Roland Michel Tremblay wrote ironically concerning the human state (War is the only language humanity understands) that is double-fisted, I think, and powerful.
His article is so close to cynicism, though I will go farther than just agreeing wholeheartedly with his assessment of the seeming behavior humankind engages in, behavior that belittles and begrudges and sends people rushing headlong for oblivion just as surely as a rabid dog runs in a direct line toward death, biting and foaming all the way, blind to its own demise, driven like a jack hammer into hardest concrete, a ram and a dam.
I can show that, indeed, an entire country enables such behavior and it is everyday. One could say, expected, accepted behavior. A style of living that colors every aspect of life with a fury only seen by sex-crazed dope fiends in cartoon propaganda, meant to convince you that feeling good is bad for you and for the world, yet so subtly woven into the fabric of being that it goes unnoticed because that’s just the way it is folks, that’s the bouncing ball.
This is a materialistic society. Not just any materialistic society, for Europe, The Middle East and parts of Africa and the Americas are also materialistic. But they all have underlying ethico-moral bases, however falsely they are practiced. No. I am speaking about a society in which all social and individual ethics have been wiped out and replaced by economic well-being and the seeming endless need for more. More equaling better. More equaling status and status somebodyness. More being akin to an obsession seen only in horror movies. More’s drive is to be expected in a society based, designed and run on economics, on the principle that having more of anything, whether concrete or abstract–even delusional–is The Way.
In this world, sameness and an ethical barrenness create immense pressure to achieve–and there are no limits on methodology. The end justifies the means just as long as I succeed in getting more and more.
All life’s various activities and aspects have a price in this kind of life. No one excepted. No one is left out–though some go without. But some must die for others to live, right? It is the way of the world. It’s what it’s all about. Selfishness. Soulless self-promotion. Me. Me. Me. No one is at all interested in questioning, how much is life worth?
What a silly thing to worry your pretty little head about– a life’s worth.
People are only interested in getting more, because more is life: more getting than having. As a consequence, these people fill up their lives with busy bee-like work. They don’t understand the concept of free time, free time is idle time and time spent at nothing–and the getting nothing of any worth is damnable, incomprehensible, unheard of. Go work, young man, go work!
With such a society, perhaps the place where this is glaringly evident is in academia. To be more precise, in colleges and universities, for in this microcosm more is the true driving force, kind of like the more that drives lemmings off the cliff, frantic and frenzied and frothing. Over time, it becomes neurotic obsession. An adrenalin rush existence. A Mœbius strip living of life, a life with a life of it’s own. A robot run amuck. A never-ending story.
It begins, as everything does in this pinched world, with lucre and getting more of it. More money means not only the ability to buy more and get a better living, it means power and status, therefore it re-feeds the system, for higher degrees mean more money, better living and more of everything. Higher degrees also mean prestige and power. More power. And people with power are somebodies. Because power leads to getting more of anything and being able to use pressure and coercion with impugnity, for no one wants to be nobody. How special and appealing is the higher degree, the somebodyness? Admittance is limited. . .severely. So there must be compensation for the loss. The loss must get made up because nobody wants to be without, without something. It’s all about equality.
So, while most bitterly complain of this state of affairs, how delimiting it is, everyone plays the game, as to not play is suicide. No one really wants death. Death is like being a nobody, a non-entity, a no-account. Everyone wants to live but it’s hard to let live when doing so begets another’s ascent. Abuse is rampant, so much so that it seems the conditions in Shui hu zhuan, a vicious satire of Ming corruption set in the Song dynasty, are still alive. In this work, a band of robbers led by Song Jiang play Robin Hood in protest against government policy and corruption. Corruption that reached deep into everyman’s life to deprive him of what little he had so that another might thrive. In modern times, it’s not so different. In truth, all Song Jiang wants is to be part of the machine itself and benefit from the power and corruption: be somebody. Because without this ability, you are a nothing. Nobody. A loser. Nothing’s are intolerable to the goose-stepping march to more and more.
This is an important point, this being somebody, in such an egalitarian society where all are the same, a society in which everyone is a worker, come what may.
