Sunday, May 17, 2015

Power, Organization and Community: The Complex Components of Compassion

Power, Organization and Community:
The Complex Components of Compassion

Compassion is not derived only from emotion. Compassion can be derived from logic. In fact, unless compassion is understood both emotionally and logically, it cannot be sustained. Logic and emotion must have compassion for each other. Logic and emotion must love and understand each other. Logic and emotion are biological components of human anatomy. In some people logic is more developed. In others emotion is more developed. In still others it is nearly evenly balanced.

Why should this be important for people who are thinking about the relationship between the individual and the community? I can give three reasons. First, compassion, in the philosophical tradition, is a central bridge between the individual and the community; it is conceived of as our species' way of hooking the interests of others to our own personal goods. ... Second, some modern theories - liberal and individualist moral theories in particular - have treated compassion as an irrational force in human affairs, one that is likely to mislead or distract us when we are trying to think well about social policy. ... Third, this simple opposition between emotion and reason has also been invoked by communitarian critics of liberalism, who have suggested that if we are to make room for sentiments such as compassion, which do not seem to be much honored in liberal theory, this will mean basing political judgment upon a force that is affective rather than cognitive, instinctual rather than concerned with judgment and thought. ... If we want a compassionate community, we can have one without sacrificing the Enlightenment's commitment to reason and reflection - because compassion is a certain sort of reasoning. (Nussbaum (1):28)

To keep reason and emotion in constant opposition in the individual will cause the individual to be conflicted and divided against itself. A community of such individuals will inevitably be divided against itself. A divided community is a conquered community. A conquered community is, by definition, powerless.

Power is at the heart of compassion. When one finds oneself in a context which calls for compassion, power is invariably a factor in the context. "[D]ifferences in class, race, gender, wealth, and power do affect the extent to which the sense of helplessness governs the daily course of one's life." (Nussbaum (1):45) I submit that the essential difference between pity and compassion is the effect on one's balance of power. Pity is a false emotion which exacerbates a loss of power while compassion is a true emotion which restores power. In discussing Nietzsche's anti-pity, Stoic argument, "against cruelty and in favor of self-command," Martha Nussbaum writes that, a "suffering person whom one respects will, if an enemy, be regarded with admiration for the fortitude with which he bears his suffering; if a friend, he will be regarded with a delicate respect for his pride and a concern for his ability [or power] to continue creating himself." (Nussbaum (2):150) A potential target of compassion finds oneself facing a significant threat to one's balance of power. A potential source of compassion seeks to help the target regain one's balance of power.

An individual finds oneself in a context. No individual exists purely qua individual. "Man is by nature a political animal." (Aristotle, Politics, c.343 B.C.E.) Even a hermit depends upon nature. Likewise, it is impossible to achieve a pure community with absolute uniformity and synchronization of all members. Even if the difference is only being one individual as opposed to another individual. There is still a distinction between individual number 8 and individual number 9 even if the difference is only in serialization. To be a true individual requires a true community.

Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something in nature that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. (Aristotle, Politics, c.343 B.C.E.)
Only another can offer one a different perspective on oneself and, hence, opportunity for growth. Only another can help to create novelty in one's context. Only novelty can create choices. Only choices can create power. An individual must choose from among choices oneself. In so doing one defines oneself. One can only define oneself in a community.

A true community requires organization. A true community is composed of true individuals. A false community composed of false individuals is not sustainable. False individuals cannot think independently of the community. True individuals can think independently and as a group. An assortment of individuals independent of a group approximates chaos (the many). Order (oneness) can be imposed from the top down or from the bottom up. Order is organization or complexity. In biology, the more complex the organism, the more energy it can contain and the longer it can maintain itself. (Garrison:304) The most harmonious is a self-organizing, stable, chaotic system. This would be considered a "middle-out" system versus "top-down" or "bottom-up". These systems are said to exhibit negative entropy. Entropy is a measure of inefficiency. It indicates how likely a system is to dissipate or maintain energy. Negative entropy represents a gain of energy generated from within.

Community is simply the biological, human organization of groups of humans. Other species exhibit degrees of communal behavior -- wolves, lions, dolphins, whales, etc.. -- but, here, we are concerned only with human community. Community can be considered from the local to the global levels. Energy, or power, is generated by individuals and either dissipates or is collected and held by community. An individual has only a finite capacity or potential to store power. However, a community can store power greater than the sum of the power of its parts. If power is not collected at one level of community then it dissipates and is collected in the next nearest community it encounters.

When a given community fails to collect power, another community gains access to that power and the resultant differential in power increases the probability of actualization of that power by one community against the other. One must consider the various degrees of community in various contexts. In the state of nature, one is closest to the elements and other species. A small group of humans in the wilds constitutes one degree of community. A minimal degree. Each member carries a larger portion of the overall load of maintaining a community. For example, if one member is careless and cuts oneself or breaks one's leg the rest of the community must decide whether to carry the individual and to care for the individual. This slows the community down and poses a threat to the community by possibly attracting predators to the smell of blood. The negligence of the individual threatens the entire community. They become more vulnerable to either elements, predators, or other communities of humans. It is possible that by bearing the risk of carrying this negligent individual, the community benefits from the mutual commitment to each other forged by this effort. However, they must weigh the risk against the potential benefit.

As communities establish themselves against the elements and predator species, the only internal threats are from negligent individuals or groups of individuals. The only external threats are from other human communities. There may be conflicts over resources or direct physical conflict. The strength and cohesion of one community versus another depend upon its organization and maximization of resources -- human and material. Internally, conflicts may occur over various issues. The greater the disparity of power from group to group the less stable the overall community and the more vulnerable it is to attack from without.

Any discussion of submitting to the risks of life's vicissitudes and opening oneself up emotionally to human relationships (Nussbaum (1):43) only becomes viable in the cave (the community) where the women waited with the children for the men to return from hunting sabertooth tigers and woolly mammoths. This possibility of humanity or compassion can only take place in community. The hunters in the wilds cannot afford to risk humanity and compassion except in very limited and controlled measure. Perhaps anyone - male, female, or other - when faced with a context which is potentially emotionally overwhelming and paralyzing and is forced to suspend social emotion and engage in an instinctual, animal, fight or flight mode of operating.

Yet, community is not possible without compassion. Compassion can only take place in a protected context. Ironically, at least at one point in human development, compassion in some humans posed a threat to community and compassion in others. Some humans had to move from worlds where compassion meant life to worlds where compassion meant death and back again. Somehow sense had to be made of this. It seems that to this day this same confused dynamic is yet to be resolved. For some, the comfort of compassion and the safety of society represent a baited trap. Nietzsche seemed torn between the wildness of our animal nature and the compassion of our mammalian nature. He struggled mightily against the biological and social pressures to abandon our animal nature in favor of our compassionate nature.

Lacking external enemies and resistances, and confined within an oppressive narrowness and regularity, man began rending, persecuting, terrifying himself, like a wild beast hurling itself against the bars of its cage. This languisher, devoured by nostalgia for the desert, who had to turn himself into an adventure, a torture chamber, an insecure and dangerous wilderness-this fool, this pining and desperate prisoner, became the inventor of "bad conscience." Also the generator of the greatest and most disastrous maladies, of which humanity has not to this day been cured: his sickness of himself, brought on by the violent severance from his animal past, by his sudden leap and fall into new layers and conditions of existence, by his declaration of war against the old instincts that had hitherto been the foundation of his power, his joy, and his awesomeness. (GM II:XVI)

To his credit, he had the courage to wrestle with this problem in his cerebral cortex, the uniquely human section of the brain. In this sense, and, no doubt, many others, Nietzsche was Human, All Too Human. The cerebral cortex is the seat of both creativity and of reason. This human part of the brain is where problem-solving takes place. (Restak:417) To be human is to be a creator, a problem-solver, compassionate, and an animal. Additionally, to be human is to be communal. To be compassionate is to recognize this fact. Noone can transcend oneself without the community of others, not even Nietzsche. For the individual to transcend, the community must transcend. This requires organization. It is a major logistical problem to get the community across the bridge of transcendence.

