Ethnic cleansing, insurgent revolution, oppression of resistence, we have many names for armed and organized violence in the name of political or religious ideals. Sometimes it is nothing more than a raw struggle for power between individuals and groups that place their own interest over that of other individuals.
Sometimes the violence is more localized, and just connected to issues of dominance by criminal organization that want to defeat civil authority, such as in Columbia or Russia.
All such conflicts require, in this modern age, something to fight over (power, money, drugs) and weapons with which to fight. We can of course scale down even further the elements of conflict, and include not only the obvious wars that make the news, but the psychological violence and infighting that goes on in the business world, in corporate board rooms, among top management, and even among ordinary co-workers struggling over promotions and other perks.
We should not, at this point, leave out the family, which is also a scene of conflict and sturggle, mostly in emotional terms, but often violent and far too many times devolves to weapons.
Everywhere is war. Human beings prefering to compete and dominate and control, rather then understand, appreciate and cooperate.
There is an ancient mythological view which expects the world to arrive, in some unstated future time, at a certain flash point called: The War of All Against All. Do you suppose we are there, now? Individualism run wild. Only what "I" think and want is valid. What the "other" thinks, wants, needs, must be placed in a subservient role.
There is another side to this, however. Many people do seek cooperation instead of competition. Not everyone has to own, control, be first, be best, and have more.
Are the problems the same among nations and political and religious groups, as they are among families and co-workers in businesses.
In this issue, as promised, we will take up the theme: What do we try to change?
The working assumption here is that we will be able to proceed slowly, without major social dislocations. So the question has to do with in what direction do we go? How do we heal the corruption, and make it no longer possible?
First let's remember that the ideas we have about our way of life are full of outright lies and half truths. We swim in a sea of misconceptions. Few of us even use the same words to mean the same things, much less believe in the same ideals and meaning for our Nation and our People. We have cliche' phrases: freedom etc., but these have been ill used over time. For example, as we have noted, free enterprise really only means freedom for the tyranny of concentrated wealth, which has used that freedom to corrupt our public life.
I have spent some time trying to figure this out. Obviously, as explained in the previous GMG issues 1-5, we need to Renew the American Spirit, and to claim our rightful heritage as those whose Power of Consent is the fundamental power on which our government rests. But once we have taken charge, how do we use this Power? For what ends? Toward what goals?
Let us recall the historical movement of power, which first resided in the hereditary aristocracies, but which then ended up in the hands of a monied elite. Now we wish to take this Power into our own hands, and to be responsible in its usage.
In truth we contemplate a second American Revolution. One we hope can be accomplished without bloodshed. Others have considered this problem. Some speak of what they called "economic democracy". Others of rolling back the rules under which corporations operate, to a time when there were many more controls and much greater liability for directors, managers and stockholders. But history goes forward, it evolves - so the question is: What is the next step?
Certainly the tryanny of concentrated wealth must be ended. Yet, common sense tells us that the rich will not volunteer. All their vast powers will be used to resist. Is there a key idea that justifies all the excesses of concentrated wealth, and idea which gives us a sense of the place to start? Yes there is, but it is an idea we have been indoctrinated into being in love with, and thinking that it is necessary to our nature as free human beings.
This is the idea of private property.
Now before you go screaming into the street saying Wendt has now revealed himself as a socialist or a communist, just stop and think for a moment. I haven't said anything yet, except that the idea of private property is the key idea. Wait and take a breath and let me wander around this idea and see if I can shed some light on it.
We live in bodies. We all have needs for the sustaining of these bodies: food, water, adequate shelter against the elements. We also have social needs, needs not so physical in orientation. We need each others company. We don't like being alone. We also need something called "culture" in its widest sense - something which stimulates the spirit and the soul, which invigorates the mind and the heart. We also need safety. We need protection against what might attack us, and injure our selves or our families. We need work. We need activity that has purpose and meaning. And, in getting all these needs, in making possible, that as many of us as can get what they need, we have laws - rules which we agree to follow and consequences we agree must be provided to those who refuse to follow these rules.