What does your mother do?
She’s a worker.
What kind of work does she do?
She’s the mayor of my hometown.
What does your mother do?
She’s a worker.
What kind of work does she do?
She sweeps floors.
Everyone is a nobody when everyone is the same. Everyone feels it so. Feels nobodyness. And no one likes it, because as when you’re nobody, you’re characterless. Even worse: you’re not an individual. Everyone wants to be recognized as an individual, someone of some worth. When you’re a nothing you’re all the same with everybody and evermore shall be so. Like. . .foreign musicians are contracted by cities and organizations to perform and hold Master Classes. Master Classes are for the more advanced students anywhere but in an egalitarian society: these invited Master Musicians are holding Master Classes because they are the Masters and all students attend. Because everyone is equal. No one can be different or better than.
So the more subtly somebody becomes somebody, the better. For you cannot stick out or you’ll be pounded down. Everybody’s the same. It is all stealth status. Status by influence. Status by proxy–a phone call, a little birdie whispering sweet nothings that blossom to power.
The more status, the better, the more of a life you have to live in this tin world. Which translates to: I’m somebody. Because a somebody can do things to others. Like organized crime: before you’re somebody, you must off somebody. Which actually might be doing something for somebody since they’re being relieved of the burden of being in such a wheeler-dealer world, akin to swimming in great white shark-infested waters: when the sharks get hungry, the easiest, most direct thing to do is push someone else into their waiting jaws, everyone else being fodder for your survival.
In the base lower animals–humans considering themselves higher–somebody power is by way of intimidation and shows of prowess: teeth bared and growling, beating on chests. In the higher animals–who have not been around as long– somebodyness power comes by way of trampling the other so that he may not rise again. . .and then, only then shows of prowess. The lower animals–who have been around longer–are so backwards.
The name of the game is wipe-out.
When you’re the only one left, you’re not #1. Though some might say this makes you alpha and omega. God. God has no friends. God creates from chaos, out of aloneness. Only people create chaos out of aloneness. And in this made up world, everyone is alone. No one has a true friend. No one tells another her inmost secrets or feelings, or confides their perceived shortcomings and weaknesses as they are all frightened that this will be used against them, as they most certainly will if it means getting somewhere; that is, rising above; that is, getting to somebodyness is inhuman. No one confides that they are having a difficult time, have a problem coping or that they cannot solve, for it means they are weak. Everyone is expected to do it all by themselves, for you must be strong. All of the time. No weakness, no self-doubt, no questions allowed. Inhuman. Everyone isolated.
You might think everyone walks around in shell shock. Yet one of the most used clichés of this world is “no man is an island,” though all are solitary. And they believe they are a “one for all, all for one” harmonious culture. They forget the Three Musketeers had their fallings out and their failings.
Everyman is a threat to everyman’s being a somebody.
Until recently, a BA could land you in the lowest rung of college life. A real nobody. But, lately, a person needs to have a Master’s. The BA’s are relegated to middle school and private school status. The bottom of the heap. A lecturer is without any power or prestige. Lecturers are given the dross of the teaching load. The sole way of gaining a modicum of recognition, of being a being of status is to make friends in the right places. These friends are not in reality friends, for they are only around for self-promotion–but, of course, you must always thank them. . .and then move to another one.
Up, up and away! It’s the name of the game. That’s life, sailor. Screw you.
The first step along the way is to do nothing to upset anybody. Do not let on you are jockeying for power or to be better. No one must see that you are being different or out of the ordinary. How many clichés do we have for this?
Then comes toadying. Once a friend, a cultivated supporter, has been acquired, muscle-flexing is in order, the kind that will limit competition. Every person is a competitor and every competitor is a threat to the security and satisfaction of even the most blatant untoward somebodyhood. It simply will not do to be relegated back to nobodyhood. Everybody else is a competitor, whether real or no. You do something for your friend and then for yourself: via, veritas, vita.
Friends in high places must be sown and grown forever and a day.
