THE FIELD OF SCHEMES

I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.”
—Leo Tolstoy

IN THE CONTINUING MARCH of progress—simply change, really—it seems like neither entropy nor negentropy (complexity in English) is winning. The economy is growing, but as these days that’s good for only a few, for most others not so much, perhaps calling it progress is a hasty judgment.

What technology allows it soon requires, so what we need to do to survive is changing. Machines have been taking over what we and other animals do for a long time. But in the last couple of hundred years this has sped up. The steam engine in the 1700s, electric motors and the internal combustion engine in the 1800s took over a lot of human labor, and displaced a lot of us. Luckily they created new jobs when they destroyed the old ones. Not so lucky; most of these new jobs sucked more than the old ones.

Back then, minds were still needed. There still needed to be a human directing the machine. OK, not so much directing, but doing what the machine was not smart enough to do on its own. In the 1900s the machines began to get smarter, so fewer people were needed to “direct” them. By the mid-2000s, some folks say, machines will be able to do all we need to do to survive.

Communists and other Utopians would say, this is good; distribute all the stuff the machines make, share the wealth, too, and everyone, now free from toil, could do what they find worthwhile but not necessarily monetizable. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” etc. Humans won’t need to work! Oh joy!

Capitalists see it differently. More machines equal fewer employees; fewer employees equal bigger profits! They can’t—won’t—see above the bottom line. Employees, to them, are just error-prone, undependable and expensive machines and now they can be increasingly easily replaced with more efficient devices. Humans won’t be able to find work Oh joy! Again., but only for the replacers not the replaced.

Truth be told, though, the top commies didn’t think much of the lumpen proletariat any more than capitalists do of laborers. Authoritarianism trumps all other -isms, -archies and -cracies. Workers paradises or plutocratic oligarchy, be the latter republic, corporation or both, the name of the system doesn’t matter nearly as much to most of us as much as the freedom to abuse power granted by it to those at the “top.”

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This acrylic sketch is sorta like a print by F. Goya, he called Si son de otro linage (Perhaps they are of another breed) from his “The Disasters of War” series (1810-20) that shows starving people being mocked by rich folk. And it’s mixed up with his (?) “Colossus” a “black” style painting from about the same time showing a giant striding through a panicking populace.

The illustration shows the happy couple, Mr. and Ms. Point Zero One-Percent (husband and wife, father and daughter, bother and sinister, or just business partners) out for a ride in their estate on their still feisty gelding “Uncle Sam,” hence the bridle and whip.

The full-of-themselves (we made it on our own, you didn’t.) Point Zero One-Percenters are therefore indifferent to the peons that they are trotting though. These peons, the rest of us, are not seen as even fellow humans, let alone equals, but as simply means to ever increasing wealth. The painting shows us becoming less individually human and more machines in factories.

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So whats the fix? In theory, a government by, for, and of the people should do the trick. But one that only considers that a useful slogan at election time can’t and a government run more like the NFL than NASA definitely won’t. Note to non-USAers: The NFL, the Nation Football League is a lucrative for a few, cathartic for many, spectacle ‘muricans love. And NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, are the folks who put people on the moon.

A government by, for, and of should be able to: 1) define a problem, 2) research possible solutions, 3) debate pros and cons of each, then, 3) implement the best one, And 4) if it ain’t working, be willing to try something else until the problem is solved. But our current debacle-cy prefers to divide into two teams and beat each other up on live TV.

One of those teams, the Republicans, in this (un-illustrated, for now) metaphor have more money, than the other team, the Democrats, so they can buy better players. That’s all legal in our plutocracy. Both sides do it. But the Republicans have been buying the refs, too. That is not so legal, but no one has been able to get them for it. Also even though Team R has fewer sportscasters, they make up for that by being lewder, oops, I meant louder.

We live in interesting times, SAD!