Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Sound Craftsmen -by Seth Galbraith

Twilight of the Elites tipped me off to this speech by C. S. Lewis:

The Inner Ring thesis explains the fundamental social dynamic by which elitism corrupts previously honest normal people (the "mainspring" of "The World.") The existence of informal power structures is inevitable and morally ambiguous, perhaps even good, but our instinctive fear of being left outside the inner ring causes us unnecessary suffering and tempts us to do wrong things in the futile pursuit of an impossible goal.

(When I say "people are monkeys" or "humans are social animals" this is usually what I am getting at: our irrational obsession with everyday status. When you combine this with the tendency of people to act like jerks and make rash decisions when they imagine themselves to have a little authority, the irrational obsession is useful: in certain circumstances we need quick decisions more than we need right decisions or popular decisions and a social hierarchy helps us do that. These situations were common for our ancestors, but rare for civilized people, so the lure of the Inner Ring seems exotic and mystical.)

But there is an alternative to living an empty, sometimes corrupting life pursuing membership in an Inner Ring. If you put some effort into actively resisting the desire to belong to exclusive groups that exist for exclusion's sake, you can become a "sound craftsman" - an exclusive brotherhood of sorts defined by the integrity of their work, who add honor to their professions rather than competing for honor like dogs fighting for scraps. The sound craftsmen are a lonely and powerless bunch in their way - they don't feature in many great capers or conspiracies, but they do good work, and in a world produced by human effort, doing good work makes the world better.

(When I talk about "the engineers" and "The Long War", what I have in mind are the "sound craftsman" - people who improve whatever profession they are in by understanding and giving life to the essentials of that profession. I tend to think of them as engineers and designers, but they could be academics, janitors, artists, maybe even soldiers and politicians. C. S. Lewis points out that cultivating this virtue sometimes requires the sound craftsmen to painfully suppress their craving to be accepted and advance socially.)

This thesis is also the undoing of all conspiracy theories and the reification of Conspiracy Theory writ large. The Knights Templar, Priory of Sion, Freemasons, Rothschild Family, Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove, Trilateral Commission, Reticulan Empire or Reptilian Visitors are ultimately just superficial structures of formal ritual, membership and rank, while the real power is held by an informal clique of Rothschilds or Reptilians within the conspiracy. And since the formal structure doesn't matter a whit, we can dispense with all those hypothetical secret societies, and recognize that inner circles with no names, using innuendos for passwords and our insatiable desire for belonging as their ultimate blackmail, form spontaneously in the organizations of the daylight world: government, business, church, etc.

The Conspiracy as an elegant scheme is a farce, but Conspiracy as a pervasive force driving history is real and perhaps even fundamental.

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