“How charming people are! – always doctoring, increasing and complicating their disorders, fancying they will be cured by some nostrum which somebody advises them to try, never getting better, but always getting worse… Are they not as good as a play, trying their hand at legislation, and imagining that by reforms they will make an end to the dishonesties and rascalities of mankind – not knowing that in reality they are cutting away at the heads of a hydra?”— Plato (as quoted by Will Durant)
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”— Sun Tzu
If the world at large isn’t systematically careening toward disaster then it is at least like a band of headless chickens running around without knowing where or why. The world’s crisis of leadership seems to have reached a new level with the 2016 US Presidential election, but our appalling leadership problems are pervasive, distorting the proper shape of every kind of institution, whether government, university, or business.
The root of the problem is philosophical: in order to know where humanity should be going, we need rational justification of our means and ends, and yet from top to bottom, rational philosophy is absent from these institutions. When these institutions act, we who take a long-term view flinch, for they are playing sociopolitical game of Russian roulette.
Since impunity is their reining authority, there is no means for an individual to inform let alone reform them – they are utterly unhinged from rational thought and intellectual integrity, and thus they cannot hear a rational argument. Isolated intelligence is no match for organized idiots.
Thus the only thing that can reform unhinged institutions is other institutions. But here we have a problem – there is no safe harbor for authentic rationality anywhere, no place for it to rally and gain institutional strength; if we want a rational institution that can help reform others we are going to have to build it from the ground up. Some, likely caught under the spell of some breed of charlatan, might protest that there is an institution that sanctions authentic rationality. While I would certainly be glad to hear about it, what I expect to find is a laughable veneer of rationality painted over a reeking pile of dogmas that they refuse to allow questioning of. But if I’m wrong, great! To quote intelligent aliens of another kind: “Please take me to your leader!” But barring a miracle, if we want improvements we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and build something ourselves. How can we (or if we’re not up to it, our descendants) go about this?
First, STOP putting faith in movements that won’t address important objections to their program. Impunity is not a viable alternative to impunity. There is an ocean of counterfeit rationality running amok in the world giving people false hopes, leading the intelligent and hopeful youth off the cliffs of perpetually distracted impotence. These popular fools and charlatans use the words “rationality”, “science”, “evidence”, “liberty”, and so on, and build up fervent cult followings to line their wallets or to gain political currency. However large and impressive their following is, however many billionaires back them or TED talks they give, you can know their true spirit by simply questioning them and noting the corners of impunity they reserve for themselves or for their benefactors. Don’t excuse their impunity by dismissing their corners of nonsense by some such nonsense that “Well, they’re only human, so of course they’ll get some things wrong” or “We can’t expect to change the world all at once, and this guy has a few good ideas.” If the matter is important and if they were really authentic, then they would squarely and honestly face sincere questions about their errors with something other than spin. If you’ll support authority figures who engage in evasion or spin, then you aren’t honestly facing up to the fundamental problem with the world – impunity – and you deserve what you get, including descendants who will think of you as an old fool who helped make the world worse that it might have been. Use your desire to belong, to build a community that’s actually worth belonging to – one that’s actually rational and sincere – instead of settling for people who blithely manipulate.
All of these movements grow to a certain size and then fail, precisely because they have no integrity. They are right about some aspect of an important issue, while ignoring other aspects. And so people who favor one aspect flock to them, but they never garner a sustained growth because those who pay attention to the other aspects note the movement’s nonsense. The secret of creating a successful alternative institution is to actually institute a sincere respect for the whole truth.
“Intelligence is organized experience; but intelligence itself must be organized. Consider the resources of the unused intelligence of the world; intelligence potential but undeveloped; intelligence developed but isolated; intelligence allowed to waste itself in purely personal pursuits, unasked to enter into coöperation for larger ends.”— Will Durant
Some might say that there are just too many organized idiots for organized intelligence to counter. This attitude is not only a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a mind virus that idiots actively instill in people, precisely in order to prevent organized intelligence from doing any good. In fact, we don’t really know what an organized intelligence can do at this point in history. The only way to find out is to try. My limited experience tells me that there are quite a lot more rational and intelligent people out there than it may seem, but they are scattered and confused and the media tends to ignore or distort their viewpoints. With regard to organization, there is nothing clear for the intelligent to do, so they aren’t doing anything except minding their own business.
“It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”— Samuel Adams
The alternative to doing nothing is to spend a little time trying to do something, and as with any scientific experiment, at least you will learn something. What would be a good experiment here?
The path that humanity takes is always charted by only a small minority. It does not take a large proportion of people to make a big difference. What matters is that they are rational and organized. We have a lot of rational people in our culture right now, but they have no organization, and since they were brought up in the modern educational regime, they are confused in their values. So we who understand that reason should govern institutions need to 1) have conversations with potentially rational people about why reason should rule human society – we need to clear up their confusions; 2) organize these people into a brand new institution, one that can teach existing institutions how to reform themselves.
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”— Martin Luther King Jr.
So organize meetups in your area. Or engage people on social media. Organize a video conference. Engage them regarding my PROPOSITIONS or REASON and LIBERTY. See if they can poke holes in my philosophical arguments, and if you can’t answer them let me know – I’ll either help you or fix my arguments. If they come around to the idea that reason is indeed the proper basis of human values in general or political values in particular, then have them send me their contact information. If we get enough people, we can then formally found a new kind of institution and thereby make it even easier to recruit new people.
Or, if our generation isn’t up to mustering such an organization, perhaps these thoughts will help a future generation in its own efforts to eradicate arbitrary authority from the face of the planet.