How The World Works
"The System:" A Crash Course In Reality
The system—as it is called—rests upon four pillars: economy, governance, moral tradition, and the arts and sciences (and the dissemination of them). These four pillars are the vital components of what we call civilization. The four pillars each rest upon the rock of condition: geology, geography, and human will. If any portion of the condition is greatly altered or any one of the four pillars should be removed the system may fail.
These seven elements are the principle portions which make up, or give rise to, the beast called civilization that we all learn to love, yet instinctually hate. Outside of the forces of physics and biological nature these seven things are responsible for all that causes you pleasure and all that causes you grief and pain. It really is that simple!
This is how the world works. You are both the benefactor and the victim of civilization, nature, and the human will. Civilization—whether you are told the truth of the matter or not—is an attempt to control these factors (which includes human will) under the guise that it will improve the condition of those who are members of the social order, but does it?
Let's take a look at how civilizations develop and operate in order that each of us might decide for ourselves whether we are better off with or without "the system," and whether or not corrections are in order or even possible.
“I want to know what were the steps by which men passed from barbarism to civilization.” -Voltaire
Conditions of Civilization
Three factors effect the initial development of a civilization: geological, geographical, and human. These factors do not comprise civilization, but are prerequisites to it.
Geological conditions – ice ages, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, oceans, natural resources, and other natural geological features or processes can either help to promote the development of civilization, or hinder it, and even lead to the decline or destruction of entire civilizations.
Geographical conditions – climate, ecology and environmental factors, and the amount and type of access points for use in travel and trade will also impact the development of civilization.
Human factors – if a means of cultivation or production such as agriculture is not possible or is not desired civilization will be unable to develop, since civilization depends upon the reliable, efficient, and sustainable production of excess goods for trade and the relief or reduction of burden which is necessary for the development of an elite class.
These conditions must be upheld and remain little changed at all costs, or the system built upon them will decline and possibly collapse, which is why mankind seeks to control them through the use of the institutions of economy, government, religion, science, arts, and education. These are his tools for manipulation of and defense against natural forces, environmental factors, and even the souls of men.
In order for civilization to actually become a reality a political order must be established, men must be made to feel that death and taxes are not around every corner (through such distractions as entertainment), a unity of language must be established to serve as a medium of mental exchange, a unified moral code must be developed through such institutes as church or school (for social order and regularity), a dominant system of belief must develop in order to create a sense of significance and direction despite the hardships of life and the assurance of death, and lastly there must be education in order to transmit the culture (see cultural studies).
Economy and Civilization
One of the necessities of civilization is the recognition of the usefulness of thinking about tomorrow rather than just today. Another way to put it is to "think before you act" or "plan for the future." We are reminded of the barbarity—or so it would seem—of those who live in the present and never consider the future in the actions of some criminals and other individuals whose personalities are dominated by momentary impulses.
It was this thought of tomorrow which initially gave rise to the thought of gathering up the plenty in preparation for times of scarcity – this was the beginning of economy. Stores of food gathered in the summer to prepare for the winter brought about the necessity for the distribution of goods, which with the development of agriculture, gave rise to the practice of mass trade.
The increase of trade created the need for the regulation of that trade, which paved the highway of civilization. It is the relationship between trade and regulation that makes it so that economic trade and political order are part and parcel to one another.
Other necessities for economic development were fire and the manufacturing of tools. Once man began to harness fire, mastered agriculture, and increased his knowledge and skill in the manufacturing of tools there were only three further developments required to meet all the essentials for economic civilization: mechanisms of transport, the process of trade, and a medium of exchange.
Mechanisms of transport included the manufacturing of containers, the use of beasts of burden, the invention of sleds, and later the invention of the axle and the wheel, rafts and canoes, and the development of roads and means of navigation.
The process of trade was first begun by the excess of stored goods. The type of surplus was, no doubt, largely dependent upon geological, geographical, and human factors. It was this relationship between the earth and her natural resources with that of the economic civilization of man, and therefore his condition, that likely gave rise to the concept of warfare among civilizations. These wars were not only fought over the ownership of goods, but also the restricted movement of them and access to them which included the need for labor. If a people refused to voluntarily provide labor and "play the game" they would find themselves the victims of forced labor in order to benefit the advancement of the civilized society. It is perhaps this concept—that a people as well as the creatures of the earth may not entirely opt out of the dominant civilization—that is the greatest evil of the "civilized" world (just ask anyone who tried to be homeless by choice).
