The dominating systems of our world require us to feel weak, afraid, and insufficient. They couldn’t continue if most of us didn’t feel that way. And so the friends and operators of these systems must oppose the opposite assumption: That we are not inadequate.
I’ve watched popular culture for a lot of years, and I can tell you that since the 1970s, one concept, above all, has been forbidden in intellectual circles: Man as a glorious creature.
If you’d like to prove that to yourself, say a few things like these at a cocktail party:
- Western civilization has accomplished so many good things that it’s mind-blowing.
- Most people are basically decent and don’t need to be controlled.
- I see so much goodness in humanity.
- Humanity is ascending toward the gods (or heaven, or whatever).
Then, if you’d really like to see a reaction:
- The human race is magnificent.
The responses you get should be educational.
Why This Thought Is Hated
One reason why people respond so violently to this idea is simply self-defense: At this point, nearly every adult has built his or her world around the belief that people are bad: They’ve taught it to their children, showed their enlightenment by stating such things at parties and so on. To admit the opposite wouldn’t just be to admit they were wrong; it would tear down their infrastructure of meaning and status. Few people have the courage for such things.
Another reason is simply that they fear being shamed. People who say such heretical things are quickly ridiculed by holders of status. That’s tyrannical, of course, but it’s all too easy to stay inside the conspiracy of compliance. It’s dangerous, even if heroic, to defy powerful people.
Buckminster Fuller described the institutional necessity of inadequacy back in 1981:
There’s a built-in resistance to letting humanity be a success. Each one claims that their system is the best one for coping with inadequacy.
In other words, the dominance hierarchies running things all claim that theirs is the right way to fix human inadequacy. So, if you claim that humans are adequate, you’re also saying that those systems aren’t necessary… and ruling systems don’t like to be called unnecessary.
Promoting Darkness Is a Big Business
It’s also the case that the promotion of darkness is a huge business. News channels are little more than fear delivery systems, but they are a major business. Social media is considerably worse, and it delivers darkness in your own, internal voice.
And, obviously, advertisers need you to feel insecure. Ads that don’t make you feel insecure, inadequate or guilty don’t pull nearly as well as those which do. That’s just a human weakness that’s being scientifically exploited.
It can be interesting to see how all of this appears to outsiders. Back in the 1950s, the new president of Indonesia, Sukarno, visited the US and had this to say:
I find only one fault with Americans. They’re too full of fear. Afraid of B.O. Afraid of bad breath. They’re haunted by the fear that they’ll never get rid of dandruff. This state of mind I cannot understand.
And we shouldn’t understand it either. We are magnificent creatures… the only creatures in the known universe who create willfully and seemingly without limit. We’ve eradicated diseases, learned to feed billions of people, created machines that move us across the ground tremendous distances safely and reliably, created machines that fly us around the world and at incredible speed; we’ve harnessed the information stores of humanity and made them available to anyone, almost for free and almost anywhere.
None of that is arguable, and yet we still think we’re just a step above refuse.
Take An Honest Look
Turn off the TV, turn off your cell phone. Walk through a park for a while to let the stream of negativity subside a bit. Then take a fresh look around.
Yes, some dark things can still be found, but you’ll see most people simply going about their business: working, cooking, shopping, tending to children, driving their cars. They do these things well, or at least well enough, nearly all the time. Shouldn’t they get credit for that?
We are improving, unfolding, evolving creatures. Yes, much improvement remains, but we are moving in that direction.
And consider this, please: The sea of negativity that surrounds us is an anti-evolutionary poison. It serves stasis and sacrifice-collecting. It does not serve progress.
I’ll close with another quote (slightly edited) from Bucky Fuller:
I decided man was operating on a fundamental fallacy: that he was supposed to be a failure. I decided that man was, in fact, designed to be an extraordinary success. His characteristics were magnificent.
We are not inadequate, we’ve just been made to think so.
4 thoughts on “The Forbidden Thought”
This is one of the most important pieces I’ve read in the past three years. Excellent work Paul.
I wonder if the problem is that we’re not comfortable simultaneously holding contradictory ideas.
Humanity/humans are both wonderful (inventive, god-like, progressing, loving) and awful (holocausts, destruction of nature, evil acts). If the awful bothers you enough, you want to dismiss the wonderful. And vice-versa. The whole “pick a team” problem with modern Western discourse.
The other feelings listed – advertising-induced inadequacies and insecurities, average decency – seem to complicate the point because they are quite different.
Most schools nowadays are coeducational with females as teachers, wonder does it have anything in common with selling fear being so successfull? Most women seek safety first.
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