Bemeficent Society, Chpt 12 (rev)

 

CHAPTR 12 (rev)

MEETING OF THE POLITICAL COMMITTEE, CONTINUED (REV3)

 22 June, 2015

“Good evening, group,” said Martin.  “I’m happy to say that Angela is visiting us tonight.  As I’m sure you know, she is one of the society’s founders (and, if truth be known, the brains of our bunch) and heads the committee on religion.

“Angela’s presence is our good fortune.  Here’s how it came about. After I spent some time going over that list of democracy’s bad memes, that you put together at our last meeting, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I came to the conclusion that democracy, in the form we’re familiar with, is beyond repair.  Moreover, the same, or worse, can be said of every other form of government that’s been tried.  In short, I came to the conclusion that, simply put, mankind is incapable of governing itself.

“If the negativity expressed in the above at first seems unwarranted, I contend it would be supported by any unbiased analysis of the facts on the ground.  Would not any rational observer agree that the present state of the world is a mess and that an extension of existing trends portend disaster?  And it wouldn’t take him long to blame mankind for the mess—that we’re too damned contentious, too immature, a species to run our own show.

“Now to connect my appraisal of world affairs with Angela’s attendance at our meeting.  Yesterday, there was a meeting of the Society’s committee heads.  Afterward I sought out Angela because I heard she had developed an overarching personal philosophy that might possibly surmount what I had come to see as a dead end in our attempt to devise a workable form of government.  And, when I confirmed that her ideas could be of meaningful help to us, I prevailed on her to present them to you personally.  If you agree with my assessment, Angela’s vision can, I believe, get us started off on a genuinely productive tract.

“Angela, please help us out.”

 

“Hi Gretchen, Henry, and Timur.  Martin has told me of his frustration in trying to design a government for an ungovernable population.  That, I agreed, presented a formidable, but not necessarily insurmountable obstacle.  I told him how my interpretation of nature’s belief system had helped me and might help him as well.  I mean, if he felt mankind could not go it alone, maybe it could if it teamed up with nature.  That seemed to make sense to Martin so let’s see if you agree.

“Ever since I was a kid I had an instinctive appreciation of nature.  I loved walking in the woods near our house and chances were I’d always find something of particular interest to bring home.  I came to appreciate nature’s wondrous variety of grasses, flowers, shrubs, trees of all kinds, right?  And this beauteous greenery populated by an incredible variety of animals, birds, insects, worms, and insects.  Plus, as I discovered later, a host of life forms I couldn’t even see–all those living things existing together in a harmonious, sustainable relationships.  And when my reading took me to other parts of the world, I realized that this evidence of nature’s workmanship could be found in every imaginable habitat, in every corner of earth.

“Then when I became a biologist and began t0 understand some of the physical systems underlying natural phenomena, I came to envision nature’s perfection, not as something to be taken for granted, but rather as a pervading guiding inspiration.  I came to appreciate that she’s as honest as the day is long.  Always rational, impeccable character, strong value system.  Practices what she preaches, committed to personal freedom.  And, needless to add, she’s a strong environmentalist and a firm believer in evolution.  And non-violence.  She commands no armies, no police force, no secret service.  Her menagerie of life forms is free to make their own decisions in their own interest.

“Obviously, I’m not the only nature lover.  To one extent or another, it’s fair to say we all are.  Artists, poets, writers, philosophers have devoted their lives to extolling her virtues in every form of expression imaginable.  We marvel at her ingenuity, the perfection of her organization, the incredible refinement, the beauty of her systems, the enormity of their scope, on and on. Our devotion stops short in only one respect.  It’s all a one-way conversation.  Consciously or unconsciously we shut our ears to any advice she might have for us.  Here’s this supreme being—if I might coin a phrase—a vast source of unimaginable expertise, but we’ll have none of it.  Why?  The unwillingness of our leadership to cede authority?  The burden of precedence?  Sheer arrogance?  Hubris?  Or sheer stupidity?  It hardly matters.

