Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: Interaction, Economics and the Human Condition    
 Interaction, Economics and the Human Condition
2007-06-27, by John Ringland

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Interaction, Economics and the Human Condition

Money is a medium of exchange to facilitate human interaction - it represents interaction energy. But what is interaction and what are its effects?

From the perspective of system theory systems don't just exist, they arise from the interactions of their sub-systems. Systems are emergent phenomena that depend upon interaction. If the interactions occur the higher level systems emerge and if the interactions don't occur then the higher level systems don't emerge. If the interactions are coherent and sufficient then the emergent systems are sane and 'healthy', and if the interactions are incoherent or insufficient then the emergent systems are insane or 'unhealthy'.

There are as many different interaction contexts and mediums of exchange as there are different kinds of systems. When considering just human social systems the mediums of exchange range from words, ideas, gestures, compassion, kudos, effort, time, ingenuity, objects, resources, and so on. But in the current system all values are ultimately expressed in terms of a single medium - money - which has become an abstract value in its own right that has become disassociated from its original values. Whether it is food, land, products, services, health, life, sanity and so on - these are all expressed in terms of money and are made subservient to money.

From system theory we see that the purpose of interaction is the creation and maintenance of systems and from economics we see that money is a medium of exchange to facilitate human interaction. So economics is about the creation and maintenance of social systems by facilitating human interactions - it is the metabolism of organisation. Where organisation is the cooperative integration of many people toward a common end and ultimately the common end is life, i.e. harmonious and effective living. But the economic system has largely become disassociated from this context and re-imagined within an abstract capitalist discourse (i.e. one that is capital-centric and not life-centric). It has become an abstract game that is geared toward healthy capitalist organisation and not toward healthy human interaction and social organisation.

The usual economic discourse of monetary policy and micro/macro economics rests upon a confused mass of un-stated and unquestioned assumptions, but the underlying issue is human interaction. One simply cannot meaningfully discuss economics without discussing the human condition but the traditional economic discourse largely ignores, misunderstands or grossly simplifies the human condition. This is responsible for the drastic decline in the overall quality of the human condition and consequently of all situations in which humans engage such as society, environment, politics, work, management, education, health and so on.

The current system is such that everyone requires money to engage in interactions - without money one cannot interact with others. Because all interactions have become dependent on the flow of a single medium of exchange those who control that medium control every aspect of what is allowed to prosper or decay, who is allowed to interact or not, what agendas are allowed to be pursued or not, what systems are allowed to arise and function or not and what emergent properties these systems manifest. Controlling the flow of money is equivalent to controlling the process of creation within the human sphere of existence. Society has ceased to be a complex creative system devising and utilising whatever mediums of exchange are appropriate to facilitate its interactions (as organisms do with biochemistry), instead it has been re-engineered in the image of an electronic circuit where money is the electricity and those who control the flow of money control the entire circuit. Society has been simplified for purposes of control but as it becomes more mechanistic it becomes more dysfunctional because a simplistic mechanistic paradigm is not complex enough to sustain a complex dynamical system such as civilisation.

How did something so vitally important as interaction energy become abstracted and disconnected from its original purpose? I suggest that it arose from fundamental flaws in our beliefs that have for many generations resonated amongst people's minds and created a corrupt discourse and a corrupt culture. Within that corrupt discourse everything seems reasonable and the decay of civilisation is inexplicable but in a more holistic and systemic discourse it is obvious that we are acting in irrational and destructive ways that are directly resulting in the decay of civilisation. The false belief that underlies the entire corrupt discourse is the idea of egoic separation or the image of a world of isolated egos engaged in competitive struggle where it is all about 'me'. Where 'my' wellbeing can be secured in spite of or at the cost of other's wellbeing. This is one level of reality but only one amongst countless others and by focusing on this level and enshrining it within our social metaphysics to the exclusion of all other levels it has resulted in untold delusion and destructive behaviour.

What is the primary mechanism that created the wide spread disconnection of economics from its real purpose? It is the application of narrow context rationality within the wider context in which it is entirely irrational, but we keep our minds focused on the narrow context so it seems rational and the catastrophic side effects are inexplicable. The economic system functions at two primary levels - the micro level of individual human interactions and the macro level of social dynamics. Its main rationalisations and strategies arise from the micro scale but when deployed throughout whole societies it functions on the macro scale. Narrow context rationalisations can seem rational when considered in narrow contexts but they can be totally irrational and destructive when consider in the wider context. In this way a discourse that ignores the wider context can create an irrational and destructive system that seems rational in people's minds because their minds are focused only on the narrow contexts.

In a narrow context it seems rational that each person is a separate egoic agent engaged in a zero sum power struggle where in order for me to gain, others must lose and that their loss does not negate my gain in any way because we are completely separate and individual egoic agents. But in the wider context this is not how it works. On the level of societies countless individuals and their interactions form a super-system called society. In this context everyone's wellbeing is inextricably linked. A healthy society provides a healthy context for everyone and an unhealthy society provides and unhealthy context for everyone. Over generations we are products of the societies we create and whole societies can spiral into joyous vitality or agonising oblivion. But no person or small group is an island no matter what enclaves they may try to create.

Now consider interest rates, the narrow context rationalisation is based on the idea that if 'I' have some money (interaction energy) then I can lend it to 'you' so that you can engage in interactions but I no longer have use of that interaction energy so I want something in return for my loan to you. This argument hinges on the metaphysical belief in egoic separation where 'I' and 'you' are separate and unrelated egoic agents. The idea is that I could retain my money and let you suffer at no cost to myself so my lending money to you is purely for your benefit, for which I expect you to pay. But in the wider context, if the economic system creates a healthy society then everyone gains and if the economic system creates an unhealthy society then everyone loses. In that context there are no separate isolated egoic agents, there are just modes of activity with a social system. And in the widest context there are no separate entities at all, there are just modes of activity within the cosmic process of existence - fluctuations of the unified quantum field or the universal consciousness.

"Man as he now is has ceased to be the All. When he ceases to be a separate individual, he raises himself again and penetrates the whole world." (Plotinus)

To focus only on one level of a system hierarchy is systemic parochialism that leads to narrow context behaviour that seems rational only on that one level and is in fact dangerously irrational on all other levels of existence. For instance, if you focus solely on particle interactions you cannot comprehend a human being and likewise if you focus solely on human beings you cannot comprehend society. The systemic universe functions on all system levels from particles to humans to galaxies and beyond. Focusing on just one level leads to deep ignorance that breeds delusions that bring us into conflict with reality. We see only masses of isolated egos where there is really a unified field of life.

"Contemplating the Earth from a hundred thousand miles away comes this new consciousness. You become startlingly aware of how artificial are the thousands of boundaries we've created to separate and define. And for the first time in your life you feel in your gut the precious unity of the earth and of all living things it supports. The dissonance between this unity you see and the separateness of human groupings that you know exists is starkly apparent." (Russel Schweichart)

When narrow context agendas such as interest-based loans operate in the broader context we get a situation where there are power structures who possess vast hoards of interaction energy (money), far more than they need. The entire system is dependent on that particular type of interaction energy so they have vast power over the entire system, which they use for their own benefit. Although they operate in the wider context of whole societies they still use agendas based on the narrow context of individual egoic agents. So we effectively have vast collective egoic agents who wield vast power over whole societies and that use their power to secure more power. Whilst our isolated egos have become subsumed into collective societies they have merged and manifested as collective egos, or the ego of organisations.

The egoic agenda is primarily about power and dominance - almost always at the expense of other egos. So these vast power structures secure their power and dominance at the expense of whole societies. By keeping the discourse bound to narrow contexts the power structures are free to dominate and control in the wider context and although people feel that something is wrong they cannot clearly define or express exactly what is wrong because the discourse is too narrow and focused only the level of individual humans when the atrocities are being committed on the higher level of organisations. So people dwell in egoic delusions of consensual democracies where individual egos engage in interactions on the human level and all the while higher level egoic organisations battle for  control and exploit whole societies.