It is also a major psychological problem to get the community across the bridge of transcendence. One way people adapt to suffering is internalization of oppression. By accepting one's suffering as inevitable, one learns to live with suffering. One eventually forgets that one's context is to be transcended.

Suffering and deprivation are usually not ennobling or educative; they more often brutalize or corrupt perception. In particular, they often produce adaptive responses that deny the importance of the suffering; such adaptive responses are especially likely to arise when the deprivation is connected to oppression and hierarchy, and taught as proper through religious and cultural practices. (Nussbaum (1):32)

To reverse this requires organization and community. To introduce new information, new experience, and new culture cannot be established or sustained without organization and community. Absent this, other parts of community will prevail which have the power, organization, and community to sustain themselves and the ability to impose themselves on weaker communities.

The members of the weaker community may have long ago lost the concept of having the power to organize itself and create itself. Worst of all, whole new slave communities can be created by master communities. The master community can dominate the slave community by creating it upon an entirely blank slate. The slave community is thus made entirely dependent upon the master community. As power dissipates from the slave community to the master community so does the humanity and the compassion. Members of the slave community are reduced to their animal natures. Basic needs drive the culture of the slave community -- hunger, thirst, shelter, sex -- basic instincts. Internally, the slaves live in the animal base of the brain where fight or flight instincts, aggression, territoriality, and the willingness to follow leaders blindly also reside. Externally, the slaves live in a herd, corralled as it were. If the herd stampedes it could kill the masters directly, but the herd is only reactive and cannot control and direct its own stampede. The masters would starve without the herd to prey upon. Hence, the masters and the slaves are codependent.

According to Harold Lasswell in Power and Personality, there are five basic human needs: survival, security, social, self-esteem, and self-realization. (Lasswell) Maximum love and understanding of oneself require all needs to be fully met. Compassion requires love and understanding of oneself and others. The five basic needs can be grouped to reflect the basic biological structure and development of individuals and of society as a whole. An individual can be said to consist of three essential elements: animal, mammalian, and human. The animal element corresponds to survival and security needs. The mammalian element corresponds to social needs. The human element corresponds to self-esteem and self-realization needs. Similarly, power relates to survival and security needs; organization relates to security and social needs; community relates to social, self-esteem, and self-realization needs. The relationship between master and slave is inherently about power. Similarly, the ability of the creator type to create oneself and one's context is a function of power. If master, slave, and creator are the three essential classes of society, then power is the essential factor in social dynamics since each of these classes can be defined as a particular power dynamic within the overall social context.

Power manifests itself in three essential forms: numbers, organization, and resources. A community is a collection of a number of individuals organized into a set of classes around a set of values and decision-making procedures which determines the macrocontext for the flow of power and resources. The decisions of individual members of the community determines the microcontext for the flow of power and resources. The level of power of an individual or group of individuals is a major factor in predicting the likelihood of that individual or group of individuals becoming a potential target of compassion. Other factors, such as natural disasters, would fall essentially at a constant level over all classes of individuals. That is, "the difference between the vulnerabilities common to all human beings and those constructed for the powerless by the empowered." (Nussbaum (1):41) Without power, organization and community -- the complex components of compassion -- one is simply naked, alone, and at the mercy of nature and predators.


Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Francis Golffing. New York: Anchor Books, 1956.

Nussbaum (1), Martha. "Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion," Social Philosophy and Policy. Cambridge University Press (UK). Winter, 1996. Pp. 27-58.

Nussbaum (2), Martha. "Pity and Mercy Nietzsche's Stoicism," Nietzsche. Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. Ed. Richard Schact. University of California Press, 1994. Pp. 139-167.

Restak, Richard. The Brain: The Last Frontier. New York: Warner Books, 1979.

Lasswell, Harold D.. Power and Personality. New York: The Viking Press, 1969.

