one that states we are not all equal, and therefore should not be treated equally? Where would that put us? Fascism? Naziism? Not necessarily, because those doctrines--although indeed assert lack of equality--prescribe a natural hierarchy. Not giving equality a free pass and looking at it with the same critical gaze we approach other things may provide a more realistic, practical alternative to both Capitalism and Socialism, so long as we do not posit a natural hierarchy from the outset.
The initial criticism to this argument will undoubtedly be, "Equality means being given equal rights, which means equal opportunities." You need to finish that sentence though: "...equal opportunities to participate within the bounds of the body in power." Equal opportunity is another way of saying you can do whatever you want, as long as it's ____. This is not advocating anarchism, yet simply pointing out that when we give equality a free pass citing equal opportunity, we are still filtering them through some kind of restriction. We cannot do whatever we want to do; our freedom of choice only exists if it falls within the limits of acceptable social laws.
Hence, my critique is based on the words we constantly leave out of our social and political discussions. In Socialism, rarely do we talk openly and plainly about utopia. In Capitalism, we rarely talk about the validity of those who do not want to be competitive in commerce, and in equality (and opportunity) we rarely talk about the ambient filters our choices are filtered through.
The Intellectual Revolt (p.999)
Early 20th century economic and political turbulence created a wave of intellectual skepticism for the future of effective government. Individual-based production and commerce had revealed how corrupt the individual quest for power, property and production at the cost of "lesser" subjects could be, and planned governments like the varying flavors of Socialism and Communism revealed how centralization of production was no less corrupt than an individual-driven system.
To boil this down, a solution was needed, which is still a hotly debated topic to this day: How to balance power (which entails justice, order, and laws) with the proportionally-variant compulsions of conformity and individualism existent within the populous. Governments institute power differently based on their beliefs and premises regarding this triad (power, conformity, individualism). Whether they formally acknowledge it or not, the effectiveness of modern government is determined by how well they toe the line between the general populous' willingness to conform and their compulsion to act individually. It is a contingent of incentives, but it is also a contingent of abstract human nature. Economists study incentives, but they do not specialize in the latter. (Politicians merely specialize in marketing law.)
It serves to note that some individuals will never conform--the philosophers, whose nature it is to be autonomous--and as such, are the individuals who see society the clearest because they are unaffected by its power mechanisms. The opposite side of this coin is that they are hunted and dismissed by modern society because they can see the linkage and innards (read : weaknesses) of these modern power mechanisms. Think I am making this up? When is the last time you saw a philosopher on the cover of a magazine, or asked to give interviews, or kids wanting to be a philosopher one day? Not a public intellect, or a brilliant-but-approachable scientist, but a creative, intellectually innovative, unpredictable genius with a penchant for objective truth rather than subjective, social platitudes.
Philosophers specialize in understanding human nature. Thus, there is probably a connection between our perennial ignorance to effective modern economics and politics with the lack of philosophers. Economics and politics are abstract concepts, and philosophers are natural masters of abstract concepts, clearing existent categories and creating new ones, if necessary. I find it strange that you can track philosophers throughout history as having created useful things like math, astronomy, theories of time, types of knowledge, physics, philosophical disciplines which order the reality we take for granted, yet in modern day we do not acknowledge their value. I am not saying we need to like them, yet that we are at a point of marginalizing the very men and women who have historically bucked the throat-clearing power-machine for the sake of humankind's progress, not for the sake of anarchism. Thus, the current prejudice that philosophers are impractical is a bad omen for our future.
I am left with making one simple premise: If we change our minds as to who and what we respect--to now include philosophers--we may find that these marginalized geniuses will come out of hiding and explain the modern mysteries that perennially stupefy us. Philosophers are naturally creative and innovative. Let us allow them to create without demanding them conform to the mutated, short-sighted, impractical mechanisms and institutions of power.
Songs We Used to Sing (p.996)
The music we listen to represents our mindset, but can also change our mindset. Nothing new there. It is due to these factors that I view music as a type of hypnosis; something that can put you in a trance and plant certain messages, as well as make subtle suggestions when you are perfectly sober and conscious.
From a behavioral standpoint, music is pretty affective. How many times have you had a catchy song stuck in your head? You know, one of those times when you keep singing the hook while doing other things that demand more of your attention? It becomes a comforting mantra. I am not a musician, however I think the money-and-market oriented musicians would approve of that, and the art-oriented musicians would disapprove.
