[Return to Home Page]

(April 1998) [Printed in "Reality Module No.3."]

Part 2 - Weaving the Tapestry

The False Model
Entrenching 'the lie'
Public Sector Poverty
The Divided Society
Get Away From It All!
The Search For Inner Meaning

Related Works
Feedback and Discussions

"The magic is fading from the world. Logic and rules replace the spells. the giants are gone. The Elohim no longer look over me and I feel the metallic coldness in the breath of my children. I sit in bed and eat melted chocolate as the sun goes down in the east. The Earth is thirsty for love but our greedy fingers bruise her soft skin. Our whispers are abrasive. Noise drowns sound."
     Steve Kilbey- "Earthed" (1988)


It is the boiling frog scenario - though I've not tried the experiment. It is said that if you put a frog into boiling water it will jump out, but if you put the frog into cool water and slowly heat the water up the frog will stay there until it boils to death!

Western Civilisation took a wrong turning sometime in the '70s - and things have been getting worse and worse since then, but the changes have been so gradual and stretched over such a long period that we have become accustomed to them, and without a knowledge or awareness of history we can forget that things were not always as bad. We are all like boiling frogs.

In PART 1 of this essay I discussed these changes and their causes. I looked at the Glorification of Greed, examined how our politicians have failed us, and explained how the natural human desire for perfection has been linked to the concept of Scientific Management and has been waylaid into a perfection of machines (and machine-organisations) and not into a perfection of human lives.

We are living in an age filled with machine metaphors - even the human mind is linked with the concept of the computer: as if the brain is some wetware machine just waiting to be replaced by a superior silicon analogue.

But the world is more complicated than this - more complicated than politics or economics can span, and human beings are much more than machines. There are always other factors shifting balances. But firstly:

[Top of Page]

The False Model:

"Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Enlighten him further, he owns a chain of seafood restaurants."
     Microsoft slogan (1997).

It took me a while to work out why I found this slogan so deeply offensive.

The first two parts I remember as a slogan for a charitable organisation which implemented programs to enable farmers in Third World countries to become self-sufficient, so that people in the poorer countries could grow their own food and not be reliant on hand-outs. (A highly honorable undertaking.)

My objection is to the third part: the notion that entrepreneurs are somehow more enlightened than the rest of us. That the simplistic pursuit of riches is a worthwhile human endeavour. That the gratification of material needs is the highest goal that human-beings are capable of aspiring to!

I find it greatly insulting to the human race - and contemptuous to those individuals throughout human history who have worked for genuinely worthwhile goals: like the historical figures who worked to promote human dignity and human rights, the aid-workers who strive to ameliorate the abomination of poverty in the modern world, those people who struggle (at great risk for their lives) to achieve democracy and human rights in repressive countries today, the green activists striving to preserve tropical rainforests and to promote the concept of ecological sustainability (to save the Earth), the psychologists and social- workers who strive to help people whose lives or minds are falling apart, the educators who strive to stave off ignorance, the medical scientists who work to find ways to treat crippling and appalling diseases, the engineers who work to harness renewable energy resources or who develop 'appropriate technologies' for developing countries, the journalists who strive to point out the real facts and focus people's minds on the real issues, the writers and artists and musicians whose works bring into sharp focus the depths of the human condition, and anyone of us who has ever loved (or assisted in even the humblest way) a fellow human being.

[An aside: Capitalists like Henry Ford could be perceived as honorable if their aim is actually to make more widely accessible the benefits of modern technology. It is sometimes impossible to determine human motivations. It's just the pursuit of profit for its-own-sake which is the problem.]

The Economists and the Corporations portray people as constantly competing, striving to get to the top, to accumulate worldly goods, seeking riches and prestige. A variation on Social Darwinism. But in deepest truth the human experience is so much deeper and richer than any of that rubbish.

It is The False Model - the notion of human beings as a churning Middle Class striving for wealth and status - a horde of consumers. But in the real world, the majority of human beings are living under crappy conditions (in direst poverty), and most of us have richer lives than would be afforded by striving only for dollars.

[Top of Page]

Entrenching 'the Lie':

We live in a society dedicated to the Yuppie - to the followers of fashion and the seekers after wealth and social status. The celebrated 'celebrities' are the rich and the beautiful - rarely the talented or the clever. These folks are placed upon pedestals, seen as "cultural icons" as people to envy and to wish we were like.

Our social institutions reward the rich more than ever before. Banks offer "high-net-worth" individuals low-interest loans and free credit cards, while the rest of us get ripped off. High quality education and medical care is available - if you can pay up front. (The rest of us miss out, or get to the end of the lengthening queue.) Justice is available - for a price.

Mind you the rich have always had the best of everything, but there used to be a thing called "the common good" and a concept called egalitarianism.

Western Civilisation is "putting on airs" and the popular media is increasingly judging people by the amount of money they have. It is increasingly elitist - and increasingly concerned with the trivialities of style.

The Glorification of Greed and the Worship of the Rich has become big time. (It's always been there, it's just becoming more and more obvious.)

A related issue:

[Top of Page]

Public Sector Poverty:

One of the aims of the rich is to hold onto their money. Monetarist governments (like ours) know this and garner support by promising the carrot of tax-cuts.

The problem is tax-revenue is used for social welfare and public works programs. When taxes are reduced there is less money for these things. The result is what I call Public Sector Poverty. There is not enough money available to properly care for people in need, or to properly support schools, universities, hospitals, social amenities, or transport infrastructure. We all suffer. Revenue is raised by other means (charges or privatisation for example) or services are cut back.

Some of this is hidden under "the myth of efficiency", which means doing things as cheaply as possible. What we should be aiming for is "effectiveness" - doing things as well as possible. Economic Rationalists do not understand effectiveness.

The problem is that to provide adequate (or more than adequate) community services will require higher taxes - and no government's likely to put up taxes. It may be a problem we'll have to live with until selfishness goes out of fashion (!). What we end up with is:

[Top of Page]

The Divided Society:

We all know that the income gap between rich and poor has been increasing, and that 32% of Australians are now living at or below the poverty line.

The real question is: What are the likely consequences?

Upwards the rich dream their opium dreams of conquest, or crash in sudden realisation of the meaninglessness of their lives.

Downwards the poor keep their dreams economy-sized - manageable when possibilities are limited. Many people are struggling, making small victories.

But the economic prizes grow more scarce (downsizing sees to that), and the predictions are that the situation will get worse.

Some experts (See PART 1) predict a future with 80% unemployment. But such a situation is, in my opinion, not viable - who will pay to look after the poor? The rich will not favour higher taxes.

'Tittytainment' (whatever that is) will satisfy some - but folks with brains and ambitions will want the opportunity of meaningful employment.

The stark choice may be between the modularisation of work (all positions short-term contracts with hour limitations - a way of spreading work around), or increasing social unrest!

I see a grave risk of social disintegration if nothing is done soon about the inequalities in income and in access to meaningful employment. (Something will have to be done - probably early next century. Governments are going to have to implement tough policies.)

One of the lessons of the latter half of the 20th century is that Communism doesn't work - it leads to inefficiency, stifles individual innovation, devalues human beings to the status of machines, causes environmental degradation, and leads to most of the people being pretty unhappy for most of the time.

I'm predicting that by early in the 21st century (by 2025 at the latest) people will come to realise that laissez-faireCapitalism doesn't work either - it leads to social inequality, causes exploitation, devalues human beings to the status of consumers, causes environmental degradation, is inherently unstable, and leads to most of the people being pretty unhappy for most of the time.

I'm expecting a new political system, one which is based on genuine human needs and desires, to come into being. It will be a genuine social revolution and I have no doubt it'll be fought against by old style monetarists every angstrom of the way, and will only come into place after a long struggle and a lot of soul-searching.

I don't know what it'll be called - possibly something like Democratic Humanism.

Meanwhile there are many ways in which people are rejecting The False Model.

[Top of Page]


The False Model sees citizens as consumers, all almost machine-like, waiting to be told by the High Priests of marketing what fashions are in, and what styles to adopt to be accepted into High Society.

Tribalism is a small step away from the concept of programmed consumers, and there are so many tribes or sub-cultures: Metallists, Bikie gangs, Punks, Goths, Skinheads, Hippies, Geeks, Cyberpunks, Home Boys, Grunge Heads, Ferals, etc. (Each with their own style of clothes, their own style of music, and to a large extent their own philosophy of life.)

It is a small step because you choose your own sub-culture, but once you have chosen you conform to the sub-cultures social norms and mores.

(It is a positive step because it is people exhibiting their humanity in choosing their own lifestyle, and it is a protest against the Corporations who would perceive us as uniform consumers.) [The irony is that clever marketeers exploit sub-cultures as market niches.]

Some sub-cultures have their pathologies, which create social problems, but in general I'm in favour of them - it makes society much more interesting!

But the progression from corporate-clone or consumer to self-confident human being goes even further than sub-cultures go. A person can assert their own system of values (rather than the dominant capitalist style-merchant ones) and choose their own way of living.

I'll look at these issues next!

[Top of Page]

Get Away From It All!:

Some folks reject the dominant capitalist-dog-eat-dog-strive-to-get-to-the- top-grab-all-the-money-you-can ideology. They may go up to Queensland and join a nudist commune in the rainforest, or nearer-to-home they may give up looking for work ("Too damn competitive"), resign themselves to a meagre income and dedicate their energies to art or music.

I'm in favour of the concept of choice (if not the practice). Society should allow you alternatives to the dominant corporatist culture - and if we can somehow combine multiple lifestyle choices into the same civilisation it would be a good thing. (Human beings need the right to experience diversity.)

It is a difficult issue - on one hand people who drop out are perceived as "dole bludgers" and "parasites", while on the other hand they are people with a genuine need (and maybe even a right) to an alternative way of living.

Capitalism doesn't like alternatives to itself. That will have to change.

[Top of Page]


This is another choice. It is a decision that you don't need all the consumer doodads the corporations produce, that you can live a happy and fulfilling life without the latest electronic gizmoes. (It is a rejection of the marketing hype and of the "Cult of the New.")

You don't need a computer: you can write letters, keep recipes on index cards, get your information from newsmagazines and not the Internet. You don't need a television: you can read books, listen to music, enjoy time with the family. You don't need a car: you can walk (you'll get fit!), take the train, ride your bicycle.

You can live a simple, unrushed, uncomplicated life - with lots of time to do the simple things you really enjoy.

You're less concerned about money - what you need is generally inexpensive and you don't give a fig about A3 single-pass flatbed scanners with 1600dpi resolution! It's irrelevant to your lifestyle.

You'd be a technology company salesman's nightmare. You'd suffer less stress too.

[Top of Page]

The Search For Inner Meaning:

This is the hardest subject to approach. The problem stems from the fact that modern Western Civilisation is very externally orientated. It is about science and technology and money and clothes and consumer products and houses and cars and soap-operas and organisations and prestige - a whole host of things that lie outside the person.

But even the most devout atheist and scientific rationalist will admit that people have psychological and social needs. Needs like security, love, self-esteem, and recognition by others.

The ad masters try to transform these genuine needs into a demand for consumer products - e.g. take out this insurance policy and you'll feel secure, wear this perfume and you'll be loved, wear this stylish jacket and you'll feel really good about yourself, buy this brand-name jet-black laptop computer and everyone will recognise you as a man of impeccable taste.

But eventually everyone comes to realise that you can't solve internal problems by external means - a teddy-bear is no substitute for a hug! There are only two things that can resolve psychological and social needs - ourselves and other people!

But underneath these human needs is an even deeper human need. It is the need for meaning, the need to recognise ourselves and our lives as having some purpose.

The last two centuries have been diabolical with respect to the meaning of life. Orthodox religion which used to provide a template for everything ("God's plan!") has been shifted to the sidelines of civilisation, and since Nietzsche said "All Gods are dead. Long live the superman" - all certainty has fled from the world.

This century could perhaps be described as 'a search in the wilderness.'

There have been many different responses. One is a clutching onto old-time religion more tightly than ever before - like clutching a raft in a swirling ocean. This is Fundamentalism. Another response has been an earnest and courageous rejection of all forms of traditional religion - and a belief that science will in time provide answers to all the deepest questions. A third response is to deny all spirituality and embrace the Cult of Materialism. A fourth response is to reshape traditional (including non-Christian) belief systems into a new form, toss out the majority of myth motifs, toss out potentially debilitating elements like guilt or sin, stir in a large helping of popular and depth psychology - and package it for sale as New Age Philosophy.

Religious beliefs have been part of the human creature for millions of years - probably ever since we evolved consciousness and looking around us wondered what was going on. For this reason religion should not be disregarded, some form of belief in "deeper meanings" may even be essential for mental health.

[Top of Page]


Society is growing more complex. This is probably a very good thing. It shows that despite the forces trying to shape us into cogs in a corporate society - human beings will be defiant in their diversity and in their individuality. [In diversity breeds change and the capacity to generate new ideas.]

One of the real challenges for the next century will be in promoting this diversity, whilst also ensuring clear and factual communication between and within all these social groupings.

Note - This essay is based on a large number of newspaper articles and on passages in books too numerous to list individually. Like tiles in a mosaic each holds a fragment of meaning, but when combined they give the big picture.

[Top of Page]

Related Works

Future Imperfect - Part 1 - Gathering the Threads
This is the first part of this two-part essay.

A series of essays on "Democratic Humanism" also re-examines many of these themes.
The first of these is Democratic Humanism (1) - What Are Genuine Human Needs?

There is also a later essay on The Cult of the New.


Feedback and Discussions

[Top of Page]

[Return to Home Page]

Copyright © 1998 by Michael F. Green. All rights reserved.


Last Updated: 7 April 2003