Tag Archives: Lewis Mumford

Georg Rockall-Schmidt, Bureaucracy and Bureaucracys Potential

I was in the USAF…. a branch of the second greatest organization of human effort ever to be established–the first being the Catholic Church. Anyway, it occurred to me that the US military was the fulfillment of the struggle for the rights of the working poor personified in the IWW and cultivated in the post (Civil) war working class struggles through to the 1920’s and 30’s–perhaps perfected, in it’s imperfect way, by the reconstruction of Japan under MaCarthur. Eisenhower says in his autobiography that if it hadn’t been for the real danger Nazi-Germany posed… he probably would’ve gone through the war a low-level officer and gone out into the civilian sector after the war to become a salesman. Instead, the twits with a name, and their new found silly walk, were passed over for the sake of those with ability.

In the military, I found real community, advocacy, opportunity and the training and instruction to take on the responsibility with which I was entrusted. I didn’t know how good i had it until I returned to the civilian sector to a world resembling a zombie-apocalypse–there are chunks of me ambling about in the bellies of more than a few former intimates. In the military, we had several different roles to play, jobs to perform with a constant curriculum of training and retraining. In the military, my primary job was radar tech (in which I maintained and repaired radar tasked with controlling civilian air traffic), I worked as a base operator, bus driver, air freight cargo loader, in disaster response, job control, drafting written daily status reports, maintaining stock supplies and TO (technical order) libraries.

This last was of particular interest to me. While in the military I learned the necessary basic skills to participate in and maintain the smooth workings of a large organization, I also learned the potential and value of those skills. Since being out, I have continued in a lifelong habit of reading with a renewed sense of interest and ownership in and for my society. Among the authors and actors whom have influenced my thinking are Lewis Mumford, The City in History; and political activist, Ralph Nader. Both of whom seem to suggest that there are a missing set of institutions in our society.

When I was in the Air Force, we had gone through a recent re-evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of troops, particularly in response to their rank in the hierarchy. It had been acknowledged that rank did not necessarily indicate intelligence or ability or degree of potential contribution to “The Mission.” It had been emphasized at every step of training and integration into the workplace, the importance of “The Mission.” “The Mission” trumped rank, position or time in service. If you had an innovation or identified a fault in the meeting of the goals to accomplish “The Mission”–if you saw a problem–it was your responsibility to either address that problem, report that problem or both.

Upon returning to the civilian sector, I recognized a more strident acknowledgement and constant jockeying for position within the hierarchy… to a much greater degree than in the military–where hierarchies were clearly defined and little contested–to the degree that hindered whatever the given “Mission” at the time. Also, I saw little compunction against sabotage, even self sabotage, as an idiotic component of an over-arching culture of participation, or lack of. In the civilian sector, it was much more important to discredit the guy next to you for your own dim light to shine that much more brightly than to meet the basic objectives of the given task. Not only that, but others would participate in ones noncompliance out of a value for cultivating workplace cliques rather than ones own ability to contribute.

But it was the TO (Technical Order) library which still burned brightly in my imagination when thinking of my time in the Air Force. With this system of encapsulating and keeping knowledge… an organization could dedicate as few as two troops to the task of retaining any skill or technique the service required or acquired. And it occurred to me, what if this organizational pattern could be applied to the cultivation of hobbies and interests in the civilian sector to the end of not only knitting together human effort not based upon personal ambition, but personal interest and a cultivated questing for knowledge and accomplishment? What if such organized endeavor could be codified in a manor to bring together corporate activity which would grow with the depth of applied interest and activity from two members with an idea to 1000 members with facilities, self-maintained libraries and frequent visits from instructing scholars and professionals? Something I would call a PIL–yes a nod to the second band of a certain rotten John Lydon–a Peoples Independent Library. There could be thousands of them flourishing in every town… based around everything from cooking to political activism… concerned with anything from resurrecting ancient glass making techniques to evolving balanced curriculum for pre-teen children.

Out of such work might emerge a culture conscious of those traits and values necessary for large scale corporate action. A re-emergence of a monastic movement brought to the masses in the ruins of an empire wilderness. Anyway… just a thought.

Nicolae Ceaucescu’s Last Speech

Nicolae Ceausescu’s Last Speech (posted by Avocatul Poporului)

A response…

He started a land reform policy which forced people out of small communities into the major cities using siege tactics by shutting off utilities and shipments. The citizens of these communities became refugees in their own country and were forced to pick up what they could carry and head for the nearest big city. In these cities no proper accommodation was made for them and their misery increased.

The problem has less to do with the man’s character and more to do with the type of system he tried to establish. Perhaps, because of the immense tension from the pressure of the Soviet System and the Cold War with the west… there was created in the Romanian society an “Embunkered Mentality”. That is, everyone outside the society had to be viewed with the suspicion of a military unit besieged. And correspondingly, anyone within the society who did not follow the dictates of the power structure… no matter how absurd and destructive… must be viewed as an enemy.

Ceausescu became known for his violence and use of terror. He would dress people in bear suits and hunt them like animals, literally… dress them like bears and kill them in a hunt. His police agencies were known for their use of terror tactics. There is a really bad Kevin Spacey movie–one I watched in Bucharest just this past week on tv–called The Life of David Gale, in which one of these terror techniques used in state sponsored murder is staged.

The problem with such regimes, as pointed out in the work written by Lewis Mumford on “Mega-Technics”, is that such regimes seize power by establishing a power center around some efficiency or capability. This power center seizes power by selling or coercing adherence to it’s demands and hierarchy. And as the empowered regime commands resources and loses the novelty or effectiveness of whatever strategy or efficiency brought it to power it allocates more and more resources to the maintaining of that power creating a more and more inefficient system which meets the needs of the population to less and less degree. This power tends to resort to the institution of reducing as many people to a state of slavery or simply steals their wealth and asset to maintain itself–trying to maintain a privileged constituency isolated from the system’s inefficiency, theft and brutality. In such a system, the stakes of failure rise as those in power sense that they will be killed if they ever lose power.

In a healthy system, all decisions are not rendered from the top down–far from the point of human engagement. Instead, people are cultivated to meet the demands of their occupations with a sense of the “bigger picture”–an understanding of how their efforts effect the greater community and a sense of obligation to that greater community. Such complicated and demanding decision making requires the development of a sense of dignity and cannot be inspired by fear. The use of intimidation to motivate participation is tantamount to slavery, and slaves must either be reduced to a state of stupidity to render them compliant–eliminating their capacity for decision making–or they must be guarded against as an internal enemy waiting to strike. It is not a sustainable system… or if it were made to be sustainable, eventually it would kill the society like a cancer at slow but deliberate work–only polluting human culture with it’s attendant indignities, absurd idiocies and legacies of brutality.

Today, in Romania, it seems that no one remembers the horrible things Ceausescu did, or the absurdities of his incompetent management of the society. All they remember is that when Ceausescu was in power, he built things, roads, buildings, etc. And they are only far too aware of the dearth of economic stability and lack of opportunity especially with the images of wealth and security some enjoy–as though it were the standard–propagated through the media. The old Soviet order could very possibly be re-established through a chimera of promise and under the guise of western capitalism through banking scams, political corruption and industrial determinism.

Fox News Angry Harvard Students Know Stuff

Fox News Angry Harvard Students Know Stuff

There is a a little mantra I like to keep in mind when trying to make sense of societies and power structures: ” the entropy of mixing is equal to the entropy of expansion.”

Power structures breed psychological patterns. Those who attain eminence within a power structure do so by tapping into the strain of strategy/ideology/psychology of that particular hierarchy set by the character/manner in which the power at the center around which that hierarchy has formed. Lewis Mumford speaks of such patterns in his books on mega-technics.

So when a third world economy is exposed to first world economics, such as thru narco and petroleum industries, it lays over a primitive societal power-structure the imperatives of a mega-power-structure. Suddenly, the old authorities and cultural norms are swept aside and communities are rent open… old ties within that community are like the pull of weak gravitation exposed to much greater gravitational pulls from a great distance… The result is that people have less effect, no matter what they do, to effect their own fate and at the same time they see everything they value being devalued by this distant unconcerned power. This gives rise to great frustration. The indigenous authorities lose that authority because of their powerlessness to effect any kind of protections against such forces and new authorities give rise to a worship of old power strategies. These power strategies demand greater obedience than the distant pull concerned with whatever industry or commodity is at issue and has much more intimate a presence. So brutality at home emerges to fend off power from afar…

Once that brutality establishes a new center of power it is faced with the limits of it’s own character. It has made of itself a hammer, but now all the nails have been set. Such primitive authorities do not have in them the ability to cultivate a society or administer beyond that required to make war and brutality. So in order to maintain itself in power, it must seek out a justification for its talents and skills. When these skills are no longer needed at home… export them–like the Council at Claremont.

It is the economies, the demands and ignorant grasping of the west which creates these third world cesspools which fester and burst their banks. One thing we could do right now to begin moving in the right direction is to raise the federal; tax on gas to bring the cost per gallon to ~$3.30, so say ~$1.40 increase–pegged at a ~$1.40. And use that money to repair and upgrade infrastructure and develop a plan for an extensive rail system with an 80 to 100 year plan to devolve communities and increase population densities while returning vast swaths of lands to their natural state with the development of an aggressive preservation industry funded federally and set up like a Keynesian economic control to counter unemployment, underemployment and corporate malfeasance. Also, to use as a an economic tool to balance a capital to salaries and wages equation. And to this end, establishing a system of lodges to stitch together patron communities from across the society which will engage in training, journaling, educating, building and tending the lodge and surrounding lands. these places will serve as vacation spots as well as youth and adult development centers with the aforementioned mission. In this way, we will establish a culture of stewardship and control of our own destiny through the cultivation of land, lodge and ability. This is the route to establishing that which has been lost with the establishment of a secular society, removing the influence of the church, with equality as it’s goal, lowering the whole instead of raising the lowly… that is, a loss of a sense of dignity and the rise of arrogance.

“The entropy of mixing is equal to the entropy of expansion.” The ancient patterns of slavery and power are a default when the reason and dignity of man are given short shrift. It is not enough to kill the Jihadi with the knife in one hand and the severed head in the other… we must create a culture and character capable of meeting him with a vision capable of dispelling the horror he creates. “We must cultivate our gardens…” And with our own two hands.