The Machine Grinds All of Us Up and Spits All of Us Out, No Exceptions
I keep returning to the idea that our collectives have come to rule us all, even those who seem to be captains at the wheel. If that’s what they believe, they are wrong. The captain is the blind collective. And the blind collective is the sum of all the parts. They are just a part like the rest of us, albeit a part with more control that the rest of us have.
In that sense we have all become servants to the greater wholes: the blind collectives that drive us and that all of us serve. They are like giant machines.
One aspect of that machinery is cognitive and includes ideas as ancient as Aristotle. Yes, Aristotle’s ideas have become part of the greater machine that drives us, as have other ideas that are thousands of years old, such as the idea that men should run everything.
And the machine requires us to play roles. It may seem like we invent our roles, but we don’t. We select them from a limited number of stock of characters that are approved by the grand machine. We perform a function within that machine. And as soon as we no longer serve a purpose in the machine, we are ejected. Then we have to find a new machine-approved role. The blindness is contained within the roles. It’s part of our wardrobe. It’s contained within our lines and within the character traits of the role we are expected to inhabit. We are forced to follow the script. Very few ad libs are allowed.
I think the alienation we all feel as the result of performing these roles—-which ultimately only strengthen the machine that enslaves us all—-is well summed up in the following line from “Grand Hotel,” spoken by John Barrymore in the role of the Baron von Geigern:
“I’m a prodigal son; the black sheep of a white flock; I shall die on the gallows. I haven’t a bit of character; none at all. When I was a little boy I was taught to ride and be a gentleman; then at school, to pray and lie; then in the war, to kill and hide; that’s all. Now I’m a gambler, running at large like a happy pig, devouring everything of life that pleases me.”
He was taught a lot of different roles, each of which ended in disappointment and dissatisfaction; each of which ultimately served a machine that was greater than himself; and none of which led to existential understanding, wisdom, enlightenment, or self-fulfillment.
It is the realization of this existential dilemma that shows us the way out. Seeing it *is* the solution. The more we see of it, the more we free ourselves from it. At any rate, no solutions can come without seeing. And it’s not enough for experts to see it. The general public needs to see it.
Those of us who raise our heads from the work that the grand machine requires us to perform are the only ones who know how to fix it. But people who are devoted to the machine and the roles they play within it want us to put our noses back in our work, because criticizing the machine might point out the need to redesign it. That would mean that parts of the machine would have to slow down and be reorganized, reducing efficiency momentarily. That could also lead to role confusion and even an existential crisis, because if our purpose isn’t to serve the machine, then what is our purpose? That would forces us to discover what out purpose actually is, which means facing a gulf of uncertainty. Such people feel that it’s safer to simply do what we’re told. Do what the machine tells us to do. And so they actually fear people who raise their heads and question the demands that the machine makes upon us.
Even the most powerful world leaders—-good and bad—-are slaves to the system, which is the aggregate of all human societies and activities. Even bad leaders like Saddam Hussein had to bow to systems that were more massive than himself. Of course he didn’t care what the machine forced upon people who perform roles in the machine. He didn’t care if the machine worked them to death! But even many good leaders share that trait with him. He didn’t care about the ultimate product of the machine as long as it served his desires in the process.
And this is how the machine goes haywire—-from not caring about the greater good; from the illusion that as long as the machine serves the immediate needs of the individual participant, the product of the whole must therefore be good.
The machine is a product of the actions of all of us. Even when we’re at rest we support the machine. The only way to not support the machine is to be an agent of change. Then the trick becomes to change the machine without upsetting its functions to the point of crisis or collapse. And that also requires calming the fears of agents who might put up resistance to that change.
This is the challenge. And this is the template for all constructive change.