At this point, it is just wound, wound, wound. Assistant professors get to disable and associate professors get to kill and full professors want to be the Dean. At which point they have “arrived.” Though I do know a newly minted Master’s who believes– and behaves–as if he has arrived. As an undergrad, he was the star of the Foreign Language School of his university, graduating #1. He was ushered into grad school without submitting him to the usual entrance exam. He was the top student there, too. A regular teacher’s pet. And then he was brought into the Foreign Language School as assistant professor and made a vice-dean. He has so arrived that he tells foreigners, native-speakers of his second language, that they are not speaking their language properly. Even doctors and writers are so notified. This man has had no experience at all. But that’s okay. He has position. He has power. He has friends. Authority in this world is not founded upon competence at all. (Cf. “The Hoax: China’s Education,” http:www.atlanticfreepress.comnews19833-the-hoax-chinas-education.html).
Competence of any sort is, indeed, a threat to power and being somebody and must be stomped out if it is below, above or on a level with yours. If someone else’s competence limits the more of the somebodyhood that is so prized in an economically-based egalitarian society, the more of material gain is lost. For there is then nothing to strive for when all there is is money without satisfaction–what does it get you, yeah? So any and all competence from any quarter leads to kill or be killed. I am the all important one.
Hell!–beat a dead horse–kill. Kill. Kill! Kill! I am #1! Me! Me! Look at me! Me! Watch me do my victory dance on the bodies of victims. Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the music! Skip to my lou, my darling.
All comers are threats to being somebody, even if they are outsiders barred from playing the game because they are outsiders and thus ignorant of the way of the world.
It is of great import that they just might be more competent and surely then show up “my” incompetence and that would be embarrassing and that would be destructive to “my” sense of myself, of being somebody and my ability to wield effectively power (to gain more). All people are of the same type to the inhabitants of this petty little world.
Out damnéd spot!
There are deans who will go to any extreme to insure their power remains theirs alone by setting out to methodically destroy a perceived blot to their reputations by black-listing a man, who is no threat at all. He is just doing his job. Very well. A job the Dean knows little about but wants to see happen–if it does not require any work on his part. Won’t do to fail! Oh, no, no. Not that. Gotta save my ass. Get the upstart! To be or not to be, that is the question.
The Dean wanted to be and this other would be a blot on his reputation. Because he was eminently qualified to do. The Dean just didn’t figure he’d have to do any work. He never had in the past. Had a reputation for doing nothing and laying the blame. In truth the Dean was like the man who died from not eating for fear of choking. Death from I dare not stared him in the face, though he saw it as death from I dare. How twisted are the turnings of thought.
It took him six months to ruin this man’s career beyond redemption, as rumors from above are beyond all question. For in an authoritarian society, what’s said at the top rules the roost–and rumors travel very well, thank you very much. Faster than flu pandemics that never pan out, fear being the driving force behind decisions, fear of this, fear of that and the other. A heady anxiety.
Or. . .the collusion of a dean and another teacher to rid themselves of trouble via a vice-dean, out-spoken and strong and not about to back down, a real sop to self-elevation and awe, therefore a barrier to be defeated in no uncertain terms. There can be only one voice at the top speaking for all. So, they paid a student to say she paid her to take a proficiency test for her–which she didn’t. But who cares for the truth when it’s me has to win it all at all costs?
But. . .the vice-dean was not in situ. She was overseas studying methodology. No matter. She returned to disgrace and embarrassment and no job, much reduced retirement and, therefore, much reduced living. Such is life. In a world without cooperation, there is only sub-human thoughtless self-satisfaction–King of the Mountain.
The end-times coming round the bend. Because there can only be one left withal.
Scruples are for shit. The American Me Generation had nothing on these people. How can there be guilt or recrimination or even this thing that we call humanity in a world where money and power and position, possession for me is the only guiding light? The true real world realization of Roland Tremblay’s fine ironic selfishness. A world at war with itself, at war with all that makes up a Life. This is the future of this kind of a world, the here-and-now: that it will overtake the soul of mankind and lead us, scratching and snarling and spitting and back-biting, like a cat gang bang, to the end times. Armageddon. This world is its own anti-Christ, no help from myth and metaphor mandated.
Thank god that the youth–some of the youth–too few of the youth caught up in the game–are questioning. But how long will it be before there’s a change, when they have to play the game to get anywhere to begin with, eh? A sharp pinch indeed.
Nobody always wants to be somebody.
But this power and prestige somebodyness game doesn’t begin and end with the academic staff; it is played by the non-academic staff, if on a more petty–and sometimes much more devastating–level. With the support staff, the possibilities for remuneration are limited, so the drive is for power, as power equals importance equals somebodyness. And like all predators, victims are the helpless.
Thus, if an office is opened at 8 o’clock no one, not even the office manager, arrives before 8 to make sure everything is in order. No. No. Everyone arrives around 8 and, while all who wish to do business are waiting, begin to ready and organize themselves for the day’s business–for up to 20 minutes. It is of no consequence that people are waiting or that some have made appointments. What is important is the importance of getting ready and keeping people waiting. You can see these employees looking out of the corners of their eyes at how important they are: important is how many people can I keep waiting. I control all that happens at this time and this place. You must deal with me. Are the waiting professors who have class going to be made late for class? Tough. Let them wait. They cannot do anything in my office without me. I am important!
Particularly in the university credit union or financial department is this evident. Evident to the extent that staff are asked if it’s alright to wait an extra week to get their pay because. . .whatever. Do they have a choice? No. People in this society do not complain. They put up with all sorts of abuse, as if it is their lot in life to suffer. Oh, oh! Woe is me! Woe is me!
The most abused and victimized victims are the foreigners who cannot function in this country without the paperwork of the Foreign Affairs Office. Often, this is at the goodwill of Foreign Affairs. For without the proper paperwork, there is no job and no ability to stay in-country–except as a tourist, which limits all job opportunities no end, since a tourist visa cannot be changed into any other sort. Most foreigners are hired and cut loose at the whim of the Foreign Affairs Office, the Foreign Language schools be damned, the university itself be damned–this is all that I, the Foreign Affairs Office, want. And, in such a way, then, I become the most important person in the world in the university since state and local funding is partially based on how many foreigners are employed. And I get to say so.
See the peacock strut and show his tail.
They are such ill-tempered creatures that it behooves everyone to remain on their good side. Do they know anything about academics or what the outsider brings to the college, outside of her native tongue? No. And no need. Any pretext is fine for firing. Because being somebody is having power and control. It is more important.
It is common knowledge that when you are controlled, you are being lied to, for it is only via lying that someone can gain such control over anybody else. . .especially nobodies who, being nobody, will believe whatever it is they’re told. After all, who are you to question me?!
The longer the administrative staff works, the higher their pay and the more status they gain; therefore, the more power. It is in this way, by cultivating friendships, they gain some kind of control, not only over their lives but over others’. . .the which is the most important. It means I have something nobody else has and that makes me someone.
Lateral promotions may not equate to more financial reward but may equate to power and prestige. Sometimes, these are just temporary and the extra knowledge and relations gotten carry over to the prior job, making these people formidable indeed. Indeed, the only rule, the rule extraordinaire, is to not upset anyone.
At the same time, there is a tendency to bully and because the smooth running of the system is of ultimate importance, no one will confront the bully for fear of being accused of upsetting the apple cart. Even more, creating animosity that will eventually turn into vengeful retaliation. That is, these bullies abuse their culture in order to get ahead, gain power, prestige, gain control. All because further up the ladder is material wealth and well-being–in one form or another. And power helps you get it. Ergo, it’s good. For the people with little, this material wealth takes the form of the exercise of power, a mind-altering drug if ever there was one. It makes you feel so great–shot of adrenalin. Eyes popping, take a deep breath, flare those nostrils, breath in that clean clean air!
Nobody wants to be nobody. Power equals worth and worth can lead to material well-being–at least, a social security. A good retirement. The ability to say, as Robert Frost noted, to your grandchildren that you actually did something. . .and it wasn’t easy. That road less taken is the one not littered with the bodies of your victims and, therefore, is the one most wanted to be viewed by others.
