Let us think about this for a second. It is a question, but one that has many answers. If we are going to simply sit around and leave each other to rot, then why bother having a society? As simply-structured as the question is there, it has a lot of answers that need examination.
Every question has multiple answers. Some depend on the level below the subject’s surface one wants to dig. Some, such as what colour the sky is, has one simple and very clear answer that is right. Others, such as why the sky is that colour, has a myriad of answers that vary in complexity, with one right one (the manner in which the light from the sun refracts through our atmosphere looks blue to our eyes), and a myriad of wrong ones (“god did it”, for example). Unfortunately, the question of the role of society is not such an easy one.
Not that this stops a lot of people from trying to make up an answer that is extremely simple and wrong, then push it upon others. Conservatives are the best examples. In fact, it is pretty telling that of all the punk, hardcore, grindcore, and doom metal songs that have political content, I have never, not once, not in thirty-some years, ever encountered one note that was critical of what I will term everyone else’s politics. Conservatives are every creative artist’s favourite whipping boy, so to speak. (Note that there is a distinction between a creative artist and a propagandist here.) Napalm Death even have a song called Conservative Shithead. But the reason I mention them is not to draw metaphors concerning how wrong they are, but rather to point something out that is universal to all types that attempt to turn a complex issue with many factors into something where only one answer is right. Specifically, the answer they present as being unquestionably right is almost invariably wrong.
The examples of this are legion, but in the case of the conservative shitheads running America, the best example is their deregulated, enrich the rich at the expense of everyone else economic policy. Depending on how you count, two or three generations have now been unable to enjoy the same standard of living as their parents. Workers earning median wages cannot afford to live in median-priced housing. Jobs are so scarce that a lot of qualified workers are sitting around with their thumbs up their butts or fighting each other for jobs that, in qualification terms, are beneath them. Health problems or outcomes, some forms of premature death, that we thought we had pushed back into the past are returning with a vengeance because a significant number of people cannot afford to get preventative care that would stop them.
In the previous paragraph, a clever person will note that I have only mentioned problems that are experienced by the working and middle classes, to use popular terminology. But economics as a science is like the transmission of disease. When one sector is weakened, all sectors are weakened. Whilst it is a common complaint that the richest one percent are yukking it up at the expense of everyone else, an opposite statement applies after a fashion. You see, in an economy that is based upon consumption, there is no reason why the rich would not benefit from the rest of the populace being able to afford to consume.
We know from experience, not just during my lifetime but from a time that ended several years before either of my parents were born, that leaving the bottom sixty percent of the populace with less than the bare essentials is bad policy. Crime goes up, health goes down, and the most important point of all is that money circulates less. This revelation, as late in the coming as it may have been, is largely thanks to one John Maynard Keynes (Keynes rhymes with “rains”, by the way). Keynes‘ contribution to the science of economics is comparable to Einstein‘s to theoretical physics or Edison‘s to photography. He took a look at the constant boom-to-depression (and back) cycle that economies had been going through for centuries, and arrived at the idea that governments should expand or contract the supply of money in their economy in response. Before his idea was taken seriously, the American and worldwide economies had gone through at least a dozen depressions. Economic depressions had literally been a once-a-generation experience. After Keynes‘ ideas were incorporated into economic policies, none of the countries that have implemented them fully have had an economic depression since.
One of the central tenets of Keynesian economic theory is that money must be circulating to some degree. What I spend is a part of what you earn, and what you spend is a part of what I earn. What conservative shitheads do not seem to get is that this rule is universal. The security guards they vote to keep the wages of stagnant is protecting their money or guarding them whilst they sleep. The workers in their stores that they refuse to pay enough money to live (that is, live, not just exist) collect money from the rest of the public for the goods that they sell. And so on.
Our economy presently resembles the arteries of a ninety year old man who has been smoking no-filter cigarettes and eating butter at a rate of a kilogram a day since he was twenty. Yes, I know how unlikely it would be to live to ninety behaving that way, work with me here. The money is circulating. As a medium of exchange that makes painless, multi-person bartering possible, money has to circulate. But the flow is constricted, uneven. All of the money is going to the extremities, and the essential parts that keep the whole show running are starting to break as a result.
