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01 January, 2014

How Western societies lost their faith in Vision

Why people don't rise up massively today? Why there are no real revolutions? How we tolerate all things that have been imposed to us? These questions come up in people's minds more and more often today in Greece and abroad, due to the economic crisis. Some theories are circulated as an answer, among these, explanations which include, for example, the psychosynthesis of modern Greeks, but the truth is that there is something more fundamental behind this passive behaviour and concerns not only Greece, but the entire Western world.

by system failure

Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, Friedrich Nietzsche declares God's death and Western world will put all its hopes in science. Laplace's Determinism leads to the almighty man, who through science, can find all the answers for the world. Technology, which naturally comes from scientific discoveries, promises prosperity and a better life for the majority.

Science becomes the central "pylon" taking all the weight of the Western cultural structure, but not for long. In the beginning of 20th century, through the new theories in Physics and Mathematics, science will realize that it is unable to describe precisely the world and give accurate answers about how the Nature, the Universe itself, works. Relativity and uncertainty is what characterizes everything and man discovers that human senses and various experiments, are simply quite inadequate to describe precisely the reality. The human mind understands only a depiction of the real world adjusted to the human senses. Unavoidably, human speech itself discovers its own limits.

It's a shocking discovery which leads to the conclusion that man will never find the answers that seeks for the world, either through Religion, or Science and marks the beginning of a cultural crisis of the Western world, which is taking place for over a century until today.

The rise of “homo consumericus”

The beginning of this crisis marks the "mutation" of Western societies, leading them to a kind of introversion as, the transcendental and the explanation of the world are increasingly moving away from the centre of human search. Science verifies the primitive nature of man and technology opens the road for mass production. Thus, the father of Public Relations, Edward Bernays, using the theories of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, will transform America of the Twenties into a huge experimental laboratory of mass consumption. It is the birth of the man-consumer or homo consumericus.

During the next decades, an extreme one-dimensional and mechanistic perception for human nature will totally prevail. The new discoveries in Biology together with Freud's theories, are presenting man as an entity, which is driven by its own genes and instincts.

People like the economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, novelist Ayn Rand, mathematician John Forbes Nash and psychiatrist Ronald David Laing, will promote the idea that man is an egoistic being which works only for its own personal interest. Extreme individualism becomes increasingly one of the basic characteristics of the Western man and concepts such as altruism, collectivity and solidarity are dismissed from the central core of his thought. The Western man accepts rationally that these concepts are clearly utopian and that they will never be applied massively in societies.

But the basic principles of these theories which led to this dominant perception, were often arbitrary, if not wrong. For example, John Nash believed that, every man is occupied by a distrust feeling against the others and continuously plans strategic moves against them in order to benefit himself. He designed some games based on this philosophy, one of which was called "fuck your buddy", (later published as "so long sucker"), according to which, the only way someone to beat his opponent was to betray him. The game would be proved consistent under a logical basis if every player was behaving the same way. But when some analysts from the strategic analysis company RAND, tried to test it using their secretaries, the later chosen to cooperate instead of betraying each other. However, this was not enough for analysts to conclude that the philosophy of this game was wrong and thought that the secretaries were simply unsuitable people for this experiment.

But, at that time, Nash himself was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and he was very suspicious with all men of his environment, even his colleagues because he was convinced that many of them were conspiring against him. Many years later, Nash admitted that these paranoid beliefs were imaginary.

Another example is that of the famous psychiatrist Ronald David Laing who used the game theory to build a certain model for human behaviour. He concluded that people are inherently selfish and spontaneously planning various strategies during their everyday transactions.

All these theories enhanced the beliefs of some economists like F. A. Hayek, whose economic models were totally excluding altruism and were totally dependent on personal interest. Another economist, James M. Buchanan, disputes the concept of "public interest" and supports that organizations should be managed by people whose motive is money. Concepts like "feeling of personal fulfilment" or "sense of duty", are not included in their theories.

During 60s and 70s, Laing's theories and Nash's models become more and more famous, targeting state and present it as a mechanism which tries to control people through an increasingly concentrated power.

The new generation of psychoanalysts after Freud, with Wilhelm Reich at the top, will contribute to the amplification of individualism and "demonization" of the state. Reich was opposed to Freud's ideas - who believed that human instincts should be controlled because they could bring chaos in societies - and believed that people should be left totally free to express their feelings, as each one likes, and not to repress their instincts. The big corporations followed this kind of personal free expression and started to promote their products targeting the person and its personal needs.

The downgraded concept of Liberty in Western neo-rationalism

The libertarian movements of the third world during 50s and 60s inspired domestic terrorism, mainly during 70s in European nations. As these movements and organizations had brought bloodbath and violence, the Western world adopted a restricted and downgraded version of the concept of Liberty.

The great political philosopher Isaiah Berlin, during a speech at the Oxford University in 1958, will define two concepts of Liberty: Positive Liberty and Negative Liberty. The concept of Positive Liberty, coming from the revolutionary movements of the past, concerns mainly the dynamic resistance against the tyrannic and colonial regimes of the past and imposing through violence, as also Sartre believed, a more equitable and humanitarian society. The concept of Negative Liberty refers to the restricted act of individuals inside some specific limits of a political and economic activity under specific rules, in order not to disturb the balance of the corresponding sociopolitical system.

Berlin believed that only the concept of Negative Liberty is suitable for a balanced society without violence, but he had also warned that this type of Liberty could lead to authoritarian practices. However, the so-called neo-conservatives, appeared during 70s in the United States, adopted Negative Liberty and placed it at the central core of their political view, planning to expand peace and democracy all over the world and amplify the internal security of the US.

Some politicians like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush adopted this perception later and tried to establish Western-type democracies based on this concept of Negative Liberty, maintaining also the "fundamentalism" of the big, mostly American, corporations and banks. They applied a massive violence in other countries (Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, etc.), bringing another bloodbath through a different way. At the same time, they imposed progressively, new measures of repression and restrictions of civil liberties in Western democracies in the name of protection against terrorism, thus verifying Berlin's warning.

Governments used propaganda and tactics based on human psychology and therefore, the belief that interceptions and repression measures are inevitable was inserted inside the Western neo-rationalism, as an excuse to secure Western societies from terrorist attacks. This culture, however, during all these decades, has deprived from man something much more substantial: the Vision itself.

Abandoning Vision

Generations of pragmatists grow with cliches like "this is the best society we can have", or, "humans are what they are and will never change". Thus, ethic, in many cases, ends to be a kind of luxury and replaced by a crude economic pragmatism and an extreme cynicism.

But the stereotype "humans are what they are and will never change", for example, does not come eventually from an empirical process during our life. In other words, it is not a conclusion which comes through life as we grow, as many of us believe. In reality, it is a dogmatic belief which was "planted" inside the Western neo-rationalism and became one of its basic building blocks as a result of all these theories which affected Western thought deeply, mostly during the last 100 years. Therefore, as a basic building block of the Western neo-rationalism is reproduced from generation to generation.

Through this course all these decades, Vision becomes a concept without meaning, it becomes useless. The Western man learns to compromise with the current situation since the retirement from a search of a better society is established permanently at the core of the Western neo-rationalism. Therefore, the lack of Vision leads to a more terrifying result concerning the concept of Liberty: Liberty has been downgraded to a more fundamental level since the "lobotomized" brain has lost its capability to imagine ideal situations beyond the limits imposed by its nature.

A whole generation of politicians with similar perception and culture will appear. Margaret Thatcher declares that there is no such thing as society, but only individuals, Clinton will deliver economy to the free market after the advice of the bankers and Francis Fukuyama will announce in triumph the end of history. All present politicians in Europe and United States, or other countries, are children of this culture and this is clear from the technocratic way through which they take decisions. When they are not able to decide, they act through the logic of giving the problems to other advisors-technocrats which due to this specific culture can be found everywhere around them.

And now, the cruel reality spreads in front of people's eyes. The end of history and the free market were proven fairy tales. A brutal system takes back its promises for peace, prosperity and stability, through destructive capitalism. Labor rights, civil liberties and social benefits dismantled violently by nation-states which are self-destructed to give their sovereignty to the dictatorship of the markets.

The more the welfare state, human and labor rights retreat, the more difficult the "recovery" of Vision becomes. Situation becomes worse in front of the attack of neoliberalism. Vision becomes not only a utopia, but also a luxury because the top priority of people is to survive. The concept of Liberty itself tends to disappear permanently inside increasingly militarized societies of private armies.

One may wonder: Why people don't rise up massively? Why don't they react? Because they don't believe in anything anymore, of course. Because the only truth for them is that there are limits which they must not exceed. Not only God has died, but Vision itself.

Related articles:

The totalitarianism of the one-dimensional culture and slow death






12 comments:

  1. Anonymous1/1/14 16:22

    Additionally, altruistic people begin to question their own motives for good works; associating them also with self interest which further serves to diminish/end vision and faith and hope.

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  2. system, good post.... left this comment to you over at MNE also....

    "Through this course all these decades, Vision becomes a concept without meaníng, it becomes useless. The Western man learns to compromise with the current situation since the retirement from a search of a better society is established permanently at the core of the Western neo-rationalism. Therefore, the lack of Vision leads to a more terrifying result concerning the concept of Liberty: Liberty has downgraded to a more fundamental level since the "lobotomized" brain has lost its capability to imagine ideal situations beyond the limits imposed by its nature."

    I think you get close here, your 'lack of vision" is aka BLINDNESS... ie in Greek they are 'tuphloi'...

    ok, then we also have your 'lobotomy' coming in which also makes them 'stupid/insipid' or the Greek moroi (in English the familiar 'morons')

    So as the scripture terms it, they are "stupid and blind!" Mat 23:17

    ok, so we have both established that they are blind morons.

    ie they are blind AND stupid.

    Now does the blindness cause the stupidity? Are they related? Hard to tell.... I lean towards not. These are independent afflictions. Let this sit for now....

    now here may be where you go off from my perspective: instead of this 'blindness and stupidity' leading to some sort of insufficient 'liberty', this is not what is going on, JUST THE OPPOSITE HAPPENS..

    they instead of screwing up 'liberty', (btw I cannot even find any word in the Greek scriptures that can translate into 'liberty' which is interesting....) ie making this a matter of degree of 'liberty' here, no, they are missing just the opposite of 'liberty' they are missing 'authority' or in the Greek scriptures 'exousia' or 'out-being'...

    THIS is the problem.

    This is not just a 20th century event imo, this has been going on for almost 2,000 years here in the west...

    So their being stupid and blind leaves them without 'knowledge' (ie they are 'moroi' or 'insipid') and no view (ie they are blind) of just and righteous 'authority' or 'exousia'.... then we see all of the chaos, corruption and carnage come in.

    So I guess I agree with your 'stupid and blind' assessment, but this doesnt result in some sort of 'perversion of liberty' or something... it leaves them unable to see and have knowledge of 'authority'... and here we are...

    rsp

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    1. Thank you Matt

      First of all I agree, it is not a matter of blindness and stupidity. Don't forget you and I, as humans, we are part of this culture.

      Very interesting that you know the Greek words. Well in Greek there is only one word for Liberty and Freedom: Eleftheria (Ελευθερία).

      I think that the problem is that in reality, societies were never free in reality and at this point you are right. But now there is a big difference. State authority is replaced by a "free market" authority which presented as the ideal environment for man to get free from authoritarian governments. This is far from truth. The system not only becomes more and more authoritarian but local governments are replaced by a global brutal authority driven by banks and corporations.

      And that's the big difference. For the first time in history a system has so much power. It builds armies of economists, people in public relations, controls mainstream media, all the knowledge about the human behavior and psychology. It's very hard to fight against it. It builds more and more people who serve it, who are totally dependent on it. We actually live in a form of "Matrix".

      People are not stupid and blind. They are just so much dependent on this system that they tolerate all the chaos, corruption and carnage. They tolerate this because they are unable to vision something different to bet on it. So they choose corrupted authority and repression instead of absolute destruction.

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  3. As people's lives become more complex and complicated, most lost their basic self-defense of mind, body and soul. Just like most students of karate, everyone (who's interested) basically only wants to know how to punch and kick. As my old master (no longer with us) kept repeating, few want to learn defense. But if one truly learns physical defense, they will also start applying those techniques to mind and soul (spirit). In time, one learns that although not usually attacked physically, the attacks on the mind and spirit are almost daily and relentless. Common sense usually worked in the past, but these days attacks are highly sophisticated, having evolved from the 1920's thru today starting with Edward Bernays' employment by corporations and government. Vision might just be the right word for folks to "get the mud off their glasses." Maybe then they can get their natural self-defense back.

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  4. Anonymous2/1/14 03:23

    The amount of vague pseudoscience and generalizing is hilarious. I don't think there was any proof of argument, disappointingly full of waffle.

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    1. This is not a scientific article, therefore your comment is at least irrelevant. It not a matter of proof but from which point of view you see things when you discuss such matters.

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  5. Nice peace. What do you think the solution might look like? I can't imagine it.

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    1. Thank you. Well, we are talking about a culture which shaped Western thought for decades, therefore it's certainly not that simple to change it. However, I have the sense that more and more people understand it now and that's why we are facing an increasingly brutal system which struggles to stay in power by any means.

      Currently it is difficult for people to resist because there are still many who support this system which has all the means and power on its site. But eventually, it's up to the people to decide how it's gonna be from now on. Once a critical mass in societies start changing its way of thinking and living then this system will start to collapse.

      Technology today, despite all disadvantages, offers a great opportunity here. Just think how difficult would be for unknown people to share information and ideas so fast and easy just 2 decades ago. Internet offers an independent information and a great opportunity (at least for the moment) to escape the mainstream media propaganda and see things from a different point of view.

      We need to change. To change our culture. It's not easy, but people must start to believe again in Vision, that a better society is possible. There is not an end, not a perfect society, but there is progress, evolution, a real evolution in a cultural level which must believe that it is possible. Each step at the time. Once people will start to believe, things will start to change.

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  6. Kilgore Trout24/1/14 10:28

    I think that one of the things that is worth mentioning in this context is the corruption of "vision" by politics. Vision in the Western World is today associated with socialism (good in small amounts and limited contexts IMHO), fascism (never good) and fascism's racial supremacist pagan mutant stepchild Nazism (quite possibly the most evil ideology to have ever stalked the Earth; certainly the most evil to have ever risen to power, of which I am aware) and nobody wants to see anything like that emerge ever again. As a result, politics has now become almost entirely an argument between technocrats and economists, whose "excess of rationality" (to use a very imprecise phrase) the general public do not understand or care about. Oddly enough, there are still a substantial minority in the West who find succor in Marxism and the thought of overthrowing the entire Capitalist World Order. While others go the other way and Hayek, Friedman and Rand - I've not read any of these people by the way, I just see their influence - form the basis of a "free market" ideology that markets and the most "efficient" economic exchange of goods and services will create freedom for all.

    Have you considered that this lack of "vision" may be merely the symptom for a lack of "faith", or possibly "faith" in the wrong things? I am not very religious myself, it is just something that occurred to me when reading your article.

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    1. Thanks, very interesting view. Personally, I couldn't find more suitable phrase than "excess of rationality" to describe briefly the central point of this article. This "excess of rationality" you described is exactly the source of dangerously unbalanced society eliminating Vision. A balanced society should have equal amounts of healthy rationalism and Vision to survive and evolve.

      Now, he have on the one hand an "excess of rationality" and on the other, almost total lack of Vision and this leads to a very dangerous path of cultural decadency.

      Hayek, Friedman, Rand and others are people who actually gave birth to neoliberalism. The consequences today are quite clear.

      Yes, actually this is the point. But faith to what? The title says that we, as societies, lost our faith in Vision. Why we lost our faith in Vision? Probably because we lost our faith in God and science. I don't think that this is faith in wrong things, it is just that we, as societies, never learned to progress though a third way. The way between the ideal and the rational.

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  7. Anonymous25/8/14 07:24

    It seems to me that the struggle for survival on a daily basis, combined with individual ego are a constant obstacle to man obtaining "vision." The "matrix" in which the west currently exists is not fully understood by many, and becomes somewhat over bearing for those that do. If the answer is faith as you suggest, then one would have to put faith in his fellow man. This seems difficult as the matrix limits the type of life experiences necessary to make one become conscience. Is it not a loss of faith in our neighbor, quite possibly by design, that is the biggest obstacle for society to overcome? Judging, comparing, envying, imitating, or isolating, it seems to fall on one side or the other.

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