It seems that a lot of striking, demonstrating, protesting, and other plain folks not taking it anymore is going on. Western cities are burning. People seem to have enough of it. They openly quit their jobs, or sabotage covertly by slowing down on the job. There is unrest in the air, and societal troubles are brewing. It makes me wonder if there are parallels with the birth the French Revolution, also known as The Terror. Here’s some thoughts on the possible mechanics behind it.
Life is unfair, and the world is an unfair place. Some people moan about living in a rich country. Other people live happily with their whole family in an oil-drum. Some humans are born as a man, others have to go through life as a woman. In the beginning of your life you are young, with its advantages and its problems. You want to change the world, get rid of those ridiculous pimples, poverty and hunger, and end all wars, forever.
Later, in the autumn of your life cycle, as you grow older, liver-spots and nightly toilet sessions pester you. Still later, you look around in your senior-citizens home for a place to stack and re-stack your many papers. Finally you search for a nice and cozy hole in the ground, wherein you can lay down and rest, for the very last time.
The psychology of revolution
Slowly but surely the body deteriorates, until it finally croaks. On a positive note, age also brings self-control, self-knowledge, and monetary means to influence your moods and your joy. If you made the right decisions and played your cards right, life becomes easier, the older you get. Materially as well. Nevertheless, in every phase in your life you are in a position of unfairness. You have something that somebody else is missing. And vise versa.
“At no period of history did men so little grasp the present, so greatly ignore the past, and so poorly divine the future.”
From The Psychology of Revolution – Gustave Le Bon
Skills and luck
It seems that we slowly evolve from chaos to order. At least, that is what we like to believe. But the opposite is happening. At the beginning of time there was some natural order, but the more the world is cultivated and manicured, the more complex and uncontrollable everything becomes. Or, how an increasingly man-made planet can evolve away from mild into wild randomness. It is a different world out there, wilder and more untamed than we think it is.
These two factors – skills and luck – shift the dynamics of wildly uneven distribution to new grounds.
With that, more unfairness, in the form of inequality is introduced into the mix. First there is the idea of life considered as a downhill motor race, with one winner and a whole bunch of losers. This is called the tournament effect whereby somebody who is marginally better earns the jackpot, while a room full of other jokers get nothing. But a second important part is played by good or bad luck.
These two factors – skills and luck – shift the dynamics of wildly uneven distribution to new grounds. And to make things more complex, luck is also a great equalizer, because anyone can benefit from it. Luck is truely the wild card. At some point it is hard to believe that the planet is not meant to be that intricate and complicated.
“Everyone at times feels himself in the grip of social forces over which he has no control.“
From THE BEHAVIOR OF CROWDS: A Psychological Study – Everett Dean Martin
Fairness and selfishness
Evolutionary theorists talk of genes as being “selfish”. They steer us from within, based on some ancient evolutionary programming. The willess victim (you, me, us, we) looses the ability to use reason, logic, and science to navigate the world. And before we can yell “Dawkins!”, our thought patterns, belief systems, attitudes, mindsets, our combined abilities to think properly and accurately are acting up in weird, anti-social and selfish ways.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Selfish” genes can give rise to generous creatures. It makes for altruism towards kin, towards your own people, towards people who look like you, eat like you, smell like you, and vote like you. It makes you altruistic toward your own bloodline.
There is also selfishness in altruism toward non-kin, to strangers, to new faces. This is unexplainable from an evolutionary viewpoint, but it fits in with the power of incentives. Often you get something back when you are altruistic towards people you don’t know. We feel anger, contempt and disgust when people take advantage of us. Anger can be a motivating emotion. We feel pleasure, liking, and friendship when people show signs that they can be trusted to reciprocate. This in itself is a nice incentive.
The Matthew Effect
Even the bible is clear on the inevitability of inequality. In the gospel of Matthews we find a parable about how the possession of more talents earn you even more talents in the future. An other name is accumulated advantage. The more money you made in the past, the more you are going to make in the future. This also goes the other way, with failure. The more money you lost in the past, the more you are going to lose in the future. The accumulated advantage-effect spreads easily to companies, brands, actors, bloggers (haha), influencers, rock stars, anyone who benefits from past successes. And social media leverages it all.
Untill the cards are reshuffled
It might be a good thing, that the world is like it is. Think about it. When somebody has it all, laziness and carelessness rear their ugly heads. In time, this winner could be unseated by a new, freshly motivated, and stronger competitor, who will also be conquered and defeated. This is the very real dread of the winner: the fear of losing, and being cast aside.
A loser might always lose, if he chooses to. The winner is never safe. Translate this to civilizations, and you can see that disorder, chaos, and movement are the status quo. We live under the constant threat of global collapse, meander from one crisis into the other, and if there is no crisis, we manufacture one.
When you think of it, this shuffling and reshuffling of the cards makes life on Spaceship Earth more intriguing than it already is. Who knows who dominates tomorrow’s world. It could be you.
- THE BEHAVIOR OF CROWDS: A Psychological Study – Everett Dean Martin
- The Psychology of Revolution – Gustave Le Bon