PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 50 26th January 2003
I. 'Dehumanisation of Humanity: Feudal Period' by Munayem Mayenin
II. 'Why Strain at a Gnat but Swallowa Camel?' by Tony Flood
III. 'Philosophy Cafe and Socratic Dialogue in Melbourne' by
I. 'DEHUMANISATION OF HUMANITY: FEUDAL PERIOD' BY MUNAYEM MAYENIN
[Continued from Issue 45 November 17th 2002]
In this phase of the system of civilisation we see the zeal of the system of power continued, and it carried on its efforts to expand its boundary as wide as possible. In slavery the system established its authority and imposed its rules and regulations and ownership on human beings and turned them into slaves. Not only had it been able to put in place mechanism and apparatus to sustain its dominance and maintain it. Now in the feudal system it went on to expand its dominance on the land and tie the slaves and lands together and thereby establish its power even more strongly and forcefully. In doing so it went on to enhance the mechanism and apparatus to support that power.
Here we see another effort to take humans even further away from nature. The slaves were uprooted and placed onto a different environment. In the Feudal system the people were first uprooted and then placed onto lands that somebody else owned. Slavery began the concept of ownership of people as slaves. Feudalism expanded it to ownership of land while people working on it are treated as a mechanism that comes with the land. It is like buying a plant which has fruits on it. The fruit is a free buy.
The people became attached to the land and lost their identity as humans. But they did not become part of nature, rather the were cut out of it. They were uprooted from nature so that the sense of belonging to the land that they used to feel could be eliminated. Somebody else owned that land and they had laws protecting their ownership.
Different parts of the world developed different forms of this land-based system of power. However, in essence they are the same. This system imposed the authority over lands and people. People had no ability or opportunity to feel a sense of belonging to the house where they lived, the garden which they cultivated or the fields where they laboured and produced foods. They lost their connection with the very environment in which they lived. They could not even treat the rivers or the woodlands or the sky as their own. Thus people were left in an open prison. They could not go and fish in the lakes or river or ponds as these belonged to another.
In countries like the Indian subcontinent before colonialism we see a land system which tried to impose that ownership in a way that still acknowledged some degree of people's connection with the land. The lands belonged to the people who ploughed them and the produce also belonged to them.
As soon as British East India Company took the British Crown to India and imposed it on the people of that subcontinent they created a system of ownership whereby no one who was ploughing had any rights over the land or its produce. They became lease-holders paying tax to the owner who allowed them to live and produce on the land. There was a series of sub owners as the land in theory belonged to the Crown. By the time the people who lived and ploughed the land came into the picture they were merely the means to pay taxes and work to produce so that all these tenants and sub tenants got their share that would reach up all the way to the Crown.
Having made the land and the people on it nothing but the means of paying land tax and producing food the system in return offered them the "rights" to live on the land and get to have enough food and drink. However, if flood or drought affected the produce they had no choice to keep food for themselves as they had to pay the taxes. The taxes went to the owners who had to pay a part of it to the government who then paid part of it to the British Treasury. Thus people continued to die of hunger and famine.
Moreover, the people, who were working on lands as virtual slaves, had no access to education, health care or entertainment. They were supposed to learn farming and pass that on to their offspring. They had no comprehension of the power and its apparatus. They did not have the education and means to see or understand how the power system worked.
In a Feudal system, the monarchs or kings are on top. In principle all the lands are owned by the monarch or king or emperor which they then distribute to the people who supported them in acquiring their thrones, or who have promised their allegiance to the throne as and when required. These people contribute funds to pay for an army to help maintain order or fight wars. These are the second owners of the land, who pay a tax direct to the throne. They then give the lands out to small landlords who in turn distribute it to people who will live and work on the lands and produce and pay taxes to the landlords. The landlords pay part of this it to their superior who will support them in case of farmers standing up against them. All these layers of people will have people to enforce that system. They will have a private army to make sure their control is established and respected and obeyed.
This system again is nothing but broadened slavery. However, the system still lacked sophistication and had not yet taken universal form or design. The peasants or the land labourers had no education at all apart from their understanding of their village or locality or community gained from their illiterate family, friends and community. The question of literacy and institutional education comes into play as these people were now living in a system of power. People needed to be educated about it in a system which conveyed the understanding of it in a positive way. Thus the educational system of these people remained the same as the one that people at 'zero ground' used. However, these peasants or land labourers could not benefit that education system at all, since whatever values they could gain through their own old system related directly to nature. Moreover, the arrogance and brutality of power and omnipresent danger of threat, the continuous culture of fear of losing life, losing land, going to prison, torture and fear of getting their women tortured or raped, all created a blind degree of obedience and compliance.
There were peasants' upheavals at different times but they had always been small scale, short lived and brutally suppressed. For the power was not there to exercise humanity. People existed because the system needed labourers who could provide food and allow money to be made out of the land so that taxes could be paid, which in turn could pay for the services rendered to protect the system of power.
Feudalism not only expanded and enhanced slavery, but finalised and in a way normalised it so that no one could any longer find it 'offensive'. The most horrible phenomenon that goes with this system is that people have finally been cut out of nature. This is the death of the value system that still continued through slavery. The values that were born in nature and nurtured by humanity had been totally crushed, killed and replaced by the imposed values of the system. People now lived near nature but could not be further apart. It is like the prisoners shut up in a prison beside a green field.
The measure of sheer power of this system was how far one's land goes. Power wants to see how far its hands of power can extend. That is the root from which the colonial aspiration to a feudal system grew. The colonial powers wanted to expand the reach and acquire more power. The furthest they could reach, the more power they would have. Most importantly, once they established the principle that power could not only enslave people and but also land and thus nature there would not be any problems of going for the rest of the lands that were waiting to be occupied and enslaved. The land included the land and anything and everything on it, under it and over it.
One other situation to be considered is that by then the system had invented another means to show off and measure power, in the name of Money. There were fortune hunters ready to try and earn their fortunes, as everybody wanted a piece of power. If they would not get it in their countries than they would go out and seek where there were lands to be gained to own by force, and thus we have all these colonialists spreading around the world in the hunt for fortunes - for a little share of power. In this process is sown the seeds of capitalism to follow the feudal system. We shall be looking at it in greater detail later on.
There were no questions about the naturality or normality of power in the Feudal system. Everybody had a place cut out for them. The classes and subclasses and their subclasses were all taught to accept their station. Some religions had caste systems, which was very much supported by those in power as it served their purpose.
What fundamental human values can be found here?
There was no natural justice in India being occupied by British Empire and its people being put under subjugation. There was no natural justice about Australia being occupied by the Europeans and its original inhabitants being made homeless. There was no natural justice in the massacre of Africa by Europeans and black people turned into slaves. There was no natural justice in the original Americans being made foreigners in their own country.
As the ruthless development and expansion of the feudal system around the globe continued in the name of colonial expansion, we see genocide, wars and massacres on a phenomenal scale. We never had so great a killing of humankind by humankind as we would have in this period. Countless wars took place and countless millions of people died. In peace time soldiers were paid to train and be ready to go to fight and kill or get killed, and in war time to keep killing and slaughtering until they got killed. They seemed to be the gladiators of this period, although they were not there to entertain the masses, rather they were the real entertainers of the powerful. Not only wars for gaining territories and lands but also keeping them under their control as well as expanding domination through religion, and thus we had all these religious killings as well. That was not all. The powerful continued to kill each other in scrambling to the top. Kings killing kings, queens killing queens, princes killing princes - or princesses for that matter. Enemies of power got killed as well as those seeking the enjoyment of power. It was a ruthless affair. Do not worry, our modern liberal reader. This happens today, now and happening before our very eyes. Yes, we do not and cannot do a thing about it! Whoever is reading this, I can bet my life on it, is against any wars. And now count how many wars have we been able to stop. When the powerful want a war (to them they need a war) they will have a war! It is easy for us to see and analyse the past and even easier not to see or get used to not being able to see.
It could not have been natural justice. As a consequence the power had to try and establish order over its subjects by using sheer force and brutality.
These people could not have been able to live in peace, as the basis of rationality had been broken in many ways. They had first lost themselves to their power system. They had been cut out of their nature and sown with the land as a part of it. Then they finally had been sold to foreign powers and now they are not only slaves, but imprisoned in their own country.
There were no equals among these people. There was and could be no liberty. When Europeans banned black people from breathing near a white person who could talk about liberty and human rights!
