Feudalism Then and Now
Jerry M Lawson
History has weird ways of paralleling itself. Looking at the graphic “Feudalism Then & Now” above provides an interesting perspective.
The idea we are today experiencing a kind of corporate feudalism has ample material to draw upon. The possibilities are alarming and what it suggests about human culture is chilling.
If all humanity has managed to achieve over the past 500 years is to alleviate a bit of poverty and make life a little easier for about 98.5% of humankind while maintaining the same structure, the same control, and the same hoarding of most all the wealth in the hands of the 1.5% and less (regardless what label we attach to them), then we’ve not progressed one step forward as a species and our civilization is a fraud, an illusion.
The sad reality is human beings have changed very little over the last 50,000 years. