By April 9, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

How to Have Power Over Power – Part III: The Psychology of Homeostasis and #Occupying

Editor’s Note: This is part III of Z’s 3 part essay, How to Have Power Over Power. Click here for Part I, and here for Part II.

Z, Contributing Writer
Waking Times
The Psychology of Homeostasis:

If you are deprogrammed in the cultural causa-sui project, then you have to invent your own: you don’t vibrate to anyone else’s tune. You see that the fabrications of those around you are a lie, a denial of truth. A creative person becomes then, in art, literature, and religion the mediator of natural terror and the indicator of a new way to triumph over it. He reveals the darkness and the dread of the human condition and fabricates a new symbolic transcendence over it. This has been the function of the creative deviant from shamans through Shakespeare. –Ernest Becker

It is through a sense of eternal rebirth that a new-hero discovers what it means to get power over power. It means occasionally breaking away from the norm. It means doing something different, maybe even something forbidden, like breaking with tradition or doing something “backwards,” and Eureka! A breakthrough occurs. The world is remade, refreshed. It means stretching comfort zones, shattering mental paradigms, and poking holes into so-called sacred ideals that have us entrenched. In short, it means breaking with homeostasis.

It is very difficult to change, even when that change is progressive and healthier. The reason is that we are creatures of comfort. But we are also creatures of extreme insecurity. Ernest Becker said it best, “Man, the animal who knows he is not safe here, who needs continued affirmation of his powers, is the one animal who is implacably driven to work beyond animal needs precisely because he is not a secure animal.” We relish our comfort so much that there are psychological effects, namely cognitive dissonance, that we experience when we break with homeostasis.

Cognitive dissonance is a strange psychological phenomenon that occurs when we are conflicted between the way we’ve always done something and the new way that doesn’t make sense and is counter-intuitive. At its most simplistic it is the uncomfortable feeling that arises when holding conflicting ideas simultaneously; at its most complex it is when an idea is in conflict with a fundamental sense of self. Both of these may be a factor in regard to getting power of power. Any time you go from an inert state to a proactive state, dissonance is sure to be a factor. The fact that it’s cognitive, mixing in subconscious and unconscious psychological subtleties, makes it all the more challenging. But the fact that it is cognitive gives us the power to learn from it.

The Cognitive Dissonance Counter-intuitive tactic attacks both these extremes of dissonance. By first uprooting us from our entrenched viewpoints and, second, by clipping the cultural straitjacket that binds our perceptual capacities. Also it brings, to the forefront, that aspect of the human condition that is prone to biases, mistakes, and fallibility. It teaches humility in the most primordial sense. It gets down to the roots of the cognitive experience and shows exactly how precarious our cognition truly is. It directly attacks the inert-self, that cowardly part of our self that prevents us from seeing how things can be changed, and ushers in the new hero. If we are to get past our inert-self we must embrace the uncomfortable feeling that comes from experiencing cognitive dissonance. The discomfort then acts as a kind of teacher, a very important teacher. It teaches us how to be courageous.

We must disturb our current homeostasis in order to achieve a healthier homeostasis. The goal here is not only to know our own nature, but to know how much of our self is nature. The answer is: every single aspect of our self is nature. There is no way around it. Governing this precept it stands to reason that we place ourselves in accord with nature. It’s only logical. But our current method of governance is not in accord with nature. In fact it is anti-natural. And if our way of life is anti-natural we must break with the homeostasis of it, creature comforts and all, in order to discover a new healthier way of life. Like I said before, we, as a species, need a new ritual.

It’s as simple as this: if our ritual of power is wrapped up in money, then we are pseudo-powerful. Only guilt and neurosis can come from this false power. If our ritual of power is wrapped up in prestige, then we have power over power. Prestige must trump money. Prestige is to true power as money is to pseudo-power. Money is the gross objectification and materialization of prestige. The way we gain prestige in a world that recognizes money as power, is to get power over money. One gets power over money through the concept of capital munificence and hero expiation, thereby becoming the New Hero. This sets the stage for Eco-moral Tribalism and Commitalism to be culturally and globally actualized.

If a person is only obedient and never disobedient, they are slaves; if they are only disobedient and never obedient, they are renegades; but if they are both, they are revolutionaries.

Calling out to all slaves: raise yourselves to the consciousness of your slavery. The world that has been set up before you, erected without your consideration, is a farce. Rise up! Kill the false power within you. Kick your inert-self off its too-comfortable couch. Dismantle the false world hanging over you, the canopy built by past generations. Rise up! Become a freedom unto yourself.

The Psychology of #Occupying:

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. –Abraham Lincoln

The hunger for a different society is what keeps the occupation movement going strong. The movement is a celebration of true democracy, but most people are so entrenched, so utterly enchanted by plutocracy-disguised-by-democracy that they cannot even begin to fathom such a celebration. We must remember that most people are so inured, so hopelessly dependent upon the system that they will fight to protect it. This is a kind of social or societal cognitive dissonance, the worst kind of cognitive dissonance actually. It arises from close-minded group-think, and one-right-way methodologies; founded upon keeping the rich comfortable and the poor working like good little pseudo-slaves. And have no illusions, the monetary based system is a system of pseudo-slavery. It is the ultimate lie of silent assertion. The menace of the past was that men became slaves; the menace of the present is that men become pseudo-slaves to a plutocratic regime.