The corrupt discourse is based on the idea that we are isolated egoic agents but this is totally absurd in the wider reality - we are the most social of all animals and this has been a well known evolutionary trend with well known consequences.

"Nothing is more striking and more sustained in the whole of human evolution than the two-fold trend towards increase in brain size on the one hand, and, on the other, towards cultural activities, cultural mastery and indeed utter dependence upon culture for survival. These two sets of changes are indissolubly linked. The chain between them may be set forth as simply as follows: increase in brain size = gain in intricacy of neuronal organization = rise in complexity of nervous function = ever more diversified and complicated behavior responses = progressively amplified and enhanced cultural manifestations." (P.V. Tobias) See more on this in the essay The Man Machine - Organisms to Organisation.

What are the consequences of our application of narrow context rationalities onto the broader context, and of our focus on only one level of existence to the exclusion of all others? The consequences are vast and numerous - but I'll just give a few quotes...

"A mass madness rages across what Georges Gurdjieff called our Slaughterhouse Planet. In the last 80 years alone [1908-1988] the inhabitants of this planet have enthusiastically exterminated over one hundred and twenty million of their fellow men. This is the equivalent of killing the present combined populations of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and East Germany... [or] the entire population of the United States in the 1930's...

Can this be considered as sufficient evidence that our species has taken a wrong turn? One hundred million dollars are being spent each hour over the whole world on death machines for a military which only exists to maintain a divided world. The world is spending almost two million dollars a minute to keep the people of our planet apart. Astronauts return from space with a message that the Earth is a whole undivided organism. Divisions only exist in the minds of men and on pieces of paper." (Yatri)

"Work that produces unnecessary consumer junk or weapons of war is wrong and wasteful. Work that is built upon false needs of unbecoming appetites is wrong and wasteful. Work that deceives or manipulates, that exploits or degrades is wrong and wasteful. Work that wounds the environment or makes the world ugly is wrong and wasteful. There is no way to redeem such a work by enriching it or restructuring it, by specializing it or nationalizing it, by making it 'small' of decentralized or democratic." (Theodore Roszak)

"Few modern industrial workers have much sense of pride and achievement is what they do. The article he or she produces, or helps to produce, is of little consequence in their lives. The purpose of such work in the first place is to earn a living so that another part of life can be spent in leisure. The main purpose of the work for the employer is to increase profit. In such a situation both work and worker become depersonalized as the job becomes an activity without love.

Any technology which achieves such production is likely to be fragmented, hard and manipulative, as opposed to being co-operative. It tends... to be centralized and in the hands of a small elite power block... Almost by definition a centralized hi-technology activity is secretive, anti-ecological, anti-social, anti-human and anti-health.

Five percent of the world's population consumes over thirty-five percent of the planet's resources. Most of these resources are handled by a few huge multi-national organizations. Many of these corporations are economically obsolete and block the flow of currency. Their very rigidity determines an overdevelopment of hard and centralized technologies like the major power agencies or the huge chemical and pharmaceutical industries. In the United States and increasingly in Europe, excessive consumption and waste have become a way of life, relentlessly altering our attitudes towards nature and the delicate ecosystems of the planet. Our glossy magazines and newspapers give madly conflicting views of life. On the one hand they report the horrors of war, of murder, of violence, greed, corruption and starvation, while on their advertising pages we see an Arcadian world where everyone is well fed and totally happy. Cigarette advertisements paint nostalgic cowboy scenes in the idyllic West while the page opposite reveals that half a million Americans die each year from tobacco poisoning.

In such an environment it is small wonder that twenty-five percent of the population needs psychiatric treatment at some time during their lives." (Yatri)

"Countries like ours are full of people who have all of the material comforts they desire, yet lead lives of quiet (and at times noisy) desperation, understanding nothing but the fact there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it... it aches!" (Bernard Levin)

"The ordinary consciousness lives in constant state of fidgeting, it's frightening when you realise it! As long as you are not aware of it, it's perfectly natural, but when you become aware of it, you wonder how people don't go crazy, it's a grace! It is a kind of tiny microscopic trepidation. Oh, how horrible!... behind that fidgeting there's a will for disorder seeking to prevent the establishment of harmony." (reference lost)

How does this insanity arise - what is its root? The answer is given in Commonsense Realism and the Ego and related discussions. Here are a few more quotes...

