10 January 2011

Civilisation and capitalism

Capitalism is often referred to pejoratively, as in this quotation from popular author Oliver James.

Selfish Capitalism, much more than genes, is extremely bad for your mental health.

Oliver James is an Old Etonian who has managed to succeed in modern society, but who does nothing to help us, who have been less fortunate than himself.

Last year my colleague Dr Charles McCreery attended an Old Etonian reunion dinner at Blenheim Palace at which Oliver James was supposed to be present, although Charles did not see him there. Charles was attempting to raise awareness of our situation among the Old Etonian population, but neither Oliver James nor any other of them has taken any interest in finding out about our needs for help of all kinds.

* * *

Civilisation does not arise because anyone wants or appreciates it. It is an unstable and accidental by-product of commercialism, superimposed on a population which has a long-standing property-owning (capitalistic) hereditary aristocracy. Until the commercialism arises, the aristocrats do not arouse hostility on a significant level, because their abilities are fully engaged in stressful and excoriating activities, such as defending and running their estates, fighting in wars, etc.

With the advent of commercialism, however, some of them start to be free to use their abilities in ways to which they are well-suited, which they are getting something out of, and which may lead to extensions in the understanding of reality, such as scientific enquiry, exploration or composing music. This arouses hostility because they are seen as ‘too happy’ (as I was before I was prevented from taking the School Certificate exam at 13) and they are then described as ‘leisured’ and ‘idle’.

The next stage is that democracy sets in, partly on account of the idealistic respect for individuality which the ‘privileged’ elite has started to develop. Unfortunately, this transmission downwards of aristocratic values, such as self-determination, means that the incipient civilisation is doomed. Instead of liberating autonomy-loving instincts, the extension of freedom liberates destructive impulses. The possibility of owning property on a scale sufficient to provide freedom of action is rightly recognised as the most important thing to be destroyed, and society heads back to a state of communistic tribalism.

This is the inevitable result of democracy; the majority of people have no interest in maintaining a situation in which at least a few people have the freedom (i.e. capital) to use their abilities in a way which suits them, so capitalism and thus individual liberty become eroded, as is now happening. This is in spite of the fact that a relatively civilised society was in some ways advantageous to the general population.

* See here for an interesting twist on James’s affluenza theory.