Modern civilization is completely reliant on both voluntary and forced participation (it can not escape this fact) for its continued survival; if one refuses to volunteer in some form or another they are doomed to forced participation (through slavery, punishment, or circumstance) due to the increased needs of consumption present in an ever-advancing civilization. Society supposedly redeems itself from this sin by offering its benefits to—and sometimes forcing them upon—those who do not desire to or who are unable to participate.
Barter was the first form of trade, which gave rise to the marketplace. The earliest mediums of exchange were articles that were universally in demand, which anyone would take in payment: dates, salt, skins, furs, ornaments, implements, weapons, livestock, and even women. It was later, after the mining and refinement of metal had been achieved, that barter slowly became replaced by money.
The variety of uses for metal tended to give it great value and it was available as a resource in nearly all regions. It was probably because of this and the use and need of metal in warfare that it soon became a common means of exchange which was acceptable to all civilizations engaged in trade. Later, gold and silver would become the preferred metals due to their usefulness in relationship to their abundance.
As time advanced, the exchange of metals as payment would evolve into coinage and credit to prevent counterfeiting, standardize weights, and create a means by which to receive goods in present need in exchange for collateral (the promise to pay). In modern times, the means of commerce has become so abstract that many of us now exchange numerical units kept in digital ledgers which record the credit we are owed by numerous holders of physical property. In other words, your money has about as much actual physical value as would a dream about a photograph of a portion of a piece of property that you are owed, such is the relationship between the money in your bank account and that of physical property that holds actual value and usefulness.
Trade facilitated the concept of public and private land ownership and the idea of the ownership of natural resources such as food and water. Before the development of trade resources were considered owned by none (neither the individual or the society). The closest concept of public land ownership was that of territory, and private land ownership was completely unheard of. All objects were shared in common and freely (not forcefully) distributed.
Pre-trade civilization had an economic system much like that of soldiers at war where comradery dominated due to the ever-present dangers and demands of daily life. These early socieities looked upon themselves as one great family where all volunteered their contributions to the sustainment and betterment of society (rather than forcing it). Often this resulted in what amounted to laziness on the part of others, but such situations were handled much the same way a family would handle one of its lazy members if nature did not make the correction for them first.
Such a civilization thrived on pure unadulterated communism (utopian communism); and thus, there was no elite class which benefited from the productivity of others, no ownership (state or private) of any industry, and no forced participation. It should be noted that although we would consider such societies impoverished by today's standards all of the elements of civilization were present, with the exception of economic trade.
"Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice." - Will Durant, The Story of Civilization
Governance of Civilization
Man is not a political creature by his very nature. Man mostly associates with others out of advantage and the fear of solitude. In truth, the average man would rather there were no state, yet he tolerates it because he believes it is a necessity. Most men openly resent government and desire a political order which governs little and leaves him at liberty.
The natural governmental structure of humans is that of the family - beyond this there is little tolerance. The earliest form of political order to develop beyond that of the family was likely the clan (a group of related families occupying a tract of land). A clan was represented in council by the heads of each family, and could be reckoned in modern terms as the equivalent of a meeting of building tenants, that of a town block meeting, or a public meeting within a rural village. In practice the clan would have been a form of government less organized and much smaller in size than that of a city or town council.
The next step in the evolution of political order would have been that of the tribe. This form of governance was a loose federation of clans united under an elected leadership (usually a chief) who retained no arbitrary authority. In practice the tribe would have been much like today's city and town councils, but with a leadership which had little to no authority in comparison to that of its modern counterpart. Later, when numerous tribes had a need to become united under a common banner they would form nations.
The chief would often only wield power in times of war and was completely ignored otherwise. In times of peace it was usually the religious leadership (such as the medicine man) which commanded the greatest authority. Political and religious institutions have always ruled side-by-side, acting as the parents of social order. It is a very recent development that the two have become separated and if the current course of our society maintains its direction we will likely come to see just how a single parent society measures up against that of the traditional two parent model.
The state is a later development which changes the very purpose of social order from that of kinship to that of conquest and domination. When the political order of state finally forms it is the product of force, and it exists by force to subjugate the less warlike so that the victors might sit over them as the ruling caste. Whether those rulers are tyrannical or judicious the nature of state is always that of force. It is no surprise then that those who are most often attracted to matters of state are those individuals with a tendency toward aggression and imposition.
It is this very imposition and the order it brought to diverse groups which caused man—for better or worse—to decide that it was better to pay taxes than to fight with one another. State became the thief who forcefully granted his "protection" in exchange for tribute, and man reluctantly accepted his quasi-enslavement in exchange for the promise of an improved condition.
