Getting From Here to There

I thought I should elaborate a little on a comment I made in a recent thread. It concerns the question of how it might be possible to get from where we are now to a free and liberating communist society. For readers who have no desire for such a society, I hope there is something of interest, even if only as an idle reflection.

Part of my comment was as follows:

In the posts concerning a “path” to a better society, what I am grappling with is no different to many others. The problem is not just to conceive of what that “better society” is, but, harder again, how to get from here to there. People disagree, for example, over reform or revolution, but even revolutionaries still struggle to answer how we get from here to there.

I illustrated this by providing a link to a talk, Is An Emancipatory Communism Possible?, by Allan Armstrong, which took place in April of this year in New York City. There is a long discussion after the talk, which includes some prominent Marxists, in which it becomes clear that they, too, frequently return to the question of how to get from here to there. And, like me, they have no coherent answer at this stage other than the conviction that such a transformation requires an end to wage labor.

With this point in mind, I added:

Personally, if an “emancipatory communism” is the aim, I do think that there does have to be a radical break from wage labor. However, there has to be a way to make this break. The only way I can see that this is possible, other than just imagining a sudden and complete break (which seems utopian) is to make use of what we have already developed within our current society – sometimes only as a potential – and turn it to our new purpose. The resumption of fiat money after an attempt to eliminate it is one development that I believe is highly relevant. I think it can enable a sustainable non-violent (I refuse to support violence) separation of the economy (perhaps only part of the economy, initially) from the logic of capital and wage labor.

But there are lots of other positive developments under capitalism (often as the flip side to a negative development) that also, in my opinion, make us more ready for such a change than we may realize.

In recent posts (here, here, here and here), I have begun to sketch out my thinking regarding the democratic potential in fiat money. Here I briefly consider some of the other positive developments under capitalism that may have partially prepared us for a transformation to a better society.

I think these developments are many and varied, some obviously more significant than others. One development I have in mind is the way a combination of capitalist reality and propaganda has encouraged identification with certain positive ideals such as freedom, liberty, democracy, equality in certain respects, diversity and tolerance. To some extent, the internalization of these ideals has been due to the development of a false consciousness concerning the nature of the society in which we live, encouraged by an unrelenting assault of propaganda through education, media and other influential social institutions. But at the same time, in most instances, there is also a real basis to the internalization of these ideals, because capitalism does offer limited forms of freedom and liberty. In a formal sense, it has usually developed alongside liberal democratic institutions, superficial though these are, and maintained equality before the law. It does encourage the diminution over time of certain types of inequality, prejudice and discrimination, partly because in the long run the profit motive may tend to reward non-discriminatory decision making, and more importantly because capitalism has usually provided openings for protest and dissent, and has generally allowed space for the building of mass movements for change.

But capitalism promises much more than it can deliver on all these fronts. So we are left with strong desires for the attainment of these positive ideals yet are confronted by the lack of genuine liberty, freedom, democracy and equality. Capitalism has developed a strong desire within us for something that ultimately it cannot deliver. It seems likely that this leaves us receptive to social changes that could bring us closer to those ideals. In this sense, there may be a greater yearning for these ideals than is necessarily obvious on the surface of economic behavior carried out under the constraints and compulsions of capitalist social relations. This raises the question of how much people are really committed to the current system, and how much it is just a feeling of resignation. There may be a feeling of helplessness, but not necessarily a lack of receptiveness to something better.

Capitalism also engenders an incredible economic dynamism in which capitalists are compelled to search out ways to cut costs through the implementation of technical innovation. This creates tremendous potential for generalized improvements in material living standards while at the same time producing fluctuations in employment and output that cause hardship for many. The gap between what is possible in material terms and what is actually delivered by capitalism tends to grow over time with every improvement in the methods of production. (This has been discussed to some extent in Implications of a Purely Mechanized Economy and in the ensuing commentary.) Under capitalism, technical advance is a competitive necessity, but also a daunting force, threatening to take away workers’ jobs and undermine capitalists’ past investments. The technical improvement raises the rate of profit on new investments while jeopardizing the viability of old investments. Something that potentially could be nothing but a positive force – technical development – at least temporarily harms many under capitalism. The absurdity of this will only become more apparent with the massive increase in mechanized production methods likely to occur in coming decades.

The social consequences of capitalism’s dynamism and drive for innovation extend far beyond the economic, into all areas of life. Change sparks new thinking, new art, new everything. Those with more time on their hands – whether through increased material affluence or as victims of mass unemployment – have more time to think, reflect, consider what other worlds might be possible.

