Thursday, 25 June 2009

education - capitalism - humanism

Is education (and "the progress of humanity") better served through concentrating resources on the talented few, or the average many?

By instinct I'm inclined to the average many. The strongest argument seems to be that even a very small rise of a particular quality amongst the many equates to a large rise in the same quality of the few. But there's lots of problems with that. For instance, how many 'average people' would it take to come up with relativity? or evolution, gravity, the atom? Maybe an infinite number of mediocre people would fail to ever achieve relativity? On the other hand, anyone whom discovered relativity or somesuch first would automatically be extraordinary, from the fact of the discovery and invention itself.

It also seems logical that it's easier to achieve an increase amongst a few then amongst many, simply because there are fewer. But likewise, it is easier to bring a low level (of the many) up a little than it is to bring a high level (of the few) up even more.

There seems to be a movement towards concentrating resources on the few - gifted children, for example. Similarly in atheletics and sports, and in business it takes the form of entrepreneurs.

It's surely the expression of capitalism - accentuating competition......veneration of the victor......the ignominy of being the loser........

The laws of the jungle and the selfish gene. Nevertheless being human changes all that - at least it does if one is actually genuinely human.


socrates said...

Hey, this is the first time in a while I checked into your blog. I was getting bored with the net, but now I have a whole page to read from one of my favourites of all time. Thanks.

This is how I see it. If elections can ever be established in which fraud is kept to a minimum, then of course the key to making this a better world is to focus on the many. There are a gifted few in the world, but they have no political power. Or perhaps those gifted few have been circumscribed into the system. They may have a sinking feeling in their gut that their so-called success is tainted, yet they continue on confusing luck for skill, simply because they have gained some type of status and monetary rewards from an immoral social structure.

I truly believe that we Americans are a good lot, but unless we are informed, we are susceptible to brainwashing and supporting things that we would never support if we had a clue.

The #1 problem, imho, is cognitive dissonance. Few have the gumption or tools by which to fight for social justice. Our problems are vast. Nonetheless, we must never give up. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into states of debilitating cynicism. We must allow for the possibility that utopia and integrity will eventually rule the day.

Look at it this way. We both are kindred spirits in that we understand how perverted the blogosphere is. What should have helped aid the healing process by reaching millions with the truth has become another brick in the wall. Cliches to the side, however, we must be making some kind of difference, if we are consistently booted off of forums for no good reason. The ptb's are in a quandary. They need the illusion to persist that the West is democratic. They can't simply treat us as the Chinese are and deny us internet access. So they come up with those programs to make us believe we are not being censored, when we are. Yes, you were right way back when you said you could see your posts at a place when logged in or on your computer, and that they were missing when you were on another machine or whatnot. If the bad guys were a shoo in to always dominate social reality, then small fries like us wouldn't garner so much negative attention.

I think both of the approaches should be taken. Smaller groups of people need individual attention to grow. Yet, also the masses as a whole need to be spoonfed enlightenment. I do cut folks a lot of slack for not realising how much power they could have. I do forgive them for worrying more about their daily grind than getting involved in changing the big picture for the better. Eventually they will read the right entry, or they will suss things out on their own. I truly believe that there is always hope.

the_last_name_left said...

There's always hope........but I hope to have a cold beer materialise in front of me. Nope - it's not happening. :)

I agree that democracy is essential - I always ask people who criticise democracy "What else is there?" There's nothing else close. I love reading Marx's enthusiasm for democracy - it makes a mockery of many of his (ignorant) critics.

I like the connection between economics and liberty, and the self-emancipation.

This is concise:

Marx was the first major socialist thinker who came to socialism through the struggle for democratic rights. As a young man in Germany during the early 1840s, Marx edited a newspaper which supported the widespread extension of democratic liberties. Increasingly, Marx came to the view that the political restrictions on democracy were a result of the economic structure of society. When the government closed down his newspaper in 1843, Marx moved to Paris. There he encountered a vibrant working class and socialist movement. Several years later, Marx moved to England where he undertook a painstaking study of the nature of the capitalist economy. Out of his experience in France and England, Marx developed a consistently democratic and revolutionary socialist outlook.

