Marx-men & Markets-men

The art of telling a story is easy. The part where it gets difficult is when one has to tell a compelling story to keep the attention of the listeners from start to end. What comprises a good story is not rocket science. A great story is always simple. The audience of the story roots for a character to overcome a seemingly impossible challenge. The hope that this character offers to the audience is important to make the story a good one. All great stories have the element of hope tied deeply into the construction of the story. Let me illustrate.

If a lion is hunting a deer, it seems obvious the central character of the story is the deer. It’s easier to root for the deer because the deer has everything to lose. However, if this lion were injured & was starving, we’d like to root for the lion more. Inherently, the character worthy being rooted for should walk that fine line between having nothing to lose while having something to fight for. Gerald Chesterton attributes this to the Catholic Christian orthodox tradition, but I disagree. His argument is that Jesus off Nazareth set an example by fighting for humanity as a whole while having nothing to lose. He stood against the powerful Roman Empire & chose to die for the sins of humanity for all time. The story of hope is older than Jesus. It helped humans evolve through ages. The story of humanity’s survival till date is one rooted in hope. Lest this may come across as an essay on storytelling, I posit that humans think in terms of what story is more compelling to make their decisions.

An observant eye can notice that struggles for freedom from oppressive forces typically come from one political inclination. There is yet a nation to have achieved political independence on the tenets of laissez faire free market systems. Only when the popular narrative the people believe is rooted in hope for their survival, a critical mass of people acting as one comes about. It should be no surprise that nearly every revolutionary worth noting had a socialist/communist leaning. Political independence is a pre-requisite to anything that follows. India today is a society with a functioning market economy because of the communist revolutionaries. We may think that the world is millions of years old but the world we live in is hardly a century old. This world is one of nations with their own states where for a large part there are commonly agreed upon borders of nations. This was formed due to immense turmoil across the world. In all these places, I am willing to bet that the hope to come out of the turmoil was built around one very specific political story. That would be the story of human struggle as oppressed victims of a regime. From the old world of anointed kings & monarchs, the new world of elected political leaders with peaceful transfer of power comes from the idea that the consent of the governed is important. When the king anoints his son as the next king, the consent of the governed public is assumed as a given. The process of recording this consent gave birth to democracies we know today.

How did the world shift from one dominant mode of governance to the other? Why does democracy seem more fair than a king being anointed? In either system, there is someone in the position to make decisions for everyone else. Normally, a king would train his prince in statecraft & the history of the country & would be trained from a very young age to take the position to lead. In a democracy, an average man is bestowed by his peers the power to make decisions. If we add this caveat, monarchies don’t look so bad. Yet, a democractic process sounds more “fair” than the other. The explicit nature of the consent being sought makes all the difference. The question still remains. What makes this explicit nature feel better to us? This demands a deeper look into human nature.

On the one hand, humans are known to exhibit tendencies to obey authority. Studies of human nature as individuals and as groups makes it clear as day that human societies have de facto hierarchies. Even if there is no formal hierarchy, evolution has shown that there is benefit of a trade-off of acting on free-will for having to do all this independently every time. This is the root of human evolution to where it is today. Animals have some inherent wisdom within them but there is a limit on how much information is transmitted from one generation to another. Two things seem to affect human beings on why we have evolved to be so. The growth of our pre-frontal cortex & the salience of the pre-frontal cortex over the hypothalamus means that humans are capable of thinking but we would prefer to not think all the time. The end justifying the effort of thinking is in making decisions. We cannot afford to think every decision through & through. The energy needed by the human brain is staggering for this. The rule of nature is that things always tend to the least effort expended in doing them.

This rule of nature means one thing. If one person has put in the effort to think & things fall in place, every other person need not think & come to the same conclusion. If we can share acquired wisdom with each other, that’s good enough. Ergo, obedience to authority is not an acceptance of being in a lower hierarchical position. The relation of obeying an authority is one of acceptance that the wisdom one has acquired is sufficient for that time & period. Unlike animal societies, human hierarchies are dynamic. Yet, they exist. If this hierarchy is made to be believed as one that is enforced upon humans, that story invites hope into it with a stranglehold. When humans believe their hope lies in putting up a fight, it becomes a unifying factor. The rule of nature seeking the least effort kicks in to achieve this result. More often than not, this hopeful story comes from the doctrine of marxism. The greatest way to keep humans hooked is a hope for something better. As much as it may drive humans to do greater things, it has equal potential to do disastrous things.

The fine line between hope and greed is the same as the one in having nothing to lose while having something to fight for. More often than not, humans veer into the darker territory of greed & commit grave sins. That is despite greed having a good side to it too. Coming back to hope for now, it must be asked why most revolts & revolutions have that Marxist aftertaste to them. Bhagat Singh was a socialist revolutionary inspired by Marx. So was Sukarno in Indonesia. Before Marx existed, the French revolutionaries were also of a similar fabric in guillotining Louis XVI. Lenin followed the ideals of Marx & overthrew the Tsars. This similar political thread can be seen through humanity whenever one had to find hope of survival in a struggle against their own Goliath. Marxism & marxist tenets work twofold. First, it assumes a hierarchy exists that isn’t defacto or dynamic. Next, it positions the majority as the ones on whom this hierarchy has been imposed or enforced upon. What follows is pure poetry in motion when enough get convinced of this worldview. The stories of hope, struggle & survival against odds drive the humans to come together in ways no other doctrine is able to.

A simple story has a clearly defined origin of the conflict. Whoever or whatever is creating the conflict must be eliminated & everything was happy ever after. This is because once the imposition is taken away, the humans make for themselves in explicitly sought out consent of each other. At least, that is the assumption. Here is what is conveniently missed out. There are storytellers to convince the populace that there is something to fight for. These storytellers telling humans their story to seek hope become the revolutionary leaders. No one appointed these revolutionaries. They are self-anointed. The end of revolution is not to overthrow the oppressor. The doctrine to overthrow the ones above us in an imposed hierarchy isn’t enough to know what to do once the oppressors are gone. Once the oppressor is gone, a new political hierarchy with the explicit consent of the governed is formed. A critique of the market economy can never create a market by itself. It can only offer a perspective to offer critiques of what someone else may have done.

The chains of being victims can be broken, but the freedom of having no chains is hard to fathom. One of the great struggles is to think for oneself & walk the gauntlet of extreme emotional turmoil with no one to look to. Marxist doctrine fails in this department. Democracies are slow. A new society that is formed cannot afford to be slow. Efficiency on the longer run depends on the inefficient quicker decisions made in the short run. The wisdom of what not to do dictates the path of what to do. This is precisely why free societies formed after a struggle where failure is a virtue succeed. And that, is one heck of a story to tell.

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