Music thus faces the same quandary as books: Is it meant to be heard, or is it meant to be created? Some writers write to be read, while other, compulsive writers, cannot not write. No doubt each of these would enjoy having an audience to affirm them, but it really comes down to what our art-orientation says about our self-ness.
Books can put us in a trance as well. They can change us, occupy us when we are no longer reading them. Nothing new there. But how we read books is determined by the same basal perspective that determines how we listen to music: Are we reading a book because we are interested in the content and meaning? Or because it is popular right now? Are we listening to certain music because we truly love the content and meaning? Or because it is played three times an hour, right before a commercial break, on our favorite radio station?
These distinction has ramifications, and due to that it serves us if we come right out and be honest about what drives us to read what we read and listen to what we listen to. Then maybe we can direct our exposure to certain things and allow ourselves to be entranced into alignment with who we already are, and not drone antithetical mantras.
Who we are is an excellent concern/question, however I think Who we want to be is better. The existential ideal of ourselves is what causes us to change, right? If we merely look at who are today--whether or not we like that person--we would not have the tools or the incentive to develop and grow into something more complex or fulfilling, because we would be looking into a mirror instead of a telescope.
One (of many) simple ways of determining who we are is by identifying the music we listen to and the books we read. Accordingly, a way of becoming who we want to be is adapting the music we listen to and the books we read to suit our ideal self. We just need to be bold enough to want to be a more developed form of who we are.
The Politics of Starvation (p.992)
Producing action is a type of leadership. It is a deliberate choice to move or think in a direction without being acted upon first. This does not mean the direction or content created is necessarily accurate or reasonable, it just means that one took a step without being pushed. Others need to be acted upon in order to take a step. This merely illuminates the difference between an actor and a reactor. In a nutshell, it is easier to react than act because another determines your direction.
Let us create a scenario--dare I say utopia--where everyone is an actor rather than a reactor. How then does any communication happen if everyone is initiating? Through active listening. Active listening connects people because it allows one to actively explore and discuss another's thoughts and ideals without merely being an unreflective soundboard. As a result, active listening is an extremely healthy tool to have as an actor, and is arguably one of the crux's that determines if one is a bully-type actor (control and power-oriented) or if one is a balanced-type actor who allows other's to present their individuality sans oppression. Again, just because one produces action does not mean the means are reasonable or responsible.
Practicing active listening can help us become balanced actors because it involves the engagement of the intellect through observation, causal linkage, and tete-a-tete, or intentional back-and-forth discourse. This latter concept is not a conversation of platitudes, it is a serious and mature conversation of what we each perceive, how and why. Developing our ability to actively listen thus helps brings perspective to our own premises, enabling and informing our own premises. The discourse involved in active listening is an originality-developer and -sharpener. It gives us the ability to lead ourselves because it develops our own thoughts rather than relying upon memory and social scripts.
Think of original content as the understanding produced through an honest, intimate reflection, rather than as a unique thought. Trust me, if originality were limited to uniqueness there would only be a handful of books ever written and speeches ever made. Thus, our particular purview allows each of us to produce indigenous content regardless of whether the conclusion has been thought before. Originality is by definition origin-based, not conclusion or product based. Many people get tripped up by the fact that what they are doing has been done before. So? Say/do it the best you can in your own authentic way, because that in essense is a practice of originality. But here is the catch: unless you stay open to thoughtful evaluation and critique, the probability of your indigenous content being emotional opinions rather than reasonable substance skyrockets.
As I mentioned before, not all actors operate the same way. What do you think happens when a bully-actor and a reactor cross paths? The same thing that happens when you strike a caged animal's cage; anxiety and most likely aggression. This is the whole point of why we even care who is an actor, what kind of actor we are, and who is a reactor. You can choose whichever you like, however understand the odds are not in your favor for having a well-balanced, insightful conversation if you are a reactor, or a bully-actor, because if you come across someone like yourself there will be conflict. If you come across a balanced actor they just may ignore you because you are unstable and subscribe to a volatile behavioral doctrine.
Balanced actors are leaders because they produce action, and multiple balanced actors can interact well through active listening, because it allows them to understand when they should lead and when they should be led. The old adage becomes pertinent: In order to know how to be an excellent leader, you need to know how to be an excellent follower. Understanding this enables us to earnestly and candidly look outside ourselves for guidance when we know we need it. That faking it will not get us anywhere. And this is the aspect of leadership that everyone can learn and implement, whether they are a natural leader or not.
Thus, creating original content and ideals is something available to each of us, as is the tool of active listening, therefore the ability to become a balanced actor. Natural ability or intelligence are irrelevant because these things are a product of the will.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new Orwell 365 posts.