Sunday, 17 May 2015

We spend our very selves

Our stupidity may be clearly proved by the fact that we hold that "buying" refers only to the objects for which we pay cash, and we regard as free gifts the things for which we spend our very selves. These we should refuse to buy, if we were compelled to give in payment for them our houses or some attractive and profitable estate; but we are eager to attain them at the cost of anxiety, of danger, and of lost honour, personal freedom, and time; so true it is that each man regards nothing as cheaper than himself. 
Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

Any reasonably complex society seems to be built on a mountain of expendable human life. It appears to be an essential profligacy of hierarchical societies, a need for stark contrast between high and low. Otherwise what’s the point of aiming high if not to waste the lives of those who never made it?

So previous ages had all those futile wars plus millions of lives spend in worthless servitude, endless drudgery and toil from which there was rarely any prospect of escape. Rule by waste where countless millions of human lives are the waste. 

The expendable many have always supported the less expendable few because that’s the only system we ever devised. Or rather, that’s the only system the few ever devised. Managing vast numbers of people is just too damned difficult even for the rarest of rare geniuses. And elite geniuses are pretty rare so there is much waste.

Moving on to the present day, we have for some time attempted to correct this appalling waste of human life. Well sort of – to a degree. Except we still have the original problem, the problem of hierarchy and we’ve made it worse. Global control-freaks gibber and plan while crazy wars sputter and flare as madness stalks the land.

What’s the answer?

Much stronger local government presumably. Local government where the basic political unit is local enough to tackle local complexities, to find out what works and what doesn’t, small enough to reject a thousand vain political fantasies. 

Many of those vain political fantasies are dreamed up by the big to control the small by wasting their lives in endless futilities, thus preserving the precious hierarchy. But the small can usually control and direct themselves and if they don’t, then at least they suffer the consequences without dragging down everyone else.

It’s called trial and error and it’s how we learned everything from throwing spears to launching satellites. Yet somehow we’ve drifted into a lunatic state of affairs where we must have trials on a vast scale but dare not notice the correspondingly vast errors. Will it work out for the best in the end? What do you think?


petem130 said...

You asked...

Localism I would seem to be the best solution. It's not new, it just got swept away on the back of economies of scale that work for multinationals but not for small units.

There is also the case for localism with a requirement that individuals have to live with the decisions made locally. A vested interest which means they suffer or enjoy the outcome.

Dare I also say that local politics should be whip free to the extent that perhaps all councillors etc are independents.

Big isn't great.

Sam Vega said...

There's a lot in the localism argument, but it depends on one's locality. It can give a lot of scope for local madmen to control their "communities" in unacceptable ways. Travellers? Sharia Law? I tend to prefer Old Etonians.

James Higham said...

Much stronger local government presumably.

Yes but that one's also factored in by Them. Example is Citizen's Juries some years back, run by ... yes ... Common Purpose graduates.

Local govt?

Demetrius said...

Endless futilities, more or less it describes my working life.

A K Haart said...

petem - yes scale is important, there is a limit beyond which we cannot be involved in any meaningful sense.

Sam - local madmen are a problem, but at least there is the option of moving away.

James - systems can't guarantee anything, they are all corruptible. The best we can hope for is enough flexibility to adapt.

Demetrius - mine too and I doubt if it is a coincidence.