So we have a system which claims to attempt to provide for all our human needs, yet which clearly fails to do so. Looking at this system we can see that it has been warped in order to grant to a small group the larger share of what wealth there has been created in order that our human needs be satisifed. Our laws protect those who do this grave social crime. Those laws are wrong, and the root of their wrongness is in the idea of private property.
Did anything I said above about what we needed include the idea that we need to own anything?
The idea of private property arises in history when Peoples leave their more primative tribal ways of life and begin wide scale agriculture. No longer does Nature provide a bounty, but rather land must be cultivated in order to provide. Overtime, this has complexified into a number of systems of management of these resources, most of which end up with some kind of idea of ownership, some kind of idea of control. History shows that every current title to land came into being through acts of war, theft and violence (America is a land whose territory was once controled by completely other cultures, and which was taken from these peoples by violence, theft, lies and genocide). Control over resources became an issue of power, which the weak lost and the so-called strong (those willing to be more violent) won.
The priests of the religion of science have blessed this process and called it, "natural selection" - the survival of the fittest. Thus, we end up with a legal system (as regards property and wealth) that reflects a kind of social darwinism, assuming that those who rise to the top are better and more fit, and that those who suffer at the bottom, regardless of how noble of soul and spirit, are destined to extinction. This is the moral root of the idea of free enterprise today. Might makes right. And, because of the idea of private property embeded in our laws, ownership created by the exercise of Might must survive. Ownership asserts that it is superior to human need.
The question is: Do we want the social world we all share organized in such a way? We are the governed and our Consent is necessary to the continuation of the social order. Will we sleep or will we wake up and change things?
Recent history has given us two general types of failed examples to the solution to this problem -- the problem of having a social order which deals in a healthy way with the distribution of wealth and scarce resourses: communism and socialism. Both are useless and have corrupted the societies into which they were introduced. The reason is that it still lingers in these systems that property is to be owned. In communism it is the State which owns, which then leads to a struggle for power over the State; and in socialism, ownership is still permitted, but it is so grossly taxed by the State, in order to attempt to meet human need, that the whole system becomes top heavy with bureaucracy, and strangles on the social constraint of its own restrictions.
Has there every been another idea in history, which did not have these problems?
No ownership at all. The group, who share the same needs, consider themselves not the owners of wealth, but the stewards. They hold all wealth in trust for the whole group, including the group's decendents unto seven generations. Nothing of moment is mine; all is ours and our childrens. Only real need determines allocation of resources. Many of the Native aboriginal cultures of America practiced this understanding of the relationship between wealth, community and need.
So, what do we do?
Well, I can tell you more easily what we don't do. We don't run out and change the Constitution overnight. We stick to what we are already doing in the Renewal Meetings and we talk about it. We talk about it for years, while at the same time weeding out, of the garden of our Public Life, the corruption and the baffoons and the fools. We try to look at exactly how do we want to define human need: What must everyone have a right to in a just society?
Food, water, shelther, companionship, health, meaningful labor, reasonable safety and, not the least by any means, sustenence for the the soul and spirit (culture).
Most everyone knows the word triage (comes from watching MASH and ER). It's the process doctors do when they have many more injured than seems possible to handle, so decisions are made to prioritize the need for services. What we do to start this off, this change from ownership to stewardship, once we start to go in that direction, is to place the needs of the poorest first, instead of last - social triage.
No one gets a tax break until the homeless have shelter and food and water. No one with a basic need sleeps in the park or gets arrested for hanging out on private property, when they have no where else to go. No one gets elective plastic surgery until all other medical needs are met. No one gets to buy expensive cars until public transportation is returned to proper working order. No one gets to build a mansion until the inner city tenements are razed or restored as seems most appropriate. Social triage. The basic human needs come before making 100 million dollar movies which seem to only have the social effect of distracting us from our real responsiblities. No one makes a million dollars a year until everyones needs are met. No actor, no sports star, no banker, no lawyer, no whatever. A cap is placed on all earnings until the playing field really and truly gets level.
How to do this? Somewhat difficult, and certainly not painless. Flood the halls of elected officials with ordinary people and there will be a financial crash, because the rich will try to drive us, like cattle, through our fears into some form of facism, that then brings about the destruction of our natural legal and economic rights. In an emergency, rules can be suspended, and the temptation for the monied elites, as they see their hold lessening, will be to create ever more chaos as an excuse for destroying the Constitution.
Will there be problems? Sure. The Constitution for one, because already embeded in it, as noted previously, are forms of law which guarantee private property rights. The sad fact is that the problem, while simple to define, is much more complicated to fix.
Social triage won't come easy. The whole system of laws is weighted
against it. That is why the Renewal Meetings need to become a fixture of
our Public Life. The Power of Consent, once awake, cannot go back to sleep
"Sometimes the rules have to be set aside. Sometimes the rules are wrong. No American soldier should every be asked to turn a gun on his fellow countrymen, ever. An order to do that is immoral, whether it is illegal or not. We won't do it. We don't Consent.
"Now you gentlemen have a problem. Solve the problem. Don't look for blame, don't make excuses. The cities are in chaos, the economy is collapsing. Foreign powers look at us with feral hunger. Order needs to be restored. You want the Army to act. Well, I'll tell you this, the Army is willing to act, but not to go to war against our own.
"I can give you a computer generated list today of all the enlisted men and women and NCO's that are from every neighborhood in America that is in trouble, a list that has names, ranks, availability, and where their home is.
"Give us leave and send us home, in as many numbers as can be managed. We'll go in uniform and unarmed. We'll go back to these places and we'll make peace. Think about it. Think about two hundred soldiers, men and women, showing up south of the stockyards in Chicago, driving trucks with food and water, with tents and shelters, with medicines and most important of all, with hope. Men and women known to the community.
"Not strange faces with guns and orders and demands and agendas. Just ordinary soldiers, coming home to help.
"Face it gentlemen. You don't have our Consent anymore. This country isn't yours to rule or pass out favors over. Its ours, it belongs to the People, and the People have taken it back."
Then Morrison did something very surprising, terrifying even. He reached up and dismanteled his medal cluster and placed it on the table. He looked at the bar representing the Medal of Honor kind of wistfully for a moment and then, with a tear in his eye (not for himself, but for the men and women that awful day he couldn't save), he tossed it toward the President, and looked him straight in the eye.
"Be a man, Mr. President. Be an American. Stop being a politician for once. But if you can't, if this room represents America, then I don't want any part of it."
With that he turned and, with a great deal of quiet dignity, left the
Arthur looked carefully at each of the now very frightened men. He had no sympathy for them. They were used to being order givers, they could order a death, and probably had, without a second thought. They thought nothing of using violence if they could get away with it, and it served their purposes. Now the shoe was on the other foot. They knew that their private gardens could harbor very deadly snakes. Now was the time to close the door and let them see who the real order givers would be.
"I am no altruist", he began. "I am someone basically more dangerous, more terrible in purpose then any of you every have been.
"I will have power you have yet to dream of."
He paused, to let that idea sink in. They were fools all of them, easily manipulated by someone stronger and more intelligent. They had come to their powers, most of them, by good fortune and family ties, not by raw effort. They were ruthless in maintaining their status, but they did not yet think far enough ahead. The plan Arthur was carrying out was a work of generations. A work patient beyond imagination, waiting for a particular moment of crisis, and then this work would steal the power from the order givers and something new would emerge from the chaos.
He could see by their faces, even the Asians, who prided themselves on their ability to conceal emotions, that they were ready for the final shock. He called over his shoulder to the door:
"Bring in the box."
The door opened, and the servant who had mixed the drinks walked in, carrying in two hands a tray on which was a large box covered by a black opaque cloth. At a gesture from Arthur the man set the tray and box on the coffee table in front of Estes, and then stood nearby.
"Well, my former master, did you not summon someone, a certain Charlie Corlis? Do you not, even now, perhaps harbor a secret hope that he will appear and rescue you from your own stupidity? I am sorry to say that he is not going to be any help to you at all, but if you wish you may tell him of your dissappointment."
With those words Arthur's companion reached down and suddenly pulled back the cloth, reveally a bloody severed head.
Estes recognized the remains of Charlie instantly, then screamed and
collapsed to the floor, twitching and spasming as if his heart had suddenenly
and viciously failed him.
Hex-man and Jumbo, and a few others sat in the back of the former chinese dinning room. They were waiting for someone the shadow warriors were bringing in. Someone the warriors called a story teller. Over the last couple of years, both these young black men, having risen to a certain degree of success in a very difficult environment, had learned to value what the shadow warriors brought. People who accepted living the way they lived, and had made of it what they had, earned a certain kind of respect. The shadow warriors could have left the streets, instead, they owned them.
Hex-man, who had read more then a few books in his short life, recalled stories of old European cities where beggar kings and gypsys held power that others did not understand, and made a life where others were too dainty to endure it. Hex-man understood that it was the negotiated treaties of the shadow warriors that kept the peace between the gangs, and allowed them to operate as a combined force. It was that combined force the won the main battle, a force that worked together, following the generalship of two Vietnam vets, one black and one white, two men the shadow warriors had put forward when the national guard units were called in to stop the riots.
These men had learned their lessons well, and when the guard realized they were confronting tactics learned from the Viet Cong, they had withdrawn and requested regular Amy help. It was the shadow warriors that had negotiated the cease fire with the city, and who had encouraged the gangs to let people leave the controled territories. Hex-man knew this alliance was crucial to what happened next and he was not going to follow Anton down a path that would have destroyed it.
While Hex-man was alone with his thoughts, Jumbo too was inwardly contemplative. His view on things would even have surprised Hex-man. Jumbo was deeper then people realized. As a young boy he quickly realized that his enormous size was a tool, and so he used it to survive. But no one knew that it was really his intelligence that had made his life work.
Jumbo saw clearly the dynamics of the life around him. He also loved, first his family, and then Alicia, starting when he was thirteen. Now he had three children and a good life. His family was intact - his grandmother, mother, a sister and her two children, all lived in a good sized apartment Jumbo provided for them. Jumbo could have left the 'hood, could have played NFL football and made a lot of money. But something made him stay, something made him make a place for himself two blocks from where he had been born. He had a lot of respect here, and few understood from where it really came.
Jumbo had used his size to intimidate, while at the same time he used his intelligence to out think everyone around him. No one had every noticed that in all the years he was a slowly evolving aspect of the gangs, that he never once killed anybody. Never.
The one time he was asked to, he used his power of threat to make the individual leave forever the area, with the result that it was assumed the deed was done. Jumbo also saw that his best role was as a body guard. Men who used violence were often afraid themselves beneath all the false bravado. They liked it that Jumbo would serve them, never realizing that Jumbo used his position to quietly help others.
But people saw this, and they understood that this huge man was not like those around him. He was someone to trust, someone to bring problems to. So, while those he protected made money and had all the sex and fancy clothes and cars they wanted, Jumbo had respect, was not as feared as it appeared, and often accomplished things that he was asked to do, with just a well placed word.
He was not just a couple steps ahead of those who thought he was their servant, he was in a world they could not imagine existed.
It was from this point of view that he easily saw what the shadow warriors were about, and he used his considerable influence, behind the scenes, to support the alliance. More then this, it was his authority thart enabled the two "generals" to work their plans the night of the great battle for the streets.
They too were wise, and, while his own community had many who misread him, these two did not. Together the three of them laid out the strategy, to force the guard down certain streets and to let them discover, without much harm, the dangers each burned out building and blown up car filled street represented. In this way the guard was able to discover what the three of them wanted them to discover, and took away the impression that the three of them wanted them to take away.
In truth it was an illusion. Neither Jumbo, or the shadow warrior generals wanted an all out conflict. So they made it appear that the streets and buildings were mined and tunneled just like the jungles of Vietnam. The guard had vets in its companies and they recognized immediately what they were looking at. The guard then thought that there was a danger that did not really exist. But there was a lesson military forces that had learned there, in that hot and wet jungle. You can't take territory from an indigenous people, without enormous costs. So the guard withdrew, took counsel among themselves and decided that they were not equiped to deal with that level of resistence.
It was thus, that two very intelligent young men waited for this new
person the shadow warriors were bringing - waited with very open minds,
correctly expecting that what was coming would illuminate in some surprising
way, the situation in which they all found themselves.
When we confront the problem of the loss of meaning, we come to a very essential aspect of the nature of the age in which we live. There are several basic facts we need to notice, and which while mentioned, are quite worth repeating.
One: This loss of meaning is everywhere present, all over the world. In different cultures this loss is in different stages of manifestation, and may well, in some cases, be held back. That is the forces clinging to the old traditions may be so strong that they will take a kind of totalitarian grip on certain societies, such that free moral behavior, free choice of belief, and the free creation of meaning cannot manifest.
Two: Social chaos, the overwhelming of community value creation powers, is crucial to the manifestation of spiritual freedom, freedom of moral initiative, freedom of belief and understanding of the world, and freedom to determine personal meaning. The individual needs social chaos in order to develop these capacities.
Three: This is a reciprocal reinforcing process. The more the individual demands spiritual freedom, the more this demand undoes community and traditional social structures. The more these structures collapse, the more psychological room (space) there is for spiritual freedom to unfold.
Four: At present this process is taking place in a semi-conscious way, and this is the reason it is experienced in such an unhealthy and destructive fashion (as a symptom, a cancer in the social body). The cure is not to suppress it, or to attempt to restore prior social conditions, but to wake up to it and to walk through it consciousnly.
In a sense we are observing something in the social organism that is turning inside out. Before the arrival of conditions of social chaos, the community values dominated individual values. On the other side of this crisis (what the Hopi Indians of America's Southwest call: The Day of Purication), individual values will dominate community values.
Now that seems like a kind of social anarchy. The problem, however, is not really one of domination, because the spiritually free individual can choose to self restrain, to self limit, in order to make community possible.
In the past, the community forced self restraint and limitation. Children had no choice be to follow in the footsteps of the parents. Now that age is past. Now, if there is to be community, it will have to arise out of a freely evoked pattern of individual cooperative acts. And who can doubt that this will arise, for one of the main observations one can make, in this age of social chaos and loss of community and traditional social structures, is the simultaneous hunger and yearning for the return of a deep sense of community feeling.
Just like a human being needs food, water, shelter, meaningful work, and culture, so do human beings need a social existences, an existence with others. The reason this is all so difficult and painful is that we are still working out how to do it. With the loss of traditional community structures, what was done instinctively now has to be done consciously. Community life has to be reinvented in ways that take into account the newly emerging spiritual freedom.
But we still live amidst the chaos and have not yet brought about the new forms of social existence necessary in an age of individual moral autonomy, belief and meaning. These new ways cannot be brought about until we consciously wake up and see the need for them. The first necessary step is that our ordinary language begin to contain references to the realities of our social situation, and this means all the way into our political life.
Our public life needs to acquire a new vocabulary -- a vocabulary awake to the real dynamics of this age, where one civilization is dying and another is rising from the former's ashes. (cont. next issue)