Dangerous Thinking and Violence

Monday, 16 December 2013 at 02:59

What it is that makes certain kinds of thinking dangerous, if not that it leads to some form of violence or threat of harm?

For an individual dangerous thinking could lead to injury or scarcity. Between individuals it could lead to violent conflict, or to the breakdown of a valuable and supportive relationship.

Regarding community, local or extended, dangerous thinking may conceivably result in harm through a loss of cohesion and effective cooperation, without immediate violence. But where trust, social bonds, and the empathy that goes with it diminish, so the chances of violence increase. Also without the presence or threat of violence, there is a common (although not universal) inclination towards cooperation.

Hence dangerous thinking, on an individual scale through to the extended community of a nation, is considered in terms of its relationship with violence. Here violence is taken as any act which is destructive and leads to suffering.

It goes without saying that not all danger, suffering or conflict can be avoided, and it is sometimes necessary to accept one danger in order to overcome a bigger danger, and thus not all 'dangerous thinking' is to be avoided. Nevertheless it is a common warning or accusation, particularly towards those interested in social reform who would rock the boat. It is useful then, for those cases where advocating or agitating for change turns out to be the lesser danger than staying on course, to understand in more detail how the idea of dangerous thinking and of violence is evoked, framed and influenced.

For the same reason of avoiding the bigger danger, it is useful to understand these the various dimensions and routes to dangerous thinking, for those cases where powerful movement for change fails to accurately comprehend both what is to be changed from and what is to be changed to, thus potentially itself representing the bigger danger.

Can some forms of violence be net reducers of dangerous thinking? Certain forms of mutual play, art or sport may have a violent and dangerous nature, but do they necessarily result in more harm than what would come without them. Perhaps qualifying activities would be those where violence is integrated into a narrative that also emphasizes respect, peace and honor, and is congruent with actual behaviour, and where violence is used in a controlled form to some extent to overcome its broader hold, and avoid it in worse forms? The study of many martial arts, for instance, would appear to fit such conditions.

This idea of dangerous thinking might be expanded into the violence related categories:
  • Thinking about acts of violence.
  • Thinking which justifies acts of violence.
  • Thinking which directly incites violence.
  • Thinking which is not itself of a violent nature but which is met with violence.
  • Thinking which leads to violence, but which does not require reflection on that fact.

Let's consider each of these types of dangerous thinking, what drives them and how our acceptance of and inclination to violence is influenced through them:

Thinking about acts of violence

In itself, just thinking about something violent happening isn't necessarily dangerous, it might even help you avoid danger, where you pre-empt it. Where it gets dangerous is where it becomes habituated, and begins to saturate large parts of our mental and emotional space. The route to that happening is naturally the mainstream media (including the political discourse of the main parties) and entertainment industries. Whether from high-volume violent content we react more with elevated fear or aggression, or become desensitized, the result is often an increased affinity for violence, or an acceptance of it as the inevitable norm. The exact nature of the violent content in the mainstream media and entertainment industries could be connected to any one or more of the above types of dangerous thinking, from gratuitously violent video games, to championing aggressive foreign policies, to reinforcing cultural or social prejudices which contribute to violent discrimination. Consequently, thinking about acts of violence, through the volume and tone of such content, acts as a bedrock for violence in society.

There is an argument sometimes offered, that the media and entertainment industry, and some would extend that to politics too, is primarily a mirror of the dominant culture (with various niches for those who wish to consume niche content) and that it does not significantly steer or shape that culture, or influence our thinking, choices and actions.

This idea of minor influence is not convincing in the face of the vast sums of money spent on content production with the precise aim of influencing opinions and behaviour. There is in fact a well recognised influence of media coverage on everything from election outcomes, to product sales, box office success and celebrity popularity. If people get the bulk of their information about what is happening in the world from the media (or from friends who have seen or heard something in the media), it would be reasonable to expect that any bias or assumptions presented through either emphasis or omission would be reflected in the public opinion, discourse and behaviour. The connection becomes pretty obvious during times of war and associated propaganda, but is no less real at all other times.

Similarly, it is fairly common for role models to be characters in a book, film or computer game. Even without their being an identified role model, where an entertainment product appeals to our taste, those appealing qualities are often attached to a certain narrative, ideology or set of interpretations of how the world is or should be. Just as showing young attractive people drinking Cola Cola seems to have an impact on behaviour to increase sales (since it's such a long running ad strategy), we could expect having those qualities in an entertainment product that appeal to our taste, being linked with certain ideologies or views of the world would, to some extent, over time, influence our affinity with those views and ideologies. Also the choice and presentation of products available will itself have an influence on what tastes develop, as well as tastes influencing what is made available.

This capacity for influence from the media and entertainment industries will be exercised essentially whenever there is profit in doing so, which given the market based operation of our economy, is all the time. From a profit seeking perspective, violence is simply one powerful emotional lever to stimulate demand with, through fear, relief or arousal, or to secure general compliance with various measures that protect and enhance profit for a tiny group of people.

Thinking which justifies acts of violence

Moving forward from simply contemplating some act of violence, is a train of thought which in some way justifies that violence, whether it has already been committed, is about to be, or could be at some future point. The justification of violence is generally related to a real or perceived threat, or an opportunity for gain.

The nature of the threat may be, for instance, to the body, the identity, or the integrity of a group, its social code or its hierarchy. Besides the neutralization of danger or scarcity, the gain from violence may be the expansion of already substantial wealth, or some entertainment value. Clearly the perception of the situation and the set of beliefs and values held are critical in having a sense of danger and in justifying violence to resolve that danger, or to acquire the benefit being considered.

As an example, supposing someone sees a group of travelers enter their town and set up camp. The town is under some economic pressure and public services are already near capacity. If that person's culture and outlook is one that welcomes such visitors and seeks to share knowledge and strengths then they may still perceive some challenges but focus on how to create good relations for cooperation or develop a peaceful understanding with them of the limits of local resources. But if that person's culture and outlook is more threat-focused and they believe such travelers can't be cooperated, trusted or reasoned with, then a strong sense of danger to the self and the town, at least in terms of identity and economy may develop and violence begin to be justified.

So one route to justifying violence is by having or creating the perception of necessity for self-defence or group defence. Here, what the self and group is defined by, in terms of body, identity, property, social code and class, determines what kind of situations may be considered threatening and possibly justifying violence. As already discussed, some part of what we, in general, take to define us and our place in the world, is served up by the media and entertainment industries and the culture which comes from and feeds into that.

Once a threat to self or group is perceived, the possible response of violence must be considered as the only way, the normal way, or the best of all options, for violence to then by justified.

Again, our culture, as influenced by mainstream media and entertainment, will affect where we see violence as an appropriate or necessary response, given some threat. For instance if patriotism, along with proactive military strength is held highly within the culture, then any perceived or possible threat to a nation may be understood individually as a justification for violence.

Another route to justifying violence, is for the significance of violence itself to diminish, and either to become so common as to be 'normal' or through a particular cultural landscape to become associated with entertainment. For most of post-agricultural history, violence has been a popular form of entertainment, for a certain part of the population.

The attraction to, acceptance of and justification for violence is evoked in media and entertainment, not just through its association with fear, power, status and sex, but also through such qualities as humour, hope and kindness. In action films highly graphic scenes of violence can be made light of, not only by their familiarity, but by adding an element of humour. Where violence is portrayed in a noble light, as the only path to freedom and justice, and thus the source of hope for those who are threatened and struggling (within the ideology and social constructs of the story) then it becomes justified. When violence is cast as the humane expression of tough love, to teach a valuable lesson through punishment, then violence may become justified.

Coming back to the framing of dangerous thinking as thinking that leads to or increases the chances of violence, all of the above avenues for thought to justify violence can be understood as dangerous thinking. In the case of justification three types have been identified:

Threat + violence is best or only option = justification.
Not much threat + violence is trivial, entertaining or in the form of play = justification.
Acceptable repercussions + sufficient benefits = justification.

The last type of justification above, requires that the doer of violence feels superior to the target, where violence is simply an expedient method for getting what is wanted. Such a sense of superiority develops most easily with a lack of empathy. Mental illness can certainly account for some of this, but one powerful, systematic way of creating a sense of superiority and a loss of empathy is political, economic and social hierarchy, or class. Thus a hierarchical approach to co-existence can be seen as an engine of violence and dangerous thinking, as much as it may appear from certain points within its own paradigm as a model of stability and order.

What makes that association between justifying violence and dangerous thinking seem odd, is where, within our beliefs, values and social codes, the violence (real or imagined) really is justified or unavoidable. At this point there seems to be no sense in considering the thinking of it 'dangerous', it is simply what is called for.

