Left-Right illusion

Political argument is invariably cast in terms of left versus right, progressive versus conservative, socialist versus capitalist and so on. As Jonathan Swift keenly observed in Gulliver's Travels, with his allegory of big-enders and little-enders (referring to from which end to eat a boiled egg), there is little of significance which divides the two ideologies. This essay proposes that the real issue, if we want to reverse the madness of contemporary civilisation, is centralisation versus decentralisation. Both sides of the current ideological divide aspire to concentrate power, either in the state or capital, but control remains with the same "elite" cabal.

The Left-Right Political Spectrum Is Bogus by Crispin Sartwell (H/T)

It might be a division between social identities based on class or region or race or gender, but it is certainly not a clash between different ideas.

Until we move beyond the left-right illusion, permanent resolution of the world's intractable problems: poverty, inequality, conflict, environmental destruction etc. will remain beyond our grasp. Decentralisation of political and economic power is essential.

Comments   

 
0 #10 Clive Menzies 2014-10-20 11:18
Thanks for the links Jeroen - it adds to the Critical Thinking repository.
 
 
0 #9 Jeroen 2014-10-10 12:57
Quoting Clive Menzies :

in the extreme, suppression of ego (apologies) allowed a Buddhist monk to be eaten alive by ants. Balancing one's own interests with those of others is the trick to be accomplished but such balancing needs to take into account a wide perspective and long time horizon.

It sounds to me related to a view that, to nature, we are just consumers with nothing valuable to offer other than the nutrition of our flesh and bones after we die, which fits with our current practices of agriculture that try to fight against nature with all its 'pests' and 'weeds' that do not cooperate well with the industrialised practices of mono cropping and regular deep tilling of soil.

I think I have gained a more positive view on humanity by learning about permaculture and especially the existence of ancient food forests such as this one in Marocco:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hftgWcD-1Nw
and this one in Vietnam:
www.naturalbuildingblog.com/ancient-food-forests/
Ancient food forests might also account for the unusually high occurrence of edible and medicinal plants found in the rainforests of Brazil:
www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3350474/Amazon-rainforest-was-giant-garden-city.html
For thousands of years, humans have helped nature to thrive in ways that supported human life.

So apart from physique, relationships, human arts and consciousness as gifts of beauty, humans have a material role to play in making nature thrive as well. Therefore, letting oneself be eaten by ants does not seem to me as the best way in which a person can contribute to nature. We are most valuable to our environment when we are alive and thriving. So helping ourselves thrive is not by definition opposed to contributing to our environment.

A very simple example of this is a notice for using the oxygen mask in an airplane. It instructs people to put the mask on themselves before helping their child. Acting selflessly isn't always the best way to contribute to 'the greater good'. I don't think that a stressed, sick or dead person is the greatest blessing they could be to their environment.

Quoting Clive Menzies :
In an age of instant gratification, such considerations are absent.

Indeed, humans have made great innovations to induce short term pleasures with long term disadvantages. Not the least being in food palatability. Although, especially from reading Carl Rogers' experience with the effect that empathy, authenticity and unconditional positive regard have on any person, I have come to trust that an increase in people's sense of self-directed purpose in life (doing something that is meaningful and appreciated within a community) would greatly reduce a person's susceptibility to becoming addicted to such gratifications.
 
 
0 #8 Clive Menzies 2014-10-10 11:34
Quoting Jeroen:
Ah yes indeed, but I don't find the word "ego" helpful for a meta-paradigmatic discussion, since its conceptual understanding strongly depends on the paradigm from which one is thinking. In a self-versus-others-way of thinking, going from ego to no-ego is like swinging from positively judging "self-preservation" to positively judging "self-sacrifice". It's still a judgement based on a differentiation between benefits to self and others.
Noted and agreed.
Quote:
And if being humble is necessary to be accepted, respected and cared for in one's community, then acting humble would be a reasonable way to promote oneself. Without any kind of self-promotion, wouldn't someone quickly become an outcast? Being an outcast is certainly not something to be avoided under all circumstances, but it might not be the best position to have a positive influence on one's environment. So not doing any self-promotion might not be so beneficial to others either.
It isn't constructive (although it seems to be the norm in soundbite driven politics and beyond) to adopt absolute, entrenched positions.

Oriental philosophy has much to teach us, not least the balancing of opposing forces. So in the extreme, suppression of ego (apologies) allowed a Buddhist monk to be eaten alive by ants. Balancing one's own interests with those of others is the trick to be accomplished but such balancing needs to take into account a wide perspective and long time horizon. In an age of instant gratification, such considerations are absent.
 
 
0 #7 Jeroen 2014-10-09 14:29
Quote:
Unless I'm mistaken, we're heading into the realms of ego and the contemporary imperative for self-promotion.
Ah yes indeed, but I don't find the word "ego" helpful for a meta-paradigmat ic discussion, since its conceptual understanding strongly depends on the paradigm from which one is thinking. In a self-versus-oth ers-way of thinking, going from ego to no-ego is like swinging from positively judging "self-preservat ion" to positively judging "self-sacrifice ". It's still a judgement based on a differentiation between benefits to self and others.

