How the Hierarchy Survives

“The spirit of this time considers itself extremely clever, like every such spirit of the time. But wisdom is simpleminded, not just simple. Because of this, the clever person mocks wisdom, since mockery is his weapon. He uses the pointed, poisonous weapon, because he is struck by naive wisdom. If he were not struck, he would not need the weapon.” – C.G. Jung

            In the most connected and diverse era of human existence, your idiosyncratic self is not the image. Your image is comprised of your successful absorption of multiple sociological programs. Your level of aptitude in exercising the milieu of eclectic synchronal behavioral patterns being socialized into our current generation. This forms the basis for your public persona. Society venerates these patterns based on their utilitarian benefits. Individuals with higher levels of intelligence in specific scientific or commercial fields, for example, are held to high esteem for their contributions to society’s way of life. They take top spots inside of the local, or global, hierarchies. The problems arise when the champions of our systems lose sight of the bigger picture and become corrupted by their success.

In Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges identifies this corruption, and the hierarchal conditioning at the heart of our educational infrastructure.

 “… They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, AP classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools, entrance exams, and blind deference to authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers… The elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent, and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers, and rigid structures designed to produce such answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service—economic, political, and social—come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market…”

The horde of competent systems managers are individuals who have been programmed to insulate the heads of their respective hierarchies. Innovation has been shackled to the dialectics of status. This behavior is almost biological in its universality. When authorities are challenged, the possibility of a loss of status always elicits emotional responses, not intellectual reactions. The challenging ideology is always dismissed and must never be allowed to flourish. Fear turns those in power, and the people who depend on them, into conformity enforcers- and punish the diversity generators for trying to change the system. This conflict is one of the driving forces of our civilization and has been since the dawn of time. Philosopher Howard Bloom explores this unconscious need for assimilation, and the urge to punish those who resist it in his book Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 23rd Century.

“Female camp trend-setters were particularly wicked conformity enforcers. They did it with the carrot and the stick.  A dominant female camper would offer to fix another girl’s hair or help her with her choice of clothes…both quiet ways of shaping the follower’s appearance to fit the mold.  But the verbal abuse these teen leaders could mete out to those who failed to conform was so devastating that it agonized even the researchers watching it… Yet when the girls were quizzed about dominance, they claimed to dislike it. Though some of them stomped others with appalling verbal brutality, they abhorred being seen as authority figures because to them it represented being different.[i]  And difference among young girls just won’t do–conformity has a choke hold that won’t let go.

This sort of viciousness can build the backbone of a social structure.  Youngsters who lead attacks on the odd often end up running nations…”

He follows up with examples from the lives Fidel Castro and Oliver Cromwell. Both of whom were particularly vicious children and continued the practice of using intimidation and violence during their political careers. Even though there is no verifiable proof, I would argue that most individuals who climbed the ladders of power to the top have probably been the aggressors in incidents involving the enforcement of the status quo. This behavior usually follows those who excel at it throughout their entire lives and is indiscriminate in its environment, as Bloom explains. 

 “The tendency of children and adolescents to force diverse humans into a common mold grows more refined among adults. Things are not that different in the modern scientific community. Sociological researchers maintain a mask of objectivity. But behind that mask some schools of thought hide ideological goals. When students in these movements report facts that contradict the tenets of their group’s creed, they are not praised for the objectivity of their work but punished for their heresy.  They are derided, their papers are rejected by journals, and they are excluded from key symposia–all an indirect way of forcing them “to leave the movement.” A similar mechanism of repression is at work in every scientific discipline I know… For numerous scientists, to go against the tide risks academic suicide.”

Bloom concludes with the coup de grace. A beautifully poetic and terrifying picture of the all-encompassing influence of the hierarchies of past and present, and the theoretical implications this programming has on the nature of civilizations.

“Crowds of silent voices whisper in our ears, transforming the nature of what we see and hear. Some are those of childhood authorities and heroes, others come from family and peers. The strangest emerge from beyond the grave. A vast chorus of long-gone ancients constitute a not-so-silent majority whose legacy has what may be the most dramatic effect of all on our vision of reality.

… I suspect the urge to impose uniformity springs from the principles which turn a group into a complex adaptive system, a collective intelligence, a learning machine. Remember a networked learning machine’s most basic rule–strengthen the connections to those who succeed, weaken them to those who fail. Normalizers wire us as modules of the group’s machinery. They align us, confine us, define us, synchronize us, and incite us to enforce group uniformity.”

How do we impose uniformity? Humiliation. Howard Bloom writes extensively in both The Lucifer Principle and The Global Brain on this sociologically transformative hammer and chisel that violently sculpts the individual.

“Human children are wounded far more than physically when lashed by humiliation from those who deem them different… Our instinctual cruelty often pushes peculiar individuals to society’s outskirts and sometimes shoves them out entirely, while it squeezes the rest of us into a conscious or unwitting team. Conformity enforcing packs of vicious children and adults gradually shape the social complexes we know as religion, science, corporations, ethnic groups, and even nations. The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, and death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse.

Even humor is a conformity enforcer clothed in the garb of congeniality.  It focuses on others’ weaknesses, disasters, stupidities, and abnormalities.  Darwin reports that in the mid-19th century, Australian aborigines would “mimic the peculiarities of some absent member of the tribe” and break into uncontrollable fits of laughter.”

Chris Hedges describes how our modern forms of entertainment have solidified this aspect of human nature into a new generation.

“The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal… Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, non-persons. Life, these shows teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition. Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness. And those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve to lose. Those who are denigrated and ridiculed on reality television, often as they sob in front of the camera, are branded as failures. They are responsible for their rejection. They are deficient.”

Hedges also notes that the humiliation felt by some Muslims for their government’s tolerance of United States military instillations on their sacred land could be a contributing factor to the willing martyrdom of most terrorists. Eager to please the only group that accepts their deficiencies, they try to avenge this humiliation for their leaders. One could only imagine the number of young alt-right fanatics that would be willing to die to drive an ISIL or North Korean base out of our country. I believe that the many actual or misperceived humiliations that most antisocial individuals feel society deals them on a daily basis is a major motivator for their mass murdering rampage. I am in no way attempting to excuse their heinous actions. I am simply pointing out that society’s organizational tools have unintended consequences. In an infinitely diverse playing field, some neural networks respond to their social maladaptation with explosive violence.

“What a thinker does not think he believes does not exist, and what one who feels does not feel he believes does not exist. You begin to have a presentiment of the whole when you embrace your opposite principle, since the whole belongs to both principles, which grow from one root.” – C.G. Jung

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