I wonder if humans were always so prone to thinking “if we can control everything from one central point, that will save time and money and make everything perfect” or if where we are is a deformation from generations taught this fallacy which is at the heart of socialism/communism/totalitarianism.
As much as I like blaming everything on Marx (the fact that there is no dedicated pissoir installed on his grave is a reproach on our civilization) the truth is that there was this kind of insane idea at the back of minds going back as far as I can read. You know, the idea that it’s all mechanical, and that most humans are interchangeable widgets who can be controlled by the ‘superior beings’ in the center.
I’m going, however, to assume that it got worse with the industrial age and mass production. Because humans are very good at reasoning from one incident and creating a whole category/class/order. Arguably this was largely responsible for our survival and ascendance to dominant species. Because we learn from very little, and extrapolate whole classes.
We don’t go “Grorrg went into the forest alone and all we found was a mangled hand and a bit of his liver. It’s an isolated case, and we can all totally go to the forest alone.” No. We go “Very bad things in the forest made this happen. Don’t go into the forest alone, particularly at night.”
Of course, half the time this is a misfire. I mean maybe Grorrg was a complete ass who was having affairs with half the women in the village, and he didn’t in fact go into the forest alone. No, he went into the forest followed by every man in the village, plus Mkrog’s pet tiger, and he got no more than he deserved.
But “Don’t go into the forest alone” still makes sense, since we know there are things there that could eat us, except for the little bit of liver.
So, because we are prone to doing that, it’s common to think and say things like “I did this, it worked for me. You do this.” In fact, half the people in the world go around pissing off the other half on any given day by doing that. Only, of course, you know, the halves switch regularly, so it’s impossible to catch all the assholes and beat them with the two by four with the nails in it. Sometimes we are the assholes.
But why is that incredibly annoying? If something works for someone, why wouldn’t it work for you?
Well– yeah. Okay. Look my best friend, growing up, who was closer to me than any sister could be, was very good at ballet. Fortunately she had known me from birth, so she never told me “well, if you need to relax you should learn ballet. I always feel happy and energized.”
She didn’t do that, because she KNEW me. She knew I had two left feet, no spacial visualizing ability and no memory for movement. Which means even in normal aerobics classes (which was the gym classes we had, by and large) I usually looked at what the teacher was doing and then executed it backwards, sideways and tripping on my own two feet at the end. In fact, it should be impossible to mess it up as badly as I did, and most gym teachers refused to believe I’d done it accidentally and instead insisted that I was mocking them…. Add to that that while she was this lithe, elfin critter, I was taller than most men by 12 (for those who met me, yes, Portuguese men were tiny back then) and had shoulders like a lumberjack.
In the same way, knowing she was desperately dyslexic, I never told her if she wanted to know the end of the story to something I’d started, she could d*mn well write it herself. (No. I’m dyslexic too, but …. something happened to things that went in her head and needed to come out on paper.)
So my solutions didn’t work for her and hers didn’t work for me.
We all have had relationships like that and understand that. It’s just when you go from there to characteristics that are…. less tangible, like will power, ability to concentrate, ability to memorize, or even — just — ability to keep interest, we forget we’re not all the same and attribute the worst possible motives to someone — including ourselves — when the good example fails to stick.
Look, take me (please. Most of the time I’m very tiresome.) I’ve been blessed with more talents and opportunities than I ever believed possible. Particularly when I was crying every night before gym class. So, if I am so smart, why ain’t I rich?
Well…. many things. In theory I know what to do so we can be debt free and doing very well indeed. In theory I know what to do so my career takes off, too.
The devil is in the fiddly bits. (Not those fiddly bits. Take your minds out of the gutter.)
For instance, sure, I know the theory of how to save money and invest, and…. but my brain finds investments all too risky. And besides, it rather have food and things, so we have them if we need them.
As for the career….
I figured out part of the problem — besides ADHD etc. — yesterday, because I was talking to younger son who said something like “Portugal is choc full of talent. Choc full of people who can perform miracles with inadequate materials and training ONCE. Then abandon whatever they just did and go off to try more difficult things.”
Not only is he right, but holy hell, did it hit hard. You see, as I’m packing my hobby materials, and realizing some I’ll never do anything with ever again (and getting rid of them) I realized that I tend to buy/find things to do and be obsessive about them till I do them well. And then lose all interest. Worse, I don’t really have any interest in the things I make. I just want to be able to do them. (Hence the strange saga of egg carving. Don’t go there.) Now this was part of son’s pitch for “Since you’re going to make weird crap, let me sell it” but you know, temperament is in some measure inherited, and–
Well, you see, that’s the problem with writing. Writing is very easy to succeed at if you do the same book over and over, with minor variations on a regular schedule. So, of course, I need to write in multiple genres, and my books CHANGE because well, otherwise I get bored. And….
Now the second is semi-controllable. I have after all managed to write sequels. And I’m working on it, because unfortunately professional success passes by series these days. But it took forever to discipline myself enough to approach it this way.
Hell, it took forever to even understand it about myself. And the dime only fully dropped this week.
You’re probably going to say most people are not that complicated. But I really think that most people are. They just appear simple from a distance.
So “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need” sounds great…. from a great distance. But who determines what each needs, when some of us take years to figure it out and have to make mistakes to find out.
I mean, look, how would I guess I was an introvert who needs to see some people every day? I should have been happy in the suburbs. I love not seeing other people from my windows (or not that many people.) I like well tended gardens. I — I go berserk and put myself under house arrest, because when I walk out it’s like walking through blasted land, with no human beings in sight. And the back of my brain panics and goes nuts…. and then depresses me, because it’s obviously not safe out there — where is everyone? — and so I shouldn’t go out either.
Now try being a central planner, planning for millions and millions (or if the one-world-government ever got their way) billions of people.
To do that, you have to imagine people as spherical balls, all alike. We know if we roll them down a slope of niches, most will end up in one, right?
Humans are not like that. Humans are like pieces of a very complicated, intentionally designed to deceive puzzle, so it’s impossible to tell if you’re looking at part of a sofa or a cat’s tail.
You make it impossible for humans to find their own niches, do what they want, and adjust to their peculiar brains and circumstances and you’re going to have unending misery, uneeded death and terrible suffering. Or as we call it: communist countries.
You give humans the same basic start and conditions: like, you know equality before the law, and stability and let them act each in his own self interest and boy, howdee, you have miracles of tech, more food produced than could ever be needed, and a world full of wonder.
No, people won’t all end up in the same place. How could they? Not only do they all have different abilities and capacities and problems, but they deal with them differently. So, yeah, some people will be a lot richer than others. But the point is, in a free society, “poor” is what middle class is in a lot of the other world.
Oh, sure, there will be the very poor and dysfunctional, like the homeless. But there is a level of damage at which you can’t really make people function and work in society. At best you can ensure they don’t starve to death, which mostly the free world manages.
But you can’t save every one all the time. Horrible things will still happen, because humans aren’t all the same, and some are completely messed up, whether it’s their fault or not. (And we can’t know.)
It’s a terrible thing to accept, if you’re halfway competent, but no. You can’t bring everyone up to even half your level. Best you can do is look after yourself and those you love. And even then, sometimes, you fail with those you love best. Because humans are complicated.
But central planning doesn’t solve that problem. It solves the problem of making sure that all identical spheres end up in identical places.
And because humans aren’t identical spheres, it tries to grind, shave and shatter the irregular puzzle pieces into spheres.
Which works about as well as you’d expect. In the end you have useless pieces, and a complete mess.
It’s time we start proclaiming loudly that humans aren’t identical widgets. And refuse to oblige them when they insist on shoving the cat into the sofa.