There are many more considerations that could be raised. I will just mention one more that seems particularly relevant to the question of how receptive people are likely to be to a social change in which income is less tied to labor time – that is, a move away from wage labor and capitalist social relations. It is already the case, under capitalism, that much productive activity goes without monetary reward, some unproductive activity is highly rewarded, and much activity is rewarded in ways that has no real relation to the social value of the activity being undertaken. In other words, there is already, under capitalism, a significant separation of productiveness and income, and an even greater separation of productiveness and wealth.

Most work done in private households, for example, is productive and unpaid. When family members do something for each other, it is usually a communistic, not a capitalistic, social relation. When someone does a friend a favor, likewise it is communistic behavior. (The institutionalist – and non-socialist – economist Ha-Joon Chang touches on this and related points in an entertaining video.)

At the same time, there is currently mass unemployment in many countries. People, by now, have become quite accustomed to the notion of a significant minority of society receiving a modest income in the form of a welfare payment, unemployment benefit, transfer or charitable donation. There are also those of working age who need not work due to the interest income they receive on savings. Interest payments are also transfers. In all these cases, there is a separation of income from productiveness.

On Wall Street there are people who have made decisions of dire consequences for their employers or shareholders, and indirectly society, yet received massive bonuses. Again, this is a sharp separation of productiveness from income. In one sense, this might be considered an outrage. In another sense, it might be helping people get used to the idea that income and productiveness need not go together. I noticed a comment on a message forum recently that basically said, “I suppose if someone in the financial sector making monumental errors can be paid millions in bonuses, what’s a few hundred a week for a person who is unemployed?” By similar reasoning, if 1 percent of the population can own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent (Jim O’Reilly has just put up a terrific post on this), how much relationship is there between financial reward and productiveness in our current society?

One possible conclusion to draw from all this is that maybe we are already quite accustomed to the notion that material well being need not be connected to productiveness. Capitalism has already taught us that. Now it might be time to share the material well being around more equally, and as now, more or less irrespective of an individual’s proficiency or productiveness, but instead primarily on the basis of need and other humane considerations.

The point is, all these developments under capitalism, even the negative ones, potentially have positive effects on the receptiveness of people to the ending of wage labor and capitalist social relations. It may be that it is possible to be more revolutionary than the Marxists in this respect. Why bother reverting to a system (socialism) in which income is strictly tied to labor time when we have already advanced well beyond that kind of thinking thanks to the perversities of our current system? Rather than go backwards, why not just move forward from the point we have already reached?

As I have suggested in recent posts, fiat money would seem to make such a break from wage labor and capitalist social relations possible. Whether we want to pursue this possibility is ultimately up to us.

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24 thoughts on “Getting From Here to There

  1. Logical arguments.
    More and more people with increasing free time on their hands (for different reasons), away from waged labor can break the capitalism transforming it into something new.

  2. There are one interesting question to consider:

    If I was in charge of the planet, would I decide the shutting down of money systems now?

    I would answer no. There are two basic visions of other people that people take: i) as potential collaborators for public and private enrichment ii) as tools for personal and kin people enrichment.

    A non-monetized economy will require a very high-level of prevalence and conscience of attitude i)

    Something similar could be said – with perhaps a not so high-level of prevalence – of other transformations, as the diminishing of the employer-employee relationship.

    So, what would one target for now?

    Adoption of MMT as analysis tool and as political prescriptions in the sense of i) by as many governments as possible. It would lead to concerted national policies of economic development (not merely growth) with due concern for physical restrictions.

    This would end the pre-history of human economics.

    What could happen next does not bear any anxiety in principle.

  3. ss, welcome. I think more to the point, my views are not always those of the MMTers. Reading Randall Wray’s very interesting keynote address to the recent CofFEE conference, it is clear that he includes the specific policy prescriptions and theoretical heritage of the academic MMTers as part and parcel of MMT. That is, it seems clearer to me now than it was a few posts ago that:

    MMT = (1) an understanding of monetary operations + (2) stock-flow consistency + (3) Minsky + (4) Functional Finance + (5) Job Guarantee

    I basically agree with MMT in these five areas, but am interested in exploring possibilities beyond those considered by the leading MMTers. As examples, I would prefer the Job Guarantee to be combined with an unconditional basic income and am interested in exploring the possibility of a transition to a post-capitalist society.

    I am guessing your comment was just humor, but yes, I am a libertarian-communist in some sense. This has nothing to do with MMT. Most MMTers appear to prefer managed capitalism with stronger financial regulation, functional finance and a Job Guarantee to ensure full employment with price stablity.

  4. A comment I recently made on facebook went something like this:

    Rightly or Wrongly, anyone I think that gets Modern Monetary Operations correct, I attribute to MMT (Neochartalism)

    If we go via that description you are MMT. And as we go to pains to point out MMT is apolitical, we just put you on the left Peter, probably to the left of Bill Mitchell and we can put someone like Warren Mosler on the right and say WintersPeak to the right of there. I admit the WintersPeak one is more speculation than anything else.

  5. Cullen is pretty ‘right’ as well. However I’m not sure that the separation helps.

    The progress of society is towards peter’s end of the spectrum, and as they say in the Fens its worth keeping an eye on the horizon while planting at your feet to make sure you’re going in the appropriate direction.

    It is definitely worth discussing post-capitalist structures to see what they could be like, and then we can work out what that allows us to do today in terms of improving what we have – given the level of political maturity in the population.

    Let’s not forget that the society of Star Trek is set in the 23rd/24th Century. In that story Roddenberry needed to give mankind time to grow up politically as well as develop the technology to ensure that all our needs are met as a matter of course.

    But the vision is the same. The lower levels in the hierarchy of needs are supplied so that we can each pursue the higher ones.

    I see no conflict between the idealistic and the pragmatic. MMT’s current proposals are designed for the bear pit of current politics based on the current maturity of minds – where even selling the Job Guarantee is a struggle.

  6. PG has mentioned the key split above:

    There are two basic visions of other people that people take:

    i) as potential collaborators for public and private enrichment

    ii) as tools for personal and kin people enrichment.

    At the moment the people in category (ii) are in charge.

  7. As I said last time, any emphasis on fiat money is going to run into the rock of alienation. As I also said last time, I think the Marxian theory of alienation is hogwash — a confusion of a psychological/ontological human necessity with something in the ‘outside’ or ‘material’ world. However, just for the sake of argument if we accept that a Communist society would be a non-alienated society then there would have to be no money. I’m pretty sure Marx made this point himself in the 1844 manuscripts when he discussed how labour becomes alienated from its product etc. etc.

  8. Philip, I have read and heard the same pat phrases you are trotting out many times. They are no more interesting this time than the last time. I made the mistake in the past of taking at face value the pat dismissals of Sraffians in particular of Marx’s theory of value. Now I prefer to focus on reading the primary sources and making up my own mind.

    However, just for the sake of argument if we accept that a Communist society would be a non-alienated society then there would have to be no money.

    The title and focus of the post is “getting from here to there”.

  9. Under capitalism Peter’s principle rules: everybody reaches the level of incompetence. It is inherent to capitalism and it is not about separation.

  10. Peter, Actually my experience is that the discussion of alienation which is so central to Marxism (certainly the LTV springs almost directly from it) is often subject to very obscure discussions. I have literally never encountered any Marxist that has actually grasped what Hegel was saying about alienation, for example. What he was saying was that it was built into the structure of consciousness itself in that we can cognise other people cognising us but cannot cognise their actual process of cognising — we can see them see us but we cannot see what they are seeing.

    Hegel thought that this could be overcome through dialectical thinking which would eventually arrive at an Absolute Knowledge in which the secrets of History would be revealed and all would be cognised. Very ambitious, to be sure — a classical outline of the efficient markets hypothesis on steroids (we should have asked old Hegel for stock tips!).

    Marx, on the other hand, rejected this. He believed that we had to strip away the social relations that made cognising our realities difficult. In this he dreamed of a society in which all social relations were completely transparent. No longer would labour be alienated from its product through the wage. And no longer would reality be ‘commodified’ through the existence of the ‘veil’ of money. That’s where the LTV comes in which is the ‘truth’ of all labour. A communist society is one in which everyone recognises that all value springs from productive labour — but they must realise this not intellectually, but materially in actual existing social relations.

    Here’s where the problem with using fiat money comes in. If the MMTers are correct and fiat money obtains its value from the obligation for citizens to pay taxes then it is a major source of alienation. Why? Because it is the State alienating its subjects quite directly by ‘tricking’ them into thinking that value springs from the unit of account needed to pay taxes.

