Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Social evolution of Tyranny

Ten thousand years ago there were no major governments. People lived in tribes that were controlled locally by people they knew and there was little hidden.

They understood their limited economy if you want to call it that where there may have been the beginning of relatively simple trades of things that were for the most part necessities.

The common people understood how the tribe worked for the most part.

Over the past ten thousand years that has changed gradually where complex systems of government gradually evolved and the old systems were forgotten.

Now the majority of the public doesn’t understand how the economy and the governments work and they are usually at the mercy or lack of mercy of those who do.

We have a complex system which provides a very good education for a small percentage of the public who wind up getting much better opportunities in life; but for the majority of the people around the world there are no such opportunities.

We now have the illusion of democracy in some parts of the world but most people don’t have the education and information they need to make rational choices and they don’t truly understand how the government works. In the western world we are allowed to vote but the candidates are screened by the Mass Media and they spend little or no time discussing the most important issues in a way the public can understand. In order for anyone to have a reasonable chance at higher office they need to get across to a large segment of the public and this can only be done with the help of the Mass Media.

Many people who have a reasonably good style of life may not look at this government as tyranny and for them it isn’t for the most part but they still don’t have as much say in the way government is run as the Mass Media would lead them to believe. Others who don’t have access to a reasonably good style of life or many educational opportunities have it much harder and may be more likely to look at this as tyranny but they are less likely to know what to do about it. One of the most effective ways of preserving a class system that gives upper classes privileges at the expense of lower classes is to decline to set up a good education system for the lower classes and in some cases grass roots efforts to set up education system have been sabotaged by the upper classes like when they outlawed education for slaves.

This system has gradually evolved in a similar way to evolution, sort of a social version of survival of the fittest where the people who understand how to use manipulation tactics and are in the right position to do so wind up having a disproportionate amount of influence over the government at any given time. At first it could have resulted in a system where the strongest person and the most skilled hunter may have had a leadership role. Since physical dominance would have been the leading source of power in early tribal life woman would have started out with very little power. Men would have had a head start from the beginning due to their strength. The dominant Alpha male may have controlled the tribe but he wouldn’t be able to get away with too much at that time or the rest would reject him. He would still be close to the people he led. It wouldn’t be until much later where tyrants could create large scale atrocities without much if any accountability. Tribes began to grow and when people became more dependent on agriculture they had to rely more on the organizational structure provided by primitive governments most of which left little or no records so most of what we know about them is theory. These theories are put together with the best evidence archeologist can put together and it is often fact checked by studying human behavior. Anthropologists and sociologists and people from other academic fields are consulted to determine how this evolves in the most accurate way possible.

Many early civilizations evolved and then collapsed for one reason or another. In many cases there is little or no written records about how this happened but by looking at how the recorded civilizations collapsed it may be possible to develop a reasonably good theory about how others collapsed. More often than not the civilizations that collapsed and left reasonably good records fell apart due to a combination of war, internal conflict, corruption natural disasters etc. the leading causes seem to be war and internal conflict which led to the collapse of the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Right now the constant obsession with the war on terrorism could lead to a similar situation if it goes unchecked.

Both historical and archeological evidence seems to indicate that an enormous amount of time was spent by ancient cultures on either war or creating spectacular monuments many of which weren’t shared equally with the majority of the people including those who did the construction. This seems to imply that they were constructed under some kind of coercion. To build magnificent monuments like the pyramids instead of setting up a rational education system for the majority of the public is not a rational way to set up a democracy that truly looks out for the best interest of the majority. The fact that these are spectacular wonders that are still admired today doesn’t mean that they were built by civilizations that respected the rights of their people. Quite the opposite is true. These were built for the benefit of the ruling classes and they were used to show status power and encourage worship without questioning the ruling class. Many of these
monuments were almost certainly build to encourage worship of their leaders without question. The public was expected to stand in awe of the great achievements of “Gods” or the leaders that received credit for building them. The leaders rarely if ever shared more credit than they had to with the people who actually did the work to build these monuments and often gave the public the impression that they were built by magical means that the public should worship. In a way they may have been built by magical means since the public didn’t understand it and it was surrounded by hype but if they understood the way they were built the magical qualities would disappear.

The ruling class at any given time would be the one that does the most effective job manipulating the public one way or another. In the beginning this would be the people who were best at using force but as larger institutions developed they would be the most effective politicians that recognized the most powerful leaders of various institutions and formed alliances and or developed a hierarchy system. To develop a system often required great ingenuity but once a system was set up it could be passed down from generation to generation. The next generation would be trained to take the place of previous leaders and since the system was already set up to preserve power they may only have needed the skills to maintain the current power structure. In many cases these leaders often became complacent and took things for granted and their power would deteriorate. More often than not this eventually happened and this led to a transition.

One of the most effective ways of manipulating the public has always been using religion to encourage worship. Leaders would either be the head of the religious institutions or they would work closely with those who are. These religious institutions were generally responsible for educating or indoctrinating the public. This is generally done by repeating a certain belief system from birth that is supposed to be accepted without question. This is a very risky way of controlling the public since it means that there is no fact checking and decisions are often made based on false perceptions of reality. In many cases this is combined with a secular authority where the real decisions are made and the religious leaders merely present the public with a pseudo perception of reality so that they won’t question those who are in power and they will accept virtual slavery without acknowledging it. If they perceive virtual slavery as freedom they won’t challenge it and the public will accept their roles in society. By accepting that their leaders or God is responsible for all good things and that they should be thankful they feel obligated to sacrifice for the benefit of those they worship without question.

Cultural relativity has also had a major influence on the evolution of tyranny. Contrary to what some people have been led to believe cultural relativity isn’t an excuse for bad behavior but an explanation for it. Or at least this is the way many anthropologists look at it, those that believe in their own culture often think it is an excuse because it is the way they were taught to think.. Basically what this means is that people are taught from birth to go along with the beliefs of any given culture and to accept them as the right way to live often without question. In most cultures they developed a way of life that works for them and enables them to survive. If they didn’t they would go extinct in line with the concept of the survival of the fittest. More often than not efforts to change were few and far between. Changes were often born pout of necessity. If they ran into a problem where their way of life wasn’t working as well as they would like to believe some people would question certain flaws and they would try to change them. More often than not they would be met with resistance from conservative members of their community. These people would usually win unless the flaws were so serious that they would bring a great cost to society and the case could be made to the majority in a rational and simple way they could understand. In many cases even this didn’t work and the problems might not be fixed until a disaster forced the public to deal with the consequences. Examples of this include the collapse of the Roman Empire and various revolutions and civil wars. If decisions are made based on false beliefs there will be consequences eventually and if those consequences are serious enough they can lead to the collapse of a civilization. Improved education and willingness to look at things from other points of view may help avoid this and may also enable culture to develop much bigger improvements in the quality of civilization for everyone.

Cultural relativity may explain how each member of a certain class is taught to accept their role in society. This includes the leaders, from birth they are often taught it is their god given right to rule over the masses. The reason they believe they should be put above reproach is because that is what they were taught from birth. This is what enables many people to act with self-righteous indignation when the authority of the leaders is challenged. For example during the slave years in the early nineteenth century the people of the south would be shocked and angry when abolitionists challenged the morality of keeping slaves. Keeping slaves is what they were taught from birth and they never knew any other way to live so to them this was the only way to live and to challenge it was sacrilege. This doesn’t mean it was rational, it wasn’t. Many members of the south had to do as much if not more work to maintain the institution of slavery than they might have had to do if they did the labor themselves and shared the benefits equally. This institution of slavery also underwent some social evolution. When they first started doing it in the 1600’s they used white indentured servants in addition to the black slaves. They treated them equally and there was little bigotry between the servants and the blacks. This enabled them to work together at times to rebel against their masters. After their masters put down a few of these small rebellions they decided to give whites better treatment and encourage some descent between the blacks and poor whites. This is a classic case of divide and rule. They learned that in order to maintain the institution of slavery they had to prevent the slaves from uniting. They also learned they had to prevent them from being educated more than necessary to perform the chores given to them by their masters.

