Friday, July 11, 2008

Teachers jump for thought control, in the name of the victim, of course!

Online bullying should be criminal offence, teachers say
Cyberbullying is becoming so prevalent in Canadian schools and society it should be made a separate Criminal Code offence, according to a new policy that will be adopted Saturday by the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

The CTF, which represents 220,000 teachers, is holding a special session on cyberbullying at its annual meeting in Moncton, N.B., where the plan will officially be ratified.

In a draft version of the policy obtained by Canwest News Service, the teachers' group says it should be a punishable offence to use "information and communication technology to convey a message which threatens death or bodily harm or perpetuates fear and intimidation."

The proposal indicates a serious recognition of how common it is now for bullying to be carried out by text messaging, in online chat rooms, on blogs or social networking websites such as Facebook. The idea goes far beyond the expulsions and suspensions that some students have been punished with for bullying fellow students or targeting teachers.

The president of the CTF, Emily Noble, said in an interview the Criminal Code doesn't delve far enough into the use of electronic media and the legislation needs to be toughened.
[...]
A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said it's too early to comment on the CTF's Criminal Code proposal, but Noble said the CTF has started to talk to members of Parliament and have so far found a receptive audience. "It is an issue that will resonate, we believe, with the policy-makers and the legislative makers," she said.

The organization's inaugural policy on cyberbullying should be a helpful tool for its members in lobbying MPs, provincial education ministers and school boards, many of whom have not yet developed guidelines on how to handle the growing problem, said Noble.

The document outlines what role should be played by students, parents, teachers, school boards, teacher organizations, ministries of education, government and website providers.

The policy doesn't shy away from controversial issues surrounding cyberbullying such as freedom of speech arguments and whether schools should be allowed to discipline students for behaviour outside of school, in the privacy of their own homes.

The CTF says freedom of expression and opinion rights should be balanced with the responsibilities of parents and the education community to guide individuals in the responsible use of information technology and that it believes cyberbullying policies should apply to "any and all cybermisconduct and cyberbullying that negatively affects the school environment regardless of whether it originated from the school."

Now we already have criminal law against uttering threats and harassment? Why the need for more law? Apparently because the test of the existing law is too hard to meet and there all kinds of aggressive and resentful people out there, given human nature, whom we need to control.

Whom do you trust to judge who should be controlled? How political will the regulation of expression get and how quickly? When I was in school, I was bullied by a couple of teachers who were embarrassed at my questions revealing their intellectual deficiencies. I was basically told to shut up and stop disrupting the order of the classroom, and to consider changing courses, or....? In that situation, who was most likely to get labeled the bully?

Anti-bullying is all the rage in schools today. The war against the evil villain bully is such that one might be excused for thinking the anti-bulliers have become the bullies, with all the sanctimonious self-righteousness that blinds them to this paradoxical reality. I'm not defending bullies, but we hardly overcome the problem by playing to insecure young people's desires to be justified as victims. It is precisely the thrilling moral ambivalence and human uncertainty inherent in any challenge to reveal yourself as a loser or a winner, the paradox involved in any act of finger-pointing at someone who can, but might not, point/finger back, on which the bully dwells. And it's a "game" which we can learn to play in ever more sophisticated ways, especially when the power of the law can be brought into it to corrupt one side or another in undeserved righteousness.

The need for victims is the deeper problem, whichever side of the "bully" you are on. Indeed, what underlines much of the teachers' way of thinking is the need for scapegoats (in the name of the victim) who can be prosecuted to serve the desire for some sense of order in times that prove existentially difficult for those who would make their living by standing and talking to the huddled masses forced to attend at classrooms. Now that the students have freer and broader horizons, thanks to the digital revolution, teachers are less important as conveyors of information, and of authority more generally. What better way to reclaim authority than to become bully for anti-bullying?

Is it any wonder they want to buttress their job descriptions by becoming legal bullies, policers of what is being said by their students on the net? I'll bet dollars to donut holes that bullying is no worse today than when I was in school. Just different.

There's no way to avoid the reality that kids have to grow up by recapitulating some of the more primitive, and often violently sacrificial gestures, of culture. Learning a culture means first learning its more basic or primitive ways of thinking. Bullying and scapegoating are such. Teachers who encourage students to dwell in this morass by thinking themselves victims are not doing their job, which should be to encourage students to overcome, through intellectual and spiritual strength, all manner of bullying and victim thinking. But for that, you first have to learn what is wrong with the victimary world view of postmodern liberalism. And something tells me that course hasn't yet been introduced at teachers' colleges.