“To be fair, many of our most cherished ideals are unconsciously modeled after her attributes.  But we attribute them to a mystical source which is a different matter altogether.  Such is the obstinacy of mankind, the only “outside” advice we are willing to accept is that from entities we’ve created and controlled—advice, in other words, we give ourselves.  Meanwhile, we only nibble at what nature has to offer.

“But, as you’ve no doubt gathered, I feel differently.  I actively invite nature’s advice.  When I come across an especially knotty problem in my work, I ask—frequently out-loud if there are no strangers about—what would nature do?  Actually, I don’t use the word “nature.”  It strikes me as too impersonal, too vague.  I’ve taken to addressing her as  ‘Gad,’ my nickname for ‘God the Administrator.’

“I admit it must sound like a frivolous indulgence of a woman scientist.  Gad never answers and I don’t expect her too.   But, surprisingly, it often works.  It puts me in the right frame of mind, I guess.  A reminder of the big picture and how small a part I play in it. Distractions tend to fade away and sometimes, when I’m lucky, the essentials come into focus.

“My point is that my experience with Gad could serve as useful input to the drafting of your new form of government.  I hope you’ll keep it in mind open up a two-way dialog, try to formalize some of her rules, and incorporate them into your proposal.  Personally, I believe we’d be better off throwing in the towel, and turning our whole administration over to Gad, but, mind you that’s just a personal opinion.

“Well, that’s about all I wanted to say.  I hope my enthusiasm over Gad didn’t bore you.  I tend to get carried away.  Any questions?”

 

“I’m afraid so,” said Henry.  “Lots of questions.  The main one, though, is about letting someone—something, at any rate—boss us around.  ‘Our throwing in the towel,’ was the way you put it.  That’s a pretty radical idea, isn’t it?”

“No.  What’s radical is mankind’s refusal to accept nature’s dominion when every other life form on earth happily complies.”

“But we’re not like any other life form.  We have language, tools, free will.  We’re intelligent,” Henry said.

“But not intelligent enough, apparently, to prevent us from pursuing a path that’s certain to lead to our self-destruction,” Martin interjected.  “Angela’s right, Henry, we desperately need an outsider to intervene.”

“An outsider, maybe, but not Gad,” said Timur.  “She’s got a mean streak.  Either that or she’s got a twin sister with a hell of a temperament.”

“What makes you say that?” asked Angela.

“There’s another way of looking at the “perfect” habitat you found in the woods: the realistic way.  I don’t have to tell you, a biologist, that beneath the appearance of harmony would, on closer inspection, reveal a pitiless, continuous fight for survival.  Every creature for itself.  Dog eat dog.  A world with no charity, no altruism, no sympathy for the poor, the sick, or the aged.  If that’s where your Gad will lead us, I don’t want a part of it,” said Timur.

Timur’s assault left Angela unruffled.  “Your depiction is right,  of course, but it has nothing to do with Gad.  It’s a common misunderstanding and I’m glad you brought it up.  There is no evil twin.  No Jeckyll-and-Hyde switcherous.  When you look closely enough, you realize that Gad doesn’t micromanage.  She leaves it up to every species to make up whatever set of behaviors that best ensures its survival.  Just so long as the specie’s rules don’t conflict with Gad’s umbrella system—her enumerated powers, so to speak. Like I said, Gad has nothing to with your accusations.  Dog-eat-dog is just a dog’s invention.  Bees go in for altruism.  And, when it comes to lions, right, it’s every beast for itself.  Gad has no responsibility for all that and she’s indifferent to it.

“The fact is Gad loves life.  She invented it, after-all,” Angela continued.  “As a legitimate species in her kingdom, we could count on her inserting us into the same system in which she mothers every other species—a system for perpetuating life that she’s perfected over time immemorial—a system she’s coded into metaphysical laws that are just as ironclad and as universally applicable as are her physical ones.

“So you’re saying mankind could pretty much dictate its own rules,” said Gretchen.  “Gad would have no objection, say, to whatever social responsibilities we’re willing to assume.  Observe the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments if fits our evolutionary strategy?  It would all be up to us?”

“Right,” agreed Angela.  “Gad’s policy is strictly hands off.”

“Unless we tripped over her ‘enumerated powers’ as you called them,” said Timur.

