Just as the activities of an individual creature are predictable if the characteristics of its species are known, so it is necessary to recognize the principles on which the framework of our society – the Machine – is built in order to understand the present chief characteristics of the human species.
The Machine was founded on the automaton, whose influence became a fundamental characteristic of humanity at the time when conscious will took over part of the post conscious faculty. The natural purpose of instinct is to play a balanced part in securing survival. Humans were impelled by this automatic influence to pursue the instinctive competitive drives far beyond that natural purpose to secure survival so that, instead of being means to that end, these drives became ends in themselves. Nature divides its creatures into groups. Some groups may be ruled by leaders, others by the pecking order, but these rules apply only because they have proved beneficial to the survival of the group, or species. If a rule does not bring benefit it will die out through the process of natural selection. Humans henceforth followed a course of unnatural, and unwise, selection. Having burst the bonds of instinct, they succumbed to an alliance between the liberated positive forces of instinct and the applied power of super-intelligence. They divided from each other, became different from each other, and took the competition to the extreme of fighting each other to death. This behavior constitutes a threat to contentment and ultimately to survival, going contrary both to the tried and proved balance of nature and to the responsibility of intellect.
All the early humans, faced with a superior number of enemy ape folk, perhaps also with epidemic disease, or possibly with some other threat of catastrophe, must have united in large groups, each obedient to a single leader, the better to cope effectively with the common danger and apply their common determination to achieving survival. Once they had overcome these extraordinary threats they were left with the ordinary challenges of survival and, in theory, the opportunity to choose what kind of life they would lead. But their leaders now held power (a new phenomenon that took a feature of instinct – the natural supremacy of the strongest – and converted it into the established institution of permanently conferred dominance,) and their choice, having tasted power, would be to hold onto it and keep the status quo. So the First division of humans maintained the leadership structure, and this obliged them to confirm and incorporate other instinctively originated principles into an artificial civilization – the early Machine – in the more conducive climates of Egypt, Greece, China, India, and the like. The Second division of humans, rebellious perhaps, moved north and, for some thousands of years, remained comparatively primitive as the struggle to solve the problems of sheer survival in colder climates absorbed all their energy. The Third and wiser division of humans reacted against Machine principles, as we have seen. We are presently concerned with the First division, the spearhead of human advance towards modern times.
The obligations which acceptance of leadership placed on humanity derive from the fact that leadership is associated with competition rather than co-operation, and that once it had served its original extraordinary purpose there was no real need for it. The truth was that survival could best be secured by small, partly self-sufficient but co-operative groups held together and served by the common code of the species. But supreme leaders, viewing the situation from a position of power, could not or would not concede this truth, and nobody else was in a position to make them concede it. So the structure of society did not change, and to justify itself leadership invented new purposes and needs and imposed them on peoples.
The purpose of leaders in nature, such as the leaders of wolf packs living under exacting conditions, is to carry out a function vitally necessary to survival, the achievement of which is their reward. In easy conditions, human leaders pursued the unnecessary purpose of dominant control and acquired a need to enjoy the privileged reward, which amounted to ambition to profitably extend their domination as far as possible. This meant that leaders used the high intelligence of humankind to prosecute group warfare, the strongest of them eventually triumphing and setting themselves up as dominators of great kingdoms and empires – self-interested sovereign powers, competing with each other.
Government by supreme leaders is one of the false foundation-stones of the Machine; false because it makes itself necessary by disallowing true human autonomy. As dominions became larger and leaders could no longer exercise direct control, systems of remote control became necessary. One of these was the institution of law and law enforcement, which was not only a means of authority imposing its will on ‘the people’ and refusing to allow them the freedom to take their affairs into their own hands but also of obliging people to do certain clearly desirable things which, given the freedom to follow their intelligence, they would have done voluntarily in any case. But since the system tended to foster ignorance, it could appear to be necessary because of its apparently beneficial features. For example, it is possible that if the ape folk did suffer from AIDS, this terrible disease may have been transmitted to humans, whose sexual habits were probably free at that time. The ordinary individual would be unlikely to connect the disease with the actual cause of its spreading, but the leader, taking a wider view because of his position, might make that connection. It would then be made a matter of law that sexual intercourse is confined to the partners in marriage, for life, with severe punishment for transgressors, perhaps death, originally, for them and their issue, which was not mere retribution for breaking the law but designed to stamp out the disease by eliminating sufferers and carriers.
Kings now required a hierarchy of officials to administer and enforce the law and command their armies. The division between this minority and the subjugated majority reintroduced the natural pecking order as the rule of inequality. Inequality of status and reward brought about the rule of possession, the practice of defending the acquisition of something by ‘putting one’s name on it’ so to speak and having that title protected by law. The concept of possession in turn gave birth to the idea of barter, by which things were given a ‘possession-value’, and changed hands only in exchange for some other thing whose value was judged to be equal. But barter was cumbersome, and soon coins which betokened that value were exchanged and re-exchanged for goods, chattels, and land. The introduction of money also facilitated taxation, which was a tribute as a substitute for slavery. This tribute was to pay for the maintenance of authority and defense of the realm and was made necessary only by the unnecessary existence of kings and their hierarchies lording it over warlike kingdoms in competition with other kingdoms.
Leadership had now been transposed into dominant authority which created and then tried to ignore its own problems; which did not serve humanity but was served by it. Generally speaking, humans worked for the high elevation of the institutions supposed to represent them, and in return, most were given low status and commensurately low levels of sustenance. To reinforce acceptance of the situation, it was morally justified by a religion whose leaders occupied places in the privileged hierarchy. Religion taught good morality, up to a point, but also taught obedience to an authoritative system which did not reflect that goodness, and whilst it was good in parts, no doubt, the situation as a whole was not humanly justifiable and did not encourage true morality in anyone.
Those monuments which are held to reflect the glory of humankind are pyramids, palaces, castles, temples, and churches, built by enslaved or employed workmen for the glorification of secular and religious establishments, which were and are actually irrelevant to the true potential of humanity. All other advances in the free exercise of intellect, such as music, literature, and other arts, if they are to be assessed truly, are to be viewed in the same light. While they may be about reality and have arisen from its progress, they should not be taken to imply that human civilization has meaningfully advanced. They are small successes relative to our great failure – marvelous but irrelevant examples of the scope of intellect which should illustrate how much good we could have done compared with the little good we have done.
The original First division civilizations flourished for thousands of years then began to stagnate. About fifteen hundred years ago the Second division humans, more primitive but also more energetic, began asserting themselves. By trading and conquest, they outstripped or overran the old civilizations and all but wiped out or enslaved the Third division humans and seized their lands. The powerhouse of human ‘progress’ then became centered in Europe, later to shift to North America, and now moving again, probably to the Far East. The money economy led the way and people followed as the demand for willing labor resulted in the practice of incentive employment – enticing effort from workers rather than driving them to it. Soon the power of accumulated money – capital – became dominant and determined what could and would be done. Capital went hand-in-hand with human inventiveness to launch the industrial revolution.
The invention, however, was no longer a matter of human ingenuity rising to answer vital necessity, but the application of the human mind to science and technology, and its application, in turn, to competition in monetary economics and profitability in the market place. The competitive money economy now took over the real reins of authority from human governors, yet at the same time, as more and more people gained a financial stake in it in the shape of jobs, property, or capital, the way was cleared for political representation of the people – a way made automatically viable by the fact that people were now bound to the Machine by apparent but misplaced self-interest as well as dependence and conditioning.
The money economy is not devoted to the clear and simple humanitarian objective to provide absolutely all the real needs of all the people. On the contrary, it is devoted to producing goods and services which can be sold to consumers at a profit, employing those humans whose labor it needs for that amount of money which shall induce them to do the work. People whom the Machine needs are paid well, moderately, or poorly according to its valuation of their worth and those it does not need are paid very little money or none at all. Similarly, some nations benefit highly from the Machine and others poorly, according to whether their prosperity or poverty is in the interests of its profitability. So the world is divided into nations with an international pecking order, and the people of each nation are subject to their own internal pecking order. There are differences in language, customs, skin color, ideology, and religion between nations, and differences of status, education, privilege, and money income between each nation’s people. Humans are not working for the common good and happiness of a united human race but for the Machine, and the Machine is working for itself.
This chapter has been a potted history of the Machine, from its foundation through the automation of humanity to the present day (a critical analysis of practices and institutions of the Machine is given in Part IV). It has also been a short indictment of the Machine, seeing it as a tide that has swept us blindly in the wrong direction. Our existing complex and highly disturbing reality is the consequence of making permanent the temporary solutions to an emergency – long ago adopting the competitive drives and setting up authoritative leadership – so that they became the basic principles of our society. The following two chapters show how the consequent pattern of our lives has conditioned us and formed our character.