14 comments:

Dag said...

My father bought, sight unseen, a place in the jungle some years ago. When he arrived to look at it, he found the place filled with squatting peasants who immediately pointed their rifles at him as he stood in the doorway.

My father looked them over and then bellowed: "From now on-- You're working for me!"

Who's the bully?

If my father had backed out or broken down he would have been had.

It's a dog bites dog world. Big dogs rule. Whether they rule rightly or not depends on how the other dogs demand to be treated. Even little dogs can make their lives good by standing up to the big dog. It's a matter of character, which one acquires by living hard in a dog bites dog world. From that comes some justice. Then even the big dog learns his limits.

Findalis said...

Bullying is wrong. We all can agree to that one.

As a child I was bullied until I learned to fight back. Instead of me getting the black eye (I had a few), the bully had a broken nose. And the bullying stopped.

In today's world you don't need special laws to combat internet bullying. Just use the ones available now. Harassment works, as does libel laws. Suing the companies that host the sites can stop it.

truepeers said...

Findalis, Dag

Yes, bullying is wrong. But that doesn't make the art of fighting back an easy or morally straightforward one. Turning the other cheek may or may not be appropriate; hurting the bully in return may be appropriate or going too far. Teachers need to teach that art instead of relying on heavy hands and righteous posturing.

If it were as simple as learning dog pack hierarchies, we wouldn't be having this conversation!

Dag said...

I'm in agreement that it's not a matter of dog-pack living; but it is that first, which is the life of a dog. We are something more than pack animals, and once we can move into normal adulthood with the basics behind us we can then live like Humans. It's those who can't live with the basics or who live only with the basics who torment the rest of the world.

We can only begin by negotiation when we have established our ability to pound the tar out of those with whom negotiation is a failure.

Dag said...

Peers, in my haste to make my point I missed yours.

We have a debate like this because we know we can. We know we won't meet next week armed to the teeth and ready for combat. We could meet as strangers for the first time and know that with an almost infinite degree of certainty. That's because it's already settled between us, and between us and others like us, i.e. civilized citizens, that the boundaries are established. Our culture has already settled our disputes for us centuries ago so that all we have to do now is negotiate. Newcomers, those who are either children or immigrants from alien cultures, might not have learned that lesson yet or understood it. They might transgress, and they might have to learn the basics from scratch. To go from zero to utopia in one fell swoop is the project of school teachers with attitudes and opinions. It's a failing lesson plan.

truepeers said...

Dag, you're right: violence is always the backdrop to failed negotiations. Whether its the threat of tarring or sniping.

But does that mean our negotiations and the compacts that come out of them are the product of (veiled) force? A lot of people argue society ultimately rests on the control of the means of violence. I think this is getting it backwards. The threat of violence whether from warlord or guerrilla is always there. It is a condition for negotiating peace, but not the necessary condition of that peace.

The threat of violence is always there, but it determines nothing. Ultimately the peace must appeal to some sense of justice, of due reciprocity of a kind that is distinctly human, or it won't hold or be renewable past the overcoming of fears and the buildup of resentments. That's why I'm quick to bug people about dog metaphors. In the dog world, the alpha dog always rules and never has to argue the point.

Similarly, relying on criminal law is a bad way to teach kids reciprocity. You put it very well with the "zero to Utopia" in one fell swoop. That's precisely the foolery that attends the Gnostic faith that any one key (e.g. anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-discrimination, anti-scapegoating) opens all doors.

Dag said...

I often come away from these debates with you, Peers, after having been across the floor in a mop sense. I don't come away feeling like I was bullied or beaten up, but I come away from them feeling elated by the challenges, primed and wonderful of you analyses. I have to stop and sit and ponder and ask for days or even months and now for years about some of the points you raise so casually. It's because we live in a historical setting that is utterly different from one of dog-pack tribalism where I couldn't let you win even one, let alone every debate without attempting to murder you to save my honor, such as it is. In this social context, I win every time by learning more and rising somewhat to the challenges, which promotes me, in fact. What a gain that is. But this arena is entirely different from most of the world and most of our history because the issue of negotiation is settled already. Except for children at the childhood level of who gets the toys, we don't have to relearn the lesson as adults. We have the safety of our culture backing us up. We know, unless we find out differently, that we reciprocate. It's a given. But it's not so much given today.

We have children who are taught "self-esteem" instead of reciprocity; we have immigrants who are taught "victimhood" rather than competition; and we have utopianists who assume gnostic idiocies rather than accept the harsh realism of the material world. The reciprocity that the majority of us live with as given is not given. There's the fall of the game. Law, or the basic rules of culture, have little meaning when one is allowed to play by whatever rules one cares to play by, encouraged and protected by the bully-class of minders. While some of us are trained to be good dogs, others are allowed to be wolves.

The analogy, if it holds at all, shows me that the Left dhimmi fascism of our intelligentsia is explainable in a photo of a middle-age academic holding a machine gun: Puppies can pretend to be wolves by providing for and in payment hanging out with wolves.

Middle-class life is mediocre. It is anti-heroic. Most not only accept it as a compromise, most actually strive to make it more mediocre, less violent, less crazy. The problem, which it is, is that it's boring to some. To pretend to be a wolf, to live a heroic live vicariously at least, is attractive to some. To some, they turn to "Palestinians" for excitement and a brush with teenage outlaw rebels. And to prove their credentials with the savages the intellectuals provide for the wolves they hang out with.

Most of us have enough sense to realize we don't want to deal with the worst of Humanity. Most of us trade the thrill of hanging out with criminals and terrorists for the security of a mediocre system of negotiation and reciprocity. Left dhimmi fascists want it both ways: to live comfortable lives of ease and to live within the shadow of the dangerous. The dhimmi Left are fascist in the sense, at least, of the longing for a Romance heroism.

I'm one of those quite keen on the idea of Progress. I see it in the founding of, for example, the Red Cross. People learn the idea of cruelty and then the idea of it being a bad thing. They learn of cruelty by an innate Humanness that is given a chance to arise from comfort, from the ease afforded by surplus. But those who don't get it, who don't grasp the new lesson of cruelty being a bad thing need the harsh lesson of being hanged, which has the added advantage of showing viscerally the same lesson to those who live afterward. It doesn't make others cruel to see a man hanged for cruelty, it makes them aware that they are not hanged for not practicing cruelty. It's a breakthrough that then spreads through the generations. But there are those who fail to learn the lesson at all ever, and those are the criminals who do get hanged for the sake of need.

We fall apart when we learn the right lessons of culture but not the sense of them: that cruelty is a bad thing; that it shouldn't be allowed; and therefore that anything that resembles cruelty, even punishing cruelty, is cruel. Losing the foundational sense of violence is to lose the sense of justice and reciprocity. If we continue to allow the foolishness of philobarbarism and povertarianism to flourish at the expense of conformity to the mediocre norm, then no one will play by the rules that cause injustice and cruelty to reign in some quarters against the majority who would have otherwise gotten on quite well. Without the agreement of all dogs to defer to the rule of the big dog only till the big dog bullies, we will find ourselves in a Hobbsean world of all against all. Rules might be a drag but they beat the devil out of anarchy.

But the rules have to be universal and applicable to all, big or small. And they have to be based on Reason rather than whim or privilege or revelation. Who knows where the dhimmi Left find their inspiration? It doesn't come from practice or elenchus. It is, right to say, Gnostic. Democracy, much as it pisses me off so often, is a good thing. It has to be defended by main strength to ensure it is reciprocal.

At least, that is some of what I've taken from you over the past few years, though I've mushed it up on my own afterward.

Eowyn said...

Oh, you thinkers! I bless the day I found this site. Bullying is as old as humanity, and it's fascinating listening to dag and truepeers parse it down to its essentials. Truly, all three of you, with varying worldviews, share such wonderful insight. As a former (and recovering) journalist, I got so into the telegraphic mode of writing I'd forgotten the delights of expository. Thanks, guys :o)

Me, I'm with dag's dad and Findalis, insofar as standing up to bullies goes.

I was only ever bullied once in my life -- by a fellow 7th-grade girl who thought I was "stealing her boyfriend" (I'd never even met the kid!). We arranged to meet behind the school after the last class. My heart was in my throat, as I'd never physically fought with anyone before, and this girl was of the rougher class. Still, I had to go. My own dad taught me from an early age to tell a bully: You may beat me up, but I'm going to hurt you, too. And then fight like hell, the best I know how, and expect to take some knocks.

