The Trap of Materialism

The Materialistic society we are living in have some build in dangers, which will draw our society in a direction of less faith or trust in man, giving more inhuman conditions for all, and the problem is that we may see it as inevitable.

Centralization is the problem, both politically, of public institutions, of companies and of capital. The mantra ‘Big is Beautiful’ is wrong, the productivity per employee drops with the increasing size of the organisation, and that’s because the single employee have less space to influence his own work, too bound by rules, and because the large organizations are difficult to manage.

In the following paragraphs I will look at its implications, which will be seen through greater aggressiveness, less social skills, and decreasing possibilities to control our future, less possibility to make decisions both in grand scale and in our own lives, both at home and job.

The Trap works through various mechanisms, as

  • Materialism, a purely physical view of the universe,
  • Pervasive Politics, proliferation of the political system in daily life,
  • Groupings, emphasis on group, race, and ethnicity, us and them,
  • Orthodoxy, literal and “simple” interpretation of the Gospels,
  • Superstition, esoteric beliefs without foundation in thinking skills,
  • Abstract Thinking, cultivating abstract theorization,
  • Quantitative Thinking, purely quantitative (statistical) observation.

These combined with a Dualistic world view, where everything is Black and White, will increase the strife between people all over the world.

Dualism sees everything in opposites,

and this is one of the greatest dangers today: If you are not with me, you are against me. That is a widespread sickness, especially on the Internet where you can hide under anonymity, but orthodoxy of any kind: religious, atheistic, or political, moves our future in a dangerous direction. What makes it so dangerous are that both sides believe that they fight on the side of good, but the reality is that they both fight for extremism, truth is always somewhere in between.

The deception is not to see the full picture, to understand both sides in any relation!

The challenge is to find the Golden Mean between the extremes.

The following paragraphs will look into different areas where Dualism endangers our society.

Materialism

Science is seen as the absolute truth against black superstition represented by religion. It’s not seen as different and complementing views on the same reality. It has started the Atheistic religion, attacking spirituality and moral values. Darwin is their prime god, and their Messiah are the Sentient Robots they hope will come and save the world. The problem are that most of the Atheists don’t really understand what they are preaching, and they don’t accept scientific results if it’s against their own beliefs. See Is it possible to make Intelligent Machines?

Science can’t make decisions or take responsibility, as Science in itself have no moral. Science is always used by others, more dynamic groups of society, by players on the market or in politics, whose moral aren’t better than the Courts or the Voters.

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.” Richard Feynman

“As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.” Noam Chomsky

Pervasive Politics

You see Dualism in politics, especially in two-party systems, where there is no space for other views. Politics dominates today everybody’s life, in contrast to forty years ago, where politics was talked about at the elections every fourth year. The laws gave then rules for the relation between the citizens, today the laws regulate the relation between state and citizens.

The politics invasion of the private sphere destroys the natural equilibrium of the society. The economic system today is an example of this, the equilibrium of that system ends regularly in chaos as the system is made for the speculators, not for the companies, nor for the country and its citizens. Today the decisions are taken by regulations or laws on behalf of groups, where prior the decisions were taken by those who knew about the concrete cases on behalf of persons. Wrong decisions had only small consequences then, where wrong decisions today have far heavier consequences as more people are dependent on these decisions.

“Justice without mercy is unjust.” Eli Wamberg

This is a problem all over the world, and it gets worse the more laws and rules people have to follow.

One of the biggest lies of today: We need more regulations as a result of the society’s complexity. Wrong, it’s more complex as a result of all those regulations. Computers takes the complexity out of complex tasks, and prefabricated goods takes the complexity out of manual work, so what is complex today, except the laws?

Groupings

There is a tendency to split up in groups, instead of seeing mankind as one; people split up after race, religion, language, land, locality, sex, or whatever. There are lots of hate in this, not least on the Internet.

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Orthodoxy

There is a tendency to read religious text’s to narrowly, as Jehovah Witnesses, and other religious groups who take their holy books too literally. Durban Two, where the Islāmic countries tries to prohibit any critic of  religion, is a typical example showing that discussions of religious content is unwanted. New religious movements like Scientology, Atheism, the Moonies, and so on, are also too rigid.

“Beware the man of one book.”  Saint Thomas Aquinas

Superstition

Another trap is to accept the words of religious, esoteric, and scientific origin without thoughts. Spiritual inclined are in danger of reading spiritual literature without conscious understanding, but that includes also Atheists reading scientific texts without understanding.