"It is like an image reflected in a mirror, it is seen but it is not real; the one Mind is seen as a duality by the ignorant when it is reflected in the mirror constructed by our memory... the existence of the entire universe is due to memory that has been accumulated since the beginningless past but wrongly interpreted." (Lankavatara Sutra)

"Every time a thought is born, you are born. When the thought is gone, you are gone. But the 'you' does not let the thought go, and what gives continuity to this 'you' is thinking. Actually there's no permanent entity in you, no totality of all your thoughts and experiences. You think that there is 'somebody' who is feeling your feelings - that's the illusion." (U.G. Krishnamurti)

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us" (Winston Churchill) The same goes for our ideas, beliefs, ideologies and cultures. They are a construct of our ignorance and they breed even deeper ignorance.

"For man has closed himself up, 'till he sees all things thro' the chinks of his cavern." (William Blake)

"We are born into a world where alienation awaits us. We are potentially men, but are in an alienated state and this state is not simply a natural system. Alienation as our present destiny is achieved only by outrageous violence perpetrated by human beings on human beings.

The relevance of Freud to our time is largely his insight and to a very considerable extent his demonstration that the ordinary person is a shrivelled desiccated fragment of what a person can be. As adults we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its content but its flavor. As men of the world, we hardly remember our dreams and make little sense of them when we do. As for our bodies we retain just sufficient proprioceptive sensations to coordinate our movements and to ensure the minimal requirements for bio-social survival - to register fatigue, signals for food, sex, defecation, sleep: beyond that... little or nothing.

Our capacity to think, except in the service of what we are dangerously deluded in supposing is our self interest, and in conformity with common sense, is pitifully limited: our capacity even to see, hear, touch, taste and smell is so shrouded in veils of mystification that an intensive discipline of unlearning is necessary for anyone before one can begin to experience the world afresh, with innocence, truth and love." (R.D. Laing) See more on this in the essay The Man Machine - Organisms to Organisation.

So what is the path to recovery? There are three points that I discuss, our personal internal discourse of ideas, our collective discourse of ideas and our collective mechanism of interaction (economics). These are three levels of root causes. The many problems and insanities in the world are just symptoms but these three constitute the underlying disease.

The original cause of the problem stems from our personal alienation from reality - see Commonsense Realism and the Ego and related discussions (also the e-book Information System Analysis of Mind, Knowledge, 'the World' and Holistic Science for a very detailed discussion). Our personal delusions are the seeds of collective delusion and the field of personal delusion both creates and is a product of a corrupt discourse. See The Man Machine - Organisms to Organisation for some historical background on this and The Gaian-Ego Hypothesis and related discussions for more on the corrupt discourse. Then regarding mechanisms of collective interaction see Economic Metabolism and related discussions.

Seeing as this discussion is somewhat focused on economics I will mention here the main issue in the article Economic Metabolism. Whilst the monopoly of mass currency disempowers and disintegrates communities and enslaves people into mass agendas the use of complimentary currencies can empower and integrate communities thereby liberating people.

Whereas a corrupt economic system that is disassociated from its true value and true purpose can lead to the breakdown of coherent interaction and the decay of our super-systems (civilisation) the use of coherent economics that retains its connection to its true value and true purpose can facilitate human interactions and result in the creation of harmonious emergent super-systems (a healthy vibrant civilisation).

The problem can be resolved at all three levels, individually by overcoming our individual egos and collectively by engaging in the sane exchange of ideas (thereby resolving the corrupt discourse and the collective ego) and using appropriate mediums of exchange (thereby leading to effective and healthy interactions). After all, economics is about the creation and maintenance of social systems by facilitating human interactions - it is the metabolism of organisation. Where organisation is the cooperative integration of many people toward a common end and ultimately the common end is life, i.e. harmonious and effective living.

Best wishes : )
John Ringland

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