vendredi 3 octobre 2008

X for Congress. Bring change! Take on Washington!

Ah, behold the Collective, bereft of individuality, subservient to the lowest common denominator, hated by Ayn Rand. It is the "Power" to fight against; the "Man" to stick it to, the "Establishment" that must be disestablished. It is full of antipathy, nonchalance about social ills, myopic self-interest, and entrenched corruption. It is powerful, repressive, monolithic -- the reason why "Government" has a capital G.

Yet, what is the source of the Collective's evil, stubbornness and malice? Who exactly makes up "the political machine"? What is the root entity responsible for the Collective's actions? Is it Bush? Pelosi? Lee Kuan Yew? Why does Iraq proliferate with violence even after Saddam has been long hung?

It is election season in the United States. Everyone is clamouring for change; with the spectacular collapse of some of the biggest financial firms, everyone is collectively applauding the increasing misfortune of everyone on Wall Street. Rightly deserved, those scumbag i-bankers and CEOs! Stick it to the man! Stickkkk ittttt! And in this weeks' debates, if it was not already observed long ago, we see that both Obama and McCain are competing as reformers. Obama will apparently fight for change we can believe in; McCain the Maverick will deal Big Oil (a decidedly evil Collective) a crushing blow in Washington. Governor Palin, mayor, Miss Alaska, and soccer-mom, spent much of yesterday's VP debate stressing how she intends to address the plight of the average middle-class American, tackling the Big Guys (that oh-so-evil Collective) in the political arena.

Then today I saw one of those posters outside Newcomb Dining Hall -- we should apparently cast some vote for a fresh face I've never heard of for Representative in order to take on Washington. There's something romantic about the idea -- romantically quixotic.

But how did it come, do you think, that the capital of a nation, named after its first commander-in-chief, painstakingly-planned and meant to be a prestigious cornerstone, is also used as a symbol of the greed, degeneration, and repression of the evil Collective? Take on Washington, the White House, the Fed. We must take it on, because the majority of people running the country thus far are adversaries to be defeated; we must hand the Collective's ass over to it, subjugate it totally, destroy it. Lenin would be proud, for he advocated that the machinery of the State should be totally suppressed.

The strange thing is, everyone is clamouring to disestablish the Establishment. Everyone wishes to fight the Power. Everyone thinks there is an institutional evil that must be broken. Truly, The Man must be very cunning and insidious, for it prevails even when everyone is against it!

Indeed, the insidious nature of The Man -- the evil Collective -- can be best seen when it prevails in the most unstable times. No matter how many times its secret police ravages the streets, it rules -- even when its own agents fight each other or get purged. Its original founders, who were once vicious and powerful themselves, fall and are removed from power -- but the Party, the epitome of the evil Collective, rumbles on like a tank, its viciousness never ceasing, not even with the death of the power broker Mao Zedong. Perhaps the Party's evil is really due to the Gang of Four? No, because the Party suddenly decides to cease following the orders of the Gang of Four, choosing to arrest them such that Hua Guofeng now rules. But is the Party's power controlled by him? Nay, for Hu Yaobang succeeds him, and then in turn by Zhao Ziyang; and despite all their sweeping reforms as the Collective's leaders, their power too, proves insignificant in the face of the evil Collective.

The agency behind their removal is always omnipotent: they are arrested, deposed, exiled, fallen out of favour; the downfall caused by the same dark Cloud that also hung over that prominent member of the Inner Party that Winston is asked to discredit. Surely then, the true source of the Party's evil must be Deng Xiaoping, who reveals his power behind the throne as he works to oust Zhao Ziyang, his own disciple. But nay, Deng Xiaoping dies -- and the Party continues to rule iron-fisted. The evil Collective insidiously penetrates governments all over the world, for despite the death of Ivan IV the Terrible, despite the removal of the Romanovs, despite the passing of Stalin and Lenin, despite the CCCP's fall -- the corruption and violence of the mobster government that everyone hates persists.

The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. All the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and counter-revolutionaries .... A few had simply disappeared, while the majority had been executed after spectacular public trials at which they made confession of their crimes.

(Nineteen-Eighty-Four, part 1 ch. 7)

Here the omnipotence of the Collective is truly frightening -- it has the ability to transcend and destroy its own architects. How then does it come to pass that an institution can be the adversary of all its members, and yet stand as powerful as ever? Is there something magical about the union of individuals and the social contract they form, that gives rise to a magical hydra-ish organism that thrives as an ethereal entity that haunts all its members, suppressing individualism, silencing dissent and inhibiting independent thought?

Perhaps a better metaphor would be centrifugal force. It is a strange kind of force, for it appears out of nowhere on the whole, even when it doesn't show up on individual free body diagrams. It is almost like a "phantom" force. But those who are familiar with physics know that no law of physics is being violated, for the problem is one of perspective; outside the collective system, one can see how each individual member of the Collective, defending their own self-interest, individually imposes a penalty on everyone, generating a force that pushes the collective towards common suffering; but when the Collective is the reference frame that the observer is in, it appears that a phantom force is causing everyone misery. It is a malevolent form of the invisible hand -- but it has no will of its own; it is merely the sum of the individual wills of others.

And so, we return to take on Washington. In Washington D.C., there are no gun battles, no secret police besides the Secret Service, no purges, coups or hangings. And yet all the candidates treat Washington like a battlefield. Bring change to America -- vote for me and I will fight the cronies in Washington! Yet nearly every Congressman promises that to his or her constituents in one form or other. Perhaps it has not occurred to them that they are all fighting against each other.

There is no question that there is institutional evil, corruption, inefficiency and incompetence. But to try to fight it with an "us versus them" attitude, treating everyone else in the institution as an adversary, only contributes to the institutional forces that appear to commonly repress everyone. The problems of Collectives are not inherent to Collectives themselves. There is nothing inherently bad about a union of individuals. No, they are ultimately due to all the individuals that comprise and participate in them. It only seems that individualism disappears when collectively grouped, and this makes it much easier to attack inhuman collective entities (or certain prominent leaders) as the problem, without having to judge the actions of ourselves and individual peers. Society is a fraud, they say. But aren't you part of it?