Friday, September 28th, 2007
This piece was the appendix to my dissertation on International Relations Theory. It earned me a big fat zero! As far as I am aware, it’s the only dissertation ever to have been marked at 0% (without being disqualified for cheating).
Dinosaurs and Hamburgers
Do you know where the word Education comes from?
It comes from the Latin Verb, Educe – meaning, to bring out.
No, I would never have guessed either.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote two treatises, Du Contract Social, on Man in society, and Émile, on how society’s future members should be encouraged to learn.
He breaks this into four stages and recommends that, children should learn firstly from nature and given freedom to explore and discover things for themselves – followed by the age of reason, then strength and finally wisdom – leading to the “age of happiness – all the rest of life.” Further, he argues, learning should be interaction and understanding driven by imagination, within the primary political unit, the family. Education should be a guide not a master.
The state, Rousseau argues, can never be trusted to deliver an unbiased education. Indeed, he suggests, “any education aimed at producing the sort of citizen states wanted would be as bad as the states themselves.”
What is the purpose of education? There are two distinct purposes, which ideally should be one. Namely, to educate, and to turn out productive members of society – those who will enhance and validate the structure, those who in time will become authority.
Learning cannot of course be removed from this picture, States cannot stand still, particularly as the pace of change accelerates. Ideally the education structure produces the tools to satisfactorily fuel national ambitions – so at this level, learning is of vital importance. However, this learning is potentially superficial in the extreme. The reason being, such learning will be built on the existing structures, which necessarily validate the system – that is, find sympathy within hegemonic thinking. This creates a situation where foundations and structures are barely ever questioned, except in the most superficial manner.
To Use International Relations (IR) as an example, let us examine how the suppositions of some of their favoured thinkers (remembering, all of whom are reliant upon the structure) are used to validate the structure, whilst scientific discoveries are overlooked for the sake of expediency.
Structuring the Debate
We need not I think rehash Hobbes’ view of the state of Nature, nor its inaccuracy in consideration of anthropological findings. It must be accepted (at least if one is not a creationist – and even then the Biblical account destroys Hobbes’ argument) the idea of humanity’s origins as war of each against all, belongs in the dustbin of history, along with his attempts to square the circle and the Flat Earth Society.
Hobbes is of course an easy target – the frightened ‘intellectual’, the ‘bourgeois’, happy to renounce his freedom for state security and foundationally subservient to the structure – and eager to justify and enhance his position within it. One can hardly blame him for that, there’s (almost) no-one on academia’s reading lists and in their study packs that isn’t.
But, Hobbes is an excuse, convenient justification for the international order. The argument most likely posed in defence, is that Hobbes is instrumental in shaping behaviour. But, does he shape it? Or does he validate it? If Hobbes had never existed authority would have found another ‘philosopher’ to justify its behaviour – just as they support him with Thucydides, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas… through to modern day equivalents.
Such ‘thinking’ is endemic within academia, it structures all debate, framing the discourse in terms of such ‘extremes’ as Hobbes and Kant or Huntington and Fukuyama or Neo and Neo but always within the structure – and always validating violence and authority.
Occasionally, very occasionally, individuals appear who potentially challenge the structure – Christ being the archetypical example but also including the likes of Nietzsche, Einstein, Orwell and of course Rousseau. Such texts will generally be obscured, omitted, doctored, or misrepresented. Examples being Rousseau’s ‘the State of War’ – doctored to remove it’s most challenging accusations, the forty or so pages cut from Émile and ‘the Stag Hunt’, from his ‘Discourse on the Origin of Inequality’ – showing how Civilised Man behaves when confronted with short term self-interest, whereas the point should never be lost – natural man, hunting with tribe or family would never adopt such behaviour – yet IR appears oblivious.
As previously noted, the state, in its very broadest sense, has existed for no more than 10,000 years (http://corianderjax.tk/dissertation.htm) – the blink of an eye in terms of human evolution. Yet, nevertheless, in IR, it appears cast in stone. However, as we have also seen, whilst it maybe all powerful in the international arena, it is also an amorphous structure, ebbing and flowing, from the joining of Europe to the fragmentation of the Soviet Union. Further, as governments worldwide sell off infrastructure, whether willingly or forced, the state’s very nature appears in metamorphosis. Yet, this is another road virtually un-travelled in IR – as are, sociology, psychology, anthropology, ecology, genetics… and largely economics.
In effect, it is a discipline built around war, upon the notion that man is violent and cannot escape his nature – meaning, upon disagreement without authority, i.e. the state, violence is the only method of resolving the dispute.
My International Relations (ir)
The trouble is, these opinions, used to justify world order, do not describe me in any form I can recognise (nor I would suggest, most people I know at a personal level). That is, in any dispute with another my first tactic is understanding, not violence. Therefore, the arguments of Hobbes & Co. must be flawed.
Having spent approaching three years developing My ir and watching how numerous others do likewise, I must report, although occasional dispute, I have seen no sign of violence whatsoever. In truth, the reality appears to be the opposite of what we are led to believe (supporting Rousseau’s argument, that it is the state itself that is the cause of war). From experience, I would say people by nature when unthreatened get on perfectly well. Indeed, as evidenced through our time at university, international relationships potentially blossom and flourish across borders and cultures, without the prejudice of authority to define the structured agenda.
Another thing I have noticed, is that at the start of year one, people arrived with anticipation and excitement, feeling that they could potentially change the world. Since then, they have been moulded and taught into ‘thinking’ and writing in the ‘correct’ manner and marked into conforming. Until, by the end of year three, when instead of feeling empowered and equipped to challenge and question, most have settled for something – a rung on the structure.
This is a consequence of the biasing inherent in all structures, none of which can be immune, which favours arguments and techniques sympathetic to the modus operandi and validation of said structure. This is further compromised by the ever increasing demands of expansion, McDonaldization and reliance on external finance. Leading to what is in effect a sort of ‘flat-packed’ indoctrination, governed by vast reading lists which no one ever need go beyond and the potted texts of study packs to cement structural values in place. Effectively creating a body of workers all singing from (roughly) the same hymn sheet – which of course becomes a boon for throughput, when having to mark six months work in five minutes and in establishing values for said students – in relation to the structure.
Just a thought
I began this paper by discussing how life had developed: from the simplest organisms (http://corianderjax.tk/dissertation.htm), concerned only with feeding and breeding, through to the incomprehensible variety and sophistication of our World today. If you don’t believe me, watch a few nature programmes – nature, as well as being a cornucopia, is also a wonder.
Humanity’s part and path is perhaps one of the most astounding – we are after all continually telling ourselves how clever we are. And indeed, since man became ‘Enlightened’, it seems there is no end to his talents. But, at what cost?
Humanity’s social structures evolved over evolutionary time scales. It is perhaps the case that family unit has been under threat since the conceptualisation of good and evil and the birth of structured authority; but, in reality, it is in just two or three generations that we have seen its fragmentation – particularly since the arrival of the ‘science of the mind’ and ‘freedom’ in the form of ‘democracy’.
The science of the mind is the most powerful tool operating in our world today. It works, as discussed above (http://corianderjax.tk/dissertation.htm), by stimulating our genetic urges, fear and hunger, our primary drivers. What are of lesser use are the more sophisticated ‘higher’ animal instincts – perception and reasoning. What is of least use is human nature – evolving with the family, being content, when all one’s needs are filled – which is positively counter-productive in the incessant drive for expansion and power.
Indeed, by twisting and appealing to genetic drives and constantly bombarding humanity with ‘good and evil’ and violence as the solution, structured authority, obsessed with its inexorable expansion, is potentially returning us to, or projecting us towards, some sort of Hobbesian state of nature: a state without society, trust or common goals (excepting short term personal gain).
For Hobbes was not of course showing us humanity’s origin, he drew his conclusions from observing those around him, his world’s controllers and profiteers, “the bourgeois of London and Paris,” those at the top of the food chain, the ‘Hawks’ and ‘Cheats’ (as Dawkins might call them) – those, that society, what’s left of it, is encouraged to envy and emulate. That has nothing to do with the past, except at a primordial level – but, in mistaking gratification for goodness, could Hobbes, rather than seeing our past, be depicting our future?
This prospect must have alarmed Kant, who thought humanity either to be progressing or regressing – it is why he must reject Rousseau, his “Newton of moral order”, in seeing ‘natural man’ as at one with itself – the prospect of such a future was just too terrifying to contemplate.
Rousseau, in qualifying his attestation, that “the good man orders everything with regard to the whole; the wicked orders everything with regard to himself”, and appreciating the irreversible rise of ‘Enlightened’ man, Rousseau recognises “ if there is no God, then the wicked man is right and the good man nothing but a fool.”
However, he was not looking into the twenty-first century, with money as a belief structure, rampant consumerism, dwindling power resources, global pollution and ‘free’ market capitalism thrashing the donkey. He might however have pointed out, the binary opposition to enlightenment is delusion.
Ah well, who’s to say? We can only work within our own reason, judgement and understanding, and with the information accessible to us: which is what I have attempted to do.
I hope at least some of this makes sense.
One final observation, contrary to popular opinion, the dinosaurs did not become extinct – they evolved – another testament to nature, it’s adaptability, ingenuity and mind boggling brilliance.
The dinosaurs became birds and as far as palaeontologists can ascertain they did not go via a state structure.
Whereas humanity’s, or, more specifically, its structures’, imagination can see no further than ‘universalisation’ and modularisation and the unending drive for expansion. Expansion – growth – not in terms of what we could be, but in terms of what we must do.
Instead of reaching for the skies, filled with potential, our structured authority, our state, our sovereign, our money, our interests, our fear, our hunger project us towards a primordial slime of feeding and breeding, satisfying nothing but our stomachs and our genitals, and creating an environment safe enough in which to do it.
An environment, governed by status and security and uniformity – where right thinking comes pre-packaged and modularised, and our eager progeny gobble it down, like caged pigs being pumped full of genetically enhanced growth hormone, before their eager leap into the maw of the structure.
Shiny brand new members of the human race, packed, processed and ready for shipment, with their cascaded 2:1s marketing them to the structure – processed meat patties ready to be consumed by the corporate world.
Would you like fries with that degree sir? Regular or Super-size Debt to kick-start adulthood and chain you to the structure?
But Eeyore wasn’t listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be…
– A. A. Milne