To me, the underlying issue is a vicious circle which is a chicken-and-egg problem to escape from.
People try to act/appear in ways in which they believe they are deserving of more love, respect and rewards from themselves and/or others, and they indeed are often loved, respected and rewarded/punish ed by themselves and each other, depending on how they act/think/speak /appear. In any environment with conditional respect and care for each other, it's tremendously difficult for any individual to cope without promoting him-/herself in one way or another.

And if being humble is necessary to be accepted, respected and cared for in one's community, then acting humble would be a reasonable way to promote oneself. Without any kind of self-promotion, wouldn't someone quickly become an outcast? Being an outcast is certainly not something to be avoided under all circumstances, but it might not be the best position to have a positive influence on one's environment. So not doing any self-promotion might not be so beneficial to others either.
 
 
0 #6 Clive Menzies 2014-10-09 12:55
Quoting Jeroen:
I believe this self-other differentiation (no matter whether value is put on self-sacrifice or self-preservation) is detrimental to enjoying the simple, short-term, self-beneficial pleasure of giving itself. Because this pleasure is suppressed by being cognitively and emotionally distracted by conflicting concerns about social acceptance, fairness (constantly trying to control a preferred balance between giving and receiving) and/or self-preservation.
Unless I'm mistaken, we're heading into the realms of ego and the contemporary imperative for self-promotion.

In my youth, modesty and understatement were de rigueur and boastfulness was frowned upon but as the world and the workplace have become more competitive, self-promotion is essential to succeed in the current paradigm (Xfactor, Dragon's Den etc.). Via social media, people are exhorted to "sell" themselves (even in the act of self-sacrifice) and it is always perceived and is in effect, at the expense of others; winners versus losers.

Interestingly, in our round up meeting on Tuesday night, Arvind suggested that while we've focused on propaganda and mass manipulation (of which the above is a product), we've spent little time exploring the psychology of individual's motivations and actions. Clearly, we need to incorporate this into our vision... so much to consider.
 
 
0 #5 Jeroen 2014-10-09 12:16
Jeroen said:
Quote:
The old/current paradigm is based on a belief that we can benefit when another is hurt. In a paradigm in which we get more joy out of relationships with others and our relationship with nature, we could emotionally experience a win/lose situation as a zero-sum outcome and therefore not something to aspire at all.
Clive Menzies said:
Quote:
Hi Jeroen, I'm not sure I understand you and so correct me if this is off track. It is a matter of perspective or time horizon - as you've written elsewhere in this thread. If ultimately we lose through pursuing short term benefit (as current incentives demand/persuade) then no-one wins. The short term benefit is transient and illusory. The new paradigm should operate on a simple premise - if one looks after everyone else (and nature) as a priority, we all benefit.
Thanks for checking what I meant. I think there's an important difference with what you describe that might seem subtle in my literal description of it. I try to make it a bit clearer since it is my opinion that this has to play a crucial part in finding practical strategies for facilitating the kind of paradigm change that I think you are supporting.

I'm thinking about a paradigm in which less difference is perceived between my joy/flourishing and the joy/flourishing of someone else and the rest of nature. In which the pleasure of giving is in how it helps someone, anyone, not making a value distinction between your own pleasure and that of someone else. In such a paradigm, doing something that contributes to everyone is 100% (backwards-)com patible with short-term thinking, while at the same time making space for long-term thinking.

It is my observation that the current paradigm puts a lot of stress on value-different iation between our own benefit and the benefit of others. This causes people to perceive a conflict between their own interests and those of others. On the one hand, great social value is attached to "sacrificing oneself for the benefit of others". On the other hand, great respect is also given to those who "stand up for themselves" in ways that are antagonistic to the needs of others.

I believe this self-other differentiation (no matter whether value is put on self-sacrifice or self-preservati on) is detrimental to enjoying the simple, short-term, self-beneficial pleasure of giving itself. Because this pleasure is suppressed by being cognitively and emotionally distracted by conflicting concerns about social acceptance, fairness (constantly trying to control a preferred balance between giving and receiving) and/or self-preservati on.
 
 
0 #4 Clive Menzies 2014-10-08 12:49
Quoting Jeroen:
The old/current paradigm is based on a belief that we can benefit when another is hurt. In a paradigm in which we get more joy out of relationships with others and our relationship with nature, we could emotionally experience a win/lose situation as a zero-sum outcome and therefore not something to aspire at all.
Hi Jeroen, I'm not sure I understand you and so correct me if this is off track. It is a matter of perspective or time horizon - as you've written elsewhere in this thread. If ultimately we lose through pursuing short term benefit (as current incentives demand/persuade) then no-one wins. The short term benefit is transient and illusory. The new paradigm should operate on a simple premise - if one looks after everyone else (and nature) as a priority, we all benefit.

