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Limits

by on December 9, 2016

                                                                                 Limits

                                                                       by Marco M. Pardi

We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t obey the rules.”

Alan Bennett. Getting On. 1. 1972

All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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Never one to fall into spontaneous excitement, I nonetheless do feel stirrings when I discover that a principle has potentially broad application. As “they say”, Think outside the quadrilateral parallelogram.

Thus, while pondering the mysteries of cellular apoptosis, the shrinking telomeres bringing visions of the Fates, and Atropos cutting the Thread of Life (were those pre-scientific Greeks so ignorant after all?) I sensed parallels in the particular social structures we refer to as political systems.

Each day we shed many thousands of epidermal cells; the “unlived in” sense we experience in an empty house is merely that we are missing the sensory stimulation caused by the detritus of human bodies.  We similarly “turn over” internal cells and excrete the remains.  The process that occurs when a cell reaches the limits of its function and begins to deconstruct itself is apoptosis, often called cellular suicide. Is a cell simply programmed to come undone once reaching a certain level of internal chaos, or is it reflective and acting on volition, the final manifestation of “can’t take it anymore”?  If the latter, for whom is the choice made, the self which can take no more or for the good of the larger body?  On the macro level we see numerous examples of pack or herd animals splitting off as member numbers grow, the adaptive value being in keeping groups small enough to maximize the available food resources.

In the arrangement of its power structure, human society has not often shown genuine concern for the good of the larger body.  Perhaps this is due to the evolution of entrenched power. I view all human relationships, from the familial to the national, as based on some concept of power. This in no way implies universally unequal power; two partners may see their power relative to each other as equal and balanced. However, as more people are added the potential for internal chaos – the loss of a sense of clear cut rights and responsibilities – in the growing group builds, just as in the cell.

Above the family, the simplest form of human society is the Band, usually numbering 20 – 40. Here we find power is situational: If we need to build a shelter, we chose the best shelter builder and obey directions.  The master builder’s authority is restricted to building and terminates on completion of the shelter.  Most, if not all decisions are consensus based. However, pre-pubescent children do not have a vote. Why is puberty a threshold for the power of stating an opinion? Simple.  With puberty comes the potential for making another member of the group, a very serious consideration when pregnancy and infant support can impair the group’s ability to migrate in search of seasonal food.

Thus, the Band is the primal example of pure communism, indistinguishable from pure democracy. I’ve written elsewhere about communism and democracy, so will not restate that here. But there is a further point for examination: As group size increases and as decisions facing the group become more complex this power sharing process faces a crisis.  The solution is seen at the Tribe level, a collection of related bands. Tribes do not have chiefs, despite the efforts of Hollywood.  Chiefdoms have chiefs. Tribes have Councils of Elders, responsible for considering issues and rendering a group judgment.  A way of viewing this would be the United States with a Congress, but no President. 

As early as the 1980’s I read opinion statements exploring the possibility the United States had simply grown too large, too demographically varied, and the issues too complex – especially where they divide along regional lines, for the current structure of U.S. government to cope.  Suggestions were put forward for sectioning the U.S. into semi-autonomous regions.  Closely related, but separate enough to pursue and accomplish agendas most appropriate to each.

At first read this seemed an attractive option.  However, it quickly comes clear that we cannot demarcate geographic regions on the assumption of internal homogeneity.  Without doubt, many in each region would find themselves more attuned to the presumed values of another region.  Shifting people, perhaps in the millions, from one region to another is simply a non-starter.  For example, I reside in the Southeast not by choice but because the promotion ladder in the federal agency for which I worked was far easier to manage here.  I know several people who detest where they have to live but do so because the jobs in their career fields were to be found there.  They adapt as they are able, and limit their exposure to local “culture” as much as possible.  Not a great trade-off for a paycheck, especially where school aged children are involved.  

I can recall people being quite vocal in their support for Nixon, declaring their vote well into his presidency. But  after the Watergate fiasco a declared Nixon voter was hard to find. The same is proving true with Trump as people come to realize they were scammed.

The United States has long had special interest groups.  Long before the internet became available to the general public I was filling out the endless paperwork for the Top Secret-Cryptographic security clearance I received.  I turned a page to be confronted with a sheet headed with the question: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of or affiliated any organization/group or organizations/groups below.  Check each that applies.”  The list was immense.  Never having been a member of anything, I was tempted to skip to the bottom. And, before the internet, membership in any group was far more likely to be a local event. Now, I can be a member of an almost limitless number of groups the members of which I will never see, the headquarters in places I will never visit. They certainly are not all regional, or easily reached even if they are. Nonetheless, the profile that emerges from my list of memberships immediately casts me as a certain type of person.  Before the internet identifying members of groups was more difficult.  It was necessary to “black bag” an office to photograph membership lists, or recruit a known member into spying, or aggressively interrogate a known member.  Now, internet tools which allow for hacking enable any number of agencies or individuals with the money to hack into computer stored files and, if desired, capture my every keystroke. Should this worry us? Yes, precisely because the same tools which allow entry and viewing also, in several cases, allow for loading false material into target computers. The simplest example is setting someone up with a load of child pornography they never knew was on their computer.  Easily done.

