Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Four Necessities

Since ancient times there have been those among us who have strived to gain, maintain, and grow power over their fellows.  There may have been a time when such men served practically justifiable roles in a world that may have been in some ways more dangerous.  Civilization as we have come to know it, began with the walled cities of places such as Sumer and Akkad.  Such walls do not build themselves, and so it may have been that people at that time worked in voluntary cooperation pursuant to the goal of their common defense.  The historical record is not quite clear as to how many such cities were built through voluntary cooperation vis-a-vis forced servitude or even outright slavery, nor it is particularly relevant in the context of this work because we know that many such cities were built at the point of the sword.  The tyrant is fact.  The presence of despot kings and the like are well documented in the annals of human history, constituting one of the truly reprehensible constants of our lives as free-born beings.

But other factors in our lives have changed.  With the advent of ideas such as those of Christian ethics and those enshrined in the Magna Carta, the minds of men have changed, albeit by small increments.  There was the time, representing most of human civilization's temporal existence, where the king's word was law.  By this virtue and backed by the sword, people were trained in their thinking to accept royal fiat as their obligation almost no matter how outrageous the resulting injuries to themselves.  The king's tyranny was accepted as a fact of life.  His right to play the tyrant was commonly unquestioned and universally unquestionable.  Those who did question most often met with grizzly fates.

But as the mindset of blind acceptance by the common man slowly changed to one of questioning and eventually rejecting the king and priest as absolute authorities, those seeking to retain their positions and status as powers among their fellows were faced with the challenge of how to do so against the rising opposition to the olden style of openly capricious and viciously cruel domination.

It became increasingly the case that such men were ever less able to brazenly declare themselves the absolute and unchallengeable rulers of the rest, for the hazards of the old approach to dominion had increased significantly.  Therefore, such men had to discover and employ new means whereby the sword became an issue of n-th resort, if not yet the last.  Being the clever fellows that such men tend to be, the once distasteful prospect of lying became the tyrant's new best friend, for through lies was he able to gain the consent of those over whom he presumed to rule.

In time and for a while the sword took a less prominent role on the front lines of one's daily tyrannies, demurring to the greater efficacy of the word, which when artfully misused tended to gain the consent of the people to all manner of abuse.  Naturally, the sword was still commonly applied when the timbre of the king's tyrannies went past the limits of tolerance.  But as time progressed, such tactics were viewed with ever greater criticism as the concepts of human rights developed among the larger mass of civilized humanity.

Therefore, it behooved the smarter cultivators of political power to use that which worked best: words.  But there had to be some principled or at least empirical basis upon which to frame such words.  There had to be a way to know which arrangements would work best and which not to use.

As it turned out, there was indeed such a basis and it has become the foundation upon which all modern tyrants function.  I call it the "Four Necessities", which are the fundamental human weaknesses which, when properly exploited, allow one to wield nearly universal and unlimited power over a population.  As men evolved away from the acceptance of kings-as-gods and toward the realization that no man stood so far above them, the tyrants came to realize something new was needed and they very rapidly zeroed-in on the Four Necessities.  After all, any military leader will tell you that one does not act against the strengths of his enemies, but rather his weaknesses.

To act directly against the strengths of an increasingly doubting and potentially angered mob would have been dangerously foolish.  What, then, were the weaknesses of those over whom they sought to gain and/or maintain their power?  The Four Necessities comprise the body of those most reliable of vulnerabilities in which the tyrant may place his deepest trust to aid him in achieving his ends with but the least prudence in their application.

The Four Necessities lists those failings of the human creature of which the tyrant must take sufficiently clever and ruthless advantage in order to capture and keep the consent of those over whom he would rule.  Failure to maintain sufficient control over any single Necessity would place the tyrant at some jeopardy.  History endows us with abundant examples of those who fell to the awakened wrath of those over whom kings failed to maintain heed of one or more of the Four.  The good news for the tyrant, however, is that with the least care in how one goes about employing the leverage afforded by the Four, one is virtually guaranteed long term success.  Only the most inexcusably inept manipulations threaten his position and objectives.

The Four Necessities, without which the modern tyrant cannot maintain control over a population, are:
  1. Fear
  2. Avarice
  3. Ignorance
  4. Lassitude
Fear has always been an obvious weakness of humans of which the kings of yore have taken great advantage.  But even fear has its limits.  Beat a man too much and he loses his fear and will fight back.  Therefore, fear is not sufficient in itself to the aspirations of power, particularly in the face of certain common belief systems.  It is, however, necessary in its ability to enhance the other Necessities.  Therefore, the wise tyrant cultivates the quality of cowardice in the great majority of his subjects such that they live in a state of constant, low-level, gnawing fear.  This may be manipulated in many ways and degrees in order to serve both shorter and longer term goals.

