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In any situation where delusional thinking becomes the norm, as it clearly has in a modern society to which global climate change was a sudden surprise, the effects of the delusion will be analyzed and a variety of voices clamoring for attention will proclaim "solutions." In that we find the first of a number of traps which protect delusion by attacking its manifestations and not its origin.
* Head of the Hydra: the first major delusion is that you can fix endemic problems with band-aids. You cannot, because like the mythical Hydra, any cause of delusion will simply regenerate. Address global warming, and holy mackerel, there's pollution, water shortages and peak oil sneaking up on you from the same source of the problem.
* Good Cop versus Bad Cop: Any system with a core delusion will become occupied by those who seek power, and they will rapidly find a need to manage power by allowing controlled opposition. Such "conflict" is both real and illusory, in that while two powers vie for the same throne, they share one agenda (of several) in that their goal is to perpetuate not change the system. They perpetuate it by making a series of small changes which they know the other side will undo; every sixty years or so they will change sides. This is why Republican versus Democrat, Liberal versus Conservative, Freedom versus Oppression has been such a losing card over the years; both sides are controlled by the same basic motivation, which is power and not solutions.
* Methodological thinking: The concept that by putting into place the right system, like buying the right machine, we can "control" a human population and force them to the right conclusion is similarly illusion. Not all humans react alike. There is no universal "human nature" any more than there is a universal ice cream flavor. Further, many people are constructed such that they will always be destructive; most people are constructed to be incapable of decisions beyond their personal sphere; a few people are constructed to be conscientious, perceptive and cognizant of long-term consequences. In saner times, we killed the first group before they could breed, sent the second group into the fields or shops, and made the third group leaders.
* Economic thinking: One hilarious idea of a delusional time is that if everyone just has enough money, they will act for the collective good. This is fairly humorous when one considers that because people expand families and activities with the arrival of money, they will at some point need more than enough; further, it completely ignores collective political action, because buying off the individual does not address problems of society as a whole; finally, it assumes that money and not other factors (revenge, powerlust, emotional responses) governs all of humanity, where we can see that is not the case.
* Pure collectivist or individualist thought: These two basic schools trade off over the centuries in the "good cop, bad cop" routine and have produced no tangible benefit. Collectivist thought in its purest sense holds that we act for the interests of a bureaucratic entity known as "the collective," and that by doing right by all people we do right by the individual; however, its basis is in individual materialism and it uses the individual as means to an end of the state. Individualist thought denies the collective to focus on satiating the individual, believing that the collective will somehow be addressed as part of the individual's scope, even if as we have seen from countless examples most people cannot think beyond their personal sphere of influence and are thus unaware of it. Individualist and collectivist thought in their pure forms end up seeing the task of governance as that of overseeing individuals, and miss out on qualitative and abstract factors. Traditional societies see both individuals and collective as means to an end which is an abstract idea of ascendancy based on the rules of nature and science.
* Photonegative fallacy: If we remove the opposition, this thinking goes, what is left will be the good people. It is an illusion because "opposition" changes as the dogma changes, and therefore, a perpetual group of easily-subjugated enemies is maintained. While this allows the leaders to show up before the crowd with severed heads and proclaim the problem solved, it never is. More sensible is what Aristotle suggested, which is to eliminate all illusory ideas and thus to have remaining an approximation of the truth. It makes some sense to remove populations whose values are contrary to that of the society, but that can be accomplished by denying them property ownership and jobs.
* Good intentions: One giant illusion that afflicts particularly women from the suburbs is the idea that if we mean well, others will understand and help us out. It isn't dangerous because in itself it is untrue, as meaning well always helps in any interaction, but because it ignores the basis of power and it ignores the autocentricism that defines "good" and "well." First, power must settle itself according to pragmatic goals and methods, and intentions do not factor into those negotiations. Good feelings do not solve problems; solutions do. Second, each society has a different meaning of "well." Our idea of meaning well naturally includes bringing what we consider "good" to other societies, but they might not want democracy, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and 24 channels of Internet anal porn. "Meaning well" is often a disguised desire to passively subvert and destroy other cultures; this is most evident in treatment of Arab nations and Africans by the United States.