    Once again we’re back to the fact that MMT is a State Capitalist doctrine — in fact, it is perhaps THE most powerful doctrine of State Capitalism ever to have existed. Not only does it explain the value of fiat money through its ability to extinguish tax obligations but it also essentially says that government sets markets prices through (a) its deficits (b) its purchases in the markets and (c) its Jobs Guarantee program (which sets the price of labour). [Note that MMTers might say that government currently sets the price of labour through minimum wage legislation — which raises all sorts of interesting questions for people who adhere to LTV].

    To go back to the Marxian argument now, what we should see MMT as is a doctrine that attempts to have the worker alienated directly in the State rather than through the Market (although the latter may remain). A good Marxist philosopher would recognise in this a doctrine not just of State Capitalism in the economic sense, but also State Capitalism in the ontological sense — the State here is usurping the worker’s ability to see social relations in a transparent manner by imposing upon him money that has a ‘false’ source of value.

    These are anything but the trite dismissals of the Sraffians. In its own terms the Marxian theory of labour — tied up, as it is, with the Marxian theory of alienation — sets itself up a very difficult task when it comes to integrating any new approaches. Marx’s system is closed unto itself.

  11. Philip, thanks for elaborating your point. You are right that it was not the usual arguments I had in mind. It was interesting. 🙂

    That’s where the LTV comes in which is the ‘truth’ of all labour. A communist society is one in which everyone recognises that all value springs from productive labour — but they must realise this not intellectually, but materially in actual existing social relations.

    My understanding of a communist society is that economic activity would no longer be on the basis of the “law of value”. I take the law of value only to be the “law” driving capitalism, not a communist society.

    The means of production would be owned in common and goods and services distributed according to need or other democratic criteria freed from the law of value. As you wrote, there would be no money.

    But my series of posts here is concerned with getting from capitalism to communism. If it is possible to jump straight to fully formed communism, great, but to me that seems unlikely.

    My suggestion (in the previous few posts, not this one) is that fiat money offers a path to a post-capitalist society (maybe communism) because it makes it possible to stop doing more and more things on the basis of the law of value over time. We already do this to some extent. For example, when a society provides everyone with free health care based on need, to me that means that access to some goods or services is not determined by the amount of society’s labor time required for its production or on the basis of the law of value. Certainly, it is not yet a complete break with wage labor or the law of value.

    I take your point about the compulsion (and threat of state violence) underpinning any state money system. I have given this consideration and made some attempt (only partial at this stage) to address it in an earlier post, last year, Taxation, Money, Freedom and Economy. My view is that, yes, there is compulsion in the tax obligation underpinning fiat money, but that it is preferable to other forms of compulsion that would seem likely to take its place (e.g. actual violence rather than implicit threat of, ramped up police state, Stalinism, etc.) if we attempted to introduce a fully formed communist society before people were willing to enter into this new set of social relations of their own volition.

    As I have argued in my recent posts, I think that fiat money enables us to ignore the logic of capital and the profit motive to some extent in a way that is more sustainable than under some of the alternative monetary arrangements.

    Interesting though I find the philosophical debate on Marx’s theory, if you are right and his approach cannot be reconciled with the line of reasoning I have just outlined, I guess I would forget about reconciling Marx with the argument. I am more motivated to find a way to a better society than worry about whether it is consistent with Marx. But at this stage the two still seem compatible to me. Perhaps you will persuade me otherwise.

  12. Sergie, I’m not sure I’m understanding your point. Are you saying anything other than a complete, instant break from capitalism is futile? If you have time, I’d be curious to read more of your thoughts on this. If it is a complete, instant break you have in mind, what steps would remain to be taken after the initial break from capitalism?

  13. “My understanding of a communist society is that economic activity would no longer be on the basis of the “law of value”. I take the law of value only to be the “law” driving capitalism, not a communist society.”

    Yes, my thinking on this is that when society (apparently) moves to communism the law of value under capitalism changes somewhat in that workers are no longer ‘exploited’ and they fully realise their labour powers. They also now see that the source of all production is not monetary, but labour. But I think ‘value’ is still assumed to be coming from labour and so the labour theory of value still operates.

    The way I look at this is that any theory of value is implicitly a moral judgment in that it tells us where what Aristotle called the Good springs from. The LTV tells us that all Good (goods?) comes from labour and so the moral judgment implicit in this is that labour should be freed to produce as much of the Good as possible. Communism is a society based on free labour in which goods and services are simply the products of labour and no longer subject to the ‘veil’ of money.

    =======

    The transition you imagine is a tad misguided, I think — at least as far as truly ‘free’ ‘non-alienated’ (in the Marxian sense) labour goes. When we transfer the control of, say, healthcare to the State what happens is that the workers no longer work under an exploitative wage that extracts surplus value. (Note, I don’t think that any of this terminology makes sense, but I’m arguing here as a Marxist or Communist might). Instead they are paid a State wage in an industry where any profit is returned to the public good and not extracted by the capitalist.

    However, the workers continue to work in a sort of wage labour system in that they receive a wage. While this wage is not guided by an attempt to extract surplus value, it is still the transfer of money to obtain human labour power — and so it casts a ‘veil’ over the social relation. While the labourer is no longer exploited (in the Marxian sense) they are still ‘alienated’ from their product (in the Marxian sense). So, while the relations of production have changed they have not become Communist (perhaps they are becoming socialist, however).

    This is all great and good but it does not lead to a system of free, unalienated human labour. Instead, as I said in the last post, the worker is alienated in the State. The State becomes the paymaster and the entity that extracts labour power. The worker works for the State. Yes, we can point out that the public purpose is served and the worker is working for society as a whole. But ‘Society’ in this sense is, as Marx would say, an abstraction and so is ‘alienating’. (Remember here the roots of alienation theory. Feuerbach showed how people mistook ‘material’ relations for ‘idealistic’ or ‘abstract’ relations — in his example, God — and so became alienated. Here, the State steps into the role of God — it’s vehicle for alienating workers being fiat money.)

    If fiat money were to go towards socialistic organisation that is the direction it would be headed in — not communistic, but socialistic relations of production. Personally, I don’t even want it to go that far. I don’t think socialist relations of production are desirable — I prefer State Capitalism.

    Anyway, from the above you might see what I mean about Marxist theory — and all its derivatives — making what I call ‘metaphysical’ judgments about the source of value. The LTV is inherently tied up with the theory of alienation and that theory is inherently metaphysical (even though Marx denied this and claimed he was embedding it in a sort of sociological materialism). This system closes in upon itself because of the assumption of alienated labour and the need to ‘free’ this labour from all abstractions. I would say, of course, that humans need what Marx called ‘abstractions’ to live (or at least, to remain sane) and that is why I think this is a dangerous doctrine.

    Finally, that is why I think that Marxist dude is essentially correct about MMT (at least, when looked at from his point of view). MMT is a theory that posits what Marxists refer to as ‘abstractions’ (fiat money) and use these to ‘veil’ social relations. This is an inherently ‘alienating’ action and will only produce more so-called ‘alienation’. Another way of saying this is that MMT is absolutely NOT a Utopian doctrine.

  14. Peter,

    Peter’s principle 🙂 is the observation of hierarchical relationships and hierarchical structures where success is rewarded by promotion to higher ranks in the hierarchy. In different systems of social relationships success can be defined in various terms but in capitalism success is defined in terms of profits. So the Peter’s principle says that everybody in his professional life gets promoted to the level of incompetence which, following the logic of your post, *by definition* means that the reward is disproportionate to the productivity and/or responsibility. It is a feature of capitalism as long as incentives are structured as profits. And as I was writing this I realized that I am talking a theoretical capitalism where an honest profit is the measure of success. Profits, however, can be dishonest, i.e. legislated monopoly, or measures of success can be different.

  15. People should own their labour. They should have the right to give or refuse labour. To believe otherwise is to advocate slavery. The logical extension of this is to define collective ownership of the fruits of labour as mutual. Defining collective ownership as state ownership is alienating. I agree with Philip on this. If, however, collective ownership is defined as Peter and Philip’s ownership then this is mutual ownership. This is scalable to some extent but is limited by the logistics of direct social relationships. Labour accounting can be used to account for equity in mutual ownership and extend the scalability. In some cases this is also desirable to preserve incentives to work. Inferring property rights in this way follows from saying that people own their own labour.

    Similar rights can be inferred from saying that people own their thoughts and their bodies.

    Getting from here to there is a heuristic problem. There is extensive work on heuristics within computer science and psychology. Revolution is unlikely to be an effective solution because there is little scope for information gain. State planning has similar problems. Information is not accumulated because there is inadequate searching. Federalism or mutualism are more likely to search the problem space effectively.

  16. With mutualism, many alternatives are propounded and many options explored. This is characteristics of groups with higher adaptive rates in biology. Individuals acting alone are limited in their capacity, and hives are too rigid in structure to be creative. Smaller groups based on mutual cooperation and coordination win the evolutionary game.

  17. I forget who’s done research on maximum social group size. I’m trying to organise my notes better so that I don’t forget these things. The ideal size for a software development team is considered to be 6. I think there are increasing logistical problems with communication between about 50 and 150 and after that, structure has to be formalised. I’m interested in how software can increase the scalability of informal groups, mainly because I write software.

  18. I don’t know of any studies on group size, but I participated in an intentional/experimental community in the late 60’s and early 70’s that was built on networking of small groups.

    The basic rule that evolved was small group efficiency and effectiveness maxed out at twelve. So if more were added, the group needed to be split, on the analogy of cell mitosis. Worked reasonably well, but it requires flexible people. Part of the overall training of the community was in individual and group flexibility.

    But decision making was based on consensus, so that limits the size of the group more than might be required under different governing norms.

  19. I have found adaptable structural capital very difficult to apply within mutualism. It’s a bit easier in a work context because there’s a lot of selection in choosing who becomes part of the team. I’d like to try again within occupy (there’s a lot of activities under the broad banner). I’ve been thinking about combining Paulo Freire’s ideas and promiscuous pair programming. The focus would become group learning. At the moment I’d be happy to meet a few other programmers who are interested in mutualism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_programming

    I’m going on holiday for a week to the south coast of England. Hopefully the weather will last.

  20. “At the moment I’d be happy to meet a few other programmers who are interested in mutualism.”

    There’s a whole load of us in the Free Software.

  21. Changing the ‘I’

    There is the skin of the earth, and its resources; and human values. People make and exchange things, according to their values.

    This creates IOU’s (records) extending through time. When these records become transferrable they begin to be characterised as ‘money’ – which evolves under desire into a social, and eventually societal, formative and transformative expression of force. The human mental nature and the ‘I’ wield this force in the quest to fulfil desire.

    By force I mean something analogous to the kinetic flows of matter in nature. For example the kind of motion and changes brought into effect when Putin issues an order, or the Fed doubles the FFR; or the price of oil goes through the roof. The issue is who wields this sculptural force in human affairs, and to what end? Money is one medium, its modern numerical issuance freed forever from exchanges, but not values. A stone is dropped in a pond and a ripple effect created. I trace the stone back to the ‘I’ or groups of ‘I’s; and think about the evolution of the ‘I’ from the days we lived in caves; and how people hide the ‘I’ within the persona and events, because they have something to hide. The ‘I’s create manifestations such as society: you cannot change the human qualities of these manifestations by tinkering with the manifestations – you have to change the ‘I’s.

    The ‘I’ is significant to me because I consider it to be simply a wave in the mindstuff (as anyone who has come closer to the Self will attest) which needs to be unpacked both individually and in the group context, if we are to understand anything at all about the direction of force. The world is a mirror that reflects back to us our control over, understanding and manifestation of desire. Desire is reaching out: force is motion we create to get what the ‘I’ wants. Desire reaching out is a river that is meant to flow, as it drives the evolution of the ‘I’: only when the river floods and creates damage is it a problem. Desire reaching within is the only desire in a human being that can be fulfilled.

    Taking a small diversion to the individual: – most people, in themselves are ‘good people’: but they still run into trouble with each other, because of personality interactions and differences in world-views of the ‘I’. The ‘I’ as repository of force, creates personality ripples, affecting human relations and events. We all try to control these ripples in order to fulfil desire. The ‘I’ is THE dramatic actor on the world stage, struggling to fulfil itself unto the very last breath. Much has been written about how the ‘I’ collects up a ‘cloud of thoughts and feelings’ about it-self, and Acts out (not to mention the internal storms)! The psychologists write papers about it; but few of them understand what it is that will make a human being truly happy! (The ones I know that do, are aware of the Self). Nobody doubts that they exist – but most people in the world identify their being with the ‘I’ and have no clue as to their existence. They identify with mind and all that passes through it, the emotional nature and animal body – all synthesised in the ‘I’.

    Happiness is actually very simple: – it is in the ‘breath’, an Energy that passes in and out of the Self.

