Mass Politics and the Common Man

The history of the modern era would be described by the right-thinking as progressing from privilege of the few and superstition of all to the rights of all and the superstition of just a few. Like virtually all things the right-thinking think, it is of course wrong.

In the old days there was little question who was in charge. He wore a crown and fancy clothes. He rode a big white horse. He was surrounded by guys on big horses, wearing armor and carrying large, sharp pieces of metal. He and his goons had titles in front of their names, to remind those more intellectually inclined who had the juice. You didn’t mess with him. He didn’t care what you thought. You worked hard to feed him and all his henchmen and their horses, and didn’t complain. It was rough but if you didn’t, and didn’t get flogged, put in the stocks or hung for it, other guys on horses would come and make you do the same.

On matters of belief, there was another set of men who told you what to do, what not to do, and what you needed to do to get out of hot water if you did something you weren’t supposed to, which usually involved giving them money. Again, there was little question who they were. They wore fancy clothes also, and had titles as well. No weapons, but they could condemn you to eternal fire. There was no direct proof they could do this, but why take any chances?

These people were the elite. They ruled because they could, as long as they could, until they couldn’t. They had power by virtue of brute force, and because of the credulity of the populace. They might be better or worse, but no one thought for a moment they ruled with the well-being of the greater population in mind. The well-being of the greater population, in the mind of these elites, was found most fundamentally in obeying.

If you were a common man, you didn’t look to the elites for help of any kind. Why would they help you? If you had a problem, you took care of it yourself or with the help of you family, friends, clan, tribe, or some other kind of association. This was how people lived from the first agricultural societies until the advent of the modern welfare state.

At some point- the second set of men got the heave-ho first- somebody decided this wasn’t very fair. Why should some few decide what was right for everybody else? The second set, not having swords or guns, had more trouble convincing people of the need to obey them. People could simply decide for themselves what was right or wrong. You needed to have some reason for this, but if you could convince enough people that your challenge to authority was valid, you would have some power and protection. Since you needed followers, and were no longer just appealing to a higher authority, you needed to say your ideas of right or wrong benefited a large number of people.

The first group were a tougher nut to crack. For centuries armored horsemen had ruled. But then the development of disciplined, better armed infantry- first armed with pikes, then firearms, made the mounted knight obsolete. Rather than being ruled by hereditary warriors, people could decide in groups what was right. Such applications of force didn’t require the high outlay of capital and training per fighter that the knights did, but it required a lot of participants, so the idea had to present itself as being of benefit to a large number of people.

So, two things are necessary. These are so ingrained into our way of thinking, they seem so obvious that most don’t even realize they are not part of a political idea rather than fundamentals of justice. First is the thing must be morally justifiable, and the second that the thing benefit a large number of people. All the social and political systems of the modern age- democracy, capitalism, socialism, and communism- have these characteristics.

The common man is then presented with the choice of being ruled by an elite, or being an active, informed participant in a system that benefits him. An Ayn Rand libertarian businessman and a communist worker are both taking the second choice.

While capitalism is obviously individualistic, socialism and communism are as well, even though that may seem strange. But like capitalism, they primarily promise material goods to the individual. Capitalism promises more stuff for more work, socialism/communism less stuff for less work. People who like capitalism have trouble seeing the appeal of socialism/communism, but for a large number of people the trade-off is a good one. Capitalists are supposed to be all about the economics, in which trade offs are a basic concept, but they don’t get this one.

The trouble here is that somebody still decides what’s “right”. Defenders of all these systems will say that one, their system is the most defensible by simple logic and the support of a large number of people. Opposition to their system can only mean you are a really rotten person.

But the truth is the process of deciding what’s “right” is subject to possibly- even probably- fallacious human logic. The idea of undermining the decision-making process in a democracy goes back to the Sophists, a school of wealthy Athenians who didn’t like democracy but felt the need to “get involved with the process” to protect their interests.

The people who decide what’s right and wrong are the new elite. They rule in the same way and for the same reason as the old elite, because they can. They would strenuously deny this, or that they even are an elite. You are not supposed to notice this.

The idea that the world is ruled by a small number of people who manipulate things for their own benefit is not an acceptable one. To hold this idea is to be considered a crank at best, an evil or crazy person at worst. That their power lies in persuasion, posturing and manipulation rather than violence or faith is supposed to mean they are not an elite and don’t have power.

There is on the “alt-right” a term that describes this situation, the “hostile elite”, coined as far as I can tell by Kevin MacDonald. The term is used almost always to describe the Jews, although MacDonald has allowed it might also be used to describe New England Puritans.

The trouble here is that MacDonald has come up with an idea that is at the same time taboo and would have been blindingly obvious to an illiterate 13th century peasant. The assumption that the elite, any elite, anywhere at any time is not hostile is a very recent one.

All modern mass politics is based on the relationship of an individual to an abstract system, which in reality is a covert hostile elite. Any kind of response to the problems created by this situation has to avoid this deception.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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4 Responses to Mass Politics and the Common Man

  1. Ryu says:

    That’s good. The elite decide what is right or wrong, and what is real. The guns aren’t necessary. They just have to be able to convince others to accept it.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/08/bill-sardi/the-grand-illusion-2/

    • senator big bird says:

      This linked article makes some interesting points but is mostly spittle soaked conspiracy ranting.

      His points on cholesterol while not totally wrong are simplistic. Vaccines however are a miracle of the modern age and his diatribe against them can at best be described as ignorant.

  2. Hizzle says:

    I’m not a military historian, but I thought the Macedonian phalanx far predated the knights and Swiss Pikemen. Of course, we would need a time machine to really solve these “ultimate warrior” what-if questions. Even though more attention is paid to their pyramids and esoterica, the truth is the Egyptians were a fierce military presence for a long time, and I don’t even think they had a warrior culture. Their technology was just that advanced. I’d hazard that even in the late Middle Ages every once and awhile twenty or thirty obstreperous peasants with pitchforks managed to knock one of the knights on his ass, after banding together.

    Regarding the hostile elite, I think even the lumpen proles are aware of this, probably in a way that the well-educated are not. It’s all inchoate and misdirected, like 9-11 conspiracies or the idea of the “Illuminati” but the fact that people are grasping at this Alex Jones/David Icke stuff shows they’re aware something’s wrong.

  3. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

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