Saturday, November 14, 2009

Power and skill

Looking through history, it appears to me that the times when skill has actually meant something are the times when power has been either absent or in a vacuum. Power establishes itself and its order over everything. It determines who it wants to ascend and who it wants to stay on the bottom. In situations where that power is no longer in existence a reshuffling of folks where people who are actually able and willing to do good work can ascend can actually take place. But in this case those who through skill get position inevitably get power themselves and start to perpetuate the system of power and ascent through being power's servant rather than through skill themselves. How can we avoid this?

Perhaps by a situation where the previous people who are able to have their voices heard and their skills appreciated are not able to make themselves a new ruling class, or to establish their influence in such a way that it conflicts with the natural liberty of people to have themselves recognized on their merits as opposed to whether or not they buy into a particular ideology. But how is this possible?

Every tyrant comes in thinking that he or she has the answer, comes in wanting to remake the entire world in the image of some city on the hill that they possess, and it always seems to end up with a repetition of the old with not a lot of new creativity established.

Hegel reduced this to the Master/Slave dialectic, and others such as Raul Vaneigem have suggested that the solution would be to make everyone a master, so that there are no real slaves in the population.

What they mean, in the most part, is this: once someone ascends to the top of the heap they get access to a world above the scope of normal people that is reserved for those who dominate society. By occupying this position they get defacto respect as people have been trained to revere or at least to honor those people in this ascendency, no matter how subconscious the impulse may be. People have been trained to think that folks who are in these positions have the natural authority to dominate over everyone else. It's natural. They're the political class, or the class of people whose opinion supposedly matters more than that of others. So this thin layer of folks ends up having severely disproportional influence over the mass of humanity in the societies in which they live.

The solution, or a solution, is to extend this realm of influence to include most people in society itself, so that you don't have a thin layer of folks giving orders and making decisions but people in general making decisions and issuing not orders so much as meaningful statements about life as they see fit.

Once we have a situation like that we can begin to talk about true democracy. Until then, we have sporadic movements of people coupled with a lot of bread and circuses as people watch what the political class above does while staying passive below.

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