Often when people debate politics they often have a pre-set limit for how much societal change they can envision. Some people have a hard time with small policy matters while others accept larger, more complex things like capitalism to be their limit for what is unchangeable. I think of humans as homogeneous clumps of bacteria so my limits are usually not where others have theirs. This is a short text about one aspect of society which might broaden your perspective on societal change.
Egypt 5,000 years ago is the most well-known early society encompassing more than just a few towns. It was basically half of Egypt ruled by a king and his priests and court. Looking at monkeys, we see some patriarchal cultures, one man to lead the others for the sake of simplicity in a group that wasn’t very good at communicating. The male leads using force and the others accept this because a different leader might kill them. It’s bully mentality, you side with the bully otherwise you get bullied yourself, but in siding with the bully you also accept and further this form of rule. The priests said the king was the son of God and the king gave the priests power and estates. The ruling classes were happy with the king and did not usurp him as long as he oppress the lower classes. This power dynamic provides a status quo and a status quo always benefits the ones with money and power.
The king of Egypt abused the situation to make people do things like build him a pyramid. He used it to gain control of as much land as he could and as much money as he could. Monarchies and class systems are rare today, and like the church which filled a similar niche in society for many centuries, the power structure has changed to a government. Since the 16th or 17th century, the kings had advisers, which then became politicians and in 1789 in France took over the kings job. They did have democracy in Greece and a senate in Rome, but that didn’t last.
However, the principle had not changed. The people with money and power wanted to continue the status quo and used their power to control the masses. Along the centuries, they have had to make more and more concessions to the poor. First freeing slaves, then with the class travelers of the industrial revolution they changed the laws and changed the political system so that the new money didn’t turn against them. Let them join us and force them to help us fight the enemy, the poor. That’s still the same bully mentality. And when the masses complain about women’s rights and poor working conditions, make further concessions, don’t give them your money and power, just give them enough so that you can use your rhetorical skills to stay in power without civil unrest.
Historically it’s been the middle class who’d made the revolutions happen. This has many reasons. One of them is that when the prince kills his father, it’s not a revolution because it’s normally not a big change for the general public. Also, because the middle class who are in between bully and bullied. While the church had control of education, they picked the smart ones and gave them the robe of the clergy and power. The danger to the ruling class is when too many are high enough to gain knowledge and power, but not high enough to be satisfied, usually because wealth is relative and they felt the rich were too rich, while many were just as rich as them, half-rich.
Now, my point is that today’s society is structured around the need for controlling the status quo, make sure the rulers stay in power and the rich stay rich. All laws and concessions are caused by the dynamic between staying in power and not getting usurped from civil unrest. To an alien it might seem strange that every piece of land is divided among human owners, but that’s a result of the greed and need for control. Anyone with money or power will try to convince you that laws and ownership are for your own good, but no matter what fancy words the politicians use, historically the main driving force behind the system is not the benefits it gives to the general public, but the benefits it grants those who make the laws and own everything.
Post scriptum. I believe society should adapt to the individual human and not the other way around. Of course, that’s a very ambiguous statement, but I mean we should not build upon an already flawed system and make special rulings for all the trouble that occasionally appear (trouble = people who don’t fit the desired norm). Instead the system should be already from bottom to top (not top-to-bottom like today) built to encompass every single possible human being. Possible in a reasonable time-frame.
There are lots of examples that can help you understand the implications I’m hinting at in this post, so I’ll mention a few. Today, the Swedish Senate said they would not stop selling weapons to non-democratic countries. You’d think that was a no-brainer, but the people in power need to please the people with money. Every political decision is a compromise between the powerful and the masses (the powerful are of course part of the masses, but they can be defined by how much power/money they have. Money is the modern form of power as you’ve probably already figured out). The end-result of this balancing is what I mentioned in the previous post; you get a lot of subclasses for each new atypical occurence in the world that needs to be fitted in with the overarching idea of status quo power which becomes more and more intricate to the point where nobody can see the forest for all the trees.
Another example is the state environmental protection programs. They buy land from the rich and turn it into protected areas. Ideally, the protection of nature should exist prior to and throughout the use of nature, but we are in this position now becomes we’re still living in the system where the mighty do whatever they want with the land and not until the masses get enough leverage to be listened to will the state compromise and take some of the land back from the greedy abusers.
This is a very large societal idea, but if you can get your head around it you can see all the examples in pretty much everything in your daily life and then you have broadened your perspective sufficiently to be open to the idea of political changes that few people today think of as realistic. And to be honest, we are 7 billion people with the potential to do anything, the only limits to our potential are the lies told by politicians, priests and business men/women.