The Birth of Kratocracy

Some words die in the course of their usage; others before they ever really get a chance to experience life.  It can be presumed how at least a small fraction of these aborted etyma possess within them the potential to contribute to the greater understanding and advancement of human expression.

Of course, this sentiment certainly does not possess universal application across all fields of study.  As, for instance, when it comes to fields like politics; where words are very much meaningless to begin with.  Add an -ism; concoct a series of phonetic abbreviations; maybe combine some neutral sounding words to disguise egregious breaches of national and international law as passable acts of justice (e.g. “enhanced interrogation techniques“, “Due process and judicial process are not one and the same“).  The notion of allowing concrete definitions of terms or phrases into their diction would be toxic to political agents, as it would force them to speak and obey the same language as the rest of society.  A move counterproductive to their career interests, since it might serve to give the impression of accountability for one’s words, and the subsequent actions they bring about; a cruel demand on a group of people whose professional existence consists of purposefully rendering words unintelligible.  Among such personnel the only Gospel is “Babel”; the walls of which shan’t ever cometh tumblin’ down, for they stand too high for those from-out to look in, and for those from-in to look out.  In this context, it’s foolish to expect people who don’t occupy the same stratosphere to hear one another’s voice, yet we still insist on debating endlessly why there exists this loss in understanding between man and statesman?

And what is there to understand, really?  Why must there always be either some deeper meaning to a system, or an ominous conspiracy?  Why isn’t it enough to simply acknowledge that people who reside in the same atmosphere will have their perspective shaped by similar interests?  And in such a situation, what need is there for anyone to conspire about anything when everyone who reaches the same elevation already understands the nature of things just by virtue of having climbed the path?

In a kratocracy, where governance (both political and its financed-proxy) rests with those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning, the primary order of business that is expected of every person is to understand who it is you stand under, and follow rank accordingly.  In a kratocratic system, words must remain elastic in their meaning, so that–whenever convenient–the word of law can serve as a mere compilation of semantic loopholes (at least, when applied to the kratocratic lawmakers and financiers themselves).  Anyone who actually makes it up the ranks in this system will understand all of this by fiat; conspiracies and secretive motives are pointlessly redundant in a political order where sabotage and manipulation are not corruptions of the system (hence calls for reform carry little pressure), but inherent attributes of it that get openly rewarded with wealth and power.

Consider the following:  Everyone says they hate the smear ads put out by politicians against their opponents, just like everyone says they “hate” the obscene tabloids that litter the magazine racks of every store.  In other words, the majority of the people who say they detest gossip and mudslinging are obvious liars, on account that if such underhanded antics were truly as universally despised as people claim them to be, this sort of behavior would have fallen into disuse long ago.  But it hasn’t, and it won’t.  Because sabotage and manipulation, as long as they are not pointed out as such, are perfectly decent kratocratic virtues.  Virtues that only become indecent at a lower atmosphere, where the oxygen is too dense to support them.  Up on higher elevation, however, where the gravity of things like ethics and moral conduct don’t appear to weigh a person down as heavily, a different mode of reasoning applies.  None of this is devious or deceptive, as we all passively sanction this disparity for those who occupy seats of authority (both political and by its financed-proxy).  Partly because (as mentioned) we know our rank and don’t really bother to inquire too deeply into the matter, and partly because Babel is much too high up for any of us to strain our necks far enough to really care about what’s going on up there anyway.

The true cunning that sustains a kratocracy is the relatively little effort it takes to sustain it.  Simply draw a few lines in the sand, throw out a few provocative token issues around and behind said lines, and–voila!–watch people preoccupy themselves with these “life or death” topics, and whatever narrative is needed to keep the engine running smoothly will pretty much assemble itself (with the occasional minor tuneup here and there).  Again, no conspiracy needed, since even the people who get caught up in the small-scale politics of the whole thing notice that there is something more important operating around them.  But they don’t care, because as long as they focus on the pet-issues they have adopted as their personal identity, they can say how they’ve done something.  Whether or not its something relevant to challenging and eradicating the source of their cause’s woes is anybody’s guess, because what really matters is the comforting feeling of taking action it gives them.  Thereby, the beauty about a kratocracy is that it allows a person to feel both powerless and powerful at the same time–creating inner dichotomies is the mainstay of cunning authorities.