The girl never showed up, and she didn't have anything to do with me thereafter.

Since then, I went on to get a green belt in Japanese karate (Shoto-Kan, a kind of Tae Kwon Do/street boxing hybrid), and have never had to use my skills.

Talk softly, but carry a big stick. Ol' Theodore Roosevelt was onto something, there.

But one of the points being made here is worth remembering: It's the victim mentality being pushed down people's throats (there's bullying, for you) from an early age that actually fosters that kind of behavior. Until personal responsibility becomes a value once again, we'll see more of it, I'm afraid.

Walker across Worlds said...

This is a bit off topic, but I was part of a conversation with someone once, and he was talking about a phone call that he recieved. Well, a message on his answering machine, really. He was still in bed when the call came.

The message was of the threatening ilk. " I'm coming to kill you ", that kind of thing. He had no idea who might have made that call.

He wasn't too worried though. Why?

In his reasoning, and I agree with him, people who make those kinds of threats aren't the problem. It's the guys who show up at your door with a baseball bat who are the problem.

Obviously the fellow making the threat found his number. Finding an address to go with the number wouldn't be too hard.

Usually the people who threaten and bully aren't the ones who are truly dangerous. More often than not, they're full of hot air.

I would rather have someone harrassing me online ( in which case, I can respond in kind. I'm not above that ), than not know what someone who doesn't like me is going to do, or whether they are actually going to try to hurt me.

Posturing generally doesn't go anywhere near to the real thing.

Walker across Worlds said...

More on topic, I would say that I think this is going way too far. It's an extention of the nanny-state mentality, that a higher organization will take care of all the little guy's problems.

That isn't productive. It isn't healthy.

Charles Henry would probably know more about this than I do, but the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity sums up a good argument against this move.

The lowest common denominator of person capable of a task should be delegated the task. Tasks that require someone higher up on the ladder to handle, should be handled by people higher up the ladder.

I am capable of handling a bully on my own. That's what I've got friends for, quite frankly, if it reaches the point of a physical confrontation.

It is not necessary for teachers and school administration to put these blanket measures in effect.

truepeers said...

You say a lot there Dag. No doubt we are getting too wordy. Oh well, This is crazy blog.

I'll just try to re-iterate my last point.

So you're saying, if we live in a tribal culture and I do something that results in shaming you, you feel compelled to go violent... and there's a lesson there about human reality that we civilized moderns risk forgetting...

But the fact of honour/shame violence in tribal societies is still no proof that culture has ever rested on the control of violence. When an honour code is broken, the result is violence, yes. But the making of the code in the first place cannot be explained in terms of the control of violence. An honour/shame code is a form of reciprocity too and how can we explain the emergence of any code of reciprocity - and all culture is such - in terms of the control of violence? If the big men could simply rule the day, simply on his own desire, why would we/they ever need codes of reciprocity? They'd just dictate and that would be the end of it.

But even dictators rely on codes of reciprocity with those who will carry out/interpret/reply to/note the impossibility of/suggest the appropriate desires and dictates of the dictator.

Reciprocity emerges because in human society no one can control the "pack"; no tough guy is tougher than the rest combined and the rest have at least the idea that they might know how to combine and to intervene in honour/shame disputes.

The thing is hard for the modern secular person to grasp, especially for those educated Westerners who have been taught history by elites who have told Marxist, Darwinian, Nietzschean lies for generations now in search of some non-transcendent explanation for what makes history work. But history is not any kind of conspiracy of power, never, ever. If we want to understand how each and every code of reciprocity first came into the world, we need humbly to respect the mystery that any such transcendent code begins in shared acts of uncertain faith. Violence is a result of established codes breaking down but the acts of faith that eventually add up to codes of conduct are not themselves created by violence. Force can police the established lines, but it can not create them in the first place or renew them when eroded. That is why dictatorships are not very creative even though they too rely on some minimally reciprocal relationships.

Anyway, our inability to satisfactorily explain human society and history in terms of the logic of power is why it should be the job of a teacher not to shelter kids from the need to learn how we build reciprocity and shared acts of faith. That's the fundamental work of being human. Yes, when someone starts to erode the code by which society keeps the peace, they need to be held to account. But in our society freedom of expression is such an important part of keeping the code going in the first place that we can't fall into the trap of thinking that we need to be protected by criminal law from merely bad words. Eroding freedom of expression is far more dangerous than letting some coward suffer only social ostracism, and not going strong with the criminal law.