One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we’ve developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.”  Malcolm Muggeridge

Abstract Thinking

in contrast to real understanding. It’s seen everywhere, and is also part of the previous areas. Man is seen as a thing not as a being. The reality is not abstract, and every decision based on abstract thinking is wrong, especially if living beings are involved.

Quantitative Thinking

and Statistics without understanding. Let’s say a politician want to make a law, and it will make 0.123% of all families go bankrupt, but as the percent is low nobody sees it as a problem. Nobody understands that there are real people behind those figures. Quantitative thinking always works through abstractions.

Big Mother

The development moves in a direction where we can expect that our personal ‘I’ is assimilated by the masses, the collective. In the western world we are talking about freedom, that nobody shall tell us what to do, and we are fighting (Duality problem) against conspiracies, against CO2 pollution, against many other things, but we don’t define and work consistently for a world worth living in. At the same time our capabilities to decide our own destiny are diminishing, regulated by law, organizations, computers, and infrastructure. The result may be that everybody just follow the route with least resistance, which are built through directives, regulations, computer capabilities, ending in a situation where nobody thinks or makes decisions any more. And it’s all made for the good of the citizens by the Big Mother.

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” Noam Chomsky

Political Correctness

Political Correctness is sneaking in everywhere, without any conscious effort by any conspiratorial agency, but because of the path of least resistance.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Noam Chomsky

No Childhood

Many of the restrictions and laws are made because of lacking parenting, children no longer learn to live in a community, they are each and all small kings and princesses, who don’t understand that others don’t see them as such. Their understanding of scientific, historic or creative endeavors is as small as it has ever been. The children learned more at the camp fire than the children of today. As they don’t know how to behave, more and more laws are created to remedy the lacking parenting.

The central problem are that Children aren’t allowed to be children any longer, or as Michael Jackson says:

“Childhood has become the great casualty of modern-day living. All around us we are producing scores of kids who have not had the joy, who have not been accorded the right, who have not been allowed the freedom, or knowing what it’s like to be a kid.

Today children are constantly encouraged to grow up faster, as if this period known as childhood is a burdensome stage, to be endured and ushered through, as swiftly as possible.”

“Love, ladies and gentlemen, is the human family’s most precious legacy, its richest bequest, its golden inheritance. And it is a treasure that is handed down from one generation to another. Previous ages may not have had the wealth we enjoy. Their houses may have lacked electricity, and they squeezed their many kids into small homes without central heating. But those homes had no darkness, nor were they cold. They were lit bright with the glow of love and they were warmed snugly by the very heat of the human heart. Parents, undistracted by the lust for luxury and status, accorded their children primacy in their lives.” Michael Jackson, Speech at Oxford University(2001)

Complicated Structures

You can’t make tax-systems as complicated as they are today without computers, and you can’t control the many citizens or employees, as we can today, without computers; the amount of data are enormous. They make it possible to create structures which are difficult to manage without using computers, and computers don’t know HR.

GM and the American Automobile Industry are good examples of these gigantic Companies, who would be impossible to manage without stiff administrative structures and computers, and it’s extremely difficult to change these structures if needed. But modern software organizations have the same problems, with their software base, as Microsoft with their operating system, and their Office System, Yahoo with it’s big software base and reductions in labor have their problems, and new organizations as Google with it’s extreme growth will quickly get into the same problems, the only way out are to regularly rebuild old systems from the ground without any application reuse, and keeping different applications separated on application level, and using methods who makes the programming as simple and cost effective as possible.

These big organizations are extremely susceptible to the Peters Principle:

“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

I believe computers can be a boon to mankind, but we have to control how and what they are used for, not letting their possibilities decide our future, as their strength can be used both for the good and the bad.

Management and Computers

You can use computers to many things, they can plan routes for transport to decrease energy consumption, and many other useful things. This sounds good, but if we don’t take care, it could mean that it makes the knowledge and experience of man superfluous or even dangerous; man’s role degraded to a machine.

The need for knowledge is diminishing everywhere in the society, except within the computer world. Many jobs who needed educated Craftsmen can now be done by unskilled labor, as building materials don’t need special skills any more, and the computer has taken over a lot of paper work and decision-making. This makes everybody to secretaries except the secretaries, even executives writes their own letters and calculating sheets on their computers, instead of using secretaries, so they could do what they were hired and paid for: Manage.

The term “Human Resources” is in itself a degradation, people are not individuals any longer, they are a kind of commodity. See “Human Resources” by Scott Noble.

Large Structures

The physicist Geoffrey B. West studies large structures like cities and corporate organisations, and has found that cities increases it’s productivity and also it’s problems, while corporate organisations decreases their productivity as they grow.

“Bettencourt and West discovered that corporate productivity, unlike urban productivity, was entirely sublinear. As the number of employees grows, the amount of profit per employee shrinks. “
“The graph reflects the bleak reality of corporate growth, in which efficiencies of scale are almost always outweighed by the burdens of bureaucracy. “When a company starts out, it’s all about the new idea,” West says. “And then, if the company gets lucky, the idea takes off. Everybody is happy and rich. But then management starts worrying about the bottom line, and so all these people are hired to keep track of the paper clips. This is the beginning of the end.”
“The danger, West says, is that the inevitable decline in profit per employee makes large companies increasingly vulnerable to market volatility. Since the company now has to support an expensive staff — overhead costs increase with size — even a minor disturbance can lead to significant losses. As West puts it, “Companies are killed by their need to keep on getting bigger.”

Public organisations have of course the same problems as the corporate companies, they don’t trust their employees.

Cities are good examples on how the unstructured principles works, how the size of the city increases the production per citizen.

“According to the data, whenever a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity, from construction spending to the amount of bank deposits, increases by approximately 15 percent per capita. It doesn’t matter how big the city is; the law remains the same. “This remarkable equation is why people move to the big city,” West says. “Because you can take the same person, and if you just move them to a city that’s twice as big, then all of a sudden they’ll do 15 percent more of everything that we can measure.”
“When Bettencourt and West analyzed the negative variables of urban life, like crime and disease, they discovered that the exact same mathematical equation applied.”
“For West, the impermanence of the corporation illuminates the real strength of the metropolis. Unlike companies, which are managed in a top-down fashion by a team of highly paid executives, cities are unruly places, largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners. “Think about how powerless a mayor is,” West says. “They can’t tell people where to live or what to do or who to talk to. Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.”

No Competent Leaders

What makes it so frustratingly absurd is that we are giving our independence to a system, a network of directives and conventions, without any persons being in charge. There is nowhere you can go saying that it’s wrong and it should be otherwise, everybody will tell you, that’s how it is and it has always been that way, and it can’t be in any other way, as it’s too costly to change the computers programming just because of you! Of cause, we have leaders in the top of the state or the corporate companies, but as the decision-making are moved up through the hierarchy (following automatic rules,) it becomes more and more difficult to manage the big organizations, as everything becomes dependent on one decision maker alone, and few know how to or can change the course. It’s more difficult to change the direction of a State, Organization, or a Company than a Super Tanker. The organizations becomes automatons, and the companies go down in case of unanticipated events which craves structural changes.

GM and the American Automobile Industry are good examples of this inability to change, they had known for decades that they should change their models to compete with Japanese and European manufacturers, but they couldn’t.

The incompetence of these organizations will give rise to Conspiracy Theories as Hanlon’s Law warns about:

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

The following video shows many of the tendencies mentioned. Most banks don’t have types as Potter any longer, the bank works and thinks like a machine without any feelings or empathy at all, costumer service is a word not a fact.

From Move Your Money who tries to resist the Corporate Ideology.

Automated Decisions

Buying and selling on the stock market are for a great part based on automated decisions on computers, but as we have seen, it can go terrible wrong when some unanticipated events shows up. What’s worse, the stock market was made to foster strong and sound companies, not for computer controlled gaming, but for intelligent investment.

As fewer and fewer managers can make decisions, these decisions will be automated as rules in computers, and it will be impossible to make decisions based on individual concerns.

Decreasing Social Intercourse

Computers are exceptional for entertainment, you can live your life on the Internet, without any direct social contact. You can play games, make your work through the net if necessary, discuss, hunt sex/ books/ programs/ random data on the net (can be like drugs,) book your food from a local pizzeria, book escort girls, men, and boys, eventually finding mates on the net if you really want to live together with another being:). The film Matrix is a plausible destiny, not by force, but semi freely. It’s not Big Brother, it’s Big Mama.

Less Social Skills

In the old days, children, teenagers, and adults learned by living in a community, and there was room for everybody, also the village idiot. These and other unusual persons were educated by their surrounding who were mostly normal. We are today living more and more on the Internet, learning our social skills through social applications and computer games, the old community’s influence are replaced by the influence of the Internet comrades, and as like seeks likes, they can only increase their phobias or other disorders. Examples are numerous: pedophilia, school killings, terrorists, all kind of surrealistic interests, and so forth. The Law of Sayre’s are relevant in many of these cases:

“In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.”

No Privacy

Children and teenagers can be reached by mobile and GPS always and everywhere, followed on the Internet through Twitter or Facebook by their parents. No privacy. The same goes for the adults, no privacy, open for state officials, economic institutions, and employers. Password protection, pseudonyms, and like precautions is no hindrance, Cyber-Investigators will find everything, relevant or not. You can not even go to the North Pole or to Himalaya in peace, they can always reach you, and you them.

Where’s the remotest place on Earth?

In our hyperconnected world, getting away from it all is easier said than done. Click the link in the main text to see more of the connectivity maps

In our hyper-connected world, getting away from it all is easier said than done. New Scientist.

Conspiracy Theories

The frustration has to go somewhere, and while there are no one responsible for our situation, and no one with enough insight, determination, and power to change the situation, we invent some god-like powerful conspirators who in all secrecy, with hundreds of employees, stands behind all the bad in this world. The truth is, that most leaders are so incompetent that it hurts. Just look at Iraq. The military invasion was well thought out, but the rest was incompetence par excellence. And that is not an exception, it’s the rule. Of cause there are conspiracies and secret operations, but if more than one participant knowing about the conspiracy are alive a year later, it’s just a question of time before the world know. Another reason to use few people are that really competent people are difficult to find, and the more people involved the bigger the risks for failure, and the bigger the consequences of a failure, the less interesting the project becomes. The best way to check if a conspiracy theory is viable or not, isn’t the technical evidence but the psychology and the necessary resources behind, how big is the risk, who gains, what’s their gain, how many participate, and what expertise are necessary.

A sober view on Conspiracy Theories from the left:


Noam Chomsky on Conspiracy Theories
In case the video is not functioning look here

The the Bafta-winning film-maker Adam Curtis:

“I don’t believe in conspiracies. Politicians don’t have the capacity to conspire, except in the most short-term way. [The distorted image of bin Laden] just suited a lot of people’s purposes at that time.”

What’s the mechanism behind the development?

Literature

 

Thomas Piketty

The Independent: The French economist forcing America to wake up to the end of The Dream.
Out of America: Thomas Piketty’s tome which skewers the idea that anyone who works hard can make it in the US seems to have hit a nerve

“Capital In The Twenty-First Century”, all 685 pages of it, is the No 1 best-seller on Amazon – apparently the first time that anything published by the venerable Harvard University Press has attained such dizzying celebrity. No self-regarding dinner party in Washington or New York is worth its salt without a discussion of it. Last Friday, came the ultimate accolade of a multiple coronation on the op-ed page of The New York Times.

The Huffington Post: Economist Thomas Piketty Explains Why Income Inequality Is Just Getting Started

 

Michael Lewis

Wired: Michael Lewis on Exposing Wall Street’s Biggest High-Tech Swindle in the book: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Flash Boys explores the world of high-frequency trading, a scheme in which traders use ultra-fast network connections to sniff out the intentions of other, slower traders, thereby acting before others can respond. Critics of the practice–Lewis chief among them–argue that high-frequency trading creates something akin to insider trading: a predatory environment for less advantaged investors. WIRED spoke with Lewis at an event organized by Live Talks in downtown Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Warren

A Fighting Chance (Apple, Amazon)

An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works—and really doesn’t.

In this passionate, funny, rabble-rousing book, Warren shows why she has chosen to fight tooth and nail for the middle class—and why she has become a hero to all those who believe that America’s government can and must do better for working families.

New York Times: Book review of A Fighting Chance

A good review, also giving a good idea about who she is.

Allan Bloom

The Closing of the American Mind, Simon & Schuster Inc.

Christopher Lasch

Haven in a Heartless World, 1977, Basic Books, Inc.

In the American political vocabulary, “family” and “family values” no longer simply evoke pictures of harmonious scenes; they also push our buttons (left and right) about what is wrong with society. One of the earliest and sharpest cultural commentators to investigate the twentieth-century American family, Christopher Lasch argues in this book that as social science “experts” intrude more and more into our lives, the family’s vital role as the moral and social cornerstone of society disintegrates – and, left unchecked, so does our political and personal freedom. Haven in a Heartless World is a trenchant analysis of the plight of the family. Lasch takes a clear-eyed look at the institution in which America’s future generations are being raised and finds it faltering.

Geoffrey B. West

A Physicist Turns the City Into an Equation:

A New York Times article on his work.

Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities:

Describes the mathematical background for his work.

Atticannie’s Blog

Why Teacher Drink, the sequel: Natalie Munroe speaks out

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

have written a little book called “Night Flight” which describes man’s fight against the Materialistic docility to keep man competent and responsible.

By Rudolf Steiner

Inkarnation Ahrimans in German/Deutch and in English.

The the Bafta-winning film-maker Adam Curtis:

Philosophy of Materialism

Political Correctness

Political Correctness is sneaking in everywhere, without any conscious effort by any conspiratorial agency, but because of the path of least resistance.

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

Noam Chomsky

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  1. #1 by Linda S Santucci on June 8, 2010 - 2:00 pm

    Hello! I just saw your excellent site, and want thank you for linking to my website, 2000 C.E. at The Four+Corners. It formerly was one of the historic Geocities sites, migrated to Google after the Yahoo merger with AT&T, and Geocities was divested.

    Thank you very much, and I am recommending my visitors to your site, also.

    Sincerely,
    Linda S. Santucci

  2. #2 by mark on July 1, 2011 - 11:06 am

    isnt michael jacksons speech touching and passionately to the point

  3. #3 by Kim Graae Munch on July 1, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Yes, and well thought through.

  4. #4 by Margarete on August 10, 2011 - 1:47 pm

    Thank you Kim for this article. This is a complete mirror of my thinking and feeling . I will read this again after a while to go more in the details.

  5. #5 by Dorin Del Alba on January 15, 2012 - 12:11 am

    Thank you for the wonderful summary… I often have the insights you bring up from various daily events… and I can’t help but wonder aloud with you here in saying: “so how do we change this?” … as you know… the answers are varied and many… but one has to put a stake in the ground somewhere, at some point or else all we have is talk and no action… plenty of that going around already. To be Michaelic is to imbue our will with the right views and appropriate solutions.

  6. #6 by Kim Graae Munch on January 15, 2012 - 10:04 am

    Thank you Dorin, especially glad to have comments on this text as I see it as the most fundamental problem in our time, which at the same time makes it to something of the most unsexy.

    I don’t precisely know how we are going to change it, but I have an idea in what direction it will be, as it has happened before in previous time, but this time it will be on a much larger scale. Two exceptional cultural changes were of course put in move by Buddha and Christ, but there have been many other. We have seen it in old Greece, with the two streams of Plato and Sokrates, and Aristotle and Alexander the Great, later around Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, around Martin Luther and Philip Melanchton, James I, Francis Bacon and Jacob Böhme, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, Goethe et al, and Einstein, Rudolf Steiner and Peter Deunov. For all these people there were many others around them, for example were there a lot of unique scientist at the time of Einstein as there were many spiritual persons. These groups changed the culture and thinking.
    http://kimgraaemunch.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/esoteric-picture-collections-with-references-and-texts/#Francis_Bacon_and_the_American_Project

  7. #7 by andrellimao on May 14, 2013 - 6:51 pm

    I don’t think a political decision can benefit every citizen. It’s curious, I was even discussing this with a friend and he said one thing that I agree: a political decision can’t be totally impartial, there are ones who will benefit of it and others who will be prejudiced. So, I don’t see any way to avoid the quantitative thinking in political decisions

    • #8 by Kim Graae Munch on June 8, 2013 - 2:42 pm

      No, it can’t, but everything is not lost, we simply create a society where fewer political decisions should be taken.
      We have build a society where large companies have many unfair advantages, like better taxation or they can move their income to countries with cheaper taxation. Local companies don’t have a chance compeeting on those conditions, even though it has been shown that the bigger the company, the less production per employee.
      If you have a small living societies with very little political interference from outside, most things can be handled directly without involving politics, politics are primarely necessary when the structures becomes too large.

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