My last blog post was about intellectual trickery, involving circular arguments. This type of argument is accomplished by hiding the desired conclusion, within the opening definitions themselves. It’s all about the definitions. Plato defined “best philosopher” as the same thing as “guardian”. He then defined “guardian” as somebody who would not change any laws or institutions. He also states that only “guardians” should be heads of state. Then he proceeds to mount a superfluous, unnecessary, and irrelevant set of parameters for what constitutes a “best philosopher”, but really, he has performed a mental trick which he has hidden within his opening definitions.
The danger in showing this sort of trick to people is that somebody will learn how to use it on others. Whenever you reveal something in the hopes that people won’t be tricked by it, you are taking this risk – the risk that somebody unscrupulous will use your key as a tool of manipulation. But all things considered, I think that it’s best to show people how this is done (i.e. circular arguments involving loaded definitions) so that they can begin to recognize when somebody is trying to use it on them. Knowledge is power.
Today I’d like to talk about the other side of the “Never change anything” coin. Plato’s Republic is a huge, complicated treatise on how and why to install people who will guarantee to the power structure that there will be no major changes. These days we often see the opposite problem. That is, the entire structure of society including the laws, moral codes, and institutions, is said to be wholly “corrupt”, invalid, or otherwise deserving of destruction. This is the opposite extreme to “Don’t change anything”: “Change everything”. And it is equally wrong.
There are groups who are devoted to their own misguided hopes of “destroying civilization” itself, and starting over again. The exact same tools of brainwashing and programming that Plato employed, are used within these groups. Again, definitions are pre-loaded, circular arguments are then mounted, people are mentally fogged up and once rendered mentally disabled, they are then convinced to take destructive action. This is just as wrong as what Plato has done in his works in preserving a static status quo.
A great way of telling if something is weak, powerless, or basically a really bad idea, is if somebody has to use manipulation or brainwashing to get it done. A powerful, good idea doesn’t require any manipulation – it stands on its own.
An earlier blog post talked about “ruling by nature” as being inferior to “ruling by results”. To declare that a particular person is, by their very nature, more suitable to rule than anybody else is to also support the idea that people can be somehow inherently inferior to others. This sets up the foundation for social imbalance and violations of human rights. Rather, a more solid and lasting way to choose leaders is to do this according to which person is proven to be best able to achieve the desired results. This is a fact-based analysis, rather than a “character” analysis. Unfortunately at this time, politics is often driven by considerations of personal character, rather than by things like proven ability, knowledge, skills, and proper motivations. This results in a skewed political system, prompting many voters to feel frustrated by the process and resulting in truly bizarre scenarios.
When the emphasis is placed however on an analysis of who is best suited to deliver positive and helpful change to an unbalanced system, then the best and most effective leadership can and should result.
Notice that I referred here to “change”. Plato was all about making sure that there is never any real change done. But some destructive groups are all about trying to make everything change, by trying to attack the foundations of society. Although this effort is bound to fail for many reasons which I am not going to spell out, the fact that this effort towards destruction is being done at all results in unfortunate losses and unnecessary grief.
The most powerful way of rebalancing society into a sustainable model which appropriately fits each particular region and culture, is to allow for incremental change which does not threaten overall stability, but which accounts for the sources of imbalance and corrects those areas in a helpful way. Destroying something to make way for something new is not a helpful way, because of the net losses involved in such methods. Creating something to edge something out before its time, is just another way of doing something destructive. Destruction is not sustainable as a model because it’s “one-off” in nature. The only way to do sustainable, non-destructive change, is to forge new connections which are more lasting in nature.
Think of how a brain develops. New electrical connections are created, forming new bridges which allow for faster processing and more bursts of inspiration. Nothing has to be destroyed in order for new brain connections to develop. A person might develop so much neurologically that they almost seem to be a new person. Their behaviour can develop and change over time due to new brain and brain-body connections being formed. There is no place for destruction in this model, except for the natural death of cells when they’ve reached the end point of their life span. This is not destruction – it’s natural attrition and there’s a world of difference between the two. One is natural, the other is not.
This analysis, if correct, would mean that the best way to create sustainable, positive change in our societies, is to forge new beginnings – new connections, new areas of cooperation, new relationships. No deliberate destruction is necessary or called for. If this idea is powerful and good, then I don’t need to brainwash you to believe in it. I wouldn’t need to do any manipulation or promotion since these ideas are good enough to stand on their own. Only time will tell if this “new connection” model of social change will be taken on. But I suppose that we can expect some degree of resistance by those who refuse to let go of their plans – both the people who are devoted to preserving the status quo exactly as is it now, and those who are determined to erase everything and start again.
The two groups here – the status-quo-preservers, and the status-quo-destroyers – are two sides of the same wrong coin. I’m not on either of those sides. I’m on the side of ordinary people who live and work and take care of themselves and their families, who trust in basic goodness and try to enjoy their lives, without taking from or damaging other people. That’s my team – and I believe that we are in the majority.
Speaking of anticipated resistance to these ideas that I’m spelling out here, we come to the opposite side of the “ruling by nature” coin. If people are elevated to positions of importance because they are apparently born “special” (which is a flawed idea), similarly, sometimes people are reviled, attacked and rejected as “defective” and apparently with nothing to offer. This idea is similarly flawed but it’s a favoured tool of those who are desperately defending an outmoded and unpowerful model (either unchanged status quo or destruction). If somebody comes along with a persuasive idea which doesn’t fit with any of these wrong-headed groups, that person is surely to be attacked as somehow defective “with no good ideas”. There will be a blanket refusal to listen or even attempted character assasination, or sabotage, due to these supposed personal defects. This is highly predictable. And in the end, it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter because good ideas are more powerful than weak attempts to discredit the people who have them. That’s because most people are too smart to fall for that type of thing. It’s also because good ideas tend to resonate with more people. Resonance has to do with sound. If something is audibly sounding good then no attempts to drown it out will work, because the human ear is naturally attuned to good sounds.
Again, as always, any comments are most welcome here.