Political Structure of
"The decayed condition of American democracy is difficult to grasp, not because the facts are secret, but because the facts are visible everywhere. Symptoms of distress are accumulating freely in the political system and citizens are demoralized by the lack of coherent remedies. Given the recurring, disturbing facts, a climate of stagnant doubt has enveloped contemporary politics, a generalized sense of disappointment that is too diffuse and intangible to be easily confronted. The things that Americans were taught and still wish to believe about self-government -- the articles of civic faith we loosely call democracy -- no longer seem to fit the present reality."William Greider 1
hose who are inclined to ponder the state of our current political climate -- and few citizens appear to do so anymore with any depth -- generally fall into three distinct camps. There are those who are generally happy with the status quo and feel that whatever shortcomings arise, they can be fixed. In other words, they have faith in the self-healing mechanisms now in place. Secondly, there are those who feel a far more radical approach is required. The system has not been fixed, cannot be fixed, and will never be fixed -- and, therefore, the "People" will never be properly represented unless, again, we clear out the petri dish and start over. The third group are even more "radical" in the current understanding of the term, and we call them "anarchists." Advocates of anarchism come, as do we all, in 32 flavors and then some -- but it would probably be fair to say that their position represents the same cleaning out of the petri dish. But then we keep it clean.
This sounds good in principle, but it represents a swinging of the pendulum too far in the other direction. Meditopia is not about no government. It's about good government -- government that provides responsiveness and accountability to the common citizen, rather than mythological theater. It's about government that observes Natural Law and acts with a knowledge of the importance of endosomaticism. It's about acknowledging the dangers inherent in the centralization of power and authority and realizing that in any endosomatic-leaning society, people make decisions for themselves. It's all about community, and when you put all the pieces together, the best government comes from the networking of many communities, where the center of power is still localized. It's about creating a body of civic law that is so minimalistic, the thought of consensual crime (which abounds in the over 13,500 criminal laws now on the books in the U.S. -- and that's just on the federal side) is acknowledged for the absurdity it is. 2 - 3.
What is needed are discrete, localized "politi-cell" structures -- where the center of political gravity is decentralized. The advantages of public works in its economics of scale could still be accomplished through networking, but no centralized authority would have the power to exert itself over all the other communities. What would be helpful is a pre-existing model of political, endosomatic-leaning success that we can draw lessons from, and as it turns out, just a model already exists. The Iroquois Confederacy, the world's oldest living participatory democracy, has been operating successfully since August 31, 1142 A.D.. However, in terms of the maintenance of eco-sustainable, earth-friendly, endosomatic culture, the Iroquois claim that Native North American Indians "can probably lay claim to a tradition which reaches back to at least the end of the Pleistocene, [approx. 30,000 B.C.] and which, in all probability, goes back much further than that." 12. [Perhaps Precambrian 14.] Many elements of Iroquois democratic rule are almost recognizable when compared to our own twisted version of democracy -- for instance, all decisions affecting all tribes have to be agreed upon unanimously. (Although the founding fathers were influenced by Iroquois law, it appears to have played a small role -- I believe an unfortunately insignificant one.)
In the oral tradition that tells the history of the Iroquois Confederacy or "Six Nations Confederacy," a Huron prophet, Deganawida, was inspired with a plan "to end human beings' abuses of other human beings." This oral tradition, "Gayaneshakgowa," or "Great Binding Peace," tells of the founding of the Confederacy at a time of immense warfare and bloodshed between the various tribes. Although my knowledge of the tradition is inadequate to know all its nuances as it pertains to the use of resources, I suspect that, as in most conflicts, an "exosomatic leaning" relative to the Indian culture was most probably in vogue. Deganawida enlisted the help of a former Ononadaga chief, Hiawatha, to help carry his message in all its specifics to all the other nations.
The result was a detailed solution -- one that requires over a week to repeat by those who can still recite the Deganawida, but at its core is a solution with the simplicity of Occam's Razor: a forum will exist where all nations are represented, where "thinking will replace violence" and "reason will prevail," with a central geographic location easily reached by all. In acts that further showed an underlying endosomatic wisdom, the Confederacy was divided into clans, irrespective of the participants tribal origin. The clan names were taken from animal species with whom the Indians share their ecosystem: Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Heron, Hawk, Snipe, Beaver, Deer, and Eel. Political power is not invested primarily in men. In a move that reflected the wisdom of culture that respects the equal importance that male and female play in a culture in equilibrium, the women of the clans meet under the leadership of a clan mother and select the men who assemble as chiefs in the Grand Council. To insure peace among the different Indian nations, "the Peacemaker proposed that the People of the Longhouse would be united in a brotherhood so strong that the people of the Turtle clan of the Senecas would view the people of the Turtle clan of the Mohawks as their own blood kin, and as such it would be unlawful for a person of one of these nations to marry a person of the other who was of the same clan, just as it would be wrong for a person to marry a sibling." 9.
It is interesting that the Deganawida describe an early opponent to the Plan for Unity that created the Federation. The oral tradition describes him an Onondaga war chief whose name was Tadodaho. He was said to be an "embodiment" of evil -- one who had snakes woven into his hair to intimidate those around him. I believe this is Indian symbolism that, translated into the "language of the Axis," describes the "Darkness" that is progressive as you move from left to right on the Exosomatic Axis. In continuing the symbolism, the tradition tells of the emergence of Jikohnsaseh, a woman chief of the Cat (or Neutral) Nation. "She suggested that (Tadodaho) could be won over by being offered the chairmanship of the Great League. When the nations assembled to make their offer, Tadodaho accepted. Jikohnsaseh, who came to be described as the Mother of Nations or the Peace Queen, seized the horns of authority and placed them on Tadodaho's head in a gesture symbolic of the power of women in Iroquois polity." 10.
In comparing our own political and social order with that of the Iroquois Confederacy, several key features stand out -- and they show just how far we have allowed our worship of tools to remove us from the natural world. First, the strength of the "community" shines clearly among the Iroquois and nearly all indigenous tribes that one studies in North America. Their myths and symbolisms were rooted in the land and allowed them to have a deep and abiding relationship with the land. By contrast, our high entropy, high exosomatic culture has invested itself largely in the individual. As Joseph Campbell notes, " . . . in the leading modern centers of cultural creativity -- people have begun to take the existence of their supporting social orders for granted, and instead of aiming to defend and maintain the integrity of the community have begun to place at the center of concern the development and protection of the individual -- the individual, moreover, not as an organ of the state but as an end and entity in himself. This marks an extremely important, unprecedented shift of ground . . . " 11.
Political economists who follow the theories of "social capital," understand the implications of these developments. For social capital is the glue that holds together both physical and human capital and makes them productive. "It refers to features of social organization, such as networks, norms, and trust, that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Social capital enhances the benefits of investment in physical and human capital." 13. The slow dying passage of American community is something social capital pioneer, Robert D. Putnam, makes clear in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Putnam is, however, a reformer without a sense of the tectonic plates in politics that contribute to the collapse in the first place. You can't fix life on the surface when the underlying plates are programmed to make life above instable. Investment in community, as Hume notes in his "farmer parable," is based on a confidence in reciprocity. If the power structure has a center of gravity that is located at the top of the pyramid -- where exosomaticity has created maximum centralization of authority -- the very forces that create community vibrancy and potency have already been sucked out. Putnam does a superior job of identifying the problem -- not providing the solution.
I realized this while running my family's food company, Lumen Foods (soybean.com). My employee number has fluctuated to anywhere between nine and forty-three employees over the past eighteen years -- (I founded the company in Lake Charles in 1986). After a while, I noticed that my wife and I were the only ones who ever went to a voting booth to fulfill our civic duty on election day. I had extensive talks with employees -- individually and in groups -- to uncover why there was such a dirth of interest in the electoral process. If I had to sum up the sentiments of my workers, it would be: "What does it matter who gets elected? And even if my vote changed who got elected -- what difference does that make to me or my life?" 15.