Garrison, Tom. Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Where We, the People, Have Been, Where We are, and Where We Need to Go

Where We, the People, Have Been, Where We are, and Where We Need to Go

By Ed Democracy

Where We, the People, Need to Go

We, the people, need to teach each other how to organize sustainably to keep our power where it originates - WITH US! - so that we, the people, can use our power when we need it for our local human good purposes - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

Where We, the People, are, Now

We, the people, are thoroughly divided & conquered by the many ideologies to which we subscribe in an effort to make sense of the world.  Almost all of them make some sense here & there, while none of them is sufficient to guide humanity through a sustainable future.  None of these worldviews (...these -isms) can be said to be OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people. Therefore, we, the people, must embark on a process to gather common people to create a common worldview based on common human needs using common sense and common decency to create a new social contract.  This process must use the best of the old ( democracy 1.0 ) - townhall-style meetings - with the best of the new ( democracy 2.0 ) - internet, social media, teleconferencing, etc..  The process must be transparent & inclusive for all who would like to participate in developing a social contract OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people!  Unless and until, we, the people, embark on this process and make enough forward progress to break the inertia of current events to get on our own course under our own steam (or sail) in our own vessel - until then - we will remain a prisoner of events under the boots of bureaucratic tyrants!  To this end, I am developing to begin this process.

Where We, the People, Have Been

Here are a few pieces - excerpts & links by/on Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Russell, and Chomsky - providing the historical depth of background necessary to contextualize and clarify the meaning of the current text of human history in which we, the people, find ourselves.  Also, an interview piece with Chomsky referencing what he calls, "Hume's Paradox".
Force and Opinion
Noam Chomsky
Z Magazine, July-August, 1991

The Untamed Rabble
Hume's paradox of government arises only if we suppose that a crucial element of essential human nature is what Bakunin called "an instinct for freedom." It is the failure to act upon this instinct that Hume found surprising. The same failure inspired Rousseau's classic lament that people are born free but are everywhere in chains, seduced by the illusions of the civil society that is created by the rich to guarantee their plunder. Some may adopt this assumption as one of the "natural beliefs" that guide their conduct and their thought. There have been efforts to ground the instinct for freedom in a substantive theory of human nature. They are not without interest, but they surely come nowhere near establishing the case. Like other tenets of common sense, this belief remains a regulative principle that we adopt, or reject, on faith. Which choice we make can have large-scale effects for ourselves and others.
Those who adopt the common sense principle that freedom is our natural right and essential need will agree with Bertrand Russell that anarchism is "the ultimate ideal to which society should approximate." Structures of hierarchy and domination are fundamentally illegitimate. They can be defended only on grounds of contingent need, an argument that rarely stands up to analysis. As Russell went on to observe 70 years ago, "the old bonds of authority" have little intrinsic merit. Reasons are needed for people to abandon their rights, "and the reasons offered are counterfeit reasons, convincing only to those who have a selfish interest in being convinced." "The condition of revolt," he went on, "exists in women towards men, in oppressed nations towards their oppressors, and above all in labour towards capital. It is a state full of danger, as all past history shows, yet also full of hope."
Russell traced the habit of submission in part to coercive educational practices. His views are reminiscent of 17th and 18th century thinkers who held that the mind is not to be filled with knowledge "from without, like a vessel," but "to be kindled and awaked." "The growth of knowledge [resembles] the growth of Fruit; however external causes may in some degree cooperate, it is the internal vigour, and virtue of the tree, that must ripen the juices to their just maturity." Similar conceptions underlie Enlightenment thought on political and intellectual freedom, and on alienated labor, which turns the worker into an instrument for other ends instead of a human being fulfilling inner needs -- a fundamental principle of classical liberal thought, though long forgotten, because of its revolutionary implications. These ideas and values retain their power and their pertinence, though they are very remote from realization, anywhere. As long as this is so, the libertarian revolutions of the 18th century remain far from consummated, a vision for the future.

