1.1 The New Leviathan
In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes predicted that, in the absence of some strong intervening authority, human society would descend into a Leviathan, pitting all against all in a life and death struggle for survival. This struggle would continue until one victor would be determined, who would then dominate the rest. In light of this, the rational man, upon calculating that their odds of victory were impossibly slim, would elect to form some kind of safeguard, which would protect the best interest of the majority. This then, was the rational foundation for government. Not morality, but expediency.
This New Leviathan is different than the natural state theorized by Hobbes in that instead of being the inevitable outcome of a naturally occurring series of events, it is created by design. It is an ordered matrix of producer/consumer robots isolated from one another, and the environment, by a rigid, narcissistic, linear way of seeing the world.
With the dominance of narcissism, instead of being seen as an unfolding of possibilities, life is reduced to zero – sum games in which there are only two outcomes – winning and losing. The conditions, which sustained the previous order, trust in our neighbor’s communal interest, no longer holds. Those of us who cling to this old belief are the new dinosaurs, completely non-adaptive to the new reality and destined for extinction. Instead of a brotherhood of man, we have a free-for-all in which it is each man for himself in a fight to the finish. The winning strategy becomes one of doing it to them before they do it to us. The distinction from Hobbes’ variation is that here all actions, no matter how blatantly self-serving, are veiled by extravagant proclamations of sentiment. In other words, everyone feels compelled to appear nice before others and themselves. The result is that it becomes impossible to sustain anything but the most superficial form of relationships, with human interaction being reduced to a series of isolated transactions.
Those investment bankers who are at the heart of the engine that drove the sub-prime bubble saw these activities as not stemming from rapacious greed, but as being just and good, and in the best interests of family and country. It is tempting to see these individuals as inhuman, self-serving monsters. Instead, they should be seen as the natural product of a process, which has engulfed our entire society. To indict them is to indict our whole society. They are the winners of the game, which has been sold to us and into which we have all bought.
A population of voracious consumers only superficially connected to one another is one which can be relied upon to greedily consume the outputs produced by the economy. Believing in little other than their own entitlement implies that they are unlikely to balk at society’s transgressions against their neighbor. The distrust those in the narcissistic paradigm feel towards one another means there is little likelihood of their banding together to create an organized opposition to the status quo. Lacking the collective will to be defiant; those in power can rely upon their mute compliance. This makes them relatively easy to manage. In this sense, the capitalist system is far more efficient than communism or autocracy, requiring a much smaller investment in a police apparatus – here the sheep can be relied upon to herd themselves. Gradually the government can remove their freedoms safe in the knowledge that whatever resistance they may offer will only be temporary. If this process is sufficiently gradual, the majority will never even notice.
An example of this process is the Patriot Act passed by the Republican administration in the United States, in response to the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center. On the pretext of national security, any individual deemed a potential threat might be detained indefinitely. The vagueness of the pretext, terrorism, is very useful in that the threat of terrorism can never be fully eradicated. Therefore, any attempt to repeal this measure, even partially, can easily be defeated because its original premise continues to exist.