Here Thar Be Monsters!

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9.8.16

A Gift Unopened

Have you ever stopped to consider how much time, effort and wealth is squandered on leaders?  Or how utterly useless they are?

What is it about humans that make us go through so much toil and trouble to prop up people who are rarely better equipped to lead than anyone reading these words?  Most leaders in the world are no more capable of leading than any one of us, and yet we go through absurdly expensive selection rituals to find one person who can survive the process and then invest all our hopes and desires in them.

These leaders are no more intelligent or special than any one of us.  In many cases, they are far less so.  These leaders are little more than functionaries whose job it is to push papers and attend banquets.  So if the leaders are nothing special, then what is it about the rest of us that compels us to go through these rituals and then wait in vane for the leaders to fulfill the desires we have invested in them?

It's not for lack of trying that we haven't gotten rid of these useless figureheads.

The Enlightenment had a vision of the "sovereign individual."  All of the powers of the State were to be invested in each human being.  Through a social focus on education, the individual would be empowered to rule himself, and his home and property would be, in effect, his realm of supremacy.  In effect, every human of majority age would be a king or queen, a sovereign over their own lives and property, made benign and beneficent by access to learning never before made available to the masses.

Marx and Engels envisioned a system labelled Communism, where the State would ultimately be made irrelevant and the individual finally empowered to be their own supreme authority.  Few people realize this, since few have read The Communist Manifesto, but these men didn't want another system to replace something else, they wanted the ultimate demise of systems altogether, and created a roadmap to achieve it, if it were ever followed, which it has never been.

  Libertarianism is a sort of amalgam of these two, which is not difficult given the very similar goals.  The only difference between all sides is the means by which to achieve the target.

These three roadmaps were based on the Protestant Reformation and the idea that individuals were just as capable of reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves, and didn't need a centralized power structure guarding the keys of wisdom and selecting compliant leaders to promulgate the system, rather than the common good.

What all of these concepts have in common is the empowerment of the individual over the collective and the need for leaders and authorities.  They are all predicated on a single event in history: the invention of movable type and Gutenberg's press.  By making books infinitely reproduceable, without the need for rooms full of scribes and caligraphers, prices plummeted and information became available to huge populations that were never able to access it before.

With one invention, the need for authorities and leaders was wiped out and the masses empowered with the same information as the elite.  This led to an explosion of creativity: the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution.  Every single person now had access to the same resources that were once the sole purview of the elite.

The internet is no less revolutionary.  Now cheaper and broader than at any time in history, individuals have access to vast libraries of information.  Books and data formerly only available to scholars and select elites is now just a click away, and most even downloadable to a personal library.  My own digital library probably contains a significant proportion of the library at Alexandria, and can be accessed without leaving my chair.

And yet...

People still turn to leaders and authorities.  We still prefer to have a perceived expert tell us what an author said, rather than going direct to the source.  We still think we are incapable of self-sovereignty and self-determination.  We still flock in annual rituals to select leaders who have spent inconceivable amounts of time and money to gain a position of power over us.

Are we so weak, so gullible that we can't see how much power we posses, and how little we require over us?  Has our educational system been so diluted that we don't see the power that is sitting right in front of us?  Are we so mis-led that we truly believe we cannot read and understand information for ourselves?

If so, then it is a sad commentary on both our leaders, and ourselves.  Our leaders have betrayed us by taking power away from us, rather than handing it out to us.  These leaders have destroyed our educational system, which is the key to personal empowerment.  They have made us more dependent on them, than on ourselves.  They have given us fish, rather than taught us how to fish.

The promise of such great movements as the Enlightenment is all but dead, even at the moment when we have been most empowered.  We would rather spend hours on YouTube watching empty content, than reading Plato and discussing it in online fora.

How sad.  How utterly wasted is this personal empowerment.

When authorities censor information, it is an admission of fear.  They are afraid that we will know what they know, and act on it.  If the history of the world for the past 500 years has taught us anything, it is that authorities will do anything to keep us ignorant and enslaved.

It is the greatest irony in history that at the very moment the power of the ages is at each of our fingertips, that we are the most controlled and enslaved people of all time.  And all because our leaders would rather we learn to put condoms on cucumbers, than to learn the basic skills of liberty and independence: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

In fact, if you search "trivium" on Google, the entire list of top references are for a pop band.

How we have squandered our birthright.

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