Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Change Discourse: Power Relationships

I’m starting to get an inkling about why people resist change and, believe me, if you think words like “attitude” might sum it up, you’re just going to have nightmares reading this.  In the process of reading Ian Morris’s Why the West Rules - for Now, it became quite evident to me that it was during the so-called “Enlightenment” that people’s thought structures began to detach from the hierarchically inspired mythos of the preceding eras of history and the idea of democracy and ideal of the “rule of law” occurred to people. It was wonderful, however brief. 
Up until that time, political organization was roughly the same as a grand protection racket. Some of you may think that little has changed, but in fact things have changed immensely. Nevertheless, we are in danger of backsliding.
What does the old “divine right of kings” mythos give us? How does it feed and nurture the so stable pillars of our mindset? How does it keep us holding on to something we see as sane in a complex and dangerous world?
It gives us a self-contained little cosmos with us at the centre: 

It gives us clear cut rules of social engagement.
It gives us the acceptable routes to and rites of kinship (e.g., the walk down the aisle and father giving his daughter as a bride to his son-in-law)
It gives us the limits of acceptable convention and the unacceptably unconventional or "weird". 

It gives us the limits of civilized and uncivilized behaviour, e.g., the ideal of professionalism that allows you to bring only 10% of yourself to work.

It gives a small group of people full permission to lead and direct the course of events to their own advantage.
So, what has changed? 
The introduction of the ideal of the “rule of law” is a vast improvement, so is the idea of each person being the captain of his destiny, the idea of everyone having the right to develop and express himself or herself.  

But let's face it. There never was any ahistorical 'social contract.' We remain to a large extent under the yoke of this ancient mythos, this vestigial patriarchy and hierarchy that so many on the modern ideological bandwagon think had been overthrown three hundred years ago. 

We have sold away a lot of our enlightenment thinking to buy swiffer-clean houses, big box convenience and the North Pacific Garbage Patch. So the rule of law reverts to might is right - until the yoke gets tight. That is not what the Enlightenment and its ideals (championed most heartily  by postmodernists today BTW) were aiming at.  But given that our identities are inexorably tied to the worldview of the group or community we identify with and measure ourselves against, we have defaulted to that.
Seems that we are only the least bit interested in liberty when it is obviously threatened. I think today our numbing of the intellect to avoid facing the Darth Vader that haunts our economic and socio-political realities is what threatens us most. The most disturbing thing is that the numbing is the Darth Vader. 

It takes courage to use your own understanding in any era, Enlightenment, post-Enlightenment. We think we look better in the dark, perhaps. 

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