What is it about power that turns corporate and national leaders against their own people? Is it greed? Greed is the uncontrollable accumulation of things, wealth, and power. It’s a pathological force that motivates people to impose themselves on others. According to the adaptation model, following a leader gives a group collective advantage for survival. In this model hominids not only follow the strongest and fittest but also the most creative and well spoken. In some primitive cultures, the leaders of the tribe are shaman and wise-men. In most industrial and technological societies, leaders are a cast of men who reign in total self-interest and personal gain. It would seem that we operate like wolves, where the most vicious canine leads the pack.
Social animals cannot function without a hierarchy, like bee and ant colonies where rank and function are an inherent property. Unlike bees or ants, most humans in high places don’t defend the best interest of the whole; instead, they gorge nonstop on personal ambitions all the way to annihilation. The fathers of modern economic thought told them so: “whatever is in your best interest is in the best interest of capital gains.” Ivan Boesky’s memorable speech back in 1986, inspired the business world with the idea that greed was healthy as well as a feel good trait. The modern power hierarchies of humanity are corruptible entities that induce in their members a rapacious desire to pursue power, wealth, and status.
What is it about leaders that they can so easily trade loyalties and use force to ruthlessly push millions into submission? They get away with it, thinking that what’s best for them is best for their country.
When thousands upon thousands of people are submitted to force and intimidation, the atrocities of war break loose in the streets with scars.
The balance of power has shifted. The difference this time is the possibility of instantaneous connectivity via social media and the mass power it generates. These internet networks integrate the nervous system of millions, like extended body-minds in cyberspace. In this case, people followed each other simultaneously in an entangled hierarchy.
In his book The Revolt of the Masses, Ortega y Gasset states that people will follow an autocrat more easily than they will follow somebody that appears weak, peaceful and of quiet intent.
But what about leaders like Gandhi? This man lived in extreme simplicity with only his most basic needs met; yet the strength of his inspiration led a whole nation, with no guns, to confront and defeat the colonial powers present in India in the early twentieth century. Why is it that we need to follow somebody else?
Perhaps the herd mentality is a developmental stage of humanity, like infancy and puberty when we follow our parent’s instructions. Obedience removes us from taking responsibility for our actions, like desert religions where forgiveness from the omnipotent father figure is always available to absolve you from sin. It’s time for us to become adults and assume responsibility for our doings.
We all have a leader encased in our skin waiting to be spoken. Follow your inner guidance. Warning: there, too, lies the threat of excesses. It takes discipline to find proper maps for steady awakening, to quiet down the illusion of mirrors created by social materialism. It’s time to change the mythology of the world of objects and put our ego’s in their proper place.
In social materialism, greed, lust, and gluttony take to the reckless pillage of the land and its resources, until nothing but a callous Martian canvas full of dirt is left.
What is it about our biology that compels us to lose sight of limits and substitute personal wants over social needs? When personal wants exceed the available supplies, people’s rights get hurt and crunched in favor of those with more power, energy hungry and few. This has created scarcity and market manipulations that feed our obsession with frivolous commodities that compel us to spend uncontrollably as if shopping compulsively for layers of the missing me. This way there will never be enough to go around because nothing was missing in the first place. Our possessions, including the body suit we are all in, are illusions we have been persuaded to appreciate as reality.
Moreover, in this momentous threshold, useless merchandise and electronic gadgetry fill our lives with emptiness as the media spell keeps us busy in trash consumption and trivial pursuits. What is it about the human spirit that lets others decide who we are and how we must think?
We as people have the tools and power to steer the course of history. Consider the Arab spring when several million Egyptians mobilized on Twitter and ousted their authoritarian government.
The purchasing power we bring to the marketplace could collapse supply economies overnight. Our demand for imposed commodities imprisons our souls. It’s a conscious choice. Wherever we decide to spend our money will ultimately control the social mainstream. We need an economy where what’s good for us all is what’s good for business. A healthy collective, producing quality goods and services that are durable, sustainable and fair.
What the world really needs more than ever is a sense of “WE” in sympathy for the other and weary of the pathological “I” with its hoarding behavior.
From the perception of the many “ME’s” in the entangled hierarchy of wholeness.
In the “WE” culture, the need to belong is our greatest good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carlos Cuellar Brown is a New York City media artist and essayist who has written on new media, social theory and metaphysics. His essays have been posted online by Opendemocracy, The Global Dispatches, The Pelican Web, Kosmos Journal, and STARDRIVE.
In 2013 his essay “Intermedial Being” was published by A Journal of Performance and Art PAJ #106 MIT Press Journals. In 2015 Mr. Brown was nominated for the TWOTY awards out of the Netherlands for his essay “Blueprint for Change”. He has been a regular columnist for Second Sight Magazine and Fullinsight.
His book, In Search of Singularity: Reflections and Chronicles from the End of Time, published 29 January 2017, is a series of reflections on the current cultural evolution from competition to cooperation, from patriarchy to reciprocity between humanity and the human habitat.