The Malice of Civilization
Human-on-human parasitism is not something civilization strives to overcome, not some accidental or unanticipated by-product of the social and political institutions called civilization, but rather is the entire intent and matrix of, the fundamental goal and reason for, the arrangements of civilization. Political and economic arrangements originated historically in the violent coercion of human communities by certain human factions determined to enjoy the benefits of parasites by means of that coercion. History reveals a human community divided between parasite factions and the human masses they prey upon. The most obvious lesson from history is the global triumph and entrenchment of a culture supporting top-down human-on-human parasites. It isn’t human nature which preserves the common injustices which constitute parasitism, but rather a specific dominant, pervasive, and institutionalized culture dependent on inequality and subordination, a culture which could be called will-to-power masculinity. For oppressions of ethnicity, race, class, gender, or religion (or atheism), it isn’t human nature that has to be confronted and somehow overcome, but the parasite faction’s culture (a “unified field theory” of oppression). What is waiting for everyone riding the social mobility bus north into the corporate and investor class is benefits from the practices of parasites.
A clear view of the malicious culture at the heart of civilization can be found in The Shape of Medieval History: Studies in Modes of Perception, written by William J. Brandt*, in which a close study of medieval chronicles shows the values and patterns of perception characteristic of European aristocracy, the cultural faction pioneering economic and sovereign power as it still exists, forming institutions of sovereignty, nationality, war, high culture, and wealth distribution that still function throughout the modern cultural system. It is the ethos of an absolute and unending quest for splendour of personal reputation, the culture of manly honour/ profit that still plagues humanity in many forms. Those aristocrat knight/ barons and their literate intelligentsia took themselves (barons) to be models of human nature at its purest, which is to say devoid of and contemptuous of empathy. They also conceived their Christian deity as very much like themselves and as such the source and proof of their superiority. Something that Brandt does not say, but which is implicit in his observations, is that those medieval barons (armed men on horses) were consolidating a way of living as human parasites on many levels. They were parasites on the females of their own class (for their reproductive and nurturing labour), on people outside their class working to create the necessities of sustainable lives, and most immediately on animals, the horses that were forced to carry them and the dogs that did their hunting, for example. The barons acquired ownership of property of all kinds by lethal assault, and refined a culture which glorified their looting. Brandt refers vaguely to the fading of their culture, sometimes called feudal chivalry, but it cannot be doubted seriously that there is a direct line of cultural descent, a single ethos, extending from knight/ barons in the chronicles studied by Brandt to contemporary crime families, corporations (such as investment banks), and governments (especially in their military culture, covert activities, and ‘foreign’ relations), all of which have the means of evading law and so the immunity to act out patterns of behaviour which channel the culture of the barons. The households of barons were organizational embryos of the governments of modern sovereign states, of corporations, and of crime families; and their personal ethos remains the cultural ideal of capitalism and masculinity generally.
Culture is Strategic Propaganda
In their fetish for display, ornamented decoration, pageantry, ceremony, and elaborate entertainment the barons inaugurated the models of high culture and fine art which still endure. The people who can afford to consume the work of artists on a moderate to large scale, to employ artists and to commission particular works, are royals, aristocrats, capitalists and their wealth organizers, princes of the Church, and people in power. When they have their portraits made or commission architecture and monuments, the intent is to idealize, glorify, and immortalize themselves, their culture, and the whole parasitic system of power and wealth they represent. Works of art in that context are intended to overpower and bedazzle, to halt critical thinking by invoking emotional currents with the specious beauty of an image or an impression. Of overriding importance for fine art in the capitalist economic system is that it is a branch of the finance/ investment industry, a luxury goods trade dealing in trophy items promoted as so rare, unpredictable, and impressive that they become an investment hedge for surplus wealth. Of course individual creators are capable of removing their creative process from that superstructure of art culture, but in no case are the artifacts produced important enough, neither individually nor in sum total, to count as justifications for, or legitimizing achievements of, parasitic culture and practice.
The coercion practiced by parasite factions has been normalized through efforts of that faction’s intelligentsia to construct benign explanations and justifications for it, normally by appealing to an omnipotent divine intelligence, to “justify the ways of God to man” (John Milton, Paradise Lost). Any religious culture featuring omnipotent cosmic forces serves instantly to justify whatever happens to exist. Intellectual work, including philosophy, is always written in a cultural context controlled by top-down human-on-human parasites, and intellectuals normally belong to, or owe their livelihood to, the parasite faction, and like everyone have to contend with the coercion of ambient parasites. In that context many philosophers devote themselves to an attempt to justify, even sanctify, existing institutions and avoid thinking beyond the belief system which supports inequalities of wealth and power. The fact that Aristotle invented justifications for slavery, for example, illustrates the longstanding effort by philosophers to conceive grounds of morality other than empathy, so that universal equality could be avoided and the brutality of sovereign states and the baronial classes which operate them could evade a true moral evaluation.
So, not only are the parasites diverting benefits disproportionately to themselves, but, far more importantly, by decisive influence on both high culture and popular culture, including religions, art, entertainment, media of advertising and journalism, and intellectual culture, they arrange messaging to convince everyone that their arrangements are inevitable, pre-determined by higher powers, by God or nature, the best of all possible worlds. In aid of that, there is cultural support for the assumption that individuals are not competent to identify and think about this issue, that we do best keeping a narrowly practical focus, earning and consuming as much as we can manage, refreshing ourselves with cultural entertainments and doing our utmost to ride the social mobility bus up, changing nothing but our personal circumstances. The idea of human equality has such a difficult time being broadly understood and embraced because the entire culture of institutionalized sovereign states and their economic organization is founded on top-down human-on-human parasitism constantly declaring justifications for itself.
*The Shape of Medieval History: Studies in Modes of Perception, written by William J. Brandt, published by Schocken Books (1973), ISBN 0-8052-0408-3.
1215: The Year of Magna Carta, written by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham, Published by Touchstone (2005), ISBN-10: 0743257782, ISBN-13: 978-0743257787. This is an illuminating glimpse of life in Europe at an important moment in the development of law. At that moment it was perfectly clear that the social layer made up of the landowning aristocracy or nobility was nothing other than crime families.
The Wars of the Roses, written by Robin Neillands, published by Brockhampton Press (1999), first published in the UK 1992 by Cassell plc, Villiers House, London, ISBN 1860199976.
The brutality of the European military aristocracy is clearly illustrated in this narration of dynastic conflict through generations of the extended Plantagenet family.
For a glimpse of the adaptation of top-down culture control to modern conditions listen to the following audio documentary:
World War One and the Birth of Public Relations, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Radio One, Program: Ideas, (Wednesday, November 26, 2014) Ira Basen reports on how the science and industry of public relations arose from American institutions promoting World War I.
Copyright © 2014 Sandy MacDonald.