The ruling aristocracy (those who benefit from the pyramidal structure of civilization) quickly learned that power was best held through respect and respect was best earned through perception. It was for this very reason that privileges were granted and laws imposed, and the state began to gradually introduce a sense of patriotic loyalty in its citizens through schools, media, church, and other instruments of indoctrination. Man is a rebellious creature by his nature, but no man who has learned—through schooling—to love his servitude would dare rebel against his master!
"A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it." -Socrates
Moral Tradition and Civilization
All groups require a set of behaviors which are practical, familiar, and deemed vital to the welfare and development of social order, such behaviors are what we call morals. Civilization could not function without the necessary component of morality which is defined here as: the cooperation of the part with that of the whole.
Two of the most obvious sources of contention found among mankind is that which exists between the genders, and also that of matters of individual sexual practices in relation to society. It is therefore no wonder that moral behaviors regarding marriage and sexual morality would be two of the very first areas in which moral law became instituted.
Next would follow social morality, which is the regulation of individual behavior in relationship to other members of society. This can be accomplished by reason, but is not a very reliable means in practice. The ancient geographer Strabo was convinced of the importance of religious morality and the piety of faith in the orderly conduct of the masses. He suggested that the vast majority of society's members were ill-equipped for the reasoning necessary for the determination of proper moral behavior, and that such individuals were more fit to comprehend and respond to a fear of violating the mandates of a supernatural being than they were for being left to discern such matters using the faculties of their own minds. In short, Strabo believed that morals could be rationed, but that the individual uneducated man or the impulses of a mob were intolerant of or incapable of understanding such reason.
Whether you believe religion was manufactured by men or the product of God it makes no difference. The fact is, that it was the realization (or divine mandate) of the importance of governing the behavior of the masses which ultimately gave rise to the religious institution. It is this very nature of governance that made religious institution (not spirituality) the perfect bedfellow of the state.
Knowledge and Expression in Civilization
Language, science, and art are the humans factors necessary for the development of civilization. A language of an advanced people requires speech, education, and writing. This is necessary for the mass communication of knowledge without the limitation of mortality, allowing man to preserve information for the next generation to build upon. The earliest form of language was oral communication passed along through initiation rites. Later, writing developed and this allowed the amount of knowledge which would be preserved to be greatly expanded upon.
Science began as the twin of religion. It is only natural that such a relationship initially existed as religion sought much the same goals as science does today, which was to explain the relationship of man with his environment, his fellow man, his origins, and his ultimate destiny in relationship to his role within the cosmos. It is no surprise then that mathematics, astronomy, and medicine all have origins rooted in religious tradition.
Science—born from the ever-questioning wonder and amazement of men—began to greatly increase the amount and quality of knowledge that one generation could pass along to the next generation. It allowed for an improved condition and the improvement of weapons of warfare by which to more effectively dismantle the enjoyment of that condition. Although the transition began long ago, it was not until recently that religion would officially hand science the keys to the questions of life and death, and with those keys science has brought great improvements to civilization and also to its means of destruction.
Art is the expression of thought and feeling; without the ability for humans to outwardly express their internal thoughts and feelings civilization could not thrive. It is not simply language, but also expression which is responsible for the cohesion of a society. If people can not adequately express their displeasure and their delights to one another the cohesion of society will soon crumble. It is art which connects the hearts and minds of the masses. That being said, it is a wonder if art will survive a future technological advancement that can directly connect the minds of men and render such outward expression obsolete.
"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness."
You have been given a brief overview of "the system," its benefits, and its consequences. Hopefully, now that you are aware of the fundamentals of "the system," how it works, and why it is set-up the way that it is you will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to begin pondering the larger questions:
Is civilization a good thing or a bad thing?
Can civilization be improved, and if it can, is it able to be done in such a way as to not also cause more harm or the potential for it?
Does civilization benefit some more than it does others? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Could a different form of civilization be developed that is better?
Is economy good for the environment on which all life depends?
Is civilization good for personal (or spiritual) development?
These are just a few examples of the questions you should now be asking yourself; after all, Will Durant said, "The man does not make the culture, but rather the culture makes the man." The type of individual you become and the manners and morals which you hold are all products of culture. In other words, everything about you has been made by and for the purpose of civilization. It benefits you to know who (if any individual or group of individuals) created "the system" and who operates it now, so that you may also know who decided who it is that you should be and what purpose it is that you should serve.