Friday, July 1, 2011

Unintended consequences.

10th of August, attack on the Tuileries Palace...Image via Wikipedia

It's dark outside. Soon the fruit bats will descend to gorge themselves. The possums will come out to forage for food. They will come in pairs, followed by their offspring who are ready to leave the nest now, and run in a line along the cable TV wires. The soccer players are training in the park cross the road.

Many people complain of poverty and pending environmental disaster. Others that laws are to stringent or too lax: that taxes are to excessive or that they need to be decreased. Basically, we live in a world where conflict and its expression have become a way of life. Where hardly a day goes by without some new controversy that we are asked to buy into.

The sun shone today and it was warm. For early winter, it was a glorious day. A light breeze came in from the west of the city and gently caressed my skin. I chatted with a new friend I have met in the Ontario province Canada and we are discussing the finer points of life in real time. We are enamoured of each other.

I can sit here at my desk, in my break from law school, and in a while, when I have finished something that is half legible, publish it instantaneously to an international readership. Sure, more than likely few people will read this, but that is not the point. The very fact of the possibilities presented which is what makes these complainants look a bit foolish, when the very fact of their activity stands up to barely any scrutiny at all.

By any historical comparison imaginable, modern society, and particularly the rich Western counterparts, consists of some of the most fortunate people ever to walk the earth. And this does not apply just to the elites of those societies but to the overwhelming majority of the people to inhabit the planet on this day, an estimated 7,125,052,320 souls as I write this piece.

So, why all the complaints? Well, culturally we believe in the modern era that it is possible to solve all problems if only we wish to. All we have to do is apply ourselves to the problem, throw enough brain power and physical resources at the problem an it will go away. Of course, this type of thinking is totally at odds and in seeming denial of the late 18 C Hegelian of unintended consequences. Stated basically, for ever act there are two potential sets of consequences: One that is intended by committing to the act and one that this unintended.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)Image via WikipediaThe beginning of this seems strangely mystical way of thinking seems to stem from a particularly optimistic analysis of the role of revolution in human society. Led by the American Revolution, funded in part by the way by Louis XVI and eventually leading to his downfall, and culminating with the French Revolution, these social upheavals were read as being a proof that humans could have some positive outcome on their destiny.

This reading of course is only possible when one glosses over the absolute terror wreaked on the general population -as well as the isolation and brutalization of sectarian sections within those once homogenous populations -  in the aftermath of the English, French, Russian, Chinese and European (WW I and II) Revolution, as well as the bloody American Civil War. To believe in the culture of complaint is to celebrate the death of the millions that went to make modern society of which we have all become interminable complainants.

This terror did not stop at the indigenous populations at its source in Europe either, but extended around the globe as modern society and its one sided policy of capitalist economic expansion decimated the indigenous populations of all the continents in its path of imperialistic domination of both material and human resources. 

The propensity to complain did not grow in opposition to this expansion as is often thought, but was an integral part of that whole mindset of expansion. The discontent of the people of Europe had its roots in onslaught of the bubonic plague followed by endemic fighting between warlords, and later between kingdoms, which really only ended in the absolute disgrace and discreditation of European culture and ideas in the aftermath of the European revolution (WWI & II).

This very tendency to disquietitude has driven humanity to increased production, consumption, population, scientific, technical and artistic advancement, and to the world we have today. To change the world does not require a continuation of this intemperate temperament, but rather an abatement of it. There is not a lot in reality to complain about. Sure, some go hungry as they always have, while others succumb to disease and illness. Still other fall victim to economic misfortune while a number still live in servitude. That is the way of the world.
Bubonic plague-heImage via Wikipedia
There is no utopia and yet we do not live in a dystopia like some cartoon shows would have us believe. We just are in the world as our ancestors were in the world. Yes, there are more of us but in general they would swap places immediately to have a chance of living with a daily meal, a chance to express themselves and a means of making some sort of livelihood. Today, everything is just as it should be. Not saying that it's perfect, but that we need another way of looking at ourselves and the way we are in the world.

Today I sit here satiated, content and wondering how on earth it all came to this. 
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