Making Humans Disappear: 2
In my previous post in this series, I had mentioned that the next one would be about how the rise of ‘free agents’. Now most of you might be wondering- “how can individuals get anything done?”
Throughout history, humans have primarily relied on collective actions to get things done. Even today most of you think that any ‘real’ change will require mass demonstrations, occupy type protests, wars or revolutions. I however think that we have reached a point where asynchronous individual actions are far more disruptive to the system than collective actions. But that is not my only objection to collective action being an effective agent of change.
The real problem with using collective action to achieve anything is that most human beings are dishonest cowards who will delude themselves into believing that are otherwise.
You might have noticed that mass movements, protests, wars and revolutions often replace one group of assholes with a marginally better versions of them. It is as if mass actions, for all the sacrifices of their members, fall far short of their goals. Conventional explanations for this phenomena talk about betrayal of the cause etc.. conveniently forgetting that all people who want to be leaders are remarkably alike.
You cannot replace one defective structure with another one based on the same basic plan and expect change.
Any real change requires destroying the defective structure without building a replacement. However most people will not do that because they are afraid of an uncertain future and will always choose a recycled shitty world over one that truly breaks from the past. But why do people choose a guaranteed shitty existence over a reasonable chance of change and/or nonexistence? Some of you might say that people are afraid of death, but that is only a partial explanation at best. Pretty much every human understands that they and their creations are mortal and perishable. Furthermore, we have no shortage of people who will indulge in activities and enter professions with a realistic chance of premature death.
So what has stops most people from destroying the system that makes their lives miserable?
To understand what I am going to talk about next, you have to start looking at human history and societies as a real outsider- almost an extraterrestrial alien. One of the most well-known, but often ignored, aspect of human beings is that they are social animals who require others of their kind to exist for reasons beyond basic needs. A lot of the stupid, bizarre and self-destructive behavior of humans only makes sense if you factor in the need to belong to a group.
But is this need to belong to a group independent of the result of previous efforts to do so?
Will you keep on going back to the same people who exploited your desire to belong? While people might continue trying to play nice with shitheads upto a point, everybody has a breaking point beyond which they have no interest in belonging to that group. It does not help that modern neo-liberal societies continuously try to abuse the desire to belong for short-term profits. Today belonging to almost any group or participating in any social institution is an act of stupidity as you will lose far more than you get from such interactions. You might have noticed that almost everything from marrying, buying and living in your own house, working hard to move up in life or belonging to any ‘real life’ social group is a big fucking waste of time with negative gains for the individuals who indulge in such activities.
We live in a ‘stranger’ society where everybody pretends to be friendly but is secretly to stab each other in the back- and we all know it. Social atomization is a rational response to living in a world where even your own kith and kin are almost guaranteed to betray you for negligible gains. We have reached a point where there is no reason for individuals to care about the effect of their actions on other people around them. Throughout most of history, people stopped acting out on their innermost desires for vengeance due to their concern about how society might perceive them. While that was rational in eras where at least a few people cared about you and would stand behind you, that is no longer the case.
The hope that restraint would be rewarded in this life, or the mythical next, is gone.
I would recommend that you read a series of articles (13 to date) tagged Hello from the Underclass at gawker.com about the personal stories of unemployed people in the USA. While that site is famous for tabloid type news and stories, this series about the chronically unemployed is probably one of the better attempts at serious journalism. One of the unspoken but recurring themes in the series is that many people never expected to end up like that or be treated by society and society as worthless pariahs. Almost all of these people are articulated, educated, with decent incomes and lifestyles for many years to decades and still ended up as virtual untouchables with no hope for the future.
A couple of years of chronic instability and utter neglect/abuse from people and institutions they believed in made them see the world in a very different light.
While such chronic instability and material deprivation is not new, its combination with an absence of a social support network is unprecedented. Furthermore, people are not capable of normalizing their condition by believing in the old bullshit.. I mean religion. It certainly does not help that a low birth rate greatly reduces the number of new suckers to use, abuse and exploit. Consequently a rapidly increasing number of people have become ‘free agents’ in that they have no loyalty, obligations or consideration for anybody but themselves. Periodic and recurring stints of unemployment and social ostracization only reinforce this realization.
So why do I find ‘free agents’ so interesting?
Well.. for one they are a rapidly increasing minority in modern societies. However my interest in them is linked to how they act under stress. Historically, societies could defend themselves against disgruntled but still ‘attached agents’ through a variety of means from fake hope to lying and treachery. However the information revolution has made many of these means obsolete as it is much easier for people to see that most humans beings are crap and hope is largely a scam. Social atomization has done the rest by ensuring that people who hate society and humanity in general can do so and easily reach extremely high levels of misanthropy.
To put it another way, we now live in a world with a rapidly increasing minority of people who are highly misanthropic, extremely cynical and devoid of expectations for a better future.
It does not take a genius to figure out that such people might be interested in ways to ‘repay society’ for all the things it had done for them. Given the numbers involved and the organization of modern societies, even a small number of people who ‘repay society’ will destabilize the system- even if such repayments are asynchronous.
But how can asynchronous behaviors by a few individuals destabilize large systems? The answer to that question lies in understanding how the response of society to such behaviors greatly amplifies the effect of the primary events and will be the subject of the next part of this series.
What do you think? Comments?