Avarice is the second human weakness.  When tightly coupled with fear, such as that of not getting what one wants or losing that which one has, the power over men grows mightily over the case where fear alone is the motivator.  Mind is nearly everything in the game of politics and once you have the mob convinced that they have something they greatly wish to keep, more than half the battle of the tyrant is won.  The other side of that coin is to cultivate a burning, itching desire for things they as yet do not have but may one day be able to acquire, and a seething sense of envy for those they deem beyond the reach of their lives.

Ignorance can take many forms and its effects most often great, despite being at times very subtle.  Small divergences from truth can result in yawning chasms between what an individual believes and what is in fact true. When closely combined with fear and avarice, ignorance brings the strength of the tyrant's powers to within but a few percentage points of being complete.  How can one rebel against tyranny if he is unable to identify it as such?    The unrecognized enemy is a safe enemy.

Propaganda has been raised to new heights of art, craft, and science in this age of electronic media.  During the twentieth century the despots of the time were quick to recognize the power of these new technologies and those very instruments made clear to them just how vulnerable the common man was to their powers of persuasion through the artfully misleading use of words, and now images, combined to form a new language of such vast power that the average man has great difficulty navigating the trickily opaque waters of the adept propagandist.  To this we bear witness every day as the news broadcaster spews and regurgitates the cleverly contrived expressions of the masters, laced with half-truths designed to lead the audience to a specific conclusion.  And it works like a charm.

Lassitude takes up the remaining slack.  To be lazy is a common and very fundamental human characteristic, just as it is among a great many other species, lions being a good example.  There is nothing wrong with being lazy - to a point.  But when laziness is overly encouraged by word and reward, it becomes a disease condition in men.

When the Four Necessities are properly cultivated in a population, the result is a man whose morbid greed and fear reinforce each other.  Having been lead astray into sufficient ignorance, his fear and avarice are further fortified by leaving him unaware of the truer nature of his circumstance.  Taking advantage of these three, lassitude is cultivated in the man such that by the synergistic force of his fear, his sickly greed, and his woeful ignorance, he finds himself devoid of any desire to alter his rueful condition, for to him it is seen as "normal".

Once a threshold has been crossed, each of the Necessities aids the others in a mutually reinforcing death spiral that can be overcome only by the wildest fluke or through some unimaginably gross mismanagement by those in power.  Or a miracle.

The effectiveness of this combination would be difficult to argue against, as our current state of political affairs so forcefully testifies.  Of interest, however, is the fact that as the state of the population to unconditionally accept the tyrant's whim nears perfection, the sword is once more slowly working its way up the ranks toward primacy.  Having fallen in status as a means of last resort, it is rapidly returning to its former glory as that of the first.  The evidence for this may be witnessed in the ever growing use of paramilitary tactics by police where they shoot first and ask questions later and for "offenses" of ever diminishing significance.  

Just recently a man named Octavius Johnson was savagely beaten by police with a horde of perhaps twenty or more officers showing up at his home, guns drawn and entering without warrant.  His offense?  Having expired tags on his truck!

The real telltale of such events is that these brands of barbarity are meekly accepted by the vast majority of people because they are afraid of what police may do - of what they may lose.  Or, far worse yet, they believe that what has been done is right, their ignorance working its magic in their lives in convenient reinforcement of their cowardice.  In all cases, there is insufficient motive to bring it to an end.  Fear.  Avarice. Ignorance. Lassitude.  All are now evident in alarming and dangerous abundance, intimately intertwined, the whole vastly greater than the sum of the constituent parts.  

While it is true that a growing number of us are standing against such behavior, the question remains open as to whether it is too little, too late.  It is my sincere hope that it is not, but I cannot claim to have found any basis for great optimism there.

Be that as it may, it is my genuine wish that people will take what is written here and give it some careful consideration.  Try to understand what this all means and see how it is in fact the case with the people around you and perhaps even with yourself.  Do not take my word for any of this, but accept it on a provisionally skeptical basis. Question everything and be observant of yourself and those around you and see whether you can identify where and how the Four Necessities are at work.  Pay close attention to what politicians say, what they neglect to say, and try to see where they pander and play to fear, avarice, ignorance, and lassitude.  I am confident that if you do this with some care and diligence, you will come to see what I see and that will be the beginning of your transformation.  But be patient with it because these things can be difficult to identify, especially if you have been heavily conditioned.

Unless we are willing to overcome those weaknesses that the rulers exploit to their various ends, which usually do not coincide with our best interests, we shall remain their wantonly helpless pawns as we jump with every twitch of a string.  Is this the brand of existence you wish to call your "life"?  For your sake, I sincerely hope not.

Until next time, please accept my best wishes.

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