We, like all social species, always have some form of governance. Social species need their ‘alpha male’ (even if that’s the queen bee in a bee hive).
Being a more complicated species than bees, hierarchical governance is multi-layered. Even within our species though, the more ‘sophisticated’ the culture/civilization, the more layers. Hunter gather groups have the simplest – no courts, parliaments, congresses, or special interest clubs.
Just as a pyramid needs its base, a social hierarchy (‘pyramid’) relies on the support of the governed. To be viable, a government must have the “mandate of heaven”, as the Chinese used to say. Viewed from a symptoms point of view, the particular governing system a society adopts must reflect the inherent needs of that society. Although, I think this tends to be seen the other way around. For example, democracy is usually seen as the ’cause’ of modern progress and freedom. Not so as I see it. Instead, it is a symptom of the kind of governance that is conducive for this current era’s way of life. Democracy is a story about what we love, not about what is. And as we know, love is blind.
Whether a governance system is benevolent or ruthless probably has little to do with whether it is a democracy or not. After all, under our ‘democratic’ system, we had slavery, killed countless Indians, destroyed the environment, and so on. And our ‘free speech’ is dominated by those with the loudest mouth, or the fattest wallets.
In the end, it is all about power. The big powerful dog is the leader of the pack. Civilizations have more sophisticated ways to express power. In a capitalist country like ours, money is the big power brokers, just like religious, socialist, or communist ideologies have been in other lands. Jim Cramer(1), a veteran of Wall Street, had an interesting and insightful observation on this aspect in a recent video interview.
This episode of “Stop Trading, Listen to Cramer!” begins with a short interview with a Russian expert on nuclear power, then Cramer comments. His frustration with the ironic discrepancy with what we say and what we do is palpable. The struggle to accept how things actually are, rather than the myth (story) we want to believe is a fascinating endeavor. Fascinating in part for how difficult it is!
(1) His goal is to help people participate successfully in the stock market, and a capitalist economy. I began experimenting with the stock market during the 2009 crash. I’ve found it to be a most effective way to actually apply and test Taoist theory to real world practice–the Dao of Dow as it were.
Yoga, shakuhachi, tai chi, and the like are all effective expressions of marching forward when there is no road. But they happen over time, the feedback is constant but never grabs you by the balls. The stock market, on the other hand, offers visceral feedback when attempting to apply what is beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world. Why? Perhaps it is the putting your money where your mouth is. Money is a universal, ancient representation of ‘survival’–the more you have, the better your chances of raw survival (though not by any means happiness, of course).
Now I’ll stop and save the rest of this Dao of Dow story for another time.