Monday, August 22, 2005

Governing with the wiggle of a Mustache

Governing with the wiggle of a Mustache

H.B. Paksoy, D. Phil.

Lectures prepared for the
Budapest, July 2004
In the scheduled Course entitled
"Rewriting History: Emerging Identities and Nationalism in Central Asia"

I. Mustache

Truth is like the universe. Most individuals only know parts.

An ancestor is said to have ruled his royal domain with his eyebrows. If he raised one, he was displeased. The movement of the other indicated annoyance. Both, horror.

Not too long ago, the USSR was ruled by a mustache. However hefty or stylish, it still was a mustache. Those in his retinue learned, or thought they did, how to read that piece of facial hair. As a result, the members of this ‘inner circle’ carried out despicable acts and atrocities in the name of the face holding the mustache. And the mustache, in full knowledge of the misdeeds, did nothing to discourage the retinue.

The whisker mobility style of governance is always open to interpretation. That is, to the interpretation of the immediate inner circle of the mover of the whiskers; provided, of course, there is benefit to glean for the interpreters of the facial hair. That leads to excesses and communally undesirable consequences. For example, when the mustache asked for a simple and solitary doppi[1], the interpreters did not hesitate to deliver one sitting atop a freshly decapitated head. Some of the immediate circle members will benefit from such a system; only for a spell, before, they, too, fall. After all, the single mustache is the combined prosecutor, judge and jury. Often, he is also the executioner.
When there is no recourse to an independent judiciary, whose interests are also shared by the population, then no one person’s life is safe. By way of demonstration, one may point to various prominent individuals, including that of Beria, the Secret Police chief of the era.

Under the rule of ‘whisker governance’ many organizations are fostered by sycophants. All will be devoted to pleasing the mustache. In the process, they will hog all the resources of the polity. This will leave less, a lot less for the general populace, and, by necessity, create a bifurcation among the citizenry. This societal chasm will be amplified by the competing secret organizations established by different organizations fighting for the attention of the Whiskers. Indeed, these factions are competing for greater resources for themselves and using the Whiskers for the purpose. This increases the distance between the population and the tools of the Governance Strata. In fact, this development creates the ‘new’ Governance Strata.

The all out efforts by the control tools will leave no part of the societal fabric untouched. The primary objective will be to foster a pliant mindset. This can be accomplished with least cost only through the construction of a new Identity for the polity and individual members.

The purpose of the Identity is to hold a polity together; indeed to form a polity in the first place. Since Identity itself is a composite with many parts, the new one under construction will have to encompass all aspects of the societal life. Along the way, new symbols and rituals will have to be created in order to reinforce the new Identity---much like the Christian church grafted itself onto the pre-Christian ceremonies, special days, doctrines and beliefs, for the purpose of supplanting all. However, during this process, Christianity also soaked its ecumene and theology with what came before itself. The new Identity formation efforts will not be immune to this process. The Designer Community working on the project will be subject to the influences of what they encounter. This is inescapable. The Designer Community’s research into the past Identity will also renew a broader interest in the past Identity. The contest of wills thus gain another front, since the past owners of the extant Identity had already left their testament in what they enjoyed. Thus, the Governance Strata will now have to contend with a renewal of the past Identity and related actions, their consequences. Another front in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the population is opened.

II. Leavening

Leavening of Identity is a natural process, akin to fermentation. Nature utilizes fermentation to refine and transform substances, mostly for preservation purposes. Yeast is the best known fermentation agent. It is used by bakers, beverage makers, geneticists, dairy operators. The basic yeast occurs freely in nature. It is the humans that isolate specific yeasts, nurture it to perform targeted tasks, after refining them. It must not be forgotten that, while a strain of yeast might affect almost all living organisms and beings, it is the refined and targeted varieties that will yield the desired best results. Consequently, winemaking yeast added to milk is unlikely to produce a tasty yoghurt or pleasant wine. It must not be forgotten that not all cultures are naturally compatible when refined. However, all cultures need their basic elements to remain alive. Once a culture is dead, it may not be possible to revive it. At least, not in its original flavor.