    The realm of the ‘I’ is mind; the realm of the Self is the heart. These are two very different containers, and when water pours from one jug to another, it is because one has been placed by design, above. We don’t seem to understand this design. There is no point in using mind to repeat a mantra: ‘I am the Self, I am the Witness, I am the Observer …’ etc. It is just mind going around and around like a carousel. The sensible thing to do is as best you can, stay in touch with your heart – the higher part of ‘you’. Learning to use the ‘energies’ of kindness and compassion that reside there – is the only way to condition personality force wisely! The heart knows the ‘I’ is ultimately vapour. So does the ‘I’ because it fears death and lives in Time. A simple recognition of the thirst that your heart holds, and the importance that the energy of love has for human beings, and you have the relationship right way up. Human beings need to right themselves in this sense, float the right way up! Energy will always condition force: never the other way around. Like the fabled Swan that separates milk from water, the Self alone, knows the difference between the two worlds. The ‘I’ is all but a point of self-consciousness in a very young child; then it grows and is added to throughout life (unless it is broken, like a pencil through contact with the Self). It is natural to follow the path of the ‘I’ and do things well, but we need to be able to add to it, conditioning the mind with the path of the heart. Then when the ‘I’ is ready, and the Self is ready – ‘knock and the door will be opened’. Has that not always been the promise? Mind without the heart leads to a very dark place.

    Now, back to the ‘I’ in the world. What the ‘I’ believes: its ‘culture’, its ‘religion’ its ‘politics’ its relation to ‘money’ its ‘possessions’, its relations to other ‘I’s, its world-view – are the wiring if you like, for the conduction of personality force.

    Because everybody believes in Princesses, when Diana waved, the crowd cheered and waved back. Think Mexican waves. Of course a huge cloud of emotional-love-desire was the ‘reality’ there.

    In the world today there are very simple ‘I’s – humble, with very basic mental and emotional equipment (but the same living desire) living side by side with Nature. On the concrete islands evolution has brought us seemingly gigantic ‘I’s that rule whole countries, and armies – both financial and military. Most of us fortunately have no clue as to what it is like to be such an ‘I’. We should count our blessings. All provide the conduit for force – from rulers to the people and from the people to the rulers: – a two-way street as many have found out quite catastrophically. Changing ourselves (our world-views) changes the world. Changing our rulers doesn’t seem to go very far at all.

    ‘I’s today are aggregated, institutionalised, incorporated, enslaved (but told they are free) in communities whose world-views are hammered in under the relentless onslaught of the media, advertising, think-tanks, the famous, influential, and current crop of ‘Xperts’. Our scientists have advanced technology to fission in uranium nuclei releasing a truly amazing quantity of material energy (six ounces powers San Francisco for five years, nuclear having two million times the energy density of gasoline), and we may perfect fusion; we have universities all over the world – but ignorance (ignoring) is as thick as ever. What we are ignoring is the basic building block of any society: the ‘I’.

    Of course it suits rulers who like to control everything, to ignore the ‘I’. On a lesser scale – since we have about seven billions control freaks on this planet, all trying to influence each other in some way; ergo – everybody ignores the ‘I’. Everything has to be held in place by force. Even in schools, educators avoid the ‘I’ as much as possible in order to implement their program. Besides, if you think of the hundred people on this planet who like you the most, and the hundred people who dislike you the most; and then think of your own view of yourself – which one is correct? Who is talking to whom? From birth to death, the ‘I’ changes: but then, we want everything in the world to stay comfortably the same – not connecting the dots. We look to fix all of the problems in the world without looking to what is causing all of the problems in the first place. How is that going to work?

    Scare yourself and imagine seven billion ‘I’s all evolved to a point of mental activity and opinion similar to today’s enthusiastic online commentators and discussants – and on a single planetary blog! To me it is obvious: as the ‘I’ becomes better mentally and emotionally equipped to attempt to fulfil our boundless thirst (which we do not understand), it is going to get even more chaotic, competitive, demanding and confusing – unless there is a coordinating Energy harmonising force. Either that or we aerial spray tranquillisers.

    Mind, creates its own problems, and you cannot fix problems with the problem creator. Mind will never come up with a coordinating Conceptual Structure because mind always generates more questions than answers and the ‘I’s remain ever wanting, ever in flux, ever climbing over each other to get what they want. We need something that will generate an Answer no matter how many questions arise, and feasible in the context of humanity today. It is already there, inside each human being. And it has a beautifully harmonising effect on the ‘I’! As Prem Rawat says (from memory): “ … you cannot have manifestations of peace, without first having peace. Peace has to arise from within the heart of each and every human being for it to be truly successful”.

    People journey from cradle to grave, treadle to throne, ‘servants of the force’; even paying for their own cremation. (Reminds me of Egyptian pyramid ‘workers’ who had themselves buried under a tiny little pile of rocks because the Pharaoh knew best). Do we really want to be little puppets, forever?

    The Dictator, the Destroyer, the accomplished Liar and Manipulator are just as much a product of our evolution as our accomplished Statesmen, Builders, and Thinkers; and their Warriors, Weavers, Wayfarers, and Planners. But pardon me: – I really do not think force is in anybody’s control – nor do I think evolution has finished with us yet! Force is our Commons in the realm of the personality. It is our creativity. The ‘I’ stands at the crossroads of force. We nail ourselves to it along with the thief and murderer because they are our brothers – we are all a part of the same thing (as above, so below).

    What we build will pass like the pyramids are passing, grain of stone by grain of stone, returned to the desert. Just as the dinosaurs disappeared from our planet, over-blown ‘I’s currently roaming the globe trampling people and creating needless suffering too will pass. Slowly, slowly people will see through themselves. That is my belief in humanity. The true Self of a human being lies beneath the personality layers and can only be seen when the ‘I’ has run its course; and the heart and the thirst that is in the heart is recognised. The feet find themselves on the path to self-knowledge. The ‘I’ is the root problem in this world. Fixing all of the problems is just paring a few knotty branches off the tree. Not many people want to look at the ‘I’ because I guess they would have to look at themselves too! What motivates you? Of course, light arrives well before the Sun reaches the horizon, gently and almost imperceptibly.

    I think of human Intelligence as a seed, buried deep in fertile soil, lying in wait patiently for the rain (our personality force, the ‘I’) to penetrate to where it is buried. Yes, the rain sculpts the landscape, dances its little dance in Time and space; but this means nothing to the seed. It awaits the moisture and heat required; the fecundity to send its very first leaf up into the sunlight: – in a human being, this very first leaf is called Responsibility. I do see green shoots in the world. I also see a lot of people, blindly trampling these shoots.

    Teachers tell me, when kids stop blaming each other, making excuses, saving face, and are honest enough to accede their current behaviour does not help; they are on their way to discovering at least a potential to behave responsibly. There are so many people in every field of human creativity working in their own way responsibly. True creativity is force used responsibly. Creativity emerges from the Self to be expressed through the personality equipment. The palette is the human heart; its colours giving shape and form. In all streams of human expression whether it is business, art, economics, philosophy or politics etc. Responsibility is the first sign of maturity in the field of the human persona.

    I think if money has any purpose at all in human affairs, it is, along with our political and religious beliefs, to invoke, evoke and evolve in our character Responsibility.

    Hence I arrive at homo Oeconomus – responsibility and stewardship by people for our beautiful earth, and the members of our unique planetary household. And I arrive at the human heart and the key that is needed to open it – and the secondary effect of an open heart: the ability of the Self to condition the ‘I’. We are, after 200,000 years on the road, still learning the art of being human. Still to find out whom we are, our reason for being.

    I think this reason is simple – it is in the first instance at least, to learn how to enjoy being alive! To learn how to appreciate, the miracle of existence.

    Just because you know the ‘I’ doesn’t mean you know your Self. For me, the Self is a tiny little transformer station (probably at the end of a series of many) stepping down the power from an Infinite Generator, so that a teeny little bit of current may flow and safely turn on the most fragile but beautiful of lamps, the human personality. The ‘I’ is just a way of developing the quality of the lamp to do so. This is central to human education. The more the ‘I’ attunes to the energies of the heart, the more the mind is clarified and strengthened; the more there is serenity and friendship. When the Self is known, the lamp is lit. I see over a million lit lamps shining in this world, and my vision is extremely limited, so please do not tell me I am dreaming. It’s more a question of opening the eyes. Mind becomes the ‘eye’ of the Self in the world below.

    The ‘I’ instigates personality force because it wants something – not because it knows what it needs. For as long as the ‘I’ remains in the dark as to its Self, it is the blind leading the blind. We find the daily news and events on this planet fascinating, and yes all knowledge has its due place; but more fascinating to me is the evolution of consciousness, leading to Raj Vidya – knowledge of the Self. I know of no other energy on this planet that can successfully condition force to the benefit of all. Desire is a longing, which after passing through all other possibilities, ends up knocking humbly, with ‘the heart of a child’ – on the door of the Self. Each ‘I’ must request a key. A human being is a door – the citizen role is just a role, in a play that we write, under the stars. The world is caught up with its problems: in some way or another, we need to be caught up with the answer. This means opening further, the heart.

    Hearts always find their way to where they need to be. The mind loves to wander and wonder, the mind is curious; the heart loves, longs to come home. Looking out your window you see the play of this world; looking within I see the simple play of energy and force and the Divine from which they both arise. As the energies of the heart begin to flow, the mind slowly slowly begins to understand.

    In this lies the real potential and the Possibility of Peace in our world.

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