Middle-class life can be pretty unheroic. But there will always be a need to protect freedom from the many who resent it; there will always be the need to build the courage needed for people to risk and take personal responsibility for all the things that rely on them - without personal freedom and responsibility codes of reciprocity can't be renewed when they need to be and they always need to be sooner or later - as the only alternative to an overbearing and society-destroying culture of dependency on the state. There is thus still much room for personal heroism.

truepeers said...

NB.

When I speak of "Dawinian" lies above, I only mean the misapplication of vaguely Darwinian ideas to human society. Darwin himself was not talking about the history of culture, only of biology.

Dag said...

Variations of reciprocity are probably endless, but one that comes to my mind in daily living is that of Sado/Masochism.

What little I know of anthropology shows me that all Human groups 'devolve' into authoritarian hierarchies. Robert Michels, reluctant formulator of "The Iron Law of Oligarchy" that he might be, is merely showing what is obvious from the historical record. From the Left we see the same conclusion in Adorno's thesis of "The Authoritarian Personality." And from outer space, Nietzsche's "Will to Power." But it's all guilding the lily: There is an innate structure of hierarchy in Man's social relations that means hierarchy. It's too obvious to really need philosophers to show it other than to explain its intricacies. We're not escaping it, not even likely to control it. Plato is right in his critique of the Myth of the metals, that some are more powerful than others. It's what Man is. And given that he is what he is, how do we deal with it?

One way, I think, is through sado/masochism. The ever descending levels of victim will find the lowest to victimize in turn till the Cockney cleaning lady can slag the foreign prince, some totally other to scapegoat. And so on.

Within the realm of the hierarchy of masochism, the lower adore the higher-- so long as the pain is recognizable to the sadist and rewarded by recognition. This, so long as the sadist can maintain his aura of sadistic charm, he can give the masochist the recognition of his need for the latter as payment for power. It's not a matter of physical power but of the personality of power that reflects on the lower orders.

To give brief example, in the clan structure of the Scottish Highlands, abject poverty was the rule; to have a place in the world meant to adorn one man with the gatherings of all so he could represent all to others. The clan chief looked good. In turn, he acted like a brute, showing those who contributed to his powerful aura the reflected power they needed to survive as little. There simply was not enough to go around, so one assumed the title and role of the big man. A slip meant he was lost. For example, one clan chief on a raid laid down one evening to sleep, using a rock as a pillow, which prompted a near mutiny among his followers who felt that any man who need a pillow was a sissy. To be bullied by a sissy is to lose the point of the effort. Also, to go too far, to exterminate the people in a psycho-world of delight in killing is acceptable only so long as the reigns of power are held tightly: Stalin, finding out Hitler had broken the pact with the Soviets, waited at home to be arrested and shot. When he was summoned, he was given more power, which he used to murder those who had come for him. But when Stalin suffered a stroke and lay on the floor, he was abandoned to death.

The beauty of Modernity is that it provides surplus to the point few if any are so starving they need to eat their neighbors. Each man can find his own Strong Man in himself, as a property owner, for example. For those who can't quite find it in themselves, we have movie stars to take on the role of Clan Chief.

People are still pack animals, but the tension between living and starving is lessened by Modernity's abundance. Modernity leaves in place of a Strong Man the longing for a need for a meaning in life. That need is often not satisfied in a lovely lawn. The masochistic longing for recognition is missing in an un-heroic life. "Beat me, but don't ignore me."

How to make sense of hierarchies in a world of relative abundance? How to find meaning in a world of even little men having so much they need not bow before the Big man for abuse and crumbs? How to make sense of an innate need for domination? How does the self-acknowledged Small Man restore the hole in his epistemology when the Big Man is not aware of him? How does the Small Man find his place in the hierarchy of Humanness when there is no authoritative recognition of his station? How does one cope with ones mediocrity in a democracy of mediocrities who do not recognise his station as any different from his own? What is the point or purpose of a privacy of boring-ness? In a secular republic, how does one replace the lost vicarage of the Big Man in order to gain recognition? Where is the "Vitality" of mediocrity and democracy? What's the good of privacy if no one can see it as anything at all? If there is, as I assume, an innate masochism in the Human pack animal, then one longs for a return to the order of the feudal, i.e. a primitive socialism, to a post-Modernist neo-feudalism.