Human beings were no longer humans except in their physical form as they had no natural justice, nor did they have liberty, equality or a purpose. Slavery had already dealt an effective blow against rationality and there was no way feudalism would be weak enough to allow it back. Power could share with Satan but not with rationality! Oh, no! Power can not afford to be moral. It had to show people who was in control. Most importantly, it had to establish order and suppress opposition and continue preaching the divinity of power. Order is not a natural phenomenon. It is a by-product of power. You can not have power without first destroying peace and the rationale and basis of it to grow and survive. That is why power lives sleepless nights and worries sick endless days and tries its hardest to keep order as it is scared to death like Macbeth in case the ghost of King Duncan turn up and face him for what he has done. You cannot have peace in power. Humanity can only grow where there is no power but peace. There would not be any peace until power is destroyed and people are back at peace with Mother Earth. They were already far away from that in feudalism and as we shall see that they went even further away from that point.
(c) Munayem Mayenin 2002
II. 'WHY STRAIN AT A GNAT BUT SWALLOW A CAMEL?' BY TONY FLOOD
In the last issue I invited comments on the question of identity cards, prompted by a UK Government consultation exercise on the introduction of so-called 'entitlement cards'. Pathways Mentor Tony Flood from New York City has written this robust reply.
All governments have identity cards on their wish lists, for they are intrinsically self-aggrandizing institutions. The only thing that distinguishes them from "organized crime" is legitimacy. Thus the ubiquitous polls, surveys, "consultations," and other barometers that measure how much those who pick our pockets can get away with today.
Governmental identity cards are an accounting device. They raise no special moral issue not already addressed in one's support for the enterprise for which the accounting is undertaken. The good (or evil) of the former is imputable to the latter.
Embedded in the discussion of identity cards, but not examined, is the notion of "entitlement." Its normal meaning has been driven underground. Normally, one is entitled to keep, control, and dispose of the entire product of one's own labor. Abnormally, one is not so entitled, but is rather a slave: someone else controls that product.
Those who would reserve "slavery" for the legal ownership of human beings point out that at least a portion of one's product is not formally allocated to others, but remains under one's own control. What is overlooked is that it remains so only by permission and not by right that transcends permission. According to this ideology, right is nothing more than socially approved permission.
The right of the approvers to approve or withhold approval, however, is an exception. It inheres in them absolutely as it were by a secular equivalent of divine right. It is not a function of someone else's permission. Modern states also reserve the right (decidedly not in the sense of "are permitted") to conscript young people and put them in kill-or-be-killed situations. Resistance to such servitude invites incarceration. Conscription is a coerced choice between modes of slavery.
The entitlements (so-called) of the 20th Century are excessive only by the standards of the 19th. The tax-paying slave needed only more conditioning to see how indispensable they were to civilized existence. Identity cards go too far only by 20th Century standards. Perhaps their time has come in the 21st. We will now politely debate what only yesterday was deemed an outrage.
Since we voluntarily give personal information to private corporations (e.g., when we apply for employment or a credit card), many wonder what the fuss is about. Indeed, one may rightly wonder what becomes of such information. For if any private corporation should attract the Government's adverse scrutiny, its computer disk drives can be confiscated.
To the degree that a corporation is not merely a quasi-extension of the Government and actually has to compete for business, however, to that degree it has a strong incentive to use personal information only for business purposes disclosed in advance. News that it has done otherwise would jeopardize that corporation's existence.
Governments have no such incentive, for there is no formal provision for their going out of business. This is so no matter how many abuses of data-gathering they commit, how many personnel records they lose, how much money they confiscate in taxes and then spend contrary to stated purposes, or how many people are killed in their foreign adventures. They merely get displaced by rival governments. They are exempt from the market discipline that customers who can take their business elsewhere impose, for citizens are not customers.
Problems related to immigration provide no hook on which to hang a case for identity cards. A system of truly private land ownership sorts all migration of individuals into two categories: (1) migration onto privately held land by invitation only and (2) trespassing. The lines of accountability are clear. Complaints about the behavior of invited migrants are to be addressed, not to an "immigration czar" or some other political hack, but to the appropriate landowners. They cannot ignore such complaints with economic impunity. They are also free to prosecute trespassers as they would any other violators of property rights. Unfortunately, the current statist arrangement prevents the emergence of a system of truly private land ownership.
Governmental ID cards raise only a superficial issue. The Government already has a major, if not yet the final, say about what happens to the product of our labor, savings, and investment. It is a comparatively small matter to surrender personal information to Leviathan. (At some point they will demand it, not ask for it, when they cannot simply take it.) If we believe in "entitlements," we have already given the game away in favor of such cards. Only if we are prepared to privatize the services that the Government monopolizes can we coherently oppose its striving for omnipotence by way of omniscience.
(c) Tony Flood 2003
III. 'PHILOSOPHY CAFE AND SOCRATIC DIALOGUE IN MELBOURNE' BY JUSTIN WOODS
We are planning some exciting developments in our Socratic Dialogue and Philosophy Cafe program for this year.
I am in negotiation with Borders Bookshop to secure the continuation of our Philosophy Cafe series on the third Tuesday of each month, starting at 8pm. I will let you know as soon as this is confirmed.
I am also looking about for a suitable venue to conduct Socratic Dialogues over dinner. While such a format will be a tad more expensive (as it includes the meal) I am confident that, like Plato's 'Symposium', such a setting can produce excellent philosophical insight. Again, I will let you know as soon as we are ready to start.
And lastly, my colleague, Henry Meghaizel, will be conducting Socratic Dialogues on Saturday afternoons throughout the year at a new venue in Fitzroy. Here is the program that he has devised:
Socratic Dialogue, It Is More Than Just Answering A Question
The Socratic Dialogue is a process where group of people (6 to 10) come together in order to dialogue on a matter important to them. The dialogue is a structured process driven by the facilitator and allows participants to explore the matter in discussion in depth in order to arrive at an answer agreed by all participants. The Dialogue is a full day in length (10.00am to 5.00pm, allowing some flexibility).
The matter or question is generally a universal one, however, the dialogue starts with a specific incident taken from lifes experience voluntarily given by participants. Then the process progresses in clearly defined phases, with the objective of arriving at a consensus at each phase. This allows participants to dialogue, analyze and explore in order to develop a deeper understanding of the matter in discussion as well as reflect on their own conscious knowledge of the matter in discussion. Also for this to be achieved, the Socratic Dialogue follows certain rules (attached) that apply to the facilitator as well as participants.
The Socratic Dialogue offers certain benefits that are unique due to the specific process it follows. Some of the benefits the Socratic Dialogue offers are:
- In depth exploration of participants understanding of their knowledge (of the matter in discussion)
- An opportunity for a collective deliberation process that builds on the collective wisdom of participants
- A chance to answer (discourse) an important matter
- A chance to develop ones thinking skills
- A chance to develop ones listening and attending skills
- An ability to build the groups sense of community
In short it allows participants to be philosophers for a day.
Topics for 2003 (All dates are on a Saturday)
February 22nd 2003 Help. When? March 25th 2003 What Makes Me, Me? April 12th 2003 What is Hope? May 17th 2003 What are the Limits of Truthfulness? June 14th 2003 What is Freedom?
July 12th 2003 What is poverty? August 16th 2003 What is the Good Life? September 20th 2003 What is Emotional Wisdom? October 18th 2003 Search for truth What for? November 15th 2003 Am I Responsible For the Well Being of Others?
What is My Responsibility for My Actions? How important are others to me?
Holden St Neighbourhood House 128 Holden St Fitzroy North VIC 3068
For bookings call: (03) 9489 9929
Facilitator: Henry Meghaizel
Born in 1960, in Haifa Israel.
Completed my first degree of B.A. at Haifa University, in Philosophy and Comparative Literature. Immigrated to Australia with my family in 1987. Worked as a clerk until 1989, then had my business until 1995.
Completed my M.A. in Philosophy in 1998, at Melbourne University, on the Socratic view of Wisdom.
Currently enrolled as PhD Candidate at Deakin University, Melbourne. My thesis is on "Wisdom in Contemporary Ethics".
Participated in the 4th international Conference on Socratic Dialogue, July 2002
Presented a paper on deliberation and Socratic Dialogue at the 8th Australian National Philosophy Post Graduate Conference, Sept 2002.
My philosophical interest is Ethics and Practical Philosophy, e.g. Socratic Dialogue, Philosophical Inquiry, Philosophical Counselling (client and group counselling), philosophy at schools (for education) etc.
It is all about enabling the philosopher in each of us.
Justin R. Woods ADipPh 4/32 Langmore Lane Berwick, VIC 3806 Tel. 03 9707-5739 Melbourne Group Co-ordinator, The Philosophical Society of England Australasia Editor, 'The Philosopher'