Centralized government and true democracy are contradictions in terms. The Iroquois understood this. That is why "tribal nationalism" was deliberately broken and destroyed with the institution of clans. The Indians understood that unless each and every citizen felt that his vote counted, that his opinion mattered -- or to borrow from Hume, that his effort in the field changed the fate of the crop, there could be no democracy -- there could be no such a thing as representative government -- there could be no peace -- there could be none of the blessings that follow from endosomaticity.
The political culture that makes a Meditopia possible would have good government -- with a political center of gravity that ascended no higher than a small city. Networking would be the order of the day. Such are the dictates of an endosomatically-leaning society.
In 1776, the year Americans celebrate their coming of age (specifically, 'independence'), three revolutionary works were published -- all of them 'bestsellers' by the standards of their time: Common Sense by Thomas Paine; An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations by Adam Smith; and the first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. I would suggest that it is with irony and synchronicity that the first work was most influential in the formation of the nation; Adams Smith's, in its ascension to world hegemony; and the lessons to be learned by Gibbon will be most influential in our sunset. Tainter presents his take on the Roman collapse in Chapter 5 of The Collapse of Complex Societies, appropriately entitled, "Evaluation: complexity and marginal returns in collapsing societies," along with the Chacoan and Mayan collapses. But, more recently, Chomsky's latest submissions, whose work is derided as "leftist" by the more "conservative" thinkers in the U.S., gives us food for thought with a more immediate sense of urgency: the seeds we have been planting that will contribute to our own collapse. 4.
The more educated of Americans understand, to varying degrees, that all politics is theater. Appearances matter most -- it is an integral part of sustaining "legitimacy." But when the effort to sustain a high entropy, highly exosomatic culture reaches a point of resource drawdown where even the most persuasive voices in the national leadership cannot mask the obvious -- when political discourse reaches a "theater of the absurd" as it has in the Afghanistan and Iraqi invasions, both absurdly billed as integral to the "war on terrorism" -- when a community of nations (the U.N.) comes into repeated agreement on a host of issues and one hegemonic nation stands alone in defiance of the world (see Blum 5), you see all the elements of a culture, a people, a nation, a society, that has become so out of touch with elements needed to contribute to the equilibrium of the world ecosystem, that a collapse becomes inevitable. Put in more metaphysical terms, a nation, like an individual, has karma, and we have built "an empire based on the projection of military power to every corner of the world and on the use of American capital and markets to force global economic integration on our terms, at whatever cost to others." 6 Actions, like ideas, have consequences. 7 And the management of the culture by "a corps of unelected elite bureaucrats (who govern) the country under a facade of democracy" 8 while working in secret for their corporate masters in the power elite, is, if we are to believe prognosticators like Chomsky, Johnson, Todd, Blum, and others, producing a wretched harvest we have yet to reap.
The efforts of the FDA to secure maximum market share for their corporate masters and enforce policies that have, to date, unnecessarily killed millions of people, is but one manifestation of having the cultural pendulum sitting at the far right hand side of the Exosomatic Axis.
The Empire -- for America and the Western economies that have tethered themselves into our vision of Pax Americana -- will come to an end, as surely as it did for the Caesars.
A political and culture environment conducive to Meditopia is possible for those who are able to see the turning of the wheel of fortune and begin to network now with like-minded souls who can plan for the World that will follow -- after the 'die-off'.
On more than one occasion while travelling abroad, I had to hide my U.S. passport to avoid the risk of antagonism in select social situations; and in a number of instances, when I wanted to get the true and earnest thoughts of foreigners, I would feign citizenship and claim to be a Canadian (a small lie, considering that my father is a Canadian -- dual citizen). In such situations, while their guard was down and they felt they could speak their mind, the vast majority of foreigners I encountered in Europe and Central / South America spoke of the U.S. as we might make reference to Nazi Germany. Foreigners, as a whole and as a majority (because these opinions are not held by the minority in all but a handful of countries) admire the U.S., have high praise for its technical contributions, but are just as critical of its barbarism in foreign policy matters. We have created hundreds of millions of citizens around the world who go to bed at night, praying or silently hoping, that something will chop us down and put us in our place.
I maintain that it is the unleashing of extreme exosomatic forces that have brought us to this point. And I do not believe our hegemonic position will be altered under the powers of our own volition.