The Dichotomy of the Martyr and the Satyr:

It’s easy to be oppressed.  In fact, to a growing number of people, this appears to be their primary goal in life.  Observe a group of individuals some time, and watch how–sooner than later–the conversation will descend into a pity-fest of grief and sorrow.  It starts with one person retelling a great trauma in her/his life, and how s/he overcame it.  Which, of course, will cause another person to quickly improvise her/his own tale of painful woe.  Then a third will jump in to match both of the previous life stories with her/his own dose of personal despair.  And around, and around, the self-deprecation goes [where it stops nobody knows–if it ever stops at all, that is].

The assumed purpose in conveying one’s trauma to an audience of equally pitiful (in the sense of being full of pity) onlookers, is to humble oneself by demonstrating the extent of one’s suffering before the cruelty of life, and voice one’s opposition against the systemic source of one’s miseries.  The actual purpose is to elevate one’s sense of self-importance not through any positive accomplishments achieved, but through the sympathies and pities of one’s failures and setbacks.  And if that is not the intent, why go out of your way to rehash matters that are causing you so much apparent pain?  Why would you wish to publicly place yourself (even if just mentally) back in such a situation, unless you gain some–perhaps subconscious–satisfaction out of doing so?  Why would you want to aggrieve others through your anguish, when they cannot feasibly remove your distress for you?  Then again, is removing the trauma really the goal in this mindset?

I may be out of the loop here, but as a general rule oppressed people don’t have the luxury to freely voice grievances about their oppression.  (If they did, how oppressed could they possibly claim to be?)  If they speak of it at all, they do so with the intent to reform, or revolt against, their oppressors, and possibly replace its authority with something more desirable.  People who merely speak (freely and without any evident restraints) about their supposed oppression as a means of gaining acknowledgement for it, are not in the business of either challenging or changing any wrongs in society; what they seek is to attain recognition through metaphorical martyrdom.

Naturally, this martyr complex cannot go wholly unchallenged among the greater public.  And the most biting reaction it will bring about is–what I would call–the Satyr effect.  People who use their past grievances as a means to promote a self-righteous indignation about their person will emit two leading responses: 1. Pity (the desired reaction by the would-be martyr), and 2. Ridicule (i.e. the Satyr effect).  The Satyr sees her/himself as a counterbalance against the overblown austere tone of the martyr.  So, s/he mocks, and ridicules, and uses sharp wit to get the message across that the martyr’s concerns are due little more than a jolly laugh or two.  For her/his part, the Satyr sees her/himself as a hero who speaks the hard truth to the world, and puts a humorous check on the antics of both the authorities and the martyrs of society.

In reality, the Satyr serves the greater purpose of empowering both, by giving them a tangible source to validate their dubious claims of oppression (in the case of the martyr) and benignity (in the case of the authority; who else but a benevolent power allows itself to be mocked mercilessly?–is the popular adage here).  The Satyr can’t admit this, as it would be an acknowledgement of the fact that s/he is simply a byproduct, who exists strictly in reactive form.  And reactions by definition only respond to the products that create them, they do not operate independent of them.  Thus, the Satyr’s image as a hero for truth, and voice for real change or reform, is as unfounded the the martyr’s claim of oppression; and just as self-aggrandizing.

The dichotomy of the martyr and the Satyr are linked together by default.  Where the first appears, the second will follow, and with the advent of the internet age, the rate at which these mindsets spread increases tenfold.  In recent time, they have also become the desired responses by which the modern generation has decided to combat the ills and injustices of the world; unaware of just how helpful this is to the very authorities they claim to be challenging.  This is why, together, the martyr complex and the Satyr effect will ensure that the 21st Century goes down in history as one serious joke.

Reenter kratocracy:

In a kratocracy, you are not oppressed–not really.  If you are among those who fit the personality type, you will be made to feel the wholly illusory role of the oppressed martyr.  Not for the purpose of inflicting any unnecessary pain (or any real pain, for that matter), but to keep you content and docile by giving you the exact dose of self-righteous persecution you crave in order to make your person feel important enough to be faux-oppressed by a “greater” power.  Having tied your self-worth to the “oppressive” system you whinge about, removing this system will be unthinkable as your martyr identity (which is your whole identity) is dependent on its continued existence.  Additionally, you will be too preoccupied with your own unresolvable issues to bother caring too deeply about anything else going on around you.

In a kratocracy, the Satyr–the cynic, the comedian, the witty social commentator–is neither combating nor undermining the governing system by ridiculing its unjust, hierarchical structure.  As the Satyr, you’re actually having the (unbeknownst to you) effect of desensitizing people to the wrongs of the power structure you’re working so hard to mock.  Humor breeds comfort, and comfort breeds content.  It is true that, in feudal days of yonder, it was the Jester who could only speak the brutal truth to the ruler.  Yet, can anyone name a single jester who has ever overthrown a single ruler by virtue of possessing this great privilege of critical commentary?  No, and no jester ever will, because–no matter how much the Satyrs of the world wish it to be otherwise–jokes, even intricately insightful ones, do not have an iota of influence on an authority structure’s hold on power.  (Disagree?–Name one Bush joke in the previous decade that actually had the effect of countering the man’s unwise policies.  Or, for that matter, a single insightful jab at Trump’s lack of qualifications for high office in slowing down his presidential election.  Can’t think of one?  Exactly.)

Kratocracy:  governance by those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning.  What could be more cunning than a system where even a presumed defiance can be utilized and converted back into the service of the authority being defied?  Now, at least, it has an identifiable name; a most acidic move against an entity that depends on the elasticity of words and definitions to survive and operate.

The Value of Humility

In real life, people have forgotten how to respond to compliments.  Tell someone that you like his new haircut, and he’ll respond by telling you how much he hates his uneven ears.  Tell someone else that you love her new dress, and she won’t fail to remind you about the extra 5 pounds she’s carrying.  It makes me wonder how exactly these people respond to criticisms, if a courteous gesture causes them so much self-deprecation.  It also makes me wonder what the cause of this hyper-humility is, and what value it could possibly have for people.

I accept the notion that showing modesty, in terms of refraining from arrogant conceit, is a positive attribute.  However, I reject any implication that a person should look to counter every flattery made towards her/him by divulging an unpleasing flaw about her/himself, as if kind words were in need of a sacrificial offering.  If someone pays you a compliment (even if it’s just for the sake of being cordial) the only response you owe is a polite smile, followed by a simple, “Thank you.”  No more, no less.  There is no need for you to disclose any physical or personal shortcomings you may have, as this is sure to turn a nice gesture into an awkward situation.  But everyone already knows this, yet people still insist on turning innocent compliments into moments of redundant scrutiny of their own person.

There is a sense of masochism about the whole thing.  But, I suspect, not for the obvious reasons.  If you notice, every time a person tries to rebuke a compliment by revealing an embarrassing flaw, the one doing the initial complimenting immediately begins to offer up more praise to the poor bruised thing, until one trivial comment has been turned into an endless sea of adoration on behalf of the insecure soul.  Some are said to have a messiah complex, well I propose that even more have a martyr complex–in which affection and respect is gained not by any positive achievement, but through failure and humiliation.  Where a constant mode of self-flagellation takes the place of self-improvement; where compliments are sought by the virtue of one’s faults, rather than one’s merits.  After all, why else would someone willingly point out their flaws to casual observers, unless s/he knows full well that polite decorum demands pity on a insecure mind?  Perhaps this is an example of what Nietzsche had in mind when he spoke of the slave-morality affecting modern man; though I see no reason to suppose that this trend does not trace back to the antiquity of out species, for as long as man has been man.

And maybe we all just need to practice accepting compliments with a simple, “Thank you,” without fishing for further compliments thereafter.

Striving for Persecution

Persecution is one of those words for which almost everyone who hears it needs little effort to define.  It’s not so much that there is a strict convergence on what constitutes the strict definition of persecution, it’s that (in a broad sense) the greater implications of what it means to be persecuted, are readily understood to imply a level of harassment, subversion, and oppression of an individual or group, at the hands of a more powerful entity.  To most of us, the more obvious cases of persecution are often blatantly clear:  Ethnic, sexual, and religious/irreligious minorities being imprisoned and killed at the behest of the state, are all clear cases of persecution; likewise, being legally barred (in the sense that there is an actual law in place prohibiting the act) from partaking in educational, professional, or social practices and pursuits on account of your race, gender, or sexual orientation is a form of persecution in my book (as well as the book of most other people I have met).