One might take this natural belief to be confirmed by the fact that despite all efforts to contain them, the rabble continue to fight for their fundamental human rights. And over time, some libertarian ideals have been partially realized or have even become common coin. Many of the outrageous ideas of the 17th century radical democrats, for example, seem tame enough today, though other early insights remain beyond our current moral and intellectual reach.

The same failure inspired Rousseau's classic lament that people are born free but are everywhere in chains, seduced by the illusions of the civil society that is created by the rich to guarantee their plunder.
by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1762) Translated 1782 by G. D. H. Cole, public domain]


[ Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamian]
You've said the real drama since 1776 has been the "relentless attack of the prosperous few upon the rights of the restless many." I want to ask you about the "restless many." Do they hold any cards?
Sure. They've won a lot of victories. The country is a lot more free than it was two hundred years ago. For one thing, we don't have slaves. That's a big change. Thomas Jefferson's goal, at the very left-liberal end of the spectrum, was to create a country "free of blot or mixture" -- meaning no red Indians, no black people, just good white Anglo-Saxons. That's what the liberals wanted.
They didn't succeed. They did pretty much get rid of the native population -- they almost succeeded in "exterminating" them (as they put it in those days) -- but they couldn't get rid of the black population, and over time they've had to incorporate them in some fashion into society.
Freedom of speech has been vastly extended. Women finally received the franchise 150 years after the revolution. After a very bloody struggle, workers finally won some rights in the 1930s -- about fifty years after they did in Europe. (They've been losing them ever since, but they won them to some extent.)
In many ways large parts of the general population have been integrated into the system of relative prosperity and relative freedom -- almost always as a result of popular struggle. So the general population has lots of cards.
That's something that [English philosopher] David Hume pointed out a couple of centuries ago. In his work on political theory, he describes the paradox that, in any society, the population submits to the rulers, even though force is always in the hands of the governed.
Ultimately the governors, the rulers, can only rule if they control opinion -- no matter how many guns they have. This is true of the most despotic societies and the most free, he wrote. If the general population won't accept things, the rulers are finished.

That underestimates the resources of violence, but expresses important truths nonetheless. There's a constant battle between people who refuse to accept domination and injustice and those who are trying to force people to accept them.
[ ED:  So I went to research the original Hume for more depth & background.  Here is an excerpt of a 5-page piece by Hume where he covers about 5,000 years of human history with the few controlling the many via manipulation of opinion as referenced by Chomsky, above: ]

ESSAYS, MORAL AND POLITICAL. (1741-1742, 1777)

by David Hume
NOTHING appears more surprizing to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. The soldan of Egypt, or the emperor of Rome, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination: But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes, or praetorian bands, like men, by their opinion.


[ ED: Here's an excerpt from the Kant piece we have discussed:]


Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] "Have courage to use your own understanding!"--that is the motto of enlightenment.
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes), nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.
Thus, it is difficult for any individual man to work himself out of the immaturity that has all but become his nature. He has even become fond of this state and for the time being is actually incapable of using his own understanding, for no one has ever allowed him to attempt it. Rules and formulas, those mechanical aids to the rational use, or rather misuse, of his natural gifts, are the shackles of a permanent immaturity. Whoever threw them off would still make only an uncertain leap over the smallest ditch, since he is unaccustomed to this kind of free movement. Consequently, only a few have succeeded, by cultivating their own minds, in freeing themselves from immaturity and pursuing a secure course.
But that the public should enlighten itself is more likely; indeed, if it is only allowed freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. For even among the entrenched guardians of the great masses a few will always think for themselves, a few who, after having themselves thrown off the yoke of immaturity, will spread the spirit of a rational appreciation for both their own worth and for each person's calling to think for himself. But it should be particularly noted that if a public that was first placed in this yoke by the guardians is suitably aroused by some of those who are altogether incapable of enlightenment, it may force the guardians themselves to remain under the yoke--so pernicious is it to instill prejudices, for they finally take revenge upon their originators, or on their descendants. Thus a public can only attain enlightenment slowly. Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.

An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784)

[ WIKIpedia entry on Kant piece: