Musings on technology, philosophy, consciousness, the future, the present, and the past.

Month: March, 2017

Beware the Ides of March

Those of you who know a bit about history know the “Ides of March” (March 15th) is the day Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was killed by members of the senate.

Caesar came to power in a whirlwind during the Roman Civil War, which was a war between the conservative order, the Optimates or Boni, and the Populares, or the common people.

From the moment Caesar took power, the Roman Republic was dead and in its place a dictatorship.

For years the Senate was corrupt and had ignored the needs of the people, many of whom were living in squalor. Many farmers had their land stolen by the Senate and felt the Roman system was giving them a raw deal.

So along comes Caesar who promises he is the only one who can fix this, because he knows the system. He promises he will root out the barbarians, and restore order. He promises that the true Romans will be heard.

Of course minutes after taking power, he turns out to be worse than the Senate he defeated. After this, he is followed by a number of supreme dictators, viewed as god-men by the Roman people, and dissent is all but dead.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it should. Many parallels can be made to our current President: elected in a whirlwind of false populism, promising only he knows the system and can restore order.

Of course the Senate made a last attempt to regain power, killing Caesar in a hail of stabbings. It is believed this is where the expression “Sic Semper Tyrannis (death always to tyrants)” came from.

But the damage had been done, and shortly after the conspirators were killed and Caesar Augustus took power and ruled the people like slaves.

Karl Marx said of Napoleon “History repeats, first as tragedy then as farce.”

Truer statements have never been said.



If You See Your Hero Walking Down the Road, Kill Them

Kill your heroes.
Has there ever been a more apropos call to action than this?
Kill. Your. Heroes.
Heroes don’t exist. They are characters we have created, in our heads, to fulfill father and mother fantasies we think we need. They have existed since we could put chisel to stone tablet. And they have always led us into trouble.
Humankind seems predisposed to this idea of some savior, whether god, demigod, spirit or extraordinary mortal that comes in, delivers us from evil and saves the day.
It is something we want so badly we are willing to kill anyone who disagrees with this. We are willing to die ourselves for that hero. We are willing to live with massive cognitive dissonance just to believe in the hero.
And all of that makes us weak, so very weak. So pathetic and powerless.
This is such a tragedy because humankind is not naturally predisposed to this weakness. This weakness is artificial and learned behavior.
When we put all of our faith, and by faith I mean ‘belief without evidence,’ in these heroes we give up our reason, our energy, our spirit and our empathy to this figure to do those things for us.
And where does that get us? Where did it get the millions of Soviet citizens who placed their faith in “Uncle Joe” Stalin? Where did it get the millions of Germans who placed their faith in Adolf Hitler? Where will it get the millions of Americans who place their faith in Donald Trump?
Besides getting you, and your family and friends killed, it also poisons the very fabric of society. Facts are changed to meet the belief. Critical thinking is jettisoned for authoritarian groupthink.
So it seems the root of this hero-worship is within us: a constant desire for a savior. And that weakness will destroy us, always.
Besides leading us like the Charge of the Light Brigade to our untimely deaths, and besides making us weak shells of what we could be – it also ignores the fact that leaders and heroes fail because they aren’t gods, they are mortals.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Give anyone that kind of unquestioned following and they will take advantage of it. They will abuse it. Power is a drug like any other, and not only is critical thinking removed from the follower, but critical thinking is also removed from the hero or leader.
They will eventually surround themselves with flatterers and eventually get rid of the necessary “Cassandras” that are needed to function.
Cassandra was a character in Greek mythology. She was cursed with the ability to predict the future, but no one would believe her.
In modern usage, her name is employed as a rhetorical device to indicate someone whose accurate prophecies are not believed by those around them. These are necessary to anyone, and they are the first people a hero, unchecked in their quest for power, gets rid of.
Thus, this weakness spreads like a virus among the group, so corrupting it that it either cannot function, or the only thing it can bring is death and destruction. See “The Battle of Berlin” if you want a modern example.
So eliminate heroes. If you respect someone, respect their work. Respect what they have done. Who they are should be of no consequence.
Worship no one and nothing.
Give authority to no one without it being earned.
And never, ever suffer a hero to live.