If you live in a first world country  (which normally carries some legal protection for its citizenry’s right to free speech and expression), publicly voicing your opposition to persecution is not a controversial or daring thing to do (especially if your doing it thousands of miles away from the scene of the grievances), and the desire to empathize with fellow members of our species who are being denied the right to exist or speak their minds, is something that I think we can all relate to on some basic level.  However, there is a problem I see arising when many of us (and by us, I mean relatively comfortable people, speaking their minds freely on any subject they see fit with little fear of organized, legal repercussion being brought against their persons) seem to develop this nagging sense of persecution-envy, and start identifying any social grievances we have in our lives as acts of systemic oppression against us.

As a general rule, people ignoring what you have to say is not persecution, because those indifferent to your viewpoint are generally the least likely to call for you to be silenced.  People mocking your opinions is also not a form of persecution (as long as mocking is all that they’re doing), since satire and ridicule are protected rights under any sensible freedom of speech laws (ironically, if you called for their silence on your behalf, it would be closer to persecution than the other way around).  I’m willing to entertain the idea that those who aren’t taking you seriously are possibly doing so at their own peril for missing out on your immense genius and superb social insights, however, to view it as anything other than people choosing not to hold your opinions in high-esteem–and equating it to an actual act of oppression against you–conveys a failure to consider anything beyond one’s own desire to be acclaimed not by virtue of any intellectual merit, but by the amount of pity that can be garnered for oneself over wholly inconsequential personal inconvenience.

For instance, take conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones as an example.  The man’s eponymous radio show, his books, documentaries, and speaking engagements, all carry the underlying tone of being in bold defiance against the overt power structure seeking to silence him.  The problem is that he’s been speaking rather freely (and making money doing it) for a solid two decades now, with virtually no attempts being made on the part of the power structure (whose oppressive ways he’s claiming to be challenging) to remove him from his media outlets (and if there is, then this power structure cannot be quite as powerful and omnipresent as Jones claims, since they can’t even silence one radio DJ in Texas).  My point here is that the truly persecuted don’t have podiums from which to shout their grievances from in their own names, with no harmful consequences coming their way.  Because if they did, they wouldn’t be considered persecuted individuals or groups.  If you can stand on the street corner, passing out pamphlets calling out the decadency of the powers which govern over you, and still go back to your house undisturbed and live your life in relative freedom, you are not being oppressed in any sensible use of the word.  That doesn’t mean that all the concerns you hold have no merit on their own terms, but it does mean that the dire implications you wish to attribute to your viewpoint are hyperbolic, to say the least.

It is my contention that people (all of us, myself included) have a natural disposition for developing a martyr complex.  The notion that people either ignoring us or dismissing our opinions as kooky is a form of oppression, is (in my opinion) nurtured by a deeper layer of wanting to occupy the role of the victimized hero, standing gallantly against an onslaught of abuse and debasement for the sake of a greater purpose that others are just too dense to see.  And perhaps they are; however to make the claim that a ready dismissal of your opinions–without any attempts being made to cause you bodily harm,  or interfere with your daily life, or remove you from your medium of communication–constitutes an organized attempt to subvert you, is more a reflection of your inflated sense of self-importance than any shortcomings of society.

What really appears to be sought by those suffering under this sort of persecution is a masochistic desire to reach a higher order of respect and notoriety by appealing to people’s natural inclination to empathize with those who have been unjustly  wronged in society.  On its own, this is simply an annoyance to be around, but nothing worth arguing over.  Yet, such things do not tend to exist in a vacuum, and if allowed to go unabated and uncontested, will serve to render the impact of these very powerful words–vital for fostering human expression and solidarity–meaningless.  Thereby, having the unfortunate affect of desensitizing us to the frequent cries of false oppression, so that when the inevitable actual case of persecution is happening somewhere (the sort usually accompanied with social ostracizing, guns, blood, and wide-scale imprisonments and executions) we run the risk of either being distracted by trivial non-issues, or falsely ignoring the whole thing as another symptom of the hypochondriacs worrying over imagined illnesses.