For any of the avenues to dangerous thinking above, examples could easily be found that by most reasonable and moderate standards, violence really would appear justified. But at least as many if not far more examples could be imagined where violence is only accepted or adopted because beliefs, values and desires have been manipulated to make violence feel justified or entertaining. The scope for such manipulation is arguably far greater in the presence of hierarchy, whether sectarian or non-sectarian, especially where access to and presentation of information is substantially controlled and filtered through the small head of that hierarchy.

Thinking which directly incites violence

Beyond justifying violence in theory or practice, is thinking which directly calls for it.
It may be down to desperation over scarcity or threat to safety, or a threat to power, which may itself be perceived as a type of scarcity of whatever circumstances are required to maintain an identity that has become bound to a position of power. Or it may simply come from an addiction to violence.

Where the violence is real there is generally a natural instinct to avoid it if possible. This means, especially where the violence is being incited from a hierarchical structure, the use of language is instrumental in bringing people to the point of doing violence. Euphemism and dehumanisation, where there are 'good guys' and 'bad guys', are common approaches. For instance, on the side of law and/or national interest, violence may be used in the name of liberty, security and peace. Where it is used outside of the agenda of the state and major stake holders, violence is the mark of terrorists. Similarly, within an abusive relationship, the abuser may use violence as a means of discipline and maintaining order. But where the abused tries to resist violently, it is a mark of disrespect and irrationality. The conceptual framework is key to allowing the violence to feel justified and to perpetuate.

When faced with desperate circumstances of scarcity or other threat, there quickly comes the time where action is imperative. While that might entail an unavoidable risk or need of violence, what increases the chances of it is where communication ceases or is severely degraded. If the sentiment 'the time for discussion is over' signals to stop considering or sharing information, perspectives and different strategies, while action is being made, then the violence fuelling characteristics of social hierarchies start to apply. Where there is a plan and a representative or leader of it, to which people are obedient, then the moral disengagement of 'just following orders' kicks in. The hierarchy need not be explicit, so long as the sharing of information and ideas is broadly shaped in the same way as under one, then the same follies are invited.

Where there is a fixed plan being followed and the bigger picture is held only by a few authoritative figures, then through the social disengagement and narrowing of perspective, violence becomes easier to incite. This effect is starkly proven by the Milgram experiment, where there is an authority figure and a set of rules and about two thirds of people are prepared to voluntarily kill a person who has done no harm that they know of, providing they are not in the same room, and without even being in a situation of extreme threat.

Another type of thinking that tends to spark violence is the type that seizes on the nearest possible scape goat to try and alleviate a danger. It is a natural enough response under the circumstances of elevated stress, anxiety and threat-focused competition, that most people in our dominant culture find themselves in. It is made more likely from a scarcity of sound information and rational discourse, and a strategy known as 'divide and conquer'.

It is not that those wishing to maintain privilege and power have to do that much to apply divide and conquer, because general circumstances lead to a narrowing and increasing immediacy of focus that makes finding a nearby person or group to blame and vent frustration and anger on more likely. If mainstream media for the most part avoid grappling with the bigger picture and fuel the fire of resentment of minority groups with divisive and sensationalized news coverage that is enough. What happens then is that the parts of society that might represent the biggest threat to establishment if they were organized and thinking in a joined-up way end up focusing on fighting each other and various minority groups. Thus by dividing the threat, is it conquered.

Some common examples of desperate blame seeking and divide and conquer are:
Immigrants vs. native blue collar workers.
'Hard working people' vs. benefit claimants.
Pitting pubic sector workers and their compensation against private sector workers and their compensation, indicating that one is suffering due to the privileges of the other.

In all these cases, real tensions and hardship exists. But it's by failing to pause, learn some facts and understand the bigger picture, that shows how these circumstances arise, that what may feel like a fight for freedom and security becomes tragically a fight which contributes most to the ongoing exploitation of everyone involved. Some vague idea of bigger injustices may be there, but they seem out of reach and hard to understand in a way that connects them to the immediate problems of a community. Better to leave understanding those things to someone else, and just taking a stand where you can, with your friends who see things the same way because they have the same problems. In this way a community ends up dividing itself and contributing to the systemic violence of the broader culture it belongs to.

Thinking which is not itself of a violent nature but which is met with violence

Thinking that either doesn't see an existing risk, or through its disruptive force, creates a risk, may be dangerous to all those influenced by it. If you think that you only need to look left when crossing any road, then you create the danger for yourself and others of violent outcomes.

More to the point of social order, where ideas are developed to peacefully transition to a different paradigm and those ideas begin to catch on, this presents various threats. If the new paradigm is non-hierarchical and the existing one is, or the new one otherwise puts them out of favour, then there is a threat to identity, power and social order, and through the means discussed violence may then be justified to neutralize the threat.

Of course such ideas which lie outside the mainstream are first dismissed as fringe nonsense or simply a joke. It is only where they gather substantial momentum and cohesive power that they represent a threat, and at that point there are often not directly violent ways of smothering or dividing the development, which are more effective than direct violence. Often competitively amplified economic pressure does the job of the establishment, dividing people between what has a broader social value and what must be done to make ends meet. Then there is infiltration (a well documented and used strategy of the police and intelligence agencies), bribery, blackmail, propaganda and smear campaigns.

On the other side, were a regime change (or annulment) carried out, there is the question of what comes after, and what dangers await in making that transition. If you and your tribe peacefully find your way out of a forest where you felt trapped and endangered, you might feel great being outside, but you wont last long unless you've prepared to live in the new environment. You may then be forced back into the forest, and find a new spot where you might find you're subject to new or greater dangers than you were before you left. In such a case, the violence you are met with is as much a result of a lack of preparation, as it is of the regime you return to and through your actions helped to create.

Another form of thinking that can be dangerous is the kind that starts with 'all we need is love and kindness' and 'you cannot change the world, you can only change yourself' and then goes nowhere. This is not because it is usually directly met with violence but because, on its own, it is fairly ineffectual at reducing ongoing systemic cultural violence. On its own, without building it into joined-up thinking and social organization, it merely serves as a personal pressure valve, a form of escapism, or a New Age equivalent to confessing sins. On its own it's easy for everyone to agree with, or at least nod sympathetically with, and then go about their usual business.

For this reason when public figures, such as the new Pope Francis Bergoglio, speak out against Capitalism or the dominant social, political and economic paradigm, media pundits often criticize their branching out from reciting doctrine or just talking in vague terms of love and forgiveness. The objection typically involves the claim that such people should restrict themselves to their allotted partition of public presence or celebrity; that if you're not a recognized expert on a subject then you have no business talking about it, or what you say carries no weight. It is the 'experts only' objection. In this way attempts to join the dots between numerous social issues and contribute to a wider conversation based on joined-up thinking are discouraged and suppressed.

Augmenting the 'all we need is love' and the 'experts only' thought silos, is the line of thinking: 'All that is ill in the world is simply a result of human nature. Besides what the authorities are trying to do to weed out the bad apples, and increasing punishment, control and surveillance, there is nothing than can be done. We just have to rely on evolution to slowly improve people.' What this does is effectively close off general public discourse relating to the large region of social structure and our economic and political institutions.

The structures we've made relating to social cooperation, managing resources and making collective decisions, that is our social, economic and political institutions, and the assumptions around them, are commonly regarded as facts of nature. They are less often regarded as fairly recent human inventions which have a very significant influence on behaviour and on which bits of our nature get developed more, and which bits remain relatively undeveloped. It is easily missed of minimized then, that the details of our dominant social, economic and political institutions have a huge impact on just about any social issue imaginable, not least violence.

This three-point ward of 'all we need is love, 'experts only' and 'it is just human nature' creates a gigantic cognitive blind-spot, which deflects attempts at joined-up thinking, or even seeing the need for it. In this way, these ostensibly non-violent habits of thinking contribute to the ongoing collective violence and danger arising from our present dominant paradigm of co-existence, because they obstruct or diffuse the kind of thinking that would be required to progress beyond that paradigm.

Thinking which leads to violence, but which does not require reflection on that fact

Returning to the influence of mainstream media, entertainment and politics, where certain narratives and ideologies are accepted from it, there may be no explicit awareness of doing anything out of the ordinary, but that very acceptance and agreement opens a channel through which violence flows. It's this kind of ideology buy-in (at least enough not to create mass resistance) that is relied upon for empire building activities and the persecution of chosen enemies within or outside of a society.

Where violence in terms of systemic exploitation and oppression of the disadvantaged occurs, supported by the authority structure, myths and values of a culture, this can be thought of as structural violence. Where those values and beliefs are accepted, structural violence creates little awareness or reflection, even where someone is directly participating in the violence themselves, because it exists within the scope of normality and what is justified.

Violence is more easily done where is some form of physical or social separation which impedes empathy, and physical and social separation is precisely what hierarchy leads to. But there is a particular form of violence, neglect, which is perhaps the most common form of structural violence.

As discussed in the first division of dangerous thinking, there are many ways that simply thinking of violence to the extent that our culture is saturated by it, increases the use of violence. Now here are some (there are many more) specific beliefs, trains of thought or narratives which lead to structural violence and are generally a part of a market lead democracy culture, and which do not need much reflection by those whose thinking is aligned with them:
  • Free-trade is good for everyone
  • The rule of the majority should be respected by all
  • The lawful amassing of private property reflects merit, and the absence of such wealth is equally deserved
  • Though freedom is the highest value, enshrined in free-market ideology, people must be ruled by government
  • For the majority, freedom must be traded for security, and security could always be better

The points on markets and private property are addressed in these notes:

On the point of democracy and the rule of the majority, John Adams, the second president of the United States, coined the term 'tyranny of the majority' to highlight the dangers of it, and defend the value of a bill of rights. The Greeks also recognized the problem, where a vote may legitimize mob rule. Essentially a vote makes the minority subject to the majority. It is a form of domination and as such is a type of violence. It is certainly less unjust than autocracy or monarchy rule, and setting a higher majority requirement or having a strong constitution may lesson the consequences, but this doesn't fundamentally alter the oppressive aspect of majority rule. Of course what we think of as democracy, or representative democracy is very far from even majority rule, where at every stage, and from the very beginning, money talks loudest. But all of this can be accepted and given little thought if we accept representative democracy and majority rule as the best of a set of bad options.

Taking the core of the democratic principle as the balanced distribution of power, from the Greek dēmokratía “rule of the people” or “people power”, there is no explicit requirement for majority rule or voting. Majority rule is simple one early stab at a democratic system, which while improving on having a great dictatorship, is still fairly poor and subject to much of the same systemic potential for corruption and violence. By continuing to pursue the core meaning of democracy we might discover a truer and less violent implementation of it.

On the point of people requiring a leader, in the sense of such a leader whose authority is backed up by force, this is simply a rationalization for present dominant forms of 'democracy', as well as any other form of hierarchy. What can make it seem sensible, and so not worth much examination or reflection, is observing how violence can spike during times of government or rulership instability, and how it is always there in various forms of crime and exploitation. The conclusion is then that there has to be some strong body to keep a lid on all the violence that seems to naturally spring from people's hearts. But this conclusion is a result of mistaking the map for the territory. As discussed there are many ways for the institutions within culture, controlled by those with the greatest privilege and wealth, to inculcate and habituate violence. And so, without necessarily realizing they are doing it, the leaders end of largely creating the justification for their own existence. And where that justification is infused into the culture, and so supported by people from all levels of privilege and wealth, there is no quick or easy way of overcoming it.

On the point of freedom being a necessary trade for security for the majority, in a sense this is true, but only so long as faith in the market lead democracy paradigm is maintained. The centrality of social hierarchy creates continuous threat, because people generally want to be free, and the system also inculcates the desire to climb the hierarchy. The leadership must continually defend itself, both as an institution and from those who would install themselves in the leader position. Thus the reduction in freedom for the majority, or more specifically the careful control of it at a diminished level, naturally leads to increased security for the ruling class. It also leads to greater leverage of power for the ruling class to defend itself from other hierarchical groups. As a by product of this, and within this environment, a kind of stability may be enjoyed by the majority within the more powerful social hierarchies. Although, since the threat and competition never ends, and it is always the least privileged and least wealthy that die first when war is periodically deemed necessary, the trade of liberty for security is doubly questionable.

Of course the inevitable outbreaks of violence, pre-emptive or retaliatory, ideological or pragmatic, are used to justify the trade of freedom for security. In the larger powers it is done with the call to fight terrorism. According to official statistics, even during 2001 (the year of the twin towers attack, where approximately 3000 people died) in the US, you'd be over 150 times more likely to die from heart disease than a terrorist attack. In a typical year, including US citizens all over the world, you'd be around 10,000 more likely to die from preventable heart disease. In terms of money spent on dealing with it, 50,000 times more gets spent on anti-terrorism measures than on any other cause of death. But, it is given relatively little thought, and naturally the 'anti-terrorism' measures very often involve a good bit of violence themselves.

The establishment view of dangerous thinking

To the establishment, that is the present body of concentrated power and wealth and its various representative institutions of government, big business and the military, 'dangerous thinking' is any thinking that might upset that social order or inhibit its accumulation and holding of power. The kind of violence perceived is to the identity and enjoyment of power the control of the establishment. The fear is that these things will be forcefully taken from them, and perhaps that they will be punished for having taken what they rationalize as being entitled too.

For thinking to be truly dangerous to the establishment it must be persistent and highly contagious. Any other kind will get smothered by mainstream commercial culture which largely reflects the values and beliefs of the establishment.

Thinking that is genuinely dangerous to the establishment is by extension and at certain stages of development also dangerous for those thinking it, and especially those helping most to spread it. This is simply because the function of the establishment is to maintain the power and social order of the group, corporation or country they have command of, and violence is an intrinsic part of maintaining a social hierarchy. The extend of violence that will be used is decided by the force at the establishment's disposal and the expediency of using it, given the threat.

The post-establishment risk of dangerous thinking

While the biggest individual risk of thinking dangerous to the establishment may be persecution, or exclusion, the biggest collective risk is succeeding in reclaiming power from the establishment, but (perhaps unknowingly) carrying on its values and beliefs with different rhetoric. The reason why this is so dangerous is exemplified by soviet era Russia, leaders of which distorted the ideas of socialism to implement a back breaking program of rapid industrialisation and suppression of the great majority. It may be an extreme example, but it does show how socially progressive thinking can be and often is co-opted into recreating a worse version of the usual establishment. Another more recent, smaller scale example of how revolution can be highjacked is Srdja Popovic, a world renowned political activist, now known to have links with a corporate intelligence agency:

The co-opting or corrupting process of a progressive movement happens for various reasons, such as:
  • Lack of forward thinking, or switching to 'the time for conversation has past' mode, increasing a vulnerability for slipping back into old habits, without help, or by creating an opening for someone else to steer the way.
  • Lack of understanding the root problems of the establishment model, thinking that with some relatively small tweaks and different people in charge it would work out better.
  • Faith in one of the core elements of the establishment market lead democracy (the market, representative government with or without rule of majority, and a strong military) and failing to see how one also implies the others.
  • Avoidance of joined-up thinking, focusing solely on small chunks of what is going on (such as a debt based money system, or lobbyists), that may be extremely important, but in isolation result in not seeing (or serve not wanting to see) the bigger picture.
  • Resort to violence without first exhausting all other options, meaning that the conflict falls into territory the establishment are most practised in handling, and which provides fuel for creating division within the movement.
  • Charismatic leaders, who put their social status above the strength and effectiveness of the group, by, for instance, hoarding information, giving commands rather than facilitating, and pitting one part against another.
  • Infiltration, by a charismatic leader, expert or various interests taking advantage of any of the first five points above.

Failure in this way is also dangerous because it is exhausting and demoralizing for those who are genuinely interested in and dedicated to progressive social change, which then weakens the cause, possibly for a generation or more.

The obvious way to avoid such failure is to focus on the inherent strengths of a well-organized but non-hierarchical collective, where ideas are freely exchanges and leadership is purely a function of skill in a particular area and facilitative ability, not something that is taken and backed up with force or power over others. These kinds of collectives can be far more agile and robust than hierarchical ones. This approach to cooperation allows rapid development and re-development of ideas and strategies, at the same time as action is being made and work done.

The emphasis on sharing and giving feedback on key ideas amongst the whole group creates and brings out a strong foundation of common understanding and direction where it is possible, and promotes the social investment that comes from empathy and respect. The attitude of having a specific job to do without much sense of or engagement in the bigger picture, builds in vulnerability to a group and invites hierarchy. When the time for discussion has passed, so too has the chance of much genuinely progressive change.

If we get so far as to build a robust general understanding of progressive change, then there is that other danger to consider; what is a drug addict prepared to do, to secure their fix? Or, what are those holding onto power prepared to do to keep it? It would seem, just about anything. My hope comes from seeing our capacity for learning. On balance the establishment way of thinking and the culture than comes with it is by far more dangerous and violence prone than just about any serious proposal to distribute economic and social opportunity more evenly. Fortunately, there are some signs that collectively we are beginning to understand the threat to our species survival is the hierarchy, is the system of exploitation, is the preoccupation with competition (between people, not ideas). If that is true, then those hoarding power may finally be cured of this cultural disease along with everyone else. Not that it will be easy.

* Picture link: http://liol.deviantart.com/art/Greed-108458360


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