For reasons I won't go into, I don't feel able to write anything creative write now, yet, but I still have a huge emotional urge to write. So I've been kicking arguments and ideas around in my head; stuff about biofuels, the connection with Dawkins and the atheist delusion, etc. Mostly, stuff I'm really pissed about, although thankfully that anger is dissipating at last. (I'm still hoping to share a little bit of redirected vitriol with you, though. It'll probably be aimed at the atheists, but you never know).
This has nothing to do with my theory.
One of the things I've been thinking about is integrity, and what we mean by integrity, and what I mean by integrity, because it's been a while since I thought hard about it. So to that end I was sitting on the can just now with my copy of John Ralston Saul's On Equilibrium, my bible of rational humanism. I was reading the section about common sense. And that's when it hit me.
People tend to say that our politics has grown cynical, that our society has grown colder, that we care more about how much money we make than we do about how we relate to each other, that our sense of community is evaporating in the face of credit card statements and mortgage payments and plasma TV's. Let's take this observation as being true.
The Question here is "what went so wrong"?
And I'm reading about market forces and shared knowledge and shared values and it hits me that we are not Barren Buffet or Bill Gates or whoever and that the base assumption is false: Our values are not shared. This sounds banal, but run with me a minute.
You read about media executives and their drive and desire for success all the time in Forbes, in the Economist, in whatever the fuck publication on business you picked up last week. Glowing reviews about work ethic. Or, put another way, and some psychological journals have kicked at this from time to time, deeply flawed human beings. George Soros does not work so hard and (make Billions) because he's somehow more disciplined and hard working and just such an awesome person that he can drag himself out of bed at 4am to make a trade; NO. George Soros gets out of bed at 4am to make a trade because he's as addicted to work as a street junkie is addicted to morphine: he can't NOT get out of bed at 4am, and if you took the economy away from him he'd have a breakdown.
This is what JRS does not get. He assumes that no sensible person would place a monetary system over human beings. But he does not share the valules of the people who run the economy, who are addicted to it. To them, the "market process" is somewhere between crack cocaine and mom. Of course it's their primary value; they don't really know what human beings are. Look up profiles for any of them.
Which leads us on to the effect these people have.
I've been around people in charge of big things before. It's interesting to observe that power conveys a mantle of authority, that people in power sway other people's opinions simply because of the power they hold. Quite often, being a leader does not seem to require leadership at all, it merely requires puissance. If you're the best you are at what you do, people tend to follow you and they tend to adopt your ideals.
I'm gonna end up talking about Enron here, and I know I'm gonna need to watch the smartest guys in the room again. That movie deeply affected me the first time I saw it, and I'm definitely ready for another viewing.
But my essential idea - and it may be an old idea, or it may be stupid, but I don't think I've seen a variant of it out there recently - is that "what is wrong" boils down to the fact that our society takes its values from people who are in some sense dysfunctional and don't have any sense of empathy or humanism or connection to people. And that the reason we do this is because only those people will ever be good enough to beat all the other dysfunctional people that you need to beat to make enough money to get to the top of the pile.
As I say, I had this idea while squeezing out my morning offering. It's far from complete, and I can tell that to round off the edges some research will be involved. But I can't shake the core concept from my mind. There's this kernel of wrongness.