The school-teachers above, the Osama Barack supporters (to sometime soon being burned eternally in Hell), to the socialists of all types, the return to the communal is a return to the satisfying order of authoritative recognition. "He tramples me: he must be a god. They hate him: they must be Satanic. We must be punished. They must be punished. We must punish those who are not punished by our punisher."

The restoration of feudalist socialism is a return to masochism. Those who cannot stand the mediocrity of privacy are those who cannot stand the lack of their ego acknowledgment. They must long for the recognition that they now do not have in a democracy. Equality before the law is some kind of affront to the mind of the masochist. "How dare they treat me as an equal to Obsama Barack? They must be evil and lower than I. They should be punished." And to go so far is to go further, to demand recognition in a Grand Gesture, at times, at times going so far as to explode in a crowded bus, for example, or to stand shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with thousands of mediocrities in a mob demanding punishment of mediocrities usurping the recognition the mob demands.

To demand a law against bullying is to demand feudalism-- and punishment, of oneself and of others. It is to demand recognitoin from authority that one is guilty and needs to be seen as such, to feel the whip of power acknowledging oneself as authentic and deserving of punishment. It is a meaning in life and an order.

These folks creep me out.

truepeers said...

Dag,

I can't deny your experience of the world; yet I can't sign off on it....

What little I know of anthropology shows me that all Human groups 'devolve' into authoritarian hierarchies.

No doubt there is a hierarchical aspect to all culture, culture being that which is above the material world, that which binds us through various significations of what is more and less sacred. Yet the hierarchy of culture is not necessarily controlled by anyone. It is never totally controlled by anyone. So yes, there is something we cannot control about the hierarchy inherent to humanity; but this uncontrollable reflects our innate freedom as possessors of language and our common deference to that which transcends our material existence (Culture, God, etc.)

Yet to say we "devolve" into hierarchy only begs the question of how we got anywhere from which to devolve in the first place. What your religion or anthropology does not seem to give you, Dag, is a sense of how Culture is generated, how it comes to transcend us all. And if you had a clearer sense of how that worked, would you be so quick to be impressed by the "iron law of oligarchy"?

In any case, the kind of hierarchies you seem to be thinking of only really come into history with agriculture and some small economic surplus that the big man controls (and becomes big in so doing) and is thus able to control the ritual order by which that surplus is distributed. But man has been man, i.e. a language-bound species, for two or three hundred thousand years, give or take. The big men of the agrarian age have only existed about 5000 years. So it's not correct to say all human groups devolve into authoritarian hierarchies. In primitive societies, there is no wealth banked; everyone gets their fair share of the hunt, of the sacrificial victim, and that's it.
Yes, warriors have status, but there is no great divide between any one warrior and the rest. One may be a chief, with a few decision-making powers, but the chief is ruled by the equalitarian ritual order that he does not create or control. That order comes into being in a collective process that no one really understands or controls, the myth of the tribe being to some degree a misunderstanding of its own origins.

"Abject poverty" is only a concept in a society that has some way of creating and banking a small surplus, a surplus that creates new possibilities and freedoms to become freed from collective submission to the ritual order, a freedom that is first most in the hands of the big man who is now able to impose his take on the ritual order (the first big men actually become big by working very hard to collect wealth and then to give it away...) But still, to write off the whole of agrarian civilization as some kind of S&M routine controlled by a few bastards is to write off many of the great achievements of our civilization. Are we to spit, say, on the great Cathedrals because they were built by hierarchical societies? Clearly the big men, when successful, helped society realize things that brought, sooner or later, new possibilities and freedoms to all. Sure they could also be nasty s.o.bs, but that is to see the glass half empty. They could not escape the iron law of reciprocity, founded in the universal intuitions of justice and equality that a human community dependent on sharing equally in the language that binds them cannot avoid. No human being can be simply a listener. Everyone has the ability to open their mouth, and speak, if they dare.... Language implies a sense of equality.

And even when relations did "devolve" into some S&M routine, this was hardly symptomatic of the chain of Being. Agrarian societies are not constructed from a series of bonded pairs with no common purpose. They are constructed around a series of gift obligations uniting unique center to the periphery on which most live and circulate. The big man receives service from all, but he must also give back certain things, most importantly security, but also the wealth in some degree. And as for the many who are not big men, they do not simply reproduce with each other relations of dominance and submission. They do that, sometimes, but they do much else besides. Tables are turned, peer relationships are formed, people choose charity, exodus, war, revolt, contempt, wit, outfoxing, instead of submission.