How does this all attach to cellular biology?  If we view the United States as a cell we cannot deny that it has accumulated an excess of elements far beyond the individual’s ability to know, much less track and understand.  It is, therefore, for most individuals a sea of detritus.  Inevitably, the question arises: Can anyone identify, track and understand the components within this purported cell?  Can anyone grasp the elements which are in mortal opposition to each other?  Can anyone distinguish those elements working for the common good versus those who are out for their own gain at the cost of all others?

A favorite theme of simpleton Republicans is the utterly fictitious bygone era of the homogenous “good old days” when everyone thought alike and worked for the common good.  That they will attempt to bring this fantasy to life through the use of legislative and/or physical force is increasingly apparent as these recent post-election days make clear.    

And with each passing day, as the faceless corporate groups become more empowered and, as demonstrated by the 2.7 million+ vote advantage for the loser, Clinton, over the “winner”, Trump, the “democracy” is obviously gone under the shadow of a select minority of special interest groups, it must be obvious that this system of government has reached the end of its natural lifespan. Although it will doubtless use State sponsored force to deceive and extort Life Support from the masses still able to provide it, it is obviously a cell in chaos, a conceptual cell which will not fall to attack from outside but rather to the same internal processes which bring the humble biological cell to its end.

I dearly love my daughter and her family, my family. I grieve for the future which is already manifesting in their present.

  

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10 Comments
  1. Ray Rivers permalink

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. What is broken can be fixed, every part of it. The Us is not too big, just too confused and disconnected. It needs a unifying force to help it recover from too a much too divisive recent past.

  2. Thanks, Ray. It must be admitted that hopes that you are right are fading every day.

  3. It is the rare day which goes by without some words of contention as I try to enlighten someone happy in their own ignorance. As demonstrated by our latest election, it is easy to shout down opposition; say it loud enough for long enough and most people will get tired of the battle and give up all attempts at truth and reason; it worked for the Nazis. Like the three (not so) wise monkeys, we cover our eyes, ears and mouths. Anyone who’s ever been abused will tell you that this is a tactic that works… for a while. It gets harder every day to ignore the blows and conceal the bruises as those we have (apparently) chosen to care for our world are making plans to destroy it instead.

    • Thank you, Rose. I’m sure silence is an option many will choose. And your analogy of an abused person is right on target. What seems to make it worse is the chaos of fragmentation that inhibits organization to overcome the abuser. I do think, however, the “common man” who voted for Trump will possibly – just possibly – come to realize he has been utterly betrayed. What follows will have us all considering elsewhere.

  4. Doug Harper permalink

    Marco, your comparison between the decline and death of cells and greater societies is intriguing. Under Trump, in spite of his bombast, the US will fall to number two economically; militarily, who will really know? Obama, recognizing these inevitable outcomes tried to guide his nation in a measured way through the transition. He succeeded in some ways, failed in others; the country wasn’t ready. You now appear to be facing 4 to 8 years of collective raging against the coming storm. It could be ugly but unlike individual cells there will be a morning after and for that saner heads within your country must start building now. Pick your spots carefully, defend those parts of the Obama legacy worth keeping. There is life after being number 1. Ask any Brit.

    • Thank you so much, Doug. I hoped you would find the comparison worthwhile and am so glad you did, especially with the developed explanation you give. And thank you for the encouragement. We will be in great need of that in the coming years. Marco

  5. Since we truly don’t know yet, I have decided to take a positive view of what is happening. It is definitely a wake up call. I see advocacy groups doing more and more. The ugly masks that used to hide hate and racism are being taken off and are coming out in the open where it is easier to see them and do something. I’m viewing it as defibrillation. And it may take a few more shocks but I think it just might get us headed into being a kinder nation. A friend of mine just reported on a large LBGT group that just met with a number of members of the Senate and Congress to discuss how afraid they are and to discuss what to do. They said the meeting went extremely well. This group wouldn’t have gotten a meeting years ago. I believe it will get better.
    Pollyanna

    • Thank you, Mary. Your moniker “Pollyanna” is, hopefully, not yet appropriate. I entirely agree the various elements are coming into the open. Allows a far better sight picture. Yet, I hope resistors, and concerned groups such as the one you cite, will not be simply paternalized (if that’s a word). Yes, the groups I’m aware of and regularly support are becoming increasingly vocal, but I hope it is more than singing to the saved. Organization and membership growth, even at the risk of appearing on certain lists, must occur.

      In times like these I remember Dr. Pangloss’s assurance, “We live in the best of all possible worlds.” I always found that amusing. Now, it’s looking more like sad.

      • An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds; a pessimist fears this is true.

      • Rose, I’m driven to have that quote mounted on a plaque above my computer. Thanks so much. Marco

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