Archives for posts with tag: Frank Herbert

This was one of the favorite slogans shouted by the anti-communist protesters in Romania’s ‘Piata Universitatii‘.
And the anthem used by those who opposed the regime which had ‘confiscated’ the political power after 1990.

The only problem with this notion being that it doesn’t make much sense. Not on the ‘face of it’. Not in any rational way…

You see, most individuals would choose life against any other ‘alternatives’.
When ‘the going gets tough’ most of us would accept almost any compromise in order to stay alive.

I’m not offering any examples. Use your own ‘imagination’.

Let me explain what ‘being a communist’ meant in Romania during Ceausescu’s rule.

First of all, in 1989 the ‘party’ was 4 million strong. 18% of the population were ‘proud’ carriers of the red membership card!
Were all of them ‘die hard’ communists?
Not at all!
Most of them had accepted to become members simply because they had no other alternative. Without the party’s ‘approval stamp’ one could not ‘accrue’ any significance. Nada! Nothing!
Could not get any promotion. Get an education higher than the equivalent of a college degree. Go visit a foreign country – not even a communist one!
Nor could you move out from your parents home!
Not easily, anyway. To be granted your own apartment, you had to submit an application to the relevant authority. Which application had to ‘checked’ by the relevant party official if you were to have any chance of success. Which ‘relevant party official’ was way more likely to approve your application if you were already a ‘member’.
And so on.

Then why would anyone refuse to become a member?!?

Thirty years later, I finally figured out the real meaning of the whole concept.
For you to get the whole picture, I must introduce you to a few more verses.

“Bum better than traitor
Hooligan better than dictator
‘Good for nothing’ better than activist
And dead better than a communist!”

By now, I’m sure most of you already had your Eureka moment.

‘Better to be dead than an ‘active’ communist’!

You don’t know what ‘activist’ exactly meant in communist Romania?

For starters, a ‘regular’ communist was just a ‘member’. You did have some ‘potential perks’ but you had to ask for them. And you were never sure your wishes were going to come true.
The activists, on the other hand, were paid for their efforts. Their ‘well compensated’ job was to put in practice whatever the party had decided. What the brass had decided, actually…
To convince the regular members – and, through them, the rest of the population, that whatever the brass had decided was ‘in the people’s best interest’!
And to inform the higher-ups about the real situation ‘in the field’.

In a nutshell, it was the party activist’s job to keep the party together!

‘OK, to keep the party together… that makes sense… but … whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?
And why had the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards?’

Let me answer your second question first.
The whole thing had collapsed like a house of cards because there was no other alternative.

Because there was no alternative to ‘the’ party!

Because those at the top had drifted away from reality.
Because those at the top had been driven away from reality by those below them. Who had been acting in a rational manner!
Who in their right mind would contradict a powerful figure?!? Specially when there’s no alternative? When you, the ‘middle man’ see no way out? What alternative do you have but to become an yes-man? Who utters only what the higher-ups want to hear and keeps mum about everything else?

See what I mean?
Do you finally understand Frank Herbert’s message?
Do you still wonder why all authoritarian regimes eventually succumbs, being eaten from inside out by corruption?

‘Now you’ve lost me!
Are you implying that by actively promoting ideas, and acting as a back-bone for a political party, one becomes an ‘accomplice’? An enabler?!?’

Well, let me answer your first question now!
‘Whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?’

On the face of it, the main ‘beneficiary’ was ‘the people’.
Practically… the people had become ‘hungry’.
‘Hungry’ enough to applaud when the dictator had been assassinated on Christmas Night in 1989

You see, every established system tends to put its own survival before anything else.
Every individual member of the system wants to conserve its position. Which is a reasonable thing.
The problem with ‘single’ parties being what I’ve mentioned above. The party slowly drifts away from reality for the simple reason that there’s no competition to keep them ‘moored’.
‘No real alternative in sight’ allows any ‘single system’ to construe their own ‘alternative’ reality. Made of “alternative facts”.

So!
You may promote whatever ideas you want. How ever actively you want to do it.
Be the back-bone of any political party – or any other organization, you see fit.

But don’t be surprised that if you promote the ‘flat Earth alternative‘ you’ll eventually fall over.

Fall over the face of the Earth, that is!

I’ve always been fascinated by quotes which are ambiguous enough to be simultaneously wrong and right.

In this situation, the ambiguity comes from ‘government’ covering three ‘patches of ground’.

‘Method of running a place/country’. (Self)Organized versus chaotic.
‘System in place’ which is used in running a country.
A particular group of people who man, at any given moment, the above mentioned ‘system in place’.

Now, which of the three meanings was at the top of Reagan’s mind when he was uttering those ‘famous’ words?

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable(sic). Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Frank Herbert

The way I see it, government ‘as a manner of running things’ is a very powerful method. Which had served us rather well, on aggregate. Only it is not fail-proof. Or, more exactly, fool-proof.
Government as a ‘system in place’ is a work in progress. We’ve been improving it since we’ve invented government as an alternative to chaos. Only we need to be very careful. As a man made system it will always be far from perfect. It has not been perfect in the past and, no matter how much effort we’ll put into it, it will always remain perfectible.
Finally, government as ‘the team temporarily in charge’ ‘suffers’ mainly from being composed of humans. Hence both corruptible and attracted to power. Hence liable to do everything to maintain their positions.

‘Liable to do everything to remain in power’.
Which means that it’s our job to keep them on the straight and narrow.
We, The People, are the first to experience the consequences of their decisions. Hence we, all of us, are those who need to keep Government – ‘the team in charge’, on a short leash.
If they want to remain in power, they need to keep us ‘alive’.
They need to keep the system in shape. Working good enough for the vast majority, not for just a few of us. For a few of them, to be more precise.

Otherwise ‘government as a manner of keeping chaos at bay’ would have failed.


“All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” Lord Acton.

“If the benevolent ruler stays in power long enough, he eventually concludes that power and wisdom are the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must also possess wisdom. He becomes converted to the seductive thesis that election to public office endows the official with both power and wisdom. At this point, he begins to lose his ability to distinguish between what is morally right and what is politically expedient.”

Ben Moreell, Power Corrupts, 2010

“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”

Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

According to Lord Acton, given enough time, even the most benevolent ruler will, if his opinions go unchallenged, ‘loose his bearings’.
According to Herbert, we’re in an even worse situation. Chances are very slim for a benevolent ruler to even become powerful enough to make a difference… before being overwhelmed by corruption…

Then how come we survived for so long? For so much time?

First of all, until recently, no ruler – regardless of how corrupt/inept or even how powerful, had no means to inflict more than a passing wound to ‘humanhood’. During the last five centuries, things have changed a bit… And no, this is not exclusively about the nuclear button. Cortez, Pizzaro, the African slave traders, Hitler, Stalin and those who had produced the 2008 financial melt down hadn’t used very sophisticated tools…
Secondly, I’m not sure there are nearly enough really bad characters to explain all the man made evil in the world.

Then how could we explain what’s going on?

“If the benevolent ruler stays in power long enough, he eventually concludes that power and wisdom are the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must also possess wisdom.”

Ups!
But does this happen?
The ruler slowly convinces himself or the whole thing is a consequence of the contemporary mantra?
That being elected to office means having beaten your opponents! As if politics were a sort of generalized fighting, not a cooperative effort of the entire community…
Which would, indeed, lead any rational agent to the conclusion that the longer somebody survives in a powerful position, the more ‘right’ he must be…

Then what would be easier to change?
The rational conclusion of those who survive in powerful positions or our current misapprehension about what politics should be?

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: