Monday, January 10, 2011

Civilization’s Wrong Turn Down ‘The Well-traveled Road’ by Edwin L. Young, PhD

Civilizations have pursued a philosophy of justice that has been woefully ineffective and even counter-productive for countless millennia.

Nevertheless, it has continued ineffective approaches with every other institution and convention.

Governments have operated under an implicit belief in the ‘Cult of the Individual.’ Civilizations have had no other recourse to correct offending behavior than punishment such as physical cruelty, incarceration, banishment, and execution. This, of course, has not worked. Religious leaders have preached forgiveness but that has not worked either. Humans can be forgiving, if lovingly brought up, but as you must know, forgiving is not a recipe for reforming the offending persons. Furthermore, and as you may not know as do I who spent over half of my professional career working with offenders, punishment is not just ineffective but is counterproductive.

In Oliver Stone’s panned movie “Natural Born Killers (1994)," he clearly charts the influence of a horrendous environment on the childhood of his central character. Suffering unspeakable abuse at the hands of his parents, particularly his diabolically ruthless father, the young man eventually teams up with a young woman with a similar background and together, they become coldblooded, serial joy-killers.

In 1987, Stone came out with the famous movie “Wall Street” that chronicles the ruthlessness of a Wall Street investment banker who specializes in mergers and acquisitions. After acquiring a company, he mercilessly dismantles the company, selling off its parts and ending the careers of loyal workers, leaving them destitute. Then Gordon Gekko utters the famous and off repeated words “Greed is good!” in the denouement of the movie “Wall Street.” In the forthcoming movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, Stone has Gordon Gekko returning, after twenty years in prison. His new phrase, “Someone reminded me I once said, "Greed is good."

Now it seems it's legal. Because everyone is drinking the same Kool Aid. This illustrates the psychology that imprisonment, as punishment, does not change character. In this case, it just shaped a slightly humbled with suppressed arrogance, a more cautious, and steely nerved, a coolly perceptive, strategically patient, more respectful of bourgeois conventions, and determined robber baron. Of course, I select this as an example because it so well illustrates my Natural Systems philosophy that character and behavior is shaped by the structures and systems of one’s culture.

The significance of “Natural Born Killers” and “Wall Street 1 and 2” side by side is that the vast majority of people believe the proposition that common criminals and Wall Street magnates and everyone else are shaped by their own intentions, their own characters and skills. When does a person say they were shaped by their environment? Who is willing to admit “Demography is Destiny?” Because the earth and humanity now are facing a doomsday scenario, that odious deterministic philosophy is raising its ugly, Zeitgeist shattering, head. Demographics and the configuration of and trajectory of population growth have become of critical interest to many facets of our society.

The vested interests of those in countries with vastly divergent population growth trends are in marked contrast to one another. The population growth concerns of Western nations conflict with those of Eastern nations. The West wants their women to reproduce for fear over being overrun by hordes of foreign riff raff. The vested interests of political parties with respect to population trends are vastly different. Rightwing Corporate tycoons want a oversupply of the impoverished so that they struggle for the lowest wages possible.

They love a huge reservoir of third world slaves ready to break their bodies for pittance. Leaders of third world countries, on the other hand, are ‘dying’ to have birth control, population control measures. The interests of age groups with respect to population trends are vastly different. Seniors want to keep their Social Security and the diminishing numbers of youth is a threat to Social Security. Large numbers on Social Security presages disaster for the national budget. Demography is blatantly shaping today’s public policy.

Philosophically, the wealthy elites hold conflicting positions on both demographic trends and the idea that demography is destiny. The idea of “Demography is destiny.”, a neologism introduced by August Comte in the mid nineteenth century, negates the elite’s cornerstone belief that genetics is destiny. On the other hand, the increase in immigrants and the burgeoning growth in lower class and ethnic groups with their inclination toward the Democratic Party cause them to fear demography will turn destiny against them.

Yet, regardless of ethnicity, increases in the poorly educated, lower class workers means competition among the laborers for jobs and that keeps unemployment just high enough to keep wages low. However, this also keeps impoverishment in ghettos high and along with that keeps lawlessness and criminality high, especially among the educationally disadvantaged ghettoized youth. Admitting these relationships is equivalent to admitting that demography is destiny. Elites will proclaim that the ghetto violence and lawlessness is proof of their genetic inferiority, in other words that they and their third world slaves are nothing but subhuman savages. Elites are willing to pay the price of crime accompanying poverty; after all, what else are their police forces for? Contrariwise, admitting demography is destiny is not so palatable to their genetically endowed tastes.

A graphic, cinematic, example of demography being destiny can be found in the new movie, “Machete” (2010)[iii]. In this movie, “Machete,” Dan Trejo played the lead character that is also named “Machete.” Here is a quote from Dan Trejo during an interview about his life: “Juvenile hall, youth authority . . . I was in a lot of trouble. I grew up like the characters I've been playing. But would I do things differently? I honestly believe that circumstances create destiny, almost. There weren't too many ways I could have done things. The only things that were available to me were either be a laborer or be a drug dealer. So, I became an armed robber. It was a lot simpler.”

In other words, for many millions of youth condemned to living in such ghettos, demography doles out a cruel destiny. Ironically, the elites espouse the same mockery of the academics social causation philosophy which is so inelegantly and mockingly tossed back into officer Krupke’s face by one of the delinquents being arrested, as sung in “West Side Story”: “Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, You gotta understand, It's just our bringin' up-ke That gets us out of hand. . . . it’s a social disease!”

Not only are demographics determinative of individuals’ behavior but are determinative of the destiny of the planet and the fate of humanity.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, and other billionaires whose fortunes are secure for the brief time remaining in their own lives, are now becoming more concerned that the role of population growth is far more dangerous to the future of earth and humanity than is Climate Change per se. In line with this, they are saying that we must get world population down to 2 billion before 2100. Malthus wrote a variation of the same dire predictions in 1798. US Corporation CEOs long have poohed Malthus prediction! Also, in 1950, even my Sociology 101 professor poohed Malthus and me as well for supporting the Malthusian theory[vii]. Nevertheless, it is increasingly clear that our belief in endless population growth, endless economic growth, and endless growth in a US style of prosperity for all the globe is a corporate dream and humanity’s nightmare!

The structures and systems of civilizations are all interconnected and all are directly influenced by demography. Together, these have evolved into an almost foreordained socio-economic configuration to produce our current crises. The fate of the planet; of humanity as a whole; the trends of humanity’s growing epidemics of diseases; the global trends of civil wars, of murderous, exploitative, and even self-destructive behaviors; the rise of criminal offenses that are unique to each class- e.g. burglary by the poor and Ponzi schemes by the rich; all are interconnected with demographics. The overcoming this dire fate of the earth and its peoples first requires understanding the role of demographics and of demography as destiny.

Second, overcoming our pell mell rush over the cliffs of doom will require that our leaders around the globe find the discipline to make the draconian decisions. Next, they must take the actions based on these decisions necessary to steer, in unison, the ships of state toward a truly civilized new world. We must boldly adventure into a frontier with heretofore-unimagined forms of government, economics, and, finally, scrap all, veritably all, of our anachronistic institutions.

To survive, we, the world, must take a road never travelled before.

1 comment:

Omar said...

very courageous, insightful, and intriguing.