Here Thar Be Monsters!
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The Reed That Bends
It is not so much the willful stupidity behind this calcification of higher education - anyone who wants a real education can find the books easily enough - but that it implies the imminent collapse of society.
Any structural engineer can tell you that the more rigid a building is, the more likely it is to collapse due to earthquake or strong winds. Throughout history and within the context of the natural sciences, those groups and species that were the most rigidly locked to their environment were the ones least likely to survive a catastrophe. Whether it is a single construct, society or an entire phylum, the more rigid it is, the more susceptible it is to extinction.
We have seen corporations, empires and civilizations vanish almost overnight because they could not adapt to new realities. The phenomenon is related to the old proverb that 'the tighter you squeeze, the more sand slips through your fingers.'
This near-certainty of collapse is why people who study history don't really worry about such things as political or social systems. Those that become overly rigid and authoritarian are doomed to fail for the simple reason that they can't adapt. The one thing that is certain in this Universe is that things change - environments, circumstances, events. There are forces beyond the control of even the most powerful systems. No system or organization can control every variable, and at key points in history, even the smallest factors can lead to major shifts, a tautology known as the "butterfly effect."
While it is frustrating, even dangerous, to live through the rise and fall of rigid systems, it is a fact that they will fail. It is the hubris of those running the systems that make them blind to their own doom.
In nature, we see entire species that become so finely adapted to their environment that even the slightest change can wipe them out. Unable to cope with change fast enough, the new variables overwhelm the species and they vanish. We can see this plainly in the Younger Dryas epoch. In the space of 500 years, the climate went from glacial to tropical worldwide. Almost instantly, in geological terms, half the megafauna of Earth were wiped out, due entirely to their inability to adapt to whatever changes caused such a major change. This is the rule, not the exception.
These types of examples apply at both the micro and macro levels. Whether we are talking about mom-and-pop businesses, or Lehman Brothers, it is not the size but the rigidity in the system that causes collapse.
What we are witnessing today is the calcification of many of society's institutions. The more control that is exerted over the way people think and act, the more likely the system is to collapse. It may seem tediously slow when one is in the middle of these types of changes, but in historic terms, it will seem amazingly fast, much as the fall of Roman or Mongol empires seems to students of history now.
Some time back, we wrote about the inherent mistake in the thinking of "preppers." They almost universally tend to lay in vast amounts of supplies and expect to be able to ride out massive changes in the environment in their homes. Yet, we recently saw the error in this thinking when Hurricane Matthew came along. If one is running from an oncoming storm, it is impractical, if not impossible, to carry all those supplies. Thus, most of the effort and expense of prepping was wasted due to rigidity of thinking.
Everything comes to an end, and the less flexible something is, the more likely and swift will be the collapse. The massive efforts to surveil and control large populations, and to narrow their thinking through social institutions are doomed to fail. It is the very rigidity with which these systems seek to control humanity that is the seed of their destruction. The more rigid they become, the easier they are to topple.
Since the earliest records of civilization, we see that the human condition and nature has barely changed, despite massive leaps in philosophy and technology. We are pretty much the same creatures our distant ancestors were. Therefore, all these systems that deny the very nature of humanity can never succeed, because nature always overcomes or it dies because of its failure to adapt. Those who survive are the ones most open to all possibilities and do not artificially limit their thinking to imposed sets of rules.
We are in a time of great change at every level. All of the institutions that are doomed to fail are reacting by becoming more rigid, since that is the only response of which they can conceive. In 50 years, we today will hardly recognize what the world has become. Those who will survive are the ones least locked into dogmatic thinking.
Think of the difference between when your body is stiff and achy, versus when you are limber and flexible. In which shape would you prefer to be if a wild animal is running straight for you?
It applies to the mind, as well.