Regular readers know that for several weeks mariner has been in spiritual sequestration. He deliberately retreated from any news source and ceased reading and searching for the latest tragedy, nonsense, and threats. Retreats of this nature are beneficial. We are familiar with the idea of a vacation, today’s version of a retreat, taken by a family or individual retreating to a holy shrine like Disney World, a spa, or a cruise somewhere. Some people have hobbies that provide sanctuary; for example, climbing mountain faces without rope; surely that releases any other thoughts in one’s mind. The underlying premise is an attempt to clarify mind and spirit and to erase callousness that blocks sensitivity and perspective.
Mariner knows with certainty that his thought processes are top down, bottom up – a 1980’s pop psychology term. The term implies that one must first have a grasp of broad generalities from which values can be taken; these values are validated or rejected by collecting detail relevant to the general values. This is a lot of jargon to express the term we all use: intuition. What forced mariner’s retreat is that his intuition, his top down bottom up analysis had become broken. Yes, blame it on Donald, the purveyor of distorted reality.
Fresh from respite, mariner’s three alter egos are ready to take on reality. Mariner must warn readers that at this moment in time it’s like opening the front door and finding molten lava at your doorstep. Calling on Guru to provide a fresh perspective, Guru states that Donald, as destructive as he is to the American ethos, is not where the greatest danger lies. There are two major players that threaten in the most absolute terms the future of the US in particular and the whole world in general.
The first major player is the US Government. Over many decades the legislative and regulatory responsibilities of legislators and government officials have weakened continuously to the point that responsibility for the public good is disregarded. Both Federal and state governments are dysfunctional and largely irrelevant to the electorate. The fact that an irrational, authoritarian President can literally tear at the flesh of American democracy shows more weakness in government than strength behind the antics of an 8-year old narcissist.
The remaining major player is corporatism. Government’s lax sense of responsibility for the public good has given corporations a liberty to do what they will to manipulate or eradicate not only procedures and interpretations of law but to usurp the independent ethos of a nation that once led the world in governmental righteousness. In an age where Internet and cloud technology create international opportunities, it is difficult for any single nation to control commerce. Corporations have become Pandora; putting corporations back where they belong in the human order of things will be difficult.
We shall examine corporatism first because the danger to normal human participation in the future hangs in the balance. Further, the abuses of corporatism will provide perspective on the failure of government and the loss of democracy that is critical to sustain human control of ethos.
A quick metaphor is helpful: The Dark Ages. History skips over the Dark Ages largely because nothing happened for 525 years. It was a time of warrior kings, dukes, lords, and other titles associated with military prowess. Common people did not participate in the economy; they did not participate in organized society; they did not have the right to vote, ownership of any kind, and no due process because there were no courts of law. Life as a commoner in the Dark Ages was not much better than today’s forgotten hoard of homeless and starving Africans.
Now substitute today’s players: Corporations are warrior kings. Economy is run by corporations. Organized society quickly is becoming a rich man’s game; today who your parents are is many times more important than your vote; a Dark Age commoner class is emerging. Voting is close to being irrelevant, ergo no right to vote that counts. With great assistance from data mining corporations, an individual citizen will have possessions only on paper; the bank will tell you what they think you can afford and perhaps what neighborhood you can live in and will not make it easy for an individual to seek alternatives, merchandizing corporations will offer goods and prices that are not driven by public supply and demand but according to the corporate license to tell commoners what they can or can’t purchase from homes to socks. The primary tools in this dehumanizing process are, mariner is sorry to say, the smartphone and social media. Finally, what takes the place of government and justice is the warrior king’s court; Donald would feel at home with such a court.
Overall, especially with artificial intelligence on the horizon, the loss of decision power at the level of the common citizen is at great risk. Computers smarter and more knowledgeable than humans will greatly influence if not control economy, culture, equality and justice. At the moment, there is no human control over this evolution except for the very few tech corporations who own the computers. Are these the new warrior kings?
Evaluating government is difficult. At the moment, in principle at least, the US government functions as a democracy. People, however wise, foolish, prejudiced or enlightened, own the government by virtue of those they elect to put in charge of the government. This arrangement, a sort of controlled populism, is quickly vanishing. Today’s headlines speak to the common causes that induce collapse (all a reflection of growing corporatism): lobbyists, money, elitism, distorted tools of democracy such as gerrymandering, voter restrictions and imbalanced voter processes, and on an on – pick your headline. The caveat is, do not let Donald interfere with legitimate evaluation of our democratic government; Donald is as irritating and as destructive as the plague of Japanese Beetles that destroyed whole trees and gardens last year. Today, there are a few but the plague is gone. What is important is to restore the trees and gardens.
It is mariner’s opinion that the democratic process elects representatives that are a lot like us, have the same attitudes and prejudices. The issue with this is that the result is the blind leading the blind. No elected official in our government understands one iota of the impact, ethics or authoritative imbalance of modern communication technology. Lack of regulation allowed Facebook to help the Russians; massive mergers of communication corporations reveal to the world every last bit of information about an individual – the foundation of freedom for corporatism. It used to be that a city could determine how many people were in the city by measuring water usage from toilets and showers. Today, a corporation knows you’re using the toilet because you stopped pecking the smartphone – at least most of us stop.
The most important cure is a full vote of the citizenry – not 47%. Next in importance is to elect representatives who appear above the typical gut issue lamentations of political campaigning. It was a tough election for mariner when he was told in his primary that he could not vote for Maryland’s Martin O’Malley even though the Governor was on the ballot. O’Malley already had demonstrated success as Maryland’s Governor and was a person of discretion. Instead mariner had Donald . . .