Jungle, Machiavelli, and Socio-Cultural Correctness
C.W. Rietdijk, D. Sc.
The main problem for sociology to solve is: “What
concrete interests and mechanisms – such as fallacies, ideology, anxieties,…
– are responsible for the phenomenon that throughout history most groups and
individuals on various vital points act(ed) contrary to reason and rational
values?” Up to now, social science almost completely neglected this core
(1) The Machiavelli phenomenon. As far as Machiavelli was right about the frequent behaviour of “princes and power elites”, the latter will disguise most of their egoistic strivings and actions as good intentions and morally laudable conduct. In the past, such “transformation” often happened on the personal level of incidental deceit, whereas in the historically more recent democratic, bureaucratic and ideological era it is to a great extent integrated in the struggle of ideas, where nationalism and political ideology are cases in point. (Relevant datum: 64 percent of respondents to a Gallup poll in 1996 had little or no faith in government officials telling the truth.)
The above paragraph implies that elites have often an interest in both intellectual life and social organization breathing a spirit that is far from coherent transparency and moral straightforwardness. In this context it strikes the eye that, from Richard Rorty to postmodernism and from “modern art” to politicians who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, our socio-philosophic climate is very friendly towards the relativization of truth, good and evil as well as to the ideas of uncertainty, chance and incoherence. It generally joins with what on the page Paradigm in Default of this website we called the R(elativism)U(ncertainty) paradigm.
We find a powerful argument telling for the thesis that
a) the “Machiavelli phenomenon” and
b) systematically playing down truth, transparency, coherence, good and evil by philosophy and the cultural climate
are closely related. Such argument is produced by a striking “coincidence”. That is, the circumstance that we are now overwhelmed by an anti-Enlightenment which takes many shapes in a great number of domains, while at the same time not even Peter Watson’s standard work A Terrible Beauty (2000) describes any contemporary consistently pro-Enlightenment school of thinking such as represented by the ideas of this website. (For example, neither modern incoherent art nor anti-rationalism is ever fought systematically, whereas “the abstract”, relativism and subjectivism abound.) The “Princes” of the past used personal deceit, violence, money, connection, convention and religion to dominate. Now the accent shifted to ideology and ways of thinking which fundamentally undermine truth and any rational ethics (that could subvert vested interests).
(2) Our “original sin” from the jungle. Both history and our personal lives show abundantly that the struggle and survival-of-the-fittest competition of the jungle still play essential parts, though the immoral aspects will be concealed in most instances. Various researchers even found a considerable positive correlation to exist between an individual’s faculty to mislead others and his success on the social ladder. (See Elsevier, June 10, 2006.)
The above – i.e. that evil (egoism, deceit,…) to a large degree is inherent in our genes – means that it is obvious to assume that, just as appearing in (1), there are important “vested interests in evil” in society: in giving leeway to bad faith and troubled waters. This implies a tendency to prejudice the public interest, integrity and progress. Once more – as in (1) – we conclude that part of human nature tends to thrive on attitudes, philosophies and schools of art that emphasize the opposites of transparency and coherence. For example, such opposites are embodied by relativism, subjectivism, fundamental uncertainty, chance, the poly-interpretable or absurd, myth and the idea that in the last resort human (inner) life is above science. We see such climate even dominate current alpha and gamma sectors. For the rest, why should evil and troubled waters only appear on the personal and organizational levels, and not in ideology, philosophy and the ways socio-cultural sciences are practised?!
(3) General conclusion from (1) and (2): Strong forces in human nature and in the social power structure have an interest in troubled waters and the Relativism-Uncertainty Paradigm we referred to in (1). They hate their opposites, exemplified by determinism, transparency, a coherent model of reality and a rationally arguable objective value system.
Also note that a logical practical consequence of pervasive relativism is egoism, commercialisation, money and career to become ever more dominating in society, simply because such egoism is not counterbalanced by vigorous and authoritative moral values .
One more general point relevant to the “evil-friendly”, immoral aspects of (1) and (2) is that they stimulate anxiety to a considerable degree, which is often exploited in its turn. It is obvious to assume that the authorities of all ages (un)consciously stimulate(d) anxiety to a varying degree because of its allowing such exploitation. Religions, rulers and everyone having an interest in conformism and obedience were or are beneficiaries. From this point of view too the predominance of the RU paradigm will not be a coincidence: uncertainty breeds anxiety. The paradigm embodies an historically rather young source of anxiety, leading to other-directedness and related modern variants of conformism and, therefore, of the wielding of power.
(4) We should hold fast to the positive sides of evolutionary competition and progress, such as represented by genetic engineering, eugenics, meritocratic selection of elites, and integrity and quality dominating competition. Further think of techno-scientific and moral progress, the latter concomitant to increasing insights (enlightenment). On the other hand, egalitarianism and its extension to political correctness breathe an anti-evolutionary spirit. Actually, very few among the dominating actors in society appear to be truly interested in what should be primary: the scientifization and moralization of the process of evolution. Machiavelli and the jungle still are too powerful…
(5) The anxiety referred to in (3) may be responded to in two very different ways.
a) One may choose for joining with power, conformity and the culturally prevalent “defence mechanisms” such as “one’s country”, ethnical group, religion or convention (“all well-meaning people”). Or one may concentrate on increasing one’s own power or status.
b) An alternative is intelligently seeking truth and objective value and thus, inter alia, aiming at a “moral exposure and debunking” of the relevant evils and sources of anxiety. Additionally, one may place one’s hope in progress that will gradually overcome them, also by substituting the jungle type of competition by scientifically “measuring” man, his faculties and intentions and thus selecting elites and guiding careers more effectively and honestly. Science and general progress are on the side of truth, transparency, coherence and rational values and, therefore, militate against anxiety and social abuse. History showed this abundantly: progress is the only rational way to Utopia.
(6) Rational ethics starts from the observation that people consider their own unhappiness as “undesirable” and their happiness as “desirable”. Then, as a next step to objective ethics, we only need the rational argument that the most desirable is optimising total well-being. We discussed this more extensively elsewhere on this site. This objective moral basis is in particular important because of its implicit rational refutation as dogmatic of all ethical standards not starting from happiness. For “God’s will”, convention, the honour of one’s country, most sexual taboos,… cannot legitimise themselves as objectively desirable.
Emotionally, the basis of an objectively just ethic is indignation about tragedy and about any prevalence of special interests on the common good (which is optimum total well-being).
An essential role of all orthodoxy and ideology in past and present was or is disguising bad faith of powerful interests that so frequently dominate(d). Concrete specimens: many kinds of fundamentalism, the Divine Right of kings, Victorian sexual morality, philosophical relativism that actually eliminates the contrast between good and evil, and the philosophy of fundamental fuzziness that partly does the same thing with respect to truth and falsehood.
(7) The principal cause of the often disappointing results of the Enlightenment and strivings after Utopia is that – mainly because of (1) through (3) – one will only half-heartedly fight social abuses, as the latter will correspond to various vested interests that are also sustained by ideology such as relativism. Therefore, elites are often less than eager to help whistle-blowers, prick prejudice, illusions, myth and irrational “image”, and to fight human failings in general. Troubled waters, uncertainty and, as we reminded of above, the law of the jungle, have too many beneficiaries for their being fought in a resolved and consistent way. The most important thing here is that a general climate of fuzziness, “political” caution, and bureaucratic complication will prevent us from being concrete in identifying and accusing those who thrive on a relevant abuse. For example, who and which ideologies are to blame for
a) massive anti-intellectualism and the acceptance of lack of discipline in education,
b) objections to the removal of multi-repeaters from society for good,
c) the needless complication and mazes in law, procedures and bureaucracy that, for example, frustrate justice and efficiency; so much so as to even cause a housing shortage in various “democracies”,
d) accepting Third-World immigration to an extent that will considerably surpass what most of the public deems appropriate?
Hardly anybody accuses concrete interests or groups. This shows how far our society became an oligarchy of interests and how radically fuzziness, playing down evil and humouring veto or pressure groups do their work…
At many places on this website we gave explanations, identifying causes and culprits, but few social scientists, intellectuals in general or political parties seemed to be interested…
(8) Joining with this, we see intellectuals to be more interested in “the Void”, “the Nothing”, “the Absurd”, “Fundamental Uncertainty”, unintelligible poems, politically correct items and the “finiteness of man” than in both concrete abuses and scientific research, say, into the nature of consciousness, near-death experiences or reincarnation. Small wonder that Utopia recedes even as an ideal… More generally, mainstream thinking in a relativistic era is soft as regards fighting social evils because truth, good and evil do not rank high on its priority list. “Realism”, “stability”, “solidarity” and vested interests will rank higher…One may say that relativism is an unconsciously (intuitively) applied very effective ideological weapon of immoral forces in society.
(9) The influence of “jungle tendencies” and an aversion from transparency and consistent integrity is strikingly illustrated by the circumstance that most people do not like a “brave new world” in which an individual’s career and function in society, his status, finding a love partner and the like could be largely “guided” by thoroughly measuring his genes, brain, brain waves, preferences, personality etcetera. They do not even like this if such measurements could perfectly be performed already now. Apparently, most people prefer fuzziness, struggle and chance. That is, they will prefer that the opportunity to jump the queue continues. This kind of factors work for the jungle, “the original sin” and the RU Paradigm, and against the scientifization of society and culture, our values included. Still, progress and in particular the accumulative nature of techno-scientific knowledge point in a positive direction since the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. (Above we said “guided” rather than “defined” because having the opportunity, say, to start a business on one’s own initiative should be preserved in the interest of progress and innovation. Still, applications and the like could ultimately as a rule be decided by “measurement results”, just as finding partners as to love and in other domains.)
Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the “measurement of man” and its role with guiding individual lives, as sketched above (and the scientifization of life at all), actually embody the ultimate answer to the problem of anxiety. For, anxiety is an inescapable consequence of uncertainty, chance and competition via unsound means as they still pervade society and human life also as to vital matters. Further note in this context the “vested interests in anxiety” as discussed in (3) above.
(10) The above also illustrates why continuing enlightenment and utopian dreams meet much resistance: the political way of being, the “original sin”, many vested interests and genetic rearguards do not want them. They cherish uncertainty, troubled waters, myth and often the setbacks of others. They don’t like the idea that happiness can be organised to a considerable extent, and that such a thing is even the core task of all government.
(11) Within the scope of the above complex of ideas – uncertainty, troubled waters, incoherence, the “original sin”,… – many don’t like the core components of our psyche to integrate into a coherent whole. They want Freud’s id (instincts), ego and super-ego (conscience) to remain mutually rather inimical instead of the case that, in particular, man’s sexuality, reason and sense of the elevated (conscience) are each other’s allies, inter alia, in the shape of rational values by which, for instance, sexuality is experienced in a spirit of beauty, harmony and the impressive.
So strong and coherent an inner basis would make the individual psyche far less dependent on others and groups: countries, kings, churches, convention and the like. That is, such inner basis would be to the detriment of conformism as the core instrument of irrational power and abuse.
(12) In actual fact, old orthodoxy and convention are now substituted by a mixture of enlightened values and nihilism (relativism and uncertainty). As to this, one can say that it does not make much fundamental difference whether one fights rational argument, transparency, a coherent scientific model of the world and enlightened values by dogma, taboo, obscurantism and censorship, or does so by the relativistic thesis that good, evil or dependable truth do not even objectively exist in the first place, and the additional assertion (“uncertainty”) that the world and human destiny are chaos in the last resort. Both relevant pictures are equally friendly to the status quo and equally inimical to enlightened dissidents, from whom the relativistic one also takes away all argued hope.
Within this scope very positive authors like Theodore Dalrymple, Frank Furedi and various neo-conservatives do not confront politico-cultural correctness with a coherent picture without partly reverting to convention. In this context it is remarkable to the utmost that this website is virtually unrivalled in doing without both leftist and rightist dogma.
(13) There are not only political career oligarchies (term from Dutch historian Oerlemans) and oligarchies of interests (cartels, connection networks,…) but there are also a rightist and a leftist oligarchy of ideas. The three oligarchies frame one status-quo network. As belonging to the rightist complex we see Romanticism, tradition, Heidegger-like philosophy, religion and “Gemeinschaft”. The leftist brand principally consists of the RU paradigm and related egalitarianism and Third-World sympathies.
We give an example of the phenomenon that even the leftist and rightist “complexes” often play into each other’s hands. We join with point (7) d):
First, leftist political parties have an interest in immigration from the Third World because most of the people in question are lowly-educated and poor, therefore having a preference for voting leftist.
Second, because political parties will act in their own interest it is obvious that leftists like Third-World immigration and publicly will deem objections “racist”.
Third, rightists or non-leftists in general will refrain from exposing the relevant interests of the left and its “Machiavellian” slogans about “racism”. Conclusion: Major social actors often humour each other’s vital interests, truth and the common good paying the price.
(14) Both complexes share an anti-Enlightenment attitude. This is connected with their (rough) common starting point that subjective human experience and social inter-subjectivity precede the basic coherences: science, universal values, evolution and progress, and quality hierarchies on the level of genes, values and culture.
Even the heroic, sacrifice, tragedy and death are located in the sphere of “local-individual drama” rather than being connected with objective values or coherent evolutions or purposes such as fighting evils or making new discoveries. Small wonder that many do not even know what their Western identity is as distinct from those related to other cultures.
(15) In both the rightist and the leftist ambiance rational argument is secondary. “Socially defined” truth, culture and priorities are simply “given” – historically, intuitively, by personal choice,… – and are accepted collectively, not via rational argument. Within this scope, man as he is is accepted too. Actually so as the highest value of all. In such secularised religion, eugenics is heresy. Evolution and a “rational-value-defined” hierarchy as regards the genetic and other qualities of individuals do not fit in either a dogmatic and history-defined or an egalitarian climate.
(16) Actually, left and right both contributed to the central dogma and religion now highly substituting the old brands. To the new “religion of Man” and the dogma of His being at the centre of everything, individually or collectively. They are shared by Romanticism, existentialism, fascism, the spirit of the sixties and New Left, and postmodernism. Within the scope of such subjectivist “counter-coherence”, arbitrariness, special interests, nihilism and an egalitarian humouring of inferior genes, conduct and cultures boomed while the new religion culminated in the twentieth century, also passing for Freedom.
The relevant religion, dogma and concomitant ego inflation constitute a basic concession to the jungle and to the condition humaine (human failings). Such climate will prevent taking seriously those failings in their concrete socio-cultural and political manifestations, in spite of their being massively acknowledged on an abstract level.
(17) Relativism and the cult of chance and uncertainty radically emasculate intellectual and ethical discussion, also on social abuse. Truth, good, evil and human quality devalue, so that de facto power and situations remain rather unchallenged. Some important negative concomitants are:
1. Dissidents will be assimilated because they do not oppose any convincing, coherent and arguable alternative to the massive “religion of Man” and the “RU ambiance”; they are “part-time opposition”;
2. Such dissidents continue to believe our establishment to be largely in good faith, in spite of its attitude with respect to social evils, eugenics and the ideological “counter-revolution against reason”;
3. The idea of progress is undermined.
(18) Especially in view of (3), (5) and (17), your personal liberation from both anxiety and conformism is greatly served by your realizing the (partial) bad faith of the powers that be and the primitiveness of our culture. Such realization should include: “The mainstream unconsciously tries to generate anxiety in me in order to force me to conform to deceit, cruelty and taboo”.
(19) It makes vital things much more coherent if we realize how, on the one side, the anti-rationalistic devaluation of reason and arguments, and on the other side the relativistic undermining of values (good, evil, genetic and other quality difference as to individuals,…) and purposes (progress, evolution,…), are members of the same anti-enlightened family.
Within this scope it is also clear how much political correctness and its quality-devaluing egalitarianism (“all people are of the same value”) are perversions of the equality with respect to the law that is part and parcel of the Enlightenment. Both the relativization of reason and moral relativism (and political correctness) fit in current religion of idolizing man as such, apart from his genetic and other qualities. For example, both imply softness on prejudice, conformism and taboo.
The “religion of man” and political correctness in particular can highly be explained by our realizing:
Jointly, we play a social game from which the leaders benefit most and in which much prejudice, conformism and taboo are inherent. Therefore, such leaders will object to criticising the rules of such game or the solidarity aspired after by political correctness. That is, criticising them by subordinating them to reason and rational values and by making those very values the core of solidarity.
(20) Relativism and quality-relativizing political correctness are main culprits of
a) degradation and softness on crime, anti-social conduct, addiction, unruly students and self-enrichment of many leaders in business and the bureaucracy, and also they are culprits of softness on social evils in general. In this context think of the usual treatment of whistle-blowers too.
b) the opposition to genetic engineering and eugenics.
c) Chamberlain-like appeasement of cruel regimes. A consequence is: no massive outcry about forced marriages, clitoridectomy and many other failings of whole cultures.
d) the meaninglessness and consumption- and amusement-dominated character of so many lives.
Without the contribution to a coherent model of the world supplied by rationally legitimated values also social science got stuck in the incidental and methodology; no coherent line is seen in the events of evolution, society or history. Nor is it seen, say, in Machiavellian and ideological mechanisms. The status quo, vested interests and ideological manipulation can no longer fundamentally be criticised, which serves many. Not even “a war on suffering” evokes enthusiasm: tragedy is not objectively wrong.
In all, moral relativism, political correctness and the idea of all cultures and individuals having the same value contribute essentially to conformism and the death of meaningful (objective) social criticism. In the last resort, a preliminary scientifically based coherent model of the world, rationally argued values, and the vigorous enforcement of integrity should integrate society and be a weapon against suffering, anxiety, and meaninglessness.
(21) The gist of political correctness is “nurturism” (also compare the next paragraph):
Nobody is genetically bad or inferior; neither are individuals or groups ever truly guilty. These very concepts are spirited off by relativism. Addiction, the underclass phenomenon, crime and failure at school have only or mainly “social” causes. (Massive research into genes as co-defining IQ, crime, personality and the nervous system is ignored, such as that of Robert Cloninger or Sarnov Mednick about crime.) Within this scope, nobody is responsible for social evils (apart from “discrimination”); they are mere unwitting results of good intentions. All of this is part and parcel of the “religion of Man” (“all people are equally valuable”). Even prominent dissidents like Theodore Dalrymple and Frank Furedi disregard genes. Neither do they – just as neo-conservatives and opponents of the spirit of the sixties – see one relativistic and unenlightened line in “progressive” education (anti-intellectualism), softness on crime and the underclass, egalitarianism, “abstract art”, the nurture philosophy, undermining the idea of progress and “fundamental uncertainty” in theoretical physics. (As to the latter, see my page Four-dimensional Reality and its Coherence.) Indeed, they are part-time opposition [compare (17)].
We should go further into why “nurture” so much dominates “correctness”. The reason is that it can serve for a “scientific” basis of egalitarianism and the “religion of Man” that, in turn, constitute the core basis of current “solidarity” that formerly rested on religion, convention or nationalism. A solidarity (integration of society) that – in past and present – is (was) often a euphemism for conformism. Conformism and solidarity that in particular amount to a gentlemen’s agreement among the main vested interests in society to behave “oligarchically” rather than violate mutual solidarity, say, by too radically calling on reason or ethical considerations.
(22) The part-time opponents do not fundamentally reject the RU paradigm [compare (1) above] and also forgot Kuhn’s observation (in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) that, in order to bring down a paradigm, ad hoc criticism does not suffice: a fundamentally new paradigm should be advanced.
As such rough replacement for the RU paradigm I propose:
1. The world, natural law, evolution and progress are no coincidence but coherent implications of logic and truth (such as mathematics and objective, rationally deducible, values).
2. Human quality (or stage of evolution) is an essential category in conjunction with such objective values; hence it is also relevant to social science.
Currently, “conventional” rightist values are virtually understood to constitute the only practical and coherent alternative of politically correct “progressiveness”. Actually, an antipode of the RU paradigm – compare the preceding paragraph – is a more obvious candidate. Key words of it are reason, rational values, determinism, transparency and coherence. Those only partially accepting this C(oherence) paradigm tend to be assimilated into current “orthodoxy”.
The C paradigm integrates the old-leftist and enlightened concepts of scientific coherence and progress (evolution) with moral and genetic human quality and individual performance that now are unjustly deemed “rightist”. Actually, progress, quality and performance are in line. Moreover, the RU opposite of the C paradigm is now the core ideological instrument of all who need troubled waters: power and privilege that base themselves on something different from truth, quality and integrity. They do neither like transparency nor coherence.
(23) Prometheus and saving the environment can be reconciled:
In WWII the US reduced consumption via taxes (and state borrowing), thus transferring much industrial capacity to war-related production. Now substitute the latter by state-sponsored research & development in domains like AI, genetics and micro-biology, brain research, micro-electronics, nuclear fusion, fundamental physics, parapsychology, nanotechnology and the environment. In this way, both the latter is saved and fundamental problems of life are better addressed, inter alia, by NASA-like projects (with respect to genes, intelligence, health, the brain, a possible afterlife and, therefore, also anxiety, happiness, the meaning of life,…). Say, consumption would be reduced by 15 percent this way in the rich countries. Mind that fundamental research does not absorb much as regards raw materials and neither pollutes intensively.
(24) Genesis and the Theory of Evolution, according to many, are two different ways to look at the same thing. Reading my page Four-dimensional Reality and its Coherence, you will understand that (actually four-dimensional) natural laws refer to processes (events), their outcomes included, rather than merely controlling objects. These laws, therefore, also govern relations between results. Such model may lead to a scientific version of “God’s Plan” managing the world, human destinies included. The latter may as such obey laws in a four-dimensional context.
Compare Einstein: “The most surprising of all is that the world almost certainly has a meaning”, and also a consistent generalization of his famous “God does not play dice”.
(25) Freedom of speech is highly partial, also in the West. For hardly any establishment figure (or, for that matter, anyone else) will ever publicly ridicule “abstract” art, plead for the death penalty for multi-offenders, for eugenics, for euthanasia with respect to seriously handicapped new-borns or for the decoration of whistle-blowers. And what to think of the circumstance that in England nobody was willing to publish Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom? And of what happened to Chris Brand and his book on the g-factor?
The above means that in modern society too we still see power and reason often appear as a core antithesis.
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