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Integrated History

Billy Beck strikes a nerve with something. The underlying elements of this is something I was just pondering the other day.

In fact, a lot of this goes a long way to answering my question below.  In a time when people are not learning to think, episodes like The Great Island Paradise of Gas Experiment are the routine order of the day. There are no principles to refer to, and what good would they be, anyway?

Just make sure everybody gets the right to vote.  That’s really important.  It doesn’t matter that they’re stone imbeciles.

Generally, I was wondering how it is that people think the way they do. Specifically, I concluded that it was because, like I, they were taught from the moment of birth to submit to some authority or the other at all times and without question. Of course, that’s appropriate for infants and small children. I’m aware that there are many who go to great lengths to push their children into independent problem solving, but that’s not the same. How about: what problem? Why does it exist? And who says it’s a problem, anyway, why do they say it, and why is it of any importance to me whatsoever? That, we don’t seem to do very well.

I thought of how I learned about Abraham Lincoln. Why, he freed the slaves. That’s a good thing. He’s a good guy. And I recall assertions to the effect that slavery was wrong, unjust, but never a peep about why it was wrong, and if so, how is it that is was in practice for so long. It’s as if the fact of slavery was a metaphysical fact of reality, without cause or explanation. Lincoln was then a virtual God for having changed what was the equivalent of nature.

When I consider my own Enlightenment some 15 years ago, I realize that the fundamental part of it was a process of integrating human history from beginning to end and building confidence in my own competence to judge the proclamations and actions of our ancestors. Once you do that, you see history not as some endless chain of static events without apparent cause or reason, but as a chronology of causes and effects directly related to human willful action: some good, some evil, some heroic. You also see how easily humans have been led to their own unhappy enslavement and slaughter for no other reason than that they believed in and obeyed their appointed authorities.

But there was never any valid authority in any of it. Throughout the ages, people submitted to false authorities all their lives because they were taught to do so and thought they had to. They were schooled in the way that things were: including owning other men; including sacrificing their best interest to the proclaimed collective needs of others. Most never realized once in their entire lives that their mind and conscience was just as competent as anyone to judge the propriety and validity of such practices. They believed in and worshiped fairy tales because they were taught to–never even allowing themselves to question.

Perhaps we’re hard-wired with a tendency to seek out some authority and obey it. But even if so, that natural tendency was superseded thousands of years ago when the homo sapiens gained a conscious capacity and a free will.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

12 Comments

  1. allan on May 9, 2006 at 12:26

    Spending the earliest decades of our lives being indoctrinated in public detention centers known as schools probably has something to do with modern man's sheep like actions.

    Prior to the all encompassing nation state idea, folks shifted allegiance more easily – if they were above a dependent subsistence level.

    A king pledged to the barons – just as they pledged to him, same for knights with their liege. Reciprocity was the key, secession a real possibility, rebellion frequent.

    Today's youth are trained that they must give more than they receive from authority – as authority itself represents something morally important.

  2. Neal on May 9, 2006 at 14:24

    One theory I have on man's seemingly inherent dogmatism is that the benefits of critical thought and coherent, rational belief systems are ambiguous compared to the costs of not complying with majority opinions, which are often clearcut. Enlightenment is expensive in a dark world.

    If an individual perceives a system to be complicated, he is more likely to outsource his understanding of that system to so-called experts. And it is often in the best interests of experts to perpetuate these misperceptions. Look at the church: pastors almost always know the fallacies of the Bible; however, they rarely (if ever) preach on these fallacies. The more confusing the expert can make the subject-matter , the more the individual's original conclusion is reaffirmed.

    Perhaps you need authorities to proclaim the merits of questioning authority. Thus, the bumper sticker, "Question Authority!" Why?

  3. Larry on May 9, 2006 at 21:39

    On one of your post, I recall saying that man is divided into different classes, that man in fact has to follow others who are strong, who has a solution to what is missing within him.
    I recalled useing the term epistemological disease, which Mr. Wallace refer to as mysticism. I think when they both are defined, they are mans inability to think without the help of others.
    You seem to always come up with the great line and in this case, you said "But there was never any valid authority in any of it."
    You were talking about man believing in and obeying their appointed authorities.
    Once again great post!

  4. Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2006 at 11:47

    JTK:

    Is this an argument against free will, or just an argument for natural tendencies?

    It's an interesting point. I was certainly not brought up in this way of thinking and though my family are generally of a conservative political philosophy, much of that has to do with underling beliefs in fairy tales.

    This is really why I harp as I do on the religious aspects of all this. God is the meta-authority when talking about false external authorities. That's what makes it possible for all of the political implications of external authorities.

    And, of course, the left is no better, no more rational. Society and elite rulers are the God, the authority.

    That's where the whole thing turns, I think. Question: if by some magical force everyone instantly realized that no _general_ authority was superior to their own, what would be the political ramifications?

  5. John T. Kennedy on May 10, 2006 at 00:38

    Richard,

    Do people who went through the same basic environment as you tend to integrate as you do? If you have siblings, do they?

    I suspect not.

    What is the return on effort for most individuals in properly integrating history? Will they get a better regime, a better job, a better love life if they do the work of thinking history through properly?

    Why do you put in that work when you have to?

    I suspect that you are a freak of nature hardwired differently from virtually 100@ of humanity – your motivations are different.

    You're a zero percenter.

  6. John T. Kennedy on May 10, 2006 at 00:39

    The above should read:

    Why do you put in that work when you don't have to?

  7. Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2006 at 18:15

    JTK:

    Are you a Freak, too?

    Richard

  8. Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2006 at 18:20

    Jon:

    For whatever reason, it looks like your comment didn't come through. Damn.

    You know I'm always interested in what you have to say.

  9. Neal on May 10, 2006 at 15:03

    My guess is anarchy. Wouldn't that be something special?

  10. Jonathan Barnes on May 10, 2006 at 18:00

    Sorry, I guess I went on too long.

    Jonathan…If anyone cares, I could complete the last paragraph.

  11. John T. Kennedy on May 10, 2006 at 17:42

    I think the political ramifications would be small and temporary. Our political outcomes are primarily a result of the incentive structure inherent in collective politics.

    Political irrationality prevails because it has no private cost for most individuals. There are few freaks though for whom there is a private cost of political irrationality.

    You act as you do because you can't be satisfied acting except on the basis of principles that you understand to be anchored in reality. Almost everyone else can be satisfied without anchoring their theories in reality. This is a difference in individual natures and there is no way to persuade them to adopt your nature. Freak.

  12. John T. Kennedy on May 10, 2006 at 22:37

    "Are you a Freak, too?"

    I think I'm sweet.

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