Many philosophers, warriors, and everything in between have ruminated on the foolishness of focusing entirely upon one part, as opposed to the whole. I cannot think of a time during my life when anyone in authority has focused upon the whole of an entity or situation, as opposed to the tiniest little part that is convenient to them.
The evening I began writing this part of this article, I had an encounter with a conservative shithead in online conversation. This, in and of itself, does not mean much. But since that attempt on his part to tell me the world is only for him and everything he says goes (hint: the second you start doing this, someone is going to want to kill you, and I do not mean just me), I have got to thinking. I think that if you took every person who supports a policy of economic, legal, or health intervention that has not only been shown to not work, but so many times that they literally have no positive case… No, wait, let me start over. There is not just a strong correlation between being conservative and behaving like this. You see, when you use the actual, proper definition of conservatism, then in a more dumbed-down sense, that is the definition of conservatism.
The Wikipedia defines conservatism as “a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions”. It is derived from a root word in Latin, “conservare”, which means “to retain”. So in order to deconstruct this promoted position of “conservative == good, everything else == baaad”, it is important to look at all angles of the word.
There are things that are worth conserving, but conservatives have almost no idea what ones stand up to scrutiny when considered for that status. I think when people reduce their spheres of thought to just their families, the conservation of the right their children have to grow up without preventable disease or starvation leaving permanent marks would be considered worth the effort. But conservatives have a lopsided definition of this, too. They think this means preserving peoples’ “right” to breed freely and have ten children without so much as a question from others. Or their so-called right to force same on others.
When I was a young adult, I watched a VHS tape containing a comedy show by the Doug Anthony All Stars. Paul McDermott, the man who usually does the majority of the talking, began do a routine concerning Latin terminology for certain parts of the Human animal. One was the word uterus, something most conservatives would do well to be made to live with for a while. His punchline was basically “there was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children her uterus fell out”.
From the time the first anatomically modern Humans appeared approximately 200,000 years ago to the time the full benefits of the Industrial Revolution were realised at the beginning of the previous century, women having so many children you have expect their uterus to fall out would be considered a survival adaptation. It took 200,000 years (that is, 2000 centuries) for Humans to reach the milestone of numbering a billion. The fact that this achievement coincided with the period known as the Industrial Revolution, despite my use of the word “coincided”, is no coincidence. I will address this topic somewhere else, but for the purpose of this argument it is important to understand that the threats to our survival that made it necessary to breed as prodigiously as possible were negated by the time the period known as the Industrial Revolution was over in 1850.
I say negated, because whilst Humans were able to continue to breed to a point of reaching seven billion in 2011, that in itself poses a new threat. And it is this threat that is tearing the guts out of the conservative conception of reproduction and associated rights. Wind the clock back to the year 1500, and forbidding a woman to prevent herself from carrying a child to term, even in spite of the risk it poses to her health (which in those does was very frequently mortal), makes sense on a species level. But it is no longer 1500, and the conditions not only of the world but also of the Human species itself have changed dramatically.
When I was really young, like perhaps four or five years old, I had an occasion where I was out in the yard of my home and had an acute sensory overload whilst staring up at the sky. The sensations, thoughts, and ideas I was having at the time seemed so wondrous and amazing that the very next day, I tried to repeat the actions that I made at approximately the same times. I do not know why. Hell, I did not know why I had tried after I realised the experiment was doomed to fail. But I did learn an important lesson that I wrote of in a DVD review nearly two decades later. Namely, that when an event occurs in loose, spontaneous circumstances, trying to reproduce it in deliberate, controlled circumstances is doomed to fail.
I could go on and on about the implications of that in a million subjects. But since we are trying to deconstruct the conservative’s answer to the question of what role society plays in our survival, I think it is more important to limit the scope of the implications to conservatives’ delusions of preservation.
You see, society in the sixteenth century, as we call it, was not in great shape. Oh sure, it was in better shape than was the case in the sixth century, but it is no exaggeration to say that the fall of Rome set the progress of the Human species back by centuries. Possibly even a whole millennia. Child slavery, slavery in general, genocide, discrimination, rape, and on and on I go again, these were not exceptional acts. In fact, genocide in the sense of whole villages being wiped out solely for being those villages or believing in the wrong deity was practically a daily occurrence during the early to mid Middle Ages.