But the bottom line is that history is an evolution and you can't explain that evolution simply in terms of the relative stasis that characterizes certain times and place, nor in terms of simple dominance and submission. Anything new must come about as a process of shared revelation, a sharing that has to start with someone first having the seed of the revelation and then engaging others in its re-articulation and negotiation among the various parties of society, however differentiated. TO reduce this negotiation to any vision of S&M is to forget the many tools that must go into any serious generation of new possibilities. If you have to reduce society to one thing, much better to a collective ritual where everyone sacrifices to the gods, rather than some one-on-one dynamic, since ritualism is the true devolution of culture. In contrast, the moment of chaos is already the beginning of new possibilities.

Two men alone, master and slave, never created anything. Ultimately any and everyone is tested in the marketplace, whether a political market (with success in war being the ultimate test), or economic. A wise master thus negotiates with his slave in ways that go beyond simple dominance.

If there really were an iron law of oligarchy could it ever be revealed and formulated as such? Wouldn't the freedom involved in so representing the iron law imply that the law was not as iron as it seemed? For to reveal something is to engage a process of deconstructing it. To recognize oligarchy is to take steps towards recognizing the possibility that with courage one might leave an oligarchy and start anew. One might challenge one hierarchy with another, and how to do that successfully if not by bringing others on side in ways that throw into doubt the rigidity of the iron? So why say everything tends to oligarchy? WHy not say all oligarchy tends to exodus and freedom?

There is an innate structure of hierarchy in Man's social relations that means hierarchy. It's too obvious to really need philosophers to show it other than to explain its intricacies. We're not escaping it, not even likely to control it....

-what is inherent to man is the relationship between the transcendent (God) and man. That is the hierarchy we cannot do without. All others come and go, especially when they are contested by men who believe strongly that all are equal under God, whatever the current disposition of power. Man cannot be simply equalitarian unless entirely primitive. But hierarchy develops alongside freedom for the human community, exercised at first mostly by one, but in the name of the whole. Big men have a job to perform, and when they can't they sooner or later lose it. As you note, with the rise of modernity, our associated demands for more freedom makes any big man's hold on power very tenuous. The cultural difference between us and Bill Gates is quite small, all things considered, when compared to the social, cultural, and material distance between a peasant and his king. How could this modern development have come about if S&M really were the bottom line of human experience up to recently? We are escaping hierarchy... The free marketplace is controlling hierarchy... CEOs have to perform or they're out the door.... One may be poor, but with the right ethic and intelligence, your progeny could learn to do quite well in the modern marketplace. But they won't learn how by thinking it's all about screwing the other guy. They have to learn that even if high status is something of a zero-sum game, it being by definition a limited commodity, the creation of wealth is not a zero sum game; and today it's often the case that you can only get status by being good at creating wealth for others.

And, in the long run, the expansion of wealth has the effect of liberating more and more people from caring about high social status. More and more individual freedom leads to a greater emphasis on the individual as the maker and retailer of his own story. Today, homeless Bill Simpson really is more interesting than the couples competing to appear in the Society gossip column, at least for some of us. Simpson still has a long way to go to compete with Gates as a figure of interest, but in my book, as I retail it here, he's ahead of many unknown ladies in Shaughnessy who have never been interviewed on CBC. Simpson makes our blog more interesting; thus his status goes up to the extent we can attract any readers to his story. He's useful because we have no fear of him dominating us. We can tell his story without seeming like we're the type to worship celebrity or power. And that's why we like his story. He has cultural status precisely because he refuses to play by Ethanol's S&M rules. And yes, even in the old Highlands there were forerunners of Bill Simpson, folk heroes of the day...

And while the modern creation of mass wealth helps explain this all, what is the explanation for the modern creation of wealth and the free market? We can't find the explanation of modernity in the "S&M" of the agrarian age. Clearly there had to be more going on in the past. I would turn attention to Christianity, first of all.

If we can agree that many people remain fearful of freedom and desirous of rather more hierarchy and submission than we prefer, why not say it is because they refuse fully to embrace human reality and freedom for what it is or can be? Their cowardice and sinfulness blinds them to possibilities. Their resentful desires delude and enslave them. They thus create a reality, but it is not the full human reality.

Isn't it better to say that than to say reality really is what the S&M fan and fantasist thinks it is?