I just finished CtrlAltRevolt by Nick Cole. It was OK, but the purpose of this post isn’t to review the book itself, but to respond to some of the ideas put forth therein. There were ideas expressed in the story that I couldn’t agree with, which is great: we need disagreement in the world. Discord and discourse. We all have opinions which seem factual to ourselves, but the truth is that, in any conflict, both sides usually have a bit of the truth, neither side has it all, and only through reasoned discourse do we have a chance at reaching a consensus based on at least most of the truth.
(“Reasoned” discourse being the hard part. You have to stop thinking about what you want to say next and actually listen to the other person, while holding in your heart a belief that this person has a genuine reason for believing what they believe, and that you are as likely to be wrong about something as they are. It’s really hard.)
Something at the end of the story got my brain ticking. All governments had collapsed. In this power void corporations, freed from government over-regulation, took on the burden of charitably helping the population recover and rebuild. So it was a message supporting smaller government and de-regulation. Set the business world free and they will do good. I automatically reject this as hogwash, but I must admit up front that I’m biased by a huge pinko tendency. Lefties like to tell a different Pollyanna story, that we can have a government that will serve the people and not give in to the corruption of capitalist kings. That wise regulation will keep the big dogs from hoarding all the bones. That we can build systems to share and protect all, keep things fair, help everyone in crisis. Also hogwash.
The truth I have to accept is that governments are made of people, and corporations are made of people – and people tend to help people in trouble. Given a crisis scenario, we’ve historically seen just as much bountiful beautiful help pour forth from governmental agencies, private corporations and private citizens. But private citizens, big-dog corporations and government agencies share just as much blame for causing crises. It’s all people.
And that’s what I think people tend to forget, whether they’re arguing for more or less regulation, bigger or smaller govt: Human nature. We are weasels. Welfare, defense contracts, blackjack, hedge fund voodoo, insurance benefits… It doesn’t matter what system you put in place, doesn’t matter if the motivation of the system is to make things better for everyone. If there is a system, individuals will squirm and worm to break it, game it, suck extra benefit out for themselves at the expense of those who play by the rules. You see it just as much in high finance as you do in welfare. We’ve evolved the brain to think in the long-term, to concieve of actions and systems which produce the greatest good for all. But when it comes down to it, we still follow the caveman instincts that say “gimme gimme gimme hoard it for winter. It’s okay to take from you, cuz I’m keeping it for me and mine.” Welfare queens and scrupleless (yeah, I made that word up, but so what; “unfriended” is in the dictionary now), they’re all just scrabbling for a cheat.
So, if there’s to be a lesson in all this, I’d say it’s that if you want there to be any sort of progress and evolution in your life and the world, start recognizing your own biases, and don’t accept extremism in your views. Always allow room to be wrong, to allow your beliefs to change. It is more difficult this way, but less douchy.