Conservatives may protest that I am going back too far in order to paint an example of their preferred past. But even in the year 1930, when the rate of unintentional pregnancy, child poverty or child death resulting from same, or other maladies of this nature the conservatives abhor was at least what it is today, our world was in exponentially worse shape. Steve Kangas asked this question (in a different way), and now it is my turn. Why anyone would want to preserve such a sick society or world in its entirety is a question for the ages.
Having said all of that, society as we know it is a very Human institution. In a society of apes, lions, or elephants, the only real questions are who comes on the hunt, who gets what shares of the spoils, and what to do when members of the pack grow old. Whilst we also argue endlessly about such questions, our answers are never as simple because we ourselves are not so simple. But at the same time, we are also very much the same. We need to collect resources. We need to allocate them according to need. We need to distribute them as efficiently as we can.
The problem is that at present, the people in control of how the resources are allocated have no idea of the reality of the people they are allocating resources on the behalf of, nor of the consequences of their decisions. And this is what flabbergasts me about the conservatives whom I end up in brief arguments with. In their minds, everyone who disagrees with them is rich, has a wonderful loving family, and has never known struggle.
I think I have already made clear that I have no desire to ever speak to my male parental entity ever again. I will not go over the reasons why. But on the day I was about midway through this essay, I had a visit from my mother. My mother and I have a bit of a tense relationship. As I stated elsewhere, she was too young to be a mother at the time when I was born. And that time also happened to coincide with the beginning of a period in which conservatives basically declared war upon social programs of all varieties, telling us any working class or poor individual on welfare is automatically cheating whilst giving away literally billions in subsidies to corporations. She is very atheistic, but her family was and is very Catholic, in case you were wondering why she made the decision to raise a child anyway. She deserves credit for having the stones to make that decision, too. But the thing is, my mother reacts to me in very real fear at times. Like I might hit her if I lose my temper in a critical point of conversation. The failure of the conservative medical establishment to provide a proper explanation for what I am, and the manner in which the guts were ripped out of societal accomodation of persons in less than beautiful circumstances, both did a lot to make it that way.
Today’s meeting with my mother, whilst starting out a little anxious and tense, was also a very peculiar one in that I chose at some point to simply talk with her about things like my sister or books or so on. I did mention things like how my breathing is starting to resemble that of a man who has smoked four packs a day for thirty years, but only quickly and only in context rather than trying to beat her over the head with it. And I think whilst I am still sad and upset about how that came about (who would not be?), I feel more distressed by the unfair position it is putting her in that I need to keep pressing her to help me fix the situation.
I will probably revisit the subject of what I was thinking during this meeting at another point, but right now, we need to make something very clear. A lot of people have suffered terribly from living in societies where conservative economic policy is the standard. Families that had not known poverty since World War II have suddenly become reacquainted with it. Young adults are seeing long years of continued dependence on their parents stretching out in front of them. Parents with very young children are regretting having opted in to the whole “breed more slaves for the grind” mentality pushed upon them by conservatives who have never had to work for a living. An increasing number of individuals who are of reproductive age are opting out of that whole farcical circus because they simply cannot envision what it would be like to be a child in a world like this.
This is what thirty years (plus) of conservative economic and social policy has done. The argument that society is not conservative enough simply will not stand. England, America, and Australia are all regularly getting their arses kicked in the living standard score charts by the Scandinavian and Northwest European nations simply because those nations have far more liberal economic and social policies (despite the best efforts of individuals in those nations who would like that to change).
People who want to be President, Prime Minister, or whatever the term in your country is, tend to give pretty speeches. They give speeches that, when they are good at their job, try to assure enough of the populace that said candidate shares their vision for the future of their society. Progress in our society and species, in spite of the efforts of conservatives, is occurring at an ever-increasing pace. This is why certain candidates try to assure prospective voters that they will arrest or even reverse this progress. A sort of “yes, I will put my finger in the dike” speech, as it were. What these imbeciles who vote conservative because they think the candidates will let them anywhere near the spoils once all progress is reversed do not realise is that whenever they allow conservatives to run a society, their children are the ones who end up paying the price.
So the next time you want to talk down at your son about wanting society to own up to its share, remember something. By society, he may well be meaning you, and you are trying to evade the responsibility. So who the fukk are you to lecture anyone about behaving like a child?