REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR REGION
one of the main driving forces for people to work to cultivate virtue within themselves and havens within the world is understanding that the society we live in will not do these things for us.
it is a society that has used power in sneaky ways over the course of many years and in many contexts.
to unpack this basic fact lets consider the kinds of institutions which came to dominate the social landscape in the 20th century: corporate and semi-corporate bureaucracies.
once we understand that corporate and semi-corporate bureaucracies were designed to exercise power in sneaky ways, we'll be less likely to be fooled into giving them space in our lives. take this quote from Ken Galbraith from his book "The New Industrial State," discussing the use of power in corporations:
"the real purpose of this power is not proclaimed in the corporate press releases and speeches. What is dispensed publicly, as many have rightly suspected, is mostly hot air. Power is used, as might be expected, to serve the deeper interests or goals of the technostructure .. these goals are not proclaimed."
THE GOALS OF THE TECHNOSTRUCTURE
a funny thing about our society and the institutions which make it move globally is that these institutions have goals and alignments and orientations which dont seem to make anyone happy. Moreover, they seem designed to generate misery for workers and consumers, while generating absolute horror for poor people and the natural world and future generations.
galbraith puts it this way: "the first requisite for survival of the technostructure is that it preserve the autonomy on which its decision-making power depends"
so what we have is an elaborate network of institutions designed to empower unaccountable (aka autonomous) use of power. but if the goals of these institutions are not possible to discern based on the 'hot air' of the speeches and publications they endorse, how can we discern those goals?
LOOK AT THE PATTERNS
most people know by now that actions speak louder than words. but when it comes to a large institution like AT&T, Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Defense, Council on Foreign Relations, or World Wildlife Fund, actions can be difficult to pinpoint or analyze. because after all, institutions dont actually carry out actions - they guide and coordinate the actions of humans.
so what are the patterns of actions carried out and imposed by these sorts of institutions?
well yet again the truth is difficult to discern. and another reason must be given - institutions operate according to intentions of those who developed them. But those intentions are impossible to know.
i don't even know how to specify my own intentions, let alone those of the architects of institutions like those mentioned a moment ago.
THE ARCHITECTS OF INSTITUTIONS
so for me as an historian who did a masters degree in Paris at the School for Advanced Study in Social Sciences (EHESS), I have come to see that the best way to 'get to know' an institution is by analyzing the character and network of those who were its architect. because ultimately, unless the organization undergoes a revolutionary restructuring of its operating principles, it will continue to use the world in basically the same way that it was designed to do.
lets look for a moment at the Russel Sage foundation which operated as something of a template for the establishment of the many foundations through the 20th century named after the mega-greedy (rockefeller, gates, etc).
The foundation was 'endowed' in a 'nice letter' from the wife of Russel Sage, a brutal railroad tycoon. but it wasn't margaret olivia sage who was the architect of the institution .. it was her advisors, and the early heads - especially robert woods deforest, grandson of Henry Grant Deforest, the founder of the new york stock exchange.
ROBERT WOODS DEFOREST AND FREDERICK GATES
the main architects in 'charity' and 'philanthropy' in the early 20th century seem to have been Robert Woods DeForest and Frederick Gates. john rockefeller, who 'employed' gates (and was largely advised by gates) called gates the best businessman in the world. Bob DeForest for his part sat on a wide array of boards and other positions, including managing one of the major hospitals in new york city for a few years, founding the provident loan society .. and generally operating across a wide array of institutions and affiliations.
DeForest's brother meanwhile was a major new york attorney through the 1880s and 1890s who went on to have major roles in the development of equitable life insurance, wells fargo, and southern pacific railroad.
so without going in too deeply to the weeds of history we can quickly discern that the major figures in philanthropy were intimately connected with the major figures in greed, oppression and wonton profiteering.
unfortunately, the models and institutional frameworks laid out by these greed mongers are still operating today. so if we are to bring about positive change it will have to be outside of the spaces held by major institutions - and often in direct contradiction to the activities of major institutions.
Just as one example, DeForest was a 'philanthropist' who didn't actually believe in designing institutions to directly help poor people. his tendency was to design institutions for the 'study of social problems'
ESTEEM IS ACCORDED TO CORPORATIONS
to understand the truth about how brutal and oppressive our institutions are by design it is useful to understand the extent to which they have been propagandized to seem like something else. as Galbraith mentions, the latter part of the 19th century saw major figures of industry being celebrated, but into the middle of the 20th century this was no longer the case - by then what was being celebrated were institutions.
in other words, throughought the mainstream media over a period of 80 years the general public was beaten over the head with lies about what corporations do and why. thus there is no blame to you if you did not realize up until now how untrustworthy major institutions are - even ones we may have become habituated to supporting, such as the democratic or republican party, we would not support them if we knew their truth. it is only the stories we're told around them in the media over the course of decades which give them a degree of worthiness in our minds.
BLOCK OUT ALL CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS AND PROPAGANDA AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
the end result here is that our health as individuals will depend to a large degree on the ability with which we are able to block out major corporations from accessing our minds and hearts and influencing our behaviors. this is why a knowledge of history in this good way is empowering and beneficial for our social lives as individuals - the knowledge of history allows us to practice better forgiveness and generosity towards those around us, our neighbors and so on, when we might otherwise be tempted to judge them harshly or treat them badly.
but remember, it is not only major industrial and business firms which are deceptive corporations - fraternal organizations, philanthropic organizations and foundations, government bureaucracies, religious institutions .. all of these were designed by architects in the days gone by, who were total fucking sellouts. so in order to live a renewed life and associate positively with our neighbors, we need to make sure that none of the propaganda from those sorts of institutions is being allowed to impact our mindsets and behaviors in social situations.