* Compromise: The biggest silly thought ever is that we can have a rational solution by taking two possible answers and finding a compromise between them. Doesn't it sound good? The idea of accord, each side giving a little... but in reality, what this means is that what makes each answer workable -- its unique approach and method -- is adulterated by the other and the solution, the "compromise," thus becomes so averaged that it is not structurally distinct from the status quo. Compromise is a method of destroying solutions to preserve our power squabbles, not a finder of solutions.
* More government/privatization: Dummies love an answer you can spout off in response to any problem. The idea of more government, on the left, and privatization, increasingly on what's left of the "right," is the same impulse: instead of shaping society toward positive goals, we will put out more "policemen" to constrain it. Unlike real police, however, these regulators oversee morality, social factors, driving behavior, form-filling, etc. and at the end of the day contribute nothing. If everyone in your society is pulling in the same basic direction, you do not need these outrageous control mechanisms. If everyone is going in radically different directions and thus cannot be counted on to do the right thing unless forced to, that is the root of the problem and it cannot be fixed with band-aid application of more control mechanisms.
* Don't offend: Any system based on illusion has supplanted reality with social popularity, because it derives its power from manipulation. Consequently, a basic tenet of its operation becomes "do not offend" because that alienates potential customers/voters. We turn our politicians into salesmen, and soon even our military leaders become late-night infomercial voice-overs. Hint: this type of decline can never be reversed, because as soon as one eliminates that which is offensive to one type of person, a new type pops up. In America, we had to first avoid offending the nouveau riche; then the women; then the Southern European immigrants; then the African-Americans; then the homosexuals; then the Hispanic immigrants. Now each group has its own entrenched bureaucracy, and all of them oppose any clear statement of truth if it might possibly offend their members; of course, they tend to be overzealous, because when one is paid a salary for nonsense work, one tends to leap up at chances to justify that salary through dramatic (and quickly over) action.
* Not in my backyard/Parasites are not a problem: We might as well call this "out of sight, out of mind." The idea is formulated by your average television-watching voter as, "I don't care what you do in your own home, as long as you don't do it here." Translation: if it is out of sight, it is out of mind, and I am thinking about nothing but myself. People doing destructive things do not confine themselves to a different backyard, but actually manage to cultivate communities around the same activity. Parasites, for example, might not be doing things in your neighborhood but the costs of supporting them affect you, as do the consequent disasters throughout society. Those who think "not in my backyard" are ignoring that our world is one (1) single entity and that destructive actions anywhere come back to visit us all. Take it to an extreme: would you be OK with me testing nuclear weapons in my backyard, if it were big enough? You would worry about radiation. The same way I should worry if you are fomenting a cultural movement that will tear apart a unity of direction and values in a society.
* "Freedom","Justice","Liberty","Equality","Brotherhood of all humans": Anyone can promise you the world, especially if they wrap it up into a simple single idea of no clear direction. You want freedom? Well what does it mean, then? -- no one can tell you. They just know they want it. You are not hearing words, but bleating. Compare these ideas to a saleperson's rhetoric: "All New","Best Ever","Lowest Price","Unique" -- these are promises with no time at which they are tested, and no necessary bearing on the quality of your experience. It might seem to be the lowest price, but if it's also a cheap piece of junk, does that help you?
Our society is complex enough and has enough complicated failings that these basic realities take years of analysis to see. One way such a delusional system stays in power is by grabbing people when they have too little experience to know anything, polarizing them with a political identity ("good cop, bad cop") and sending them off to do battle. It will take them decades to admit what they once thought were solid answers might have holes, and even decades more to find an alternative to the thought process they've been taught. The result is regretful old people sitting in retirement homes wondering where everything went wrong. And, per its nature as delusion incarnate, the system keeps chugging while they talk inconsequentially...
May 30, 2006