The blacks that were separated from their tribes lost the benefit of the tribal leadership and education. When they came to
America they no longer knew how to rule themselves. They were separated from the tribal institutions they understood and they were at the mercy of a new control structure they never learned to understand. Even if they escaped they had no way of surviving on their own. It wasn’t until they had access to education that they learned how to stand up for their rights. There were a few blacks that were either lucky or very bright and determined in the beginning like Frederick Douglas who managed to educate themselves but the majority of their true freedom didn’t come until the civil rights movement when they improved their access to educational systems at least for some blacks who formed the new black middle class. The civil war didn’t free the blacks as many people were led to believe. The control over major institutions was handed back to the whites and a state of virtual slavery was established that enabled the whites to hold the high ground as long as people didn’t look to close. The new black middle class served as another buffer between the rich and the poor. This enabled some people to claim that blacks had equal opportunities but a close look indicates this isn’t true. Those who could adapt made it into the new black middle class but those that couldn’t may have wound up in black slums where a cycle of violence prevented improved education. Many of these blacks were raised in violent households where they often took out their anger on each other since they couldn’t take their anger out on the white community. These people are undergoing a more sophisticated form of suppression which many of them perceive as tyranny. Part of the problem is that they have been denied opportunities to educate themselves and get jobs but another part of the problem is that they have become dysfunctional communities that can’t pull themselves out of poverty because they have so many problems with gangs and drugs. 

The maintenance if this underclass has enabled many people to put all the blame on the blacks. While it is true that part of the responsibility must fall on the black it is also true that the interference from the whites in power is largely responsible for creating this situation in the first place. Those in power deprived them of the educational and employment opportunities that led to this situation. Those in power set up the system that governs the most powerful institutions but they also have the best ability to use the Mass Media to divert the blame. The whites disrupted the old tribal governments and there was never any other system that worked well to replace it. In order to fix this instead of demonizing the poor their need to be a much better education system set up in the long run. Unfortunately this will take time and some of these people are still very angry and out of control. If these people are allowed to run loose they may disrupt efforts to reform the system. Jails should still be a last resort and if they are necessary they should include sincere rehabilitation efforts that hopefully would enable these people to become functional members of society. In many cases some of these people became even more violent when they went to jail in the past since it is a violent environment which only makes people even more violent. In order to fix this problem there needs to be more control over the environment in jail. Jails shouldn’t be used primarily to punish but to prevent further violence. Any discipline should be nonviolent if possible since violence only begets more violence.

Similar problems happened in African countries where the Europeans invaded and set up colonial governments. This led to the destruction of old tribal governments and the blacks were no longer educated in a manner to govern themselves. When the Europeans left the blacks that were left behind had no governmental institutions and people that knew how to run them. They wound up being taken over by violent tyrants who had little or no respect for the rights of the people. These tyrants wound up dealing with many multi-national corporations. These corporations provided the tyrants with the funds and the weapons they needed to stay in power and maintained plausible deniability for the atrocities committed since they didn’t do it themselves and they claimed they were obeying the local laws. This enabled the multi-national corporations to maintain power without actually claiming to control these countries. Their denial of responsibility becomes weak once you understand that without the cooperation of the corporations these tyrants wouldn’t be able to maintain power and make laws that justify their atrocities. This effectively sets up a complex system where people participating in these corporations can acknowledge only the aspects they want to. People that would never torture little children buy products and trade them enabling those who do torture children to continue to do so and profit from it. 

This is similar to many other multinational corporations that use child labor around the world and even use these children to fight their wars. This enables many people to claim they are being part of the solution even when they support a system that is creating virtual slavery for a large segment of the global population. The multinational corporations do a very effective job diverting the attention of the majority of the public in the western world enabling them to maintain this corrupt system in the developing world. This results in system where, as Peter W. Singer often describes, “we have peace in the west war for the reset”.