Murder is easy in a materialistic society, a desert society of getting, where there is no rain to grow with, yet more being a sign of status and having arrived, despite the stunted growth and twisted form of the life, the more convolutions being more opportunities for the sustenance of getting and being somebody. When is the pinnacle reached?
When is enough, enough?
The manic always crash.
Alexander Saxton, in Religion and the Human Prospect, queried evil and noted that no religion, no ethical imperative has yet solved evil’s existence–continued existence. But he was working within an ethico-moral context, where evil (“live” backwards) is a conundrum. Whereas this world I am talking of has no sense of ethics. Marx and his slavish and dogmatic followers have seen to that, banning all systems purveying ethics in the name of freeing the people from oppression and enslavement, seeing such mores as no more than social hogwash meant to make people bow down to authority rather than a guidance system for proper behavior, a system perverted by those at the top to insure their continuance ad infinitum. His changing the worldview was like destroying it to save it. So that the world created was devoid of all but equal gain by human clones. There is nothing higher than what you see is what you get. So there are, too, no philosophers in this world. It is a barren desert despite–or, rather, in spite of its materialism.
What is material well-being when people are things to be manipulated in this world of crassness? A Gobi Desert of a society with shifting sands around the edges, rocks and pebbles at its centre. And soon it can be no more than a wasteland with nary a one to note its passing on.
Yet this is not eviltry but a lack of a sophisticated mind, it is a total lack of flexible cooperation in the name of projection of destruction; that is, all see all as out to get them and thus create the scenario that rationalizes behavior. This stops them from being able to solve problems. . .of any sort. Because they are intolerant in their drive for dominance, like many chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees will cooperate only with familiar group members, with whom they normally share food. If they don’t know or like a potential partner, they won’t cooperate no matter how much food is at stake. Humans, however, make a living collaborating, even when it’s with people they don’t know and in many cases don’t particularly like. (Do you have a boss?) This high level of social tolerance is likely one of the building blocks of the unique forms of cooperation seen in humans. (Out Of Our Minds: How Did Humans Come Down From The Trees And Why Did No One Follow?, Vanessa Woods & Brian Hare, at www.edge.org3rd_culturewoods_hare09woods_hare09_index.html).
As if to say, these materialists are sub-human, no?
Bonobos are different. And apes are different. The chimpanzee problem is that if the resources are all in one pile, as it were, there can be no cooperation because there’s only one pile and one pile cannot be shared. It’s all mine or it’s not. There is no ability to think beyond the self, projecting that thinking–either I get it or I die– onto every other chimp. Or, in this case, person. With people like this, like intolerant, uncooperative chimpanzees, we are a long way from discovering just exactly what it is that makes some of us human and some of us perversions–or would that be reversions?
So. . .what has happened to the hominid that evolved many millions of years ago into a tolerant, spontaneously cooperative animal?
How society has deteriorated! The examples held up for us all to follow, examples that are supposedly inviolable, are empty waste cans. They are putrid, like the vomit on the street before bars. What can be said of a society when people buy their status and sell their allegiance in the name of expediency? How is it that we are to show any respect whatsoever for those who know no ethical or moral law? For ideals and ethical standards have deserted the human condition in such a world of materialism, of economic well-being being the well made end-all and be-all of life. With the selling of their souls, their natural prestige and ethics become mere commodeties on a bullish market. When you buy values, what do you buy but emptiness? This behavior muddies the waters of proper comportment and personal relations and leads to an increase in collusion, conspiracy and violence. It is clear to see. For what cannot be bought, can be stolen. And thus total ethical dissipation brings about the ruin of the country. . .of the world. As Confucius saw during the Warring States Period and the Spring and Autumn Era (at about the same time Greece was golden).
Back to the jungle!
JAMES L. SECOR is a retired professor, a writer-playwright living out on the edge of the Gobi Desert where the skies are clear, the air fresh and the water possibly the only non-polluted water in the country: mountain run-off from the year-round snow-capped Qilian Range, which he can see from his front patio. He can be reached at email@example.com any time night or day.