What is referenced as human culture is essentially the result of refinement of what humans are born with. Arts are the leavening agent in this process.

The word and concept of Culture is derived from the Roman use. Hence, agriculture is cultivating the fields for the purpose of growing crops useful to humans. At that point, the question is raised: for the benefit of which humans? The immediate polity growing the crops, or some far-off entity that requires it?

Likewise, the concept of Civil is Roman invention, referring to laws and regulations applying to its non-military inhabitants; thus, the general Roman population. Civilization is derived from that root, certainly encompassing Culture.

Among humans, akin to natural yeasts, natural leavening agents exist. It is the duty of the polities, not only their Governing Strata, to refine those leavening agents to advance the society at the local level, as well as entire humanity. This is nothing less than a race, competition.

Doctrines of Belief Systems are outlined in user’s manuals specific to that system. The method is not unique to ‘religions.’ All Belief Systems have been abused and given over to serve the needs of the Designer Community and the Governance Strata . In the process, the verbiage contained in those doctrines are sprinkled with contemporary vocabulary borrowed from the Governance milieu. Even when the user manuals are translated into new languages, this attribute is prevalent. For example, the word ‘Lord’ is utilized to denote a deity of deities in English. Of course, the reference is to the title or designation of the immediate ruler of the realm and polity. This, is due to the Identity of the clergy in question: For example, the forced merging of identities during the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither) when the Emperor and the Pope entered into an uneasy pact to support each other, at least publicly, for their mutual benefit.

III. True Believer

A True Believer may be identified by how she handles a doctrine, unquestioningly. She has no qualms about whether it is rational or beneficial to all concerned.

Whereas a person with a curious thought process always must question herself whether a particular human path is superior to all others in terms of universal outcome, a True Believer rarely engages in a similar exercise. The thoughtful person may choose the saying “never in doubt, always in error” as a thinking method, while the zealot might counter with “I believe” in whatever second hand doctrine handed her.

Imagine an artery, a major road crossing a large city. In the middle, we unexpectedly discover a checkpoint, manned by a sniper. He is in civilian clothes. He has decided he has the authority to shoot and kill anyone he deems unfit, unhealthy or unphotogenic. And, he carries his self appropriated task with zest. Is this just? Is it acceptable to the populace, The Governing Strata?

What happens if this sniper is actually ‘given’ that task by a committee, deciding who should be shot and killed, instead of leaving that decision to the lone sniper? Does that change the questions we just asked, or the nature of our inquiry?

What gives the ‘right’ or authority to the sniper to carry out his deeds, killing people he does not agree with or does not like? How did this sniper decide on his course of action? Did he inherit his views and call to action from his family? A particular philosophy? Club? What was the motivation of the philosopher in designing the thought which influenced the sniper? How was that philosophical thought transmitted to the sniper, and became his own to act upon? Was it a direct line of transmission, meaning the sniper read the philosopher’s book and absorbed it? Or, were there intermediaries who might have modified the original thought of the philosopher for some reason or other? How do we know that we understand all that has been going on?

The point is: every action begins as a thought first. All our thoughts have their beginnings in interactions with humans, institutions. But, humans are capable of transcending as well as descending into the depths of baseness. Humans perform extraordinary feats at either extreme. What makes the difference? Religion/Belief System? Literae humaniores ?

If we opt to believe that religion makes the difference, we must also remember that all theology is manmade. This also includes political ecumene.

Burning books of knowledge, especially those opposing the current regime de jour, never extinguished the curiosity of the human mind. Moreover, draconian measures always failed to reach their purported objectives.

