There Will Always Be a 1%
In Prasie of the Robber Baron
“We, the people…”
Dark words, those. Good seldom follows them – however elegant the parchment might be.
They appeal to our basest instincts. “We, the people…” What, you mean my people? Of course! My Dunbar Tribe – the 100-150 people whom I can feel empathy for. Within our tribe there’s status and privilege, of course – the Old Man has the nicest car, the Young Wolf is dating the hottest tail – but all those differences are earned, aren’t they? And at the end of the day all of the pack members are provided for – heck, we even buy Jimmy a beer every so often, since he’s always broke.
Here’s a riddle for you: what’s the difference between a Savage and a Civilized Man?
Answer: the Civilized Man is Civilized.
It’s easy to see where the Occupussies are coming from; we’ll give them a break, and assume that they’re all K-type psychologied individuals: they’re furious about the corruption in our banking sector, they’re incensed by the squeeze on small businesses, and they bemoan the erosion of the Middle Class. I’m there with ya’, bud; these factors do not a stable society make.
But the slogans they reach out to us with appeal to our basest instincts – not the perjorative baser instincts (that would be the politicians) – but to the basest. The unenlightened instincts; the uncivilized instincts. They appeal to the inherent, inborn sense of fair-play which is endemic to our species. But in doing so they bypass the theology needed for nuance, that which is necessary for the present state of wealth.
I’m sorry, did I say bypass? I meant short-circuit.
This is how you start a sex-cult; this is how you start a Utopia.
Theology, Political Theory, Economics – call it Applied Morality for Large Numbers. Somewhere around the first logarithm of Dunbar’s Unit things start to get weird with humans; our instincts completely break down, without some sort of overweening node of power. Enter Culture: the colours, slogans, and styles that symbolize “in group” – the creation of archetypes which define the individual, the provision of a conformity to conform to.
This is why thousands of people can show up to concerts and feel “at one” with everybody else there. Because they are all embracing the One – or at least the One out of a Few Dozen or So. When ancient man went to war, he became the War God. When a concert goer listens to Slayer, he becomes Conan. You might be around thousands of people, but really you’re only around a few; a few you’ve come to know quite well over the years… after all, they are the embodiment of the memeplex which has long infected your brain.
But Culture is not Civilization. It’s a crucial component of it, yes, but Civilization holds something more which keeps Babel’s tower standing. With nothing but Culture, all you have is broken dreams, and shattered language… for Culture is still beholden to tribal instincts.
It’s been said that All Primitive Tribes were Communistic. This is false, of course (though it is a useful rhetoric in daily discourse); tribes were fair, but they certainly weren’t Communistic. If anything, they were like a small-business with profit-sharing and a good dental package; good enough to keep your employees loyal, while still practising hierarchy and expecting people to produce. But because of their economic niche (somewhere in between Lion and Gazelle) the wealth gaps were minimal. The Chief might have the nicest rabbit-skin loincloth – but you weren’t expected to sleep in a dumpster.
Culture on its own can allow a certain level of wealth-gap – the concert-goers don’t mind that Slayer has their pick amongst the most nubile and willing – but how many women can a man sleep with before he gets sick of them and decides to learn chess? The number is a lot more than ten, but a lot less than a thousand.
Sure, the God-Kings and his priestly caste have it set-up pretty well – but hey, they do put on that great performance on top of Tenochtitlan, right? And the rest of us are all equal, at least!
Civilization isn’t technology, but it enables technology: while the devices themselves are boringly democratic (your average Low Information Voter is more skilled with a touchscreen than I am), the systems which enable them are not. Behind each technology – from your simple French Press to your lofty Obamaphone – lies system after system of resource acquisition, patent management, and human resource application.
Social Technologies – these are what made Civilization civilized during the bronze age.
A caveman is not stupid; in most ways, he’s far more educated than your typical office drone. All those tools he used? He made. Everything he eats? He caught. There is no specialization in the tribal environ – what, Goldsmithing? Sure, Billy’s the best at it, but we all know the basics.
But Billy only produces one unit per day.
In the world I see – you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.
~Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Not an unattractive prospect, I have to admit… but at the end of the day, I love the glow of a computer monitor, the rush of scented gasoline, and the happiness that comes from a warm barrel.
I am a Civilized Man who loves his books and guns.
This is where we wrap around back to the beginning: the 1%. For the things I love so much to exist, we need a 1%. No German Barbarian ever held a blade so fine as a Gladius, no Gladiator anything as glorious as a Rudius; the wines are sweeter, the weapons are deadlier, but they come at a cost…
Somebody needs to own the patents.
Somebody needs to own the factories.
Somebody needs to be in charge of the Legions.
That somebody is the 1%.
To call the Tribal Savage a Communist is an insult; the Savage lives in reality, while the Communist dreams of Utopia, a place that can never be.
The Communist dreams of a worker-owned factory: so what piece does the worker own? This bolt? That beam? A factory isn’t a pile of bolts and beams, it’s an assembly – an accomplishment of Engineering and design, just as crucial as the patent of the widgets it produces. Somebody is going to own that – the only question is whom?
In the Soviet system, it’s whomever is most politic and lick-spittle; in the Capitalist system it is whomever is most sociopathic; in the Democratic system it’s whomever provides the best narcissistic supply to the voter base. Regardless of the system, people will be born into inequality. Attempts to remedy this situation will involve quite a bit of genocide, and will rapidly revert to the former status quo.
The only way to realize the Equalist dream is to revert back to savagery… and then we’ve got Tyler Durden all over again. Something tells me that, in the Savage environ, eliminating the Equalist will help make us more equal…
So the 1% is shirking its duty, you say? The 1% is selling out their own nations? The 1% is going to send us back into a Dark Age?
Those sound like some interesting conversations to have.
But the moment I hear “equality” and “privilege” drop from your lips – that’s when I know I’m talking to a long-form suicide, who’ll happily bring the rest of us down with him…