The young Marx came increasingly to believe that no society which was divided into exploiting employer and exploited worker could ever achieve full democracy. So long as the capitalists held the bulk of economic power in society, they would continue to dominate political life. Full democracy, Marx argued, required the overcoming of class division in society. Only then could each individual fully and equally participate in social and political affairs. Unlike the utopian socialists, Marx insisted that socialism had to represent a higher stage of democracy than anything yet seen. He opposed all socialist and communist views that involved a curtailing of democracy. As he wrote in 1847 in a pamphlet outlining the views of a socialist grouping he was involved in:

We are not among those communists who are out to destroy personal liberty, who wish to turn the world into one huge barrack or into a gigantic workhouse. There certainly are some communists who, with an easy conscience, refuse to countenance personal liberty and would like to shuffle it out of the world because they consider that it is a hindrance to complete harmony. But we have no desire to exchange freedom for equality. We are convinced that in no social order will freedom be assured as in a society based upon communal ownership.

Equally important, if socialism was to represent a new society of freedom, then it had to be achieved through a process in which people liberated themselves. Unlike the utopian socialists who looked to an elite to change things for the masses, Marx argued that the masses had to free themselves. Freedom could not be conquered for and handed over to the working masses. Socialism could only be brought into being through the mass democratic action of the oppressed.

Marx was the first major socialist thinker to make the principle of self-emancipation--the principle that socialism could only be brought into being by the self-mobilisation and self-organisation of the working class--a fundamental aspect of the socialist project. As he wrote in the statement of aims of the First International Workingmen's Association, 'The emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the working class themselves.'

the_last_name_left said...


Unlike the conspiratorial communists, Marx insisted that there was a majority force in society that would bring socialism into being. He argued that the modern working class of wage-labourers was organised in such a way that they would be pushed, in the course of struggle, towards socialist objectives. Through his study of English economics, Marx came to see that capitalism had created, for the first time in human history, an oppressed class that worked collectively in large workplaces. If this class was to liberate itself, he pointed out, it could only do so in common. If it was to reorganise the economic basis of society, it could only do so in a collective fashion. If the factories, mines, mills and offices were to be brought under the control of those who worked them, this could be achieved only through the coordinated action of thousands upon thousands of working people. Thus, a working class revolution would of necessity arrive at a new form of collective economy and society in which the means of producing wealth--the factories, mines, mills and offices -- would be owned and managed in common by the whole of the working class.

Such a democratic and collective society would have to be based upon the fullest possible political democracy. Marx made this point clear from his earliest writings.

socrates said...

Thanks for the light reading. I tried going through his stuff back in the day. I admit I only picked up the basics. Communist Manifesto was cool. Das Capital, yawn city. But I bet you love that stuff. I think ultimately Marx was just another thinker dude, albeit one who obviously made a huge impact like Freud. Man is an extension of the desk or machine. Marx was going after the hideous exploitation in England and with capitalism. Those were dark times. Child labour. He gets the blame for everything that took place after he left the earth, like with Mao and every other totalitarian who co-opted his ideas and twisted them around. I guess Marx's flaw was that he wasn't too good with the cultural aspects. He was hard core into economics. Durkheim was the opposite. Too much culture without the economics. Max Weber is considered the greatest sociologist of all time. He combined the two. One thing I do remember from Karl was that he appreciated humanity. He had nothing against personal mementos and whatnot. He just wasn't too much of a populist, so his ideas have become easily manipulated by right wingers. The irony is that Obama is labeled a commie too, but that is where the lack of overall education and awareness hurts democratic processes. Few realise that liberals are actually Republicans. Obama is a Republican in Democratic Party clothes. Bush and Cheney, those guys are fascists. It's a shame no one seems to be getting into trouble for war crimes, illegal spying, etc.. We are in a legitimation crisis.

the_last_name_left said...

Education is critical: I'm endlessly astonished at how politically ignorant Americans are. Not all of them, of course - but it can be very easy to spot American working class opinion amongst that of Europeans. Part of it is the different history of N America, I guess - americans conceive of themselves as having emerged in the Revolution, inheritors of the French Republic, liberte, egalite, fraternite? They consider the constitution the "end of the road" - the high water mark of political development. Why change perfection? hmmm.

They haven't experienced calamitous defeat and loss of Empire; they haven't really experienced the deep poverty of class divide, mass-unemployment, industrial contraction, a changing geo-political world, etc. Yet. Not to deny the poverty in USA, but nevertheless, it's been a prosperous nation - and why shouldn't it have been, with all that land and resource, and the ability to start from scratch and exploit the gains of the industrial revolution.

Couple all that with the american myth (?) of "independent pioneer frontier" stuff, and I think that goes some way to explaining why socialism is historically such a dirty word in America.

Add in the racism of a few hundred years of slavery and the corporatism of the great industrial moguls, and it isn't hard to see why the right seems the default position in N America, and why the left-wing of business is considered THE left. In that sense there is no left/right divide - because the left is actually the leftwing of the business party (the Dems).

That serves to exclude the real left ie socialism, communism, left-anarchism (if there is such a thing, really.) and also helps explain why Americans don't get an education in socialism, marxism, whatever. Not that they force it down peoples' throats in Britain, of course......but there's a legacy here, one that hasn't been wholly smashed yet. My former sociology teacher, for instance, was a former head of a Welsh Communist Party section. And there was the post-war Labour Government, which setup the National Health Service, welfare, nationalised the main industries etc. "What happened to the post-war dream.......?

So, not getting an education in it, and having no real history of it, it's no surprise to see ignorance amongst americans about political ideology.

It takes some working out how "National Socialism" is no socialism. Hitler was very clever there, with his party name, I mean. Even today, people in N America believe National Socialists (nazis) are "leftwing".....because of the remnants of "socialism" in nazism. They miss the point that "welfare for whites" is little different to the "welfare for business" that the business party operates. For example, presently we have people claiming the bank and business bailouts of today are "socialist". But there's nothing nespecially new or socialist about "Socialise the costs, privatise the benefits". Just as there's nothing socialist about "Welfare for Whites".

The real distinction for me is the class aspect - if one accepts and tolerates class, then one isn't "leftwing" imo. That's the foundation of Marxism - class - and it's abolition is communism. Racism, or any such elitism is clearly the antithesis, however much it is gilded with supposedly "leftwing" notions of welfare.

the_last_name_left said...


I've seen commentators remark that Von Brunn, the holocaust museum shooter, was "a leftie"! He does actually have a seemingly very complicated political perspective....and some things he wrote have the form - the appearance - of being leftwing - and use the language of the left....but when he rails against Jews, and claims the american state is "marxist", then it's a totally unsustainable claim. Likewise with Poplawski - a deeply racist, anti-semitic, gun-loving, government-hating nationalist. It's far too simple to take such peoples' anti-banking and anti-NWO rhetoric as being leftwing. I think that's the essence of the confusion....and why people like Alex Jones and Rivero are ignorantly accused of being "leftwing". They're nothing of the sort, of course.

Claims are often made about Hitler's industrial program and re-armament as being examples of effective "socialism"......but as the entire point was Nazi imperialism and aggression, founded on racism, it just can't be called properly socialist at all. Plus, Hitler's economic and industrial "miracles" are fraudulent in so far as it was built on lies, conquest, theft and exploitation under a dictatorship. Absent conquest and the police-state it would have been impossible to continue. It certainly wasn't socialist. Nor was it liberal, in classic sense of free-markets, democracy etc.

So, I'm thinking I shall use socialism/capitalism/fascism rather than the vagueness of left/right from now on. It's too open to confusion.

So, rather than say Alex Jones, Rivero, Poplawski, Von Brunn are "rightwingers"......I'll say they are anti-socialist and to perhaps varying degrees, fascist. There's less room for dispute there.

It makes me sick to see Alex Jones and Rivero called "leftwing". Some people are doubtless doing it on purpose.....and it shows how effectively Rivero and Jones are operating that so many people can fall for it - that they're lefties, i mean.

We need to make it about "socialism" not about being "left"? Problem is, socialism is a dirty word - thanks Stalin.

Oh, I'm gonna shutup - I'm just rambling. :D