“Correct,” Angela admitted.  ”Gad doesn’t have a lot of rules, but she is a stickler about the ones she has.  No picking and choosing.  That sort of thing.  She’s not the compromising sort.”

“There is no question but that throwing in with Gad would involve some pretty drastic changes,” Martin added.  “Some of which might take decades to fully implement.  What’s important, though, is that, we’d always be moving forward—that is to say, in the direction of our long-term best interests,”

“I suspect,” said Timur, “that, when you stressed ‘long term best interests,’ you implied some short term pain.”

“Let’s call them adjustments,” Martin said.  “For starters, I imagine school children starting class with a pledge of allegiance to Gad.  Public ceremonies beginning with a kind of anthem—sporting events, and so on.  That doesn’t mean that there would be any restriction of freedom of religion, but an acknowledgement of a state-sponsored religion and consignment of other faiths to the sidelines.  Second, Gad would preside over the gradual dissolution of artificial national boundaries and supercede them with some form of international order.  And, third, worthwhile human endeavors—cleaning the atmosphere, the elimination of poverty, effective drug intervention, universal health care, etc.—objectives unattainable under our present Balkanized system.  That should give you some idea of what a Gad-centered world might be like.”

“What I’m trying to picture is a kind of general ambiance mankind would enjoy when hitched to Gad’s principles.  The same kind of universal order one senses traveling from one place to another and finding examples everywhere of a beauteous system.”

Before leaving, Angela called Martin’s attention to the poll that Martin promised would be made part of her visit.  Accordingly, a vote was taken among the three committee members.  “Three to none,” she exclaimed happily as she unfolded their ballots.  “Gad sells.

“Thanks for hearing me out.  I hope I’ve been of some help, but, no question, you people have a tough job ahead putting your Newcapian government together.  If you run into any more questions about Gad, take two cups of coffee and call me in the morning” Angela concluded cheerfully and, accompanied by the group’s expressions of thanks, left the meeting

 

“What’s next?” asked Henry.

“No problem,” said Timur.  “All we have to do is end up with a government that’s unimaginable or it would have already been imagined.  Provided of course, we’re capable of imagining it.”

“Angela would say we should ask Gad,” said Martin.  “Provided we didn’t expect an answer.”

”Then instead of asking her to do something, let’s be inspired what she’s done.  As long as she’s been on the job—a couple of million years, anyway, there ought to be a ton of stuff we could look over,” said Gretchen.  “I bet her inventions would fill up all the museums in the world and then some.”

“That sounds promising,” said Martin.  “All we’d have to do is find a government Gad’s invented that suits us and rip it off as our own.  The only trouble is that Gad doesn’t do governments.”

“No, you wouldn’t find a government per se,” agreed Gretchen.  “But you might find some kind of biological contraption that’s analogous to one.  One that might give us some good ideas that we couldn’t have imagined on our own.”

Do either of you two gentlemen know of such a biological contraption? (pauses) I don’t either,” Martin admitted.  “But maybe Gretchen has a point.  Let’s give ourselves a little time to think about it.  How about taking a break.  Twenty-minutes, okay?”

*   *    *

“I found one,” Timur reported happily when they reassembled.

“Really?” said Martin.  “Let’s hear it.”

“I tried to boil down what we were really looking for: a biological phenomenon that, like government, controlled something(s)  separated from it.   Or, put another way, an organ that made decisions and then conveyed them to other organs at a distance.  After that, finding a natural object that fit the bill was easy.”

“The brain,” snapped Gretchen.

“The human brain,” added Henry.

“Hardly a physical resemblance,” observed Martin.  “But a decent match in some other respects.  At least it should give us something to talk about when we meet next week.”

“Something unimaginable, right?” added Henry.

“Right,” said Martin.  “Thank you, Timur, for the idea.  Thanks to all of you.”

*    *    *

With Timur’s finding to go on, Martin was more confident that the committee could repair the gaping holes that their analysis of bad memes had left in the traditional form of democracy.  Although he had no idea as to how it was to be done, Silvia’s expanded schedule left them almost a year to find solutions.  That night he had the soundest sleep he had enjoyed in weeks.

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