The Paradox of the Fall

December 23, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

There are many paradoxes to the financial meltdown we’ve been experiencing.  From some perspectives, there are no paradoxes, just greedy or timid people following the direction provided by their peers.  I prefer to view what we are seeing as an inevitable result of Social Darwinism, now called free markets, which is a manifestation of the ancient Indo-European principle of might makes right.

Capitalistic Democracy allows the elites with resources to control elections, defund education and manage media.  We’ve designed a system that allows those forces with access to resources to manage wealth in a fashion that keeps those with less access to assets in a position where they are less likely to exert controls.  Folks in control work their levers of power to maintain control.  Elections, education and media management are the three intersections between the powerless and their access to the information that creates change.

Those in control feel entitled to stay in control.  They live by a philosophy that supports that position.  We call that “free market” philosophy at this time.  It was called Social Darwinism when last we went through this purge in the 30s.  Before that it had many names.  Riane Eisler calls it the dominance model.  Might makes right is the name that feels right to me.

Those in control subscribe to a belief that their being in control is a result of natural biological principles that declare that the most efficient system is one where those that are in control achieve that status naturally.  A while back it was God that offered the Kingdom to the King.  More recently it was asserted that Darwin made the same declaration, but this time nature conferred the gift to the kings of commerce.  God or science, it doesn’t matter, the story still ends with an elite.

A large difference between the two mythologies engineering an upper class is that the more recent scientific version states that a struggle resulted in the achievement of the higher status.  Most kings inherited wealth and power.  It is usually ignored that most contemporary elites inherited their wealth.  This newer story states that risks were taken by those brave and clever souls to achieve their elevated station.  This is the story of the entrepreneur.

It is this story, that risks were taken and battles were fought and won, that sets up the paradox of the fall.  At the end of these cycles, such as the time we are in, it is declared that massive amounts of money can be made and no risks are required.

It begins with a mythology based upon the brave taking risks, the mighty making right by brute force and will and it all ends with those same men, or their progeny, making easy choices, making billions, with no estimation that they could fail.

Somehow the philosophy of the elites embraces both the battle and the risk-free, exponentially escalating gift.  Perhaps there is no paradox.  Maybe it’s as simple as an understanding that once you achieve the pinnacle of power, you deserve a cornucopian access to resources undreamed of by those without a useful education, a vote that counts, access to media that reflect the world rather than the world the corporations prefer we know.

It’s not only those without resources that the mythology of the elites confuse.  They confuse themselves.  Free markets, Social Darwinism, might makes right–it doesn’t matter what you call it–the result is a mythology that does not embrace how the world really operates.  What results are these wild oscillations that reveal gaps in understandings of how society and biology unfold.

Whether explored as an example of paradox or just as a nonuseful mythology, the recent gyrations in economics can be usefully explored as manifestations of thinking characterized by little understanding of interconnection.  Might makes right is a mythology.  It’s time for alternatives stories, more useful stories, to be told.


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