Woman didn’t begin to receive their rights either until they became better educated and learned how to stand up for their rights. In fact for the most part no one did. This is party of a pattern of behavior that repeats it self from one group of people to another. There is a lot of talk about what is fair and justice but without institutions run by sincere people to preserve the rights of any group of people they are usually not protected if more powerful people have an incentive to infringe on them. In the past people have been much more passionate about standing up for their own rights than they have ever been about standing up for the rights of others, especially if they haven’t had contact with these others. This has led to an enormous amount of conflict which has caused an enormous amount of damage to society as a whole. If the public can be better educated about this and they set up institutions that look for injustices before they escalate too much bigger problems this can be minimized.

The way the Native Americans were treated is an example of how passive or less developed communities can be suppressed and even driven to extinction if they come into contact with a more advanced and violent society. When the Europeans first came to
America the Native Americans welcomed them and for a long time they trusted them when they made treaties with them. They eventually learned that these treaties were only good if it was in the best interest of the Europeans or if the Native Americans had enough power to enforce them. The Europeans often described the Natives as savages mainly because they had different cultures. One of the biggest reasons they were described as savages is because they didn’t wear clothes. The invaders were considered more civilized because they did wear clothes despite the fact that they were much more violent. This is an ironic situation where the people who were more violent were considered more civilized because they could wipe out the opposition and then control the way history was recorded. By this definition whoever controls the propaganda is more civilized and moral regardless of their behavior.

The way parents teach their children has always had a major impact on the social evolution and on the ability of the children to resist tyranny. In most cases the parents teach their children the same way they were taught as a child. This creates a system of tradition that is difficult to change. Many of the most successful tyrants recognized this and pressured the parents to teach their children in a certain way that doesn’t challenge the authority of the tyrants. This has often been done with the help of the clergy. Parents were often taught to dictate the truth to their children and to use intimidation tactics and corporal punishment to enforce the appropriate beliefs. This leads the child to believe what they are told from their leaders without question. This isn’t rational education but indoctrination. In order to put an end to tyranny indoctrination has to be replaced by education. This will be a slow process where people take the time to sort through the details and figure out what is true before choosing their beliefs.

In the twentieth century the control over the people has been done largely with the help of espionage organizations like the KGB and the CIA. They have used the control over information to manipulate the public and they have created a situation where the way to gain the most power is to have access to the most accurate information while the rest of the world is deprived of this information. This creates what some people have called a “cult of intelligence” where people trust secrecy more than they trust openness and honesty. The problem with this is that the vast majority of the public doesn’t have the information they need to make rational decisions and this leads to an enormous amount of incompetence. 

Withholding this information from the public creates a situation where an enormous amount of wars and other conflicts occur because no one knows who is responsible for anything. This attitude escalated during the cold war where the USA was fighting communism. They won this war when the USSR collapsed but not necessarily for the reasons the public has been led to believe. The USSR may have collapsed more due to their own incompetence that because of what the CIA or the USA did. They may have put so much effort into controlling the people that they weren’t able to support the economy and the people didn’t have the education they needed to function properly.

The very premise of this conflict was flawed. It was a conflict between the champion of two ideologies that claimed to stand up for the rights of the public but neither one of them actually backed it up by providing the best education they could. Both side supported their cause with an enormous amount of propaganda to selectively highlight certain facts, true or not, to justify their beliefs. In the
USSR there was a lot of propaganda to glorify their leaders especially Stalin and convince the public that letting the government control all industry was in the best interest of the public. In the USA the propaganda indicated that unregulated capitalism was much more efficient and that if the corporations were allowed to control all industry they could compete to provide the best deal for the public but the corporations often used tactics that eliminated competition and created monopolies or near monopolies where only a small number of companies controlled any one industry. Communism was demonized because of the way the USSR and China implemented it. Just because these two didn’t implement it in an honest manner doesn’t mean there aren’t some good aspects about the communist ideology but there are also some bad aspects about both the communist and the capitalist ideology and the best thing to do is to sort through them both, figure out what the best aspects of each are and look for additional good ideas and form a new better ideology. This one should be one that educates everyone that is capable of learning in the most effective way possible. 

Unfortunately the USA equated communism with totalitarianism instead. 

Communism was supposed to stand up for workers rights yet this was equated with tyranny. 

In many cases there were popular revolutions around the world that were supported by the people at least partially. These revolutions stood up against the corporations that were infringing on the rights of the public and in some cases attempted to nationalize these corporations so that there could be asset of checks and balances. Some of these efforts attempted to offer reasonable compensation to the corporations and others didn’t but in most cases there was partial justification for the nationalization. This was criticized in the USA because they were taking away the private property of the corporations many of which were based in the USA. They didn’t do much if anything to acknowledge the fact that these corporations were infringing on the rights of the public. In many cases including Iran, Nicaragua, Chile, Viet Nam and others the CIA conducted covert activities to overthrow the popular governments supported by the people and installed puppet regimes. In the case of Iran and Cuba this led to another revolution that overthrew these governments and put in another that was much more hostile to the USA. These actions were supposedly done to protect democracy. The most effective way to protect democracy is to educate the public not to overthrow popular governments.

The current war on terror and the damage being done to the environment could lead to a possible collapse. Due to the fact that the majority of the public is being fed an enormous amount of propaganda they don’t have the information they need to make rational decisions nor does it seem do a lot of the people leading many of the most powerful institutions. Many of the same problems that led to collapse of past civilizations are escalating at a rapid pace. The divide and rule tactics that are being used to maintain the current power structure is the same thing that could be its downfall. Internal conflict and war has been the most common cause of the collapse of civilizations in the past and if it continues to go unchecked. In order to prevent this in the most effective way possible the public needs to be educated in the most effective way possible and the people who make the most important decisions need to have access to the education and information they need to make rational decisions. It might be possible to provide improved education only to the ones who are making the most important decisions and prevent the collapse of society but this won’t create a sincere democracy. 

This would lead to a republic where many of the upper classes continue to receive benefits at the expense of the lower classes. This would be a risky way to do it since if they obtain education on their own the conflicts that they tried to avoid could come back again. On the other hand if there was a better effort to set up a fair system then the lack of destruction caused by unnecessary conflict could lead to better standards of living for everyone. For example during the labor conflicts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the corporations spent an enormous amount of money for security and to transport low paid labor rather than give raises to the labor that they already had. They also lost a lot of money on the work that wasn’t being done during work stoppages. Imagine what would have happened if the saved the money on security and gave part of it to the workers. Then the worker could have gotten their raise and the business could have gone on without interruption. The waste would have been drastically reduced but the people in power seemed to be more concerned with having as much power as possible.

At times in addition to using propaganda in other countries both the CIA and the FBI (when Hoover was still in power) often used propaganda to manipulate the public and influence the US elections. Like the earlier labor conflicts this was almost always in favor of the status quo that protected the best interest of the corporations first and the public second if at all. In the seventies some of this was exposed in a conclusive manner when certain revelations were made including the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Since then there have been many other accusations some of which may not seem as credible but the strongest evidence might be the fact that the government and the corporations aren’t addressing the most important subjects starting with an accurate description of the basics. This may also be supported by the fact that the Mass Media has been consolidated and is mainly controlled by only five corporations that have enough media power to create an almost unchallenged indoctrination machine.

This hypothesis skips over an enormous amount of history and leaves a lot of details out but they are available in the history books if you look in the right place but unfortunately many of those were controlled by the people in power. One of the most notable exceptions is “The Peoples History of the United States
” by Howard Zinn. Other books like this could and probably have been written about many other times and places where historians made a better effort to look through the various records and sort out what was distorted for the benefit of those in power at any time. In order to develop an accurate idea of the way civilization evolved it will be necessary to recheck the records to sort out biases if this hasn’t already been done. This has often been criticized as rewriting history with some justification. If hi9story was written right in the first place it shouldn’t be rewritten but if it was based on a lot of propaganda then perhaps rewriting history is what we need if it is done very carefully.

One way or another we have wound up with a complex system that provides benefits for some people in some parts of the world at the expense of others and since the system is so complex most of these people maintain plausible deniability about the damage it does simply by not looking to closely at the system.

There are also at least a couple unexplained facts about the social evolution of civilization and tyranny. One of them is how many early societies developed the ability to build monuments like the pyramids,
Angkor temple and many other ancient wonders. Experiments to replicate these wonders have come up short. When it comes to moving the ancient megaliths they haven’t even been close. Another unexplained mystery has received much less attention. With all the education the leaders of our country have received including education about political manipulation why are they blundering so bad and so often?

first posted on Tripod on 1/29/10

(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

You might have benefited by breaking this up into several different essays, like one introducing your explanation thesis of where history plays a part into the current dynamic, one for cultural relativity and then maybe another for the argument of governments' use of internal intelligence units for the compliance of the population.

It's interesting, though a lot to try to grasp in one sitting. A couple of asides, however, are that I don't completely agree that the current situation precludes anyone from an education that keeps one from understanding the nuances of the civilization. I have a pretty strong education, and I came from the bottom of the economic and social scale/ladder. However, where I think you did want to be going with that argument is that people are still kept from the higher avenues of governance by the social constraints that previously put them out of the channels of control to begin with. In other words, having gone to West Point, having been a field grade officer, and having multiple graduate degrees still doesn't put me into the inner channels of those who will decide my future because they were given access long before they ever started to school to begin with (whereas very few get to break through those boundaries).

Another comment is on the old argument of equating the CIA with the KGB. The CIA historically has worked outside of the US, while the FBI works inside of the US. The KGB worked both inside and outside of the Soviet Union. In other words, contrary to conspiracy theories, that are mainly just that, there's little to fear of the CIA spying on individuals here, mainly because they just don't have the manpower, and honestly never did. Their occupation is overseas, mainly because that's really all they can afford to do. Only in bad movies does the CIA really have a lot of clandestine activities happening on domestic grounds. While there may have been sporadic cases (or just paranoia of the 1960s), that's never really been all that much of an issue in the US. However, I can't say the same for the domestic agencies that do work on domestic grounds.

It's an overall interesting essay, but I think you're trying to say way too much, which makes it harder to back up the central theme when trying to cover so much. I wouldn't have commented on it if I didn't find it interesting, however (I tend to just ignore the bad essays people write because it's just not worth the time). I, too, am quite often guilty of trying to cover way too much information in one post (like when I try to explain how to fix the country by starting by explaining how much Madonna's music hasn't changed much over the years). :)

And rated. Duane Gundrum December 15, 2010 12:47 PM

You are right that it probably should have been broken up and better organized however sometimes in order to get a point across you can’t cut it to short and it can be hard to find a fair balance. I find that I have more patience for it when it takes me a long time to make my point than I do when it takes others; so that needs work.

You are also right that the current system doesn’t completely shut out the lower classes from education but it does make it much harder by creating additional obstacles for them. Another thing that is important is the way they are raised by their own parents. In many cases if they are treated in an authoritarian way by their parents they don’t learn to think independently; that I have covered in other posts. Also in many of the cases those that rise up in the current system do so by going along with the program set by those in power. In some cases they even manage to get leadership positions like Nixon and Boehmer. In both these cases they may have done so with the help of the establishment only because the establishment knew they would carry out their programs at least to a point and because they needed to overcome the impression that all the leaders are from the “ruling class.”

As far as the CIA is concerned they certainly aren’t supposed to work within the US but they cat in secrecy and in addition there are many other organizations that also act in secrecy which often get mixed up with the CIA. The important thing isn’t which organization is conducting secret activities; but the fact that many of the most powerful institutions act without accountability.

Also unlike biological evolution social evolution can be changed if it is understood by those in power or the public. Contrary to the way some people have described “Social Darwinism”, which should go by the scientific term “social evolution”, it isn’t necissary to accept it and give up.

Thanks for commenting.

zacherydtaylor December 16, 2010 10:16 AM

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