Thanks for the links on food - you'll see that is a focus for us next year.

Quote:
But I think we have to admit that in the current paradigm, being healthy is simply not up there on the radar of people's priorities. So I think part of making lasting change is getting a better understanding of what people do have on their radars and how that can be leveraged to make (step-by-step) changes that benefit to everyone.
That's right - part of the challenge ahead. Most people don't realise that much of what they eat isn't food and is making them sick. But they're happy to continue in the mistaken belief that medical science (pharma with its short term profit agenda) will be their salvation.
 
 
0 #3 Jeroen 2014-10-08 12:13
Hi Clive,
I read in your reply an idea that maybe the way I was describing the reduction of indirect costs (or increase indirect benefits instead of costs) is part of a paradigm (cost versus benefits) that does not facilitate living to our full potential.

Thanks for that, I will think about it and check whether I sometimes experience being constructively motivated by something other than a benefit-maximis ation. My idea about it now that we always act towards an increase of benefits, and that our limitations are more about which benefits we allow into our awareness to act upon.

The old/current paradigm is based on a belief that we can benefit when another is hurt. In a paradigm in which we get more joy out of relationships with others and our relationship with nature, we could emotionally experience a win/lose situation as a zero-sum outcome and therefore not something to aspire at all.

A source to learn about growing food, I highly recommend the youtube channel growingyourgreens.com. John Kohler is trying out and sharing what works best to grow the most and most healthy, nutrient dense food possible. He is very active and uploads a new video about every 2 days.

For more in-depth knowledge on completely waste-free, nature-cooperat ive growing of food, as well as harvesting drinking water and treating waste water, there is a website with a lot of free permaculture course videos: www.openpermaculture.com/

I think you would agree that the knowledge is already out there to do everything you advice people should be doing in decentralising/ localising governance and economy. And I even believe that most people are aware that it is in their own physical interest to make different food choices, since it's clear that the way most people are eating now is making them sick, age miserably and die early.

But I think we have to admit that in the current paradigm, being healthy is simply not up there on the radar of people's priorities. So I think part of making lasting change is getting a better understanding of what people do have on their radars and how that can be leveraged to make (step-by-step) changes that benefit to everyone.
 
 
0 #2 Clive Menzies 2014-10-05 12:09
Quoting Jeroen:
But how do we go (without waiting for a change in politics) from a situation in which a majority of people cannot afford anything else than the lowest-price products (with the highest long-term, indirect costs), to a situation where a majority of people experience immediate benefits from making choices that might have a higher price tag but actually have long-term benefits for themselves, their community and their environment?
Jeroen, I'm not sure there is a simple answer to this conundrum but in principle, we need to go back to the fundamental flaws. Sharing the bounty of the land and resources is the first step and disassociating the means to life from paid work is the second.

It also needs to be recognised that there is an inverse correlation between efficiency and resilience.

"Cost" of food as you're alluding to it implies that agribusiness and the food industry provide what we need in terms of nutrition I refer you to Michael Pollan: www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2121.Michael_Pollan Much of the processed food we eat, isn't actually food and is of no nutritional value. Furthermore, we've lost the culture of food to the fast food industry. Cooking and breaking of bread together are fundamental building blocks of family and social cohesion.

Your questioning of the costs of life is framed in the current paradigm - what's required is a new paradigm where these tensions are more easily resolved.

We've not begun to address the issue of food and water in Critical Thinking and I certainly have only a superficial understanding of how to resolve these issues. We need to apply a systems thinking approach - in short we need to expand the debate to get well qualified people on board to help. I get emails from these people but have yet to find the time to engage properly: foodtank.com/about
 
 
0 #1 Jeroen 2014-10-04 12:44
It's interesting to think of decentralisatio n as an alternative to left-right thinking and the way out of inequality, wastefulness and environmental damage. I would agree that thinking in terms of differences of 'our' versus 'their' ideology can be distracting and paralyzing, just like any other kind of group differentiation which sees another group as a problem which has to be resolved before anything meaningful can be achieved.

The positive side about a goal of decentralisatio n is that it implies that we can actually do something about it ourselves. That to which we direct our focus and our money will grow. If we spend our money on products, energy, water and waste-treatment that are provided by companies that keep prices low through the efficiency of centralisation, exploiting underpaid labor and not spending any money to prevent nature and agricultural land from being damaged, then that's exactly what we are nurturing. Then centralised corporate power and hidden costs in terms lower wages, poorer health of employees, higher healthcare costs, less productive farm land and less healthy forests to regulate our climate are exactly what we will see growing. And it's not a surprise that politics follows that trend too, no matter whether it's called 'left', 'right', 'democratic', 'liberal', 'communist', 'progressive' or 'conservative'.

But how do we go (without waiting for a change in politics) from a situation in which a majority of people cannot afford anything else than the lowest-price products (with the highest long-term, indirect costs), to a situation where a majority of people experience immediate benefits from making choices that might have a higher price tag but actually have long-term benefits for themselves, their community and their environment?
 

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