Are we, in this discussion, examining morality and ethics? That may comfort adherents of religions, people of the book. After all, ‘holy books’ exhort the readers, “thou shall not kill’ in various forms. The point here, however, is not the precepts of belief systems. Instead, we are concerned with profane and mundane matters such as reasoning arts and sciences. For example: what is the Identity of the sniper? Is he a monster? What about the Identity of the Committee that ‘tasked’ him? And, what is the Identity of the Governance system that fosters all this abomination?

Does the sniper lay claim to Natural Law? If she claims the right to kill accordingly, does she realize that the same right exists for others to kill him as well?

Single person Governance Systems, regardless of their designations such as kingdom, empire, democracy, etc, have inherent weaknesses. One person could not possibly be on duty 24/7. Of course, the autocrat realized that, and sought two solutions:
spent resources on increasing amounts of security forces to keep himself alive,
recruited a slate of obsequious lieutenants

Under such a system, as soon as duties are delegated to others, degradation of collective tasks begins. This is simply because the individuals delegated may or may not share the ambitions of the ‘ruler,’ hence, pursue different agendas. But, there is even a deeper structural flaw in this system: Educational differences. Education is not a simple matter of earning a diploma; the greater the difference between the governed and the governing strata, more difficult for both sides to communicate with each other, and hence failure of the system. It is only a matter of time before the Governed snap under the strain. This happens under many categories.

IV. Individuals or Groups over Polity

What is the common denominator for Spain, England, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway? They are all monarchies. They have also embraced the constitutional version (as opposed to the autocracy) and possess representative governments. A number of political parties regularly contest the elections.

The foregoing is in contrast to the examples of Democratic Republic of Germany, Poland, Democratic Republic of Vietnam at al of pre 1991. Even though these polities sported the term ‘democratic’ in their official appellations, they did not have representative governments.

That is not to say that all polities that purport to be democratic are pluralistic; neither were the origins of democracy. By way of comparison: about 10% of the former ‘socialist’ polity were members of the ruling communist party---as in the examples above---the proportion is perhaps similar in the case of the original democracy where 10% of the population were citizens with the right to vote, and the remaining 90% comprised of slaves without such privilege.

Why is it important for all members of a polity to participate in the governance of that polity? An autocrat (under any designation) may drag the polity into war and ruination by personal machinations. The all member participation in governance will inject sanity to the deliberations in case of a crisis.

In an authoritarian polity, the Governing Strata will use its resources to compel the population. This compulsion will take the form of all-out pressure that will ignore the bases of human dignity. For example, getting shot dead without a trial, for transgressions not even known is definitely against human rights. Any form of torture is absolutely within this domain.

All this is intimately tied to deciding how the wealth of the polity is going to be shared, allocated and spent. Will the resources be expended on guns or butter?

That, in turn, requires a definition of Identity. The question to elicit the answer is not “Who are you;” instead “What are you?”

There are quite a few answers to that query: offspring, parent, sibling, citizen, member of a profession, political party adherent, club member. There are obligations, benefits, costs and gains in each case. But those designations still do not answer the question “What are you?” Human psyche is quite dynamic and attributes will fluctuate from one moment to the next. Are these oscillations caused by emotion or reason or economic factors---the most powerful impellents?

Do these choices also apply to the polity as a whole, in addition to the solitary members? After all, the polity is comprised of individuals, each possessing their own Identities.

Moreover, the Governance Strata will also have their own Identity. This is already demonstrated in two well known manuals of statecraft: Balasagunlu Yusuf’s Kutadgu Bilig, and Nicolo Machiavelli’s Prince.

In Kutadgu Bilig stresses the necessity of having a happy and content population if the ruling dynasty is to survive and prosper.

In The Prince, Machiavelli’s concerns are focused on the happiness of the Prince (ruler) without regard to the prosperity of the population.

This contrast begins to point to the roots of Identity in each case. Keeping only 10% of the population happy and content and the rest unsatisfied is a good recipe of regime change under any political system.


[1] Regular Ozbek skullcap.