"No bribes, no threats, no penalties--just a nod and a wink and the thing is done." (p. 681)
Yes, it's rare for me to start with a quote, however this one is so applicable to modern culture, it's scary. Because our culture is concrete, traditional, and materialistic, it believes if something isn't recorded, it didn't really happen because it can't be proven. Talk about loophole in the responsibility spectrum. Now, this isn't a hard-fast rule, because many people's peer interactions are still modulated by their word, which I see as a good thing. Signing contracts for coffee dates would be asinine. Thus, this scary paradigm applies to multiple individuals or groups with disproportionate power, and if you read the above quote again with this in mind, the corruption will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Humankind loves power, but unlucky for him and the nature that catches the brunt, he hasn't quite mastered power. I can say this because as civilization "progressed," interactions became more complicated, more "us"-based, and more economically driven. My teacher pointed out to me the other day--in response to an essay I wrote on the Fertile Crescent--that humans chose to civilize because they thought it would give them more leisure time. However, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as challenging as it was, still offered more leisure time because they didn't spend countless hours producing goods and commodities. (In recent history, we've added public relations and marketing to that time-drain). This has everything to do with power because economics and materialism sets up distinct echelons: Either you have things or you don't. It's thus not about ability live well, but about obtaining more power via increased productive goods and productive capability. Productive capability is actually more important here because despite lottery winners having the wealth to acquire many commodities and services, they don't have the productive capability to regenerate that wealth once it's gone. Thus, their power is limited to a concrete number of dollars.
When individuals have both productive capacity and a will to produce, they generally jump productive "levels," because the modern economic system (especially in America) is designed to support such processes because they nourish the very system. This is also another way of saying they increase the amount of people underneath them. (Or, "how many people they step on.") Hunter-gatherers were relatively equal because they had common goals--survival and natural (non-messianic/monotheistic) spirituality. There was very little focus on the material goods because they were simply tools used to support life and enable culture. Their culture was people-based, and since they lacked a productive paradigm, they had a hold of their artifacts, not the other way around. Their interactions were thus fueled and purposed toward developing their bonds, which had an impressively practical benefit. Even though they had plenty of leisure time, they engaged one another in conversation, dance, and sex. They weren't addicts, nor did they struggle with diet-caused diabetes. They respected nature and live in balance with it.
Modern interactions are saturated with power-echelon paradigms. We rarely notice them when we act upon them because they become second nature. Economic production and materialism have become a worn-in leather jacket; we only really notice them when something interrupts us from using them. We're constantly jockeying with one another for things like a raise, an upgraded toy, a greener lawn, a closer ear to our god, a better insurance policy, more sexual partners, more attractive sexual partners, etc., that we forget humans lived without these things for a long time. I'm not saying we should try and turn back the clock and live like hunter-gatherers, but I am saying it would help our interactions (and our understanding of ourselves) if we turned what we perceive as "primitive and barbaric" into "realistic and healthful." Civilization marginalizes other ways of living, yet does it in a slick way that people don't have to be honest about it to reap the benefits, which is why "No bribes, no threats, no penalties--just a nod and a wink and the thing is done," is frighteningly accurate and (self) destructive.
It's easy to think our modern way of interacting and conducting business is much better than Primitivism. It would be hypocritical for me to call for a systemic expungement. However, none of the 700 Native American languages had words for "depression" because the concept didn't even exist. How? Why? Their lives were so much more difficult, right? Well, their lives were certainly challenging, but I'm not one to say they were more difficult. There's a big difference. The Native Americans (and this is recorded) generally welcomed the British settlers, teaching them to hunt, fish, build shelters, fire, often repairing the newly built communities because the British were s-l-o-w on the uptake. And none of this could've been done without: 1) Direct and honest communication, and 2) Competency. There was no nodding and winking when the Native Americans helped the British because they saw them as peers they could interact with on an honest, relatively equal level. The British, on the other hand--following the Nodding and Winking paradigm--often falsely obtained the trust of the Natives to gain control of their tools and knowledge. It's recorded the British on occasion shot them in the back of the head after they got what they wanted. They raped their women. They terrified the children into running way, to be used to target practice. See what an active power paradigm does to our ethics? It very easily poisons it because, as Derrick Jensen often says, it turns human and non-human subjects into objects. This Nod and Wink politicking thus isn't as innocuous as one may think, and is evidence of a very poisoned culture of people. And that's not limited to America or England, that's civilization in general.
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