The Wise Move…
A serf’s ramblings on a theme.
A note of context for this post …
Having no sooner completed my 63rd serf edition, yr madness of crowds, also about movement, namely stampeding and following the leader as a reaction to some perceived threat ‘out there,’ – than a serf finds herself in a nation-wide social lockdown situation in Oz, a ban on free movement, also experienced by cits in many other nations around the world, yr precautionary response by governments to the present Corona virus health issue. This new essay is not about the Corona virus per se, but is triggered by thinking about its aftermath, hopefully governments’ full restoration of citizens’ prior rights to free association, so integral to democratic ‘open society.’
… Hence this serf edition taking a walk through history to explore the varied ways in which ‘the wise move’ and looking at some of those alternative options when you come to a fork in the road.
Interconnections … yr ports, yr crossroads and yr city square.
There’s an old Catalan saying, ‘Always go down, never go up.’ that applies to geographical settlement, though it could well be applied to ivory tower thinking dissociated from real world experience. Seems apt, even in the 21st century when most of the mountain people of the world still practise subsistence farming, Switzerland with its wide valleys and mountain passes being a notable exception.
Regarding geography, economist Thomas Sowell, in his book, ‘Wealth, Poverty and Politics,’ looks at the kind of geographical factors that limit or foster productive societies. Happens a common handicap of lagging groups around the world is geographic isolation, whether separation from the rest of the world by mountain ranges, deserts, dense forests, or unnavigable rivers.
Once the sea was one of those geographical barriers to travel and innovation, but with the development of boat building and the compass, the sea became an open gateway to exploration by maritime societies. When the ancient Greeks took to the sea and began to trade and build colonies around the Aegean Sea, coming into contact with other cultures, their old tribal certainties began to break down.
The breakdown of tribalism and beginnings of the open society seem to have originated with the first school of scientific philosophy in Miletus, known on the Ionian coast as a lively crossroads for trade and commerce. For the Milesian philosophers, Thales, and Anaximander, philosophy was an intensely practical affair. Thales, creator of the theory that all things are made of water, was said to have predicted the eclipse of the sun in 585 BC. The philosopher Anaximander, born around 610 BC, was the first map-maker and holder of an extremely modern evolutionary view concerning the origin of man.
Another Ionian, from neighbouring Ephesus, the philosopher Heraclitus, born around the turn of the sixth century, had already developed the idea that everything is involved in some form of movement, a concept of change foreign to tribal societies where social customs were regarded as god-given immutable regularities. Following Heraclitus, other philosophers, Protagoras of Abdera and his countryman Democritus went on to formulate the doctrine that human institutions of language, custom and law are not of magical character but are man-made and therefore alterable. These precursors lead to the intellectual advances, in Athens in 6th Century B.C., of Pericles, who formulated the policy of equality before the law and political individualism, and Socrates in the city square saying ‘Know thyself,’ and arguing that we are responsible for our human actions and should have faith in human reason.
Such the consequence of maritime journeying in ancient Greece…while in another part of the world, concerning journeys and interconnections, here’s Confucius quoted by Chinese historian, Fung Yu Lan, in ‘A Short History of Chinese Philosophy:’
‘The wise man delights in water, the good man delights in mountains. The wise move, the good stay still. The wise are happy, the good endure.’
Fung Yu Lan observes that the quote by Confucius reflects something of a different mind set between the people of ancient Greece, those who live by trade, and those of ancient China, who live by agriculture. Regarding the Chinese way of life:
‘The farmers have to live on their land, which is immovable and the same is true of the scholar landlords. Unless one has special talent, or is especially lucky, one has to live where one’s father or grandfather lived and where one’s children will continue to live.’
There was a time, that Confucius did not envisage, when China could have engaged with the rest of the world. In the period when the Tang Empire came to an end and the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms fought incessantly, China was experiencing its most spectacular burst of invention and prosperity. By the late 1000s Chinese were masters of silk, tea, porcelain production, paper and printing and made coke from coal to smelt high grade iron. Industrious peasants were working for cash as well as subsistence and using their cash to buy goods.
China had been extending its sea power for three hundred years and attained a peak of naval technology, including the magnetic compass, unsurpassed in the world. Chinese merchants had developed a trade network in spices and raw materials with Indian and Muslim traders to the fringe of the Indian Ocean. Then came the calamity of the Mongol Invasion. The first of the Ming Emperors, Hongwu, forbade all trade and travel without official permission, forced merchants to register an inventory of their goods once a month, and permitted peasants to grow food only for their own consumption. The Ming emperors nationalized industry and created state monopolies for salt, iron, tea, foreign trade and education.
The second Ming Emperor, Yong Le wishing to impress Ming power on the world, had a massive treasure fleet built, greater than the Spanish Amada, which made seven voyages, sailing as far as East Africa. China had the means to trade with the world and the Chinese people were ready to do it but Yong-le’s successor brought an end to China’s maritime history by banning ship building and trading abroad, a bad move steered by the Emperor’s officials who instinctively distrusted innovation as a threat to their own positions. This bureaucratic political system continued as one dynasty replaced another and China was never able to free itself from it’s constraints on innovation. No Industrial Revolution.
Isolation a barrier to innovation, whereas interaction, unconstrained by political fiat is the path to innovation, and that is helped by the environment of cities.
From yr city square to yr back streets to yr near-by hinterland…
Cities enable dynamic exchange of ideas and opportunities for experiment, Jane Jacobs argues in two books, ‘The Economy of Cities,’ and ‘Cities and the Wealth of Nations.’ In ‘The Economy of Cities,’ she describes, the plight of the western world after the fall of Rome, yr Dark Ages, and the significant development of Venice in the marshes, from its humble beginning, trading with Constantinople what was to hand, salt and timber, then later, imitating Constantinople, manufacturing and trading sophisticated import replacements of Venetian glassware and manufacturing lenses and telescopes.
Unexpected developments evolved from this small beginning, chain growth of new Italian import replacing cities, creation of the Renaissance, artistic achievements of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Galileo and the beginning of Europe’s scientific revolution.
In ‘The Economy of Cities,’ Jane Jacobs also describes a similar development in Japan in the 19th century when small enterprises in cities like Tokyo began imitating manufactured goods imported from the West. From humble beginnings such as bicycle repair shops starting to make their own replacement parts, this means of manufacture via repair shops was soon adapted to the production of many other goods. Sony, the enormous Japanese manufacturer of communications equipment began in a similar way as a small parts shop. So adaptable, so Naychur’s evolutionary trial and error way, when you think about it…
Yr less adaptive responses to circumstances, maybe not wise moves…
So let’s take a look at some ways of moving that may seem appropriate at the time, but don’t pay off in the long run, definitely inappropriate to the open society, like yr follow-the-leader stampede or yr leap-over-the-cliff, or yr regressive one-or-more-steps-backward-taken, (more of that anon.) And there’s yr rigid or mechanical response to what confronts you out there, not a wise move, maybe even viewed by others as comical.
Apropos that rigid or mechanical response to a situation, Henri Bergson writing about comedy in an essay, ‘Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of Comic,’ defines laughter as a uniquely human reaction to human folly.
So what do we laugh at? ‘We may laugh at an animal,’ says Bergson, ‘but only because we have detected in it some human attitude or expression. Or we may laugh at a hat, but what we are making fun of, in this case, is the shape that men have given it.’ What we are laughing at is human rigidity of attitude, the easy automation of acquired habit, closely akin to human absent-mindedness, when we should be shaping our conduct in accordance to present reality. ‘The rigidity is the comic and laughter is the correction.’ Laughter is a survival mechanism, it’s kind of like Socrates saying ‘know thyself.’
Henri Bergson observes that when we speak of an expressive face, we remark on its mobility, its liveliness, whereas a comic expression of the face ‘is a unique and permanent grimace, as though the whole of life has crystallized into this particular set of features.’ The art of the caricaturist consists in detecting this, often almost imperceptible tendency, and magnifying it for all to see.. ‘He makes his models grimace, as they would do themselves if they went to the end of their tether. Beneath the skin-deep harmony of form, he divines the deep-seated recalcitrance of matter.’
So many ways we can manage to move the wrong way. Here’s another…
Yr regressive one-or-more-steps-backward-taken, back to the closed society.
Herewith, as I’ve remarked before, 😦 the classic example, Plato’s, ‘ Republic,’ his blue-print for Utopia, a dystopia, really, involving one-or-more-steps-backward taken, analysed by Karl Popper in Volume 1 of his two volume book, ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies.
[And herewith a timely warning to self and others…maybe I’m engaging in same, got my own chorus line back to previous serf posts regarding yr philosopher kings trying to set up closed societies and control what us cits think and do… But on reflection I’m saying ‘No, can’t be said too often! Through out history, and at this very moment, yr U.N. and E.U. elites, and yr national guvuhmints that never waste a good crisis to extend their power, like those eunuchs in Ming China, are chipping away at our liberties, chip, chip, chip.]
So back to Plato again and the grand scheme he wished to put into practice via his Republic, the antithesis of Athenian democracy, designed to arrest all change by creating a hierarchical closed society ruled over by a wise philosopher king.
Karl Popper is critical of Plato’s regressive scheme and in the preface to his Volume 1 first edition, ‘The Spell of Plato,’ he has this to say:
’If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes; and as the book tries to show, some of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization depends, and to divide them. The responsibility of this tragic and possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken in our criticism of what admittedly is a part of our intellectual heritage. By reluctance to criticize some of it, we may help to destroy it all.’
Maybe Plato, and other designers of Utopias that came after, meant well with their visionary social engineering schemes. Popper attributes the attempt by Plato to create an unchanging society to his personal experience as an Athenian living through the strain of an unsettled period of historical change, the disastrous war between tribal Sparta and democratic Athens’ and subsequent civil war, the oligarch party in Athens plotting against the democracy. Maybe Plato did have good intentions but here are the dismal consequences of his plan to arrest all change.
His Republic necessitated the re-creation of a rigid tribal society, ruled by a born-to-rule caste. It necessitated a return to a magical way of thinking about 0social political institutions, the belief that social customs were like physical laws, and could not be altered, just endured.
And since, if you wish to bring about sweeping change you have to be persuasive, the political system Plato designed to achieve his static society necessitated his persuasive myth, Plato’s necessary ‘noble’ lie of the metals in men, gold in an elite class who should lead, and beneath them, tiers of inferior metals who should obey. Hmm… customs emerge in all societies for socially cohesive reasons but this society would be based on yr conscious deliberate lie.
In Plato’s Republic, no checks or balances required other than a state-controlled education system designed to manage the succession of leadership and socially engineer selected students from the leader class in preparation for the role of ‘wise’ and omnipotent philosopher king. In this hierarchy, only the gold elite get an education but it is an education of received truths, not to be questioned, and Plato hopes that in time even the philosopher class will come to believe the noble lie.
To maintain unity within this ruling caste, it was necessary that everything private and personal must be eradicated and therefore Plato proposed that in his highest caste there must be common property of wives, children and chattels. No place for the individual in Plato’s Republic. Individualism is the enemy of collectivism and must be branded as selfish expression of ego, so no place for western humanism or altruism or the arts. ‘You are created for the sake of the whole,’ says Plato. (O.S. Page 100)
And here’s another chilling statement by Plato:
‘The greatest principle of all is that nobody, whether male or female, should be without a leader. Nor should the mind of anybody be habituated to letting him do anything at all on his own initiative; neither out of zeal, nor even playfully. But in war and in the midst of peace – to his leader he shall direct his eye and follow him faithfully. And even in the smallest matter he should stand under leadership. For example he should get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals.. only if he has been told to do so. In a word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream of acting independently, and to become utterly incapable of it.’ (Plato. Laws. 94d)
This is how Plato perverts the open society concepts of faith in human reason and personal responsibility to a follow-the-leader closed society based on lies and tyranny.
So eschewing that regressive move of following the leader back to some mythical golden age, (yr perfection, if it is attainable, is a far distant state,) and eschewing that stampeding-follow-the-leader move, ( maybe over a precipice,) let’s look at the wise move of following Nature, the evolutionary way of trial and error.
Through a glass darkly…
Nature’s way, groping in the dark, living organisms adapting to stresses and information in the environment … Cautious trial and error, Nature making do with what’s at hand, like flippers into wings or legs, from four legs to two legs and arms, claws into hands.
Cautious trial and error adaptation, humans do it too in our daily responses to problem situations, from simple to complex development. Jane Jacobs describes trial and error adaptation at work in cities, like those small beginnings of Japanese bike repair shops, on to spare parts and then to entire bicycle manufacture, later escalating to automobile manufacturing. Henry Ford in the U.S. did something similar.
Cautious trial and error, first you guess then you test, more of that anon… But, regarding science, crown of human creation, not cautious trial and error but bold guesses have been its strength, progression from Galileo to Newton to Einstein, and that is because when you guess, and TEST how phenomena behave in the physical world, both a successful guess and a failed guess advance our human understanding of that world. Falsification via testing eliminates a false theory, verification via testing means your theory, may possibly be true. Either way, nobody gets hurt, other than, maybe, someone’s injured pride. … Apropos that bold step, however, science itself is dependant on less bold steps. Science would not have been possible without the evolution of human language by human trial and error, our human language progressing from signalling to descriptive function to critical function, giant steps for human-thinking, but slow developing.
Guess and test regarding human behaviour, be it social, political or economical, yr bold guess is not the best move. Cautious trial and error’s called for because we humans are peering through a glass darkly, such is the human condition. We jest can’t predict the consequences of all our interacting actions, interacting with each other is challenge in itself, but add to that we’re interacting in all kinds of weather with what’s out there, those complex interacting systems of the physical world we live in.
So do not expect yr five or ten year plan, let alone yr long range utopian vision to work as expected. Say, who would have expected the long term consequences arising from human tool making and technical discoveries, from yr fire stick, yr stone axe, invention of the wheel, the harnessing of steam energy, development of the printing press and the internet. Then there’s the smart phone, an experiment in tracking us while entertaining us, – an experiment in artificial intelligence that may come to control us – Yikes!
From the simple to the complex also in the political moves we make. Who could have foreseen that the deals made by a few English nobles in the thirteenth century, to wrest some modest power for themselves from an autocratic king via The Magna Charta could over time lead to Britain’s democratic political system of votes for the hoi polloi, even for women? – Yeay!
Well going boldly where no one’s gone before can be a good move in science but not
always good in other areas of human social life. Attempting top down reconstruction of the whole of society, yr revolutionary blue print and you’ll be getting more than you bargained for. In revolutionary chaos you descend into badlands and where there be badlands, ‘might becomes right;’ you’ve seen those cowboy movies, and they’re not the half of it! ‘You can’t make a revolution without breaking eggs,’ said one utopianist, and that means countless human sacrifices in its making, and likely afterwards as well.
Apres la deluge…
So back to the aftermath of the massive reaction to the Coronavirus epidemic, yr quarantining globally of so many of the cits, ‘The Lockdown.,’ and those infamous ‘safety’ apps to track possible coronavid contacts.
‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ How guvuhmint and others who would control us embrace this dictum. The long war betwixt the open and closed society is never-ending and the bureaucratic controls put in place during the Corona Virus health scare will not be easily dismantled. All those guvuhmints and globalists and AGW alarmists, under the guise of environmental sustainability and / or protecting humanity from the next viral pandemic, are busy as a bee making their plans.
What to do for the individuals who would resist the consequences of yr Platonist collectivist dystopia, yr controls on free speech and free association, yr make-over to zombie ‘thou shalt not’ behaviour? …
Of course, dear reader, you must decide your own individual action, guided by your own individual thoughts, maybe some critical discussions or letter writing, but perhaps some group interaction is also called for? Yes, I know, calling individualists to mass action is kinda’ like herding cats, whereas collectivists luv it… yr Saul Allinsky mob rules for radical action, yr George Soros funded ‘Get Up Org’ mass messaging, yr masked Anti Fa attacks on free assembly.
…No way that any thoughtful individual would suggest yr panic stampede behaviour, but we have to make our efforts effective and that means more fire power than being the lone ranger. Maybe interact with a group that’s combating the above, in Oz there’s yr Institute of Public Affairs, advocating freedom of the individual against the nanny state. Maybe find some other group with legal support for claims of constitutional freedom?
And something else to do while yr about it, there’s that Sun Tzu advice about knowing what yr enemy is up to, so you could go in to their posts and publications, 😦 and hear what they are planning…
There’s the World Economy Forum regarding vaccination as the main game:
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/vaccine-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-healthcare/ Will the spectre of Corona Virus be hung over our heads not just in favour of universal vaccination, but vaccination as a means of digital identity? Proposed by ID 2020, https://id2020.org/alliance a quantum dot tattoo that will store vaccination records under yr skin. It’s yr immunity passport to free movement. https://news.rice.edu/2019/12/18/quantum-dot-tattoos-hold-vaccination-record/ Founding fathers of ID 2020 are yr globalists, the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. H/t Original Steve comment @ Jo Nova, 30/04/20.
There’s The Agenda 21 human containment plan. U.N. under Trilateral Commission advocates is planning via its Agenda 21 blue-print, adopted by many city local councils, to herd us into high-rise, closely surveyed life in cities with most rural land out of bounds to cits. See in my post below the extent of Agenda 21 plans to regulate almost every thing we may do. https://beththeserf.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/55th-edition-serf-under_ground-journal/ The Agenda 21 master plan includes the UN-designed Wildlands Project, a plan to transfer land from public ownership to large tracts of no-go wilderness managed by technocrats, each eco-area protected by buffer zones and with designated corridors linking human habitation areas. Cits won’t be able to move very far.
Well there it is, lots to act upon. Hopefully serfs and those of higher persuasion will make a move, adapting to circumstances, altogether or alone, once more into the fray!