The occupy movement is about true democracy overcoming plutocracy. As it stands we have yet to attain true democracy in the West. In order to achieve such an end we must, as responsible, capable individuals, get power over power. The occupiers are asking their culture this: do you wish to live out a harried life of nine-to-five slavery for heartless corporations that don’t give a damn about anything except making money, or do you wish to live a happy life of love and compassion doing what you love to do in spite of plutocracy and tyranny? Through such civil disobedience occupiers are changing the political landscape, thus discovering prestige, and thus gaining power over power.

You would think it would not be possible for a humane and intelligent person to invent a rational excuse for slavery; yet you will hear people arguing (probably in the throes of cognitive dissonance) for the continued slavery of employment. Like Naseem Nicholas Taleb said, “Those who do not think that employment is systematic slavery are either blind or employed.” But argue and plead as the occupiers might, they cannot break the universal stillness that reigns, from pulpit and press all the way down to the bottom of society.

The occupy movement is at loggerheads with this stillness, and rightly so. “Human history began as an act of disobedience,” writes Erich Fromm, “and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience.” As it stands the rampant stillness in our inert culture is too obedient, too comfortable and too stagnate, and the occupy movement is just the right flavor of insurrection to mix it all up. The occupiers understand that antiquated solutions must be replaced by compassionate insurgency.

Insurgency, the rarest and most courageous of acts, is seldom distinguished from rage, the most common and myopic. Insurgency is not rage, nor is it nihilism. It is the spearhead of freedom. We need to shift the grounds of politics itself. The occupy movement achieves this. There is no doubt that we benefit from a law-abiding society. But at times like these we have a higher duty, indeed a higher responsibility, to health and life itself; and we should no longer allow ourselves to be bound by petty laws that protect those who continue to abuse and pollute our planet. Peaceful revolution is plum necessary when just laws are used to uphold unjust behavior. In the spirit of MLK, and Gandhi before him, and Thoreau before him, we must passionately and compassionately disobey.

Freedom is something you do, not something you are. It is not a given. It takes effort, courage, and determination; usually in the face of those who would make you their slaves. In the same way that living healthy isn’t a diet or a fad, but a way of life; revolution isn’t insurrection or anarchy, but a way to maintain freedom. Yes, activism is scary. Yes, change is difficult and uncomfortable. Real-world action is painful. Social change is initially unpopular and insurrection always begins with civil disobedience. And so trepidation is a healthy response to cultural upheaval. But our submission is not enough to justify the tyranny which is imposed upon us. And so we must revolt. And so we must occupy. After all, we’ll reap no evolution if we don’t sow a little revolution.

The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to overthrow the rest of us. –Rob Brezsny

Conclusion:

If you have an earnest desire of attaining wisdom, prepare yourself to be laughed at by the multitude, to hear them say, ‘He does not covet what we covet, or seek what we hasten after and pursue, but he stands alone.’ Do not mind such rejection. Keep steadily to those things which appear best to you. For if you adhere to your principles, those very persons who at first ridiculed will afterwards admire you. Be contented, then, in everything devoted to living wisely, and it will suffice you. -A.C. Grayling

Getting power over power is no walk in the park. It requires change. It requires butting heads with the current regime. It requires all of us to be aware of the would-be tyrant within. In order not to become a tyrant we must –after slaying the “dragon” and dethroning the “king,” after bringing peace and order back to the Kingdom– give up our power, relinquish the throne, and then continue on with our journey. This is heroic expiation at its most courageous. This is capital munificence at its most brave.

Regimes do not want to be changed, because they think they need power. But change is inevitable and nature does not obey our will to power. If anything, our will to freedom should always trumps our will to power. To blindly deny change is not only unnatural, it is unhealthy. So in order to be healthy we should embrace change. We should take chances. Shift the current regime. Speak up and be open to disruptive ideas. Act as an agent of, and for, change.

Regimes often have an inflexible view of the purpose of human life. Indeed, the political fallout from such regimes frequently creates oppression from the abstract idea of what “the good life” is. This is usually followed by state intervention and/or cultural conditioning to make that idea a reality. Our response to this should be to realize that different types of freedoms will always be in conflict and to have the perspicuity and acumen to decipher the difference between healthy and unhealthy freedom. If both freedoms in conflict are healthy, then compassion and compromise is in order. If one or both freedoms in conflict are unhealthy, then ruthless questioning, interrogative infiltration, and even insurrection are in order.

The key to bringing equilibrium to any unbalanced human system is not coercion but education. In the same way that it’s wrong to coerce people into having only one child to control population (like in China), it is wrong to coerce people into expiating and redistributing their wealth to control the economy. Volition trumps morality. That is to say, free will and personal choice come before notions of right & wrong. The key is to educate people so that their volitional autonomy is in line with moral action. It is wrong to tell someone how they should or should not live, but, and here’s the rub, when people become educated they will realize that the healthy way is to have less children, that the healthy way is to be less greedy, that the healthy way is to discover moderation and balance between nature, the cosmos, and the human soul. Like Aristotle said, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.” Please, by any means necessary, choose a life-lived over being just another one of the living dead.

Read part I here, and part II here.

About the Author

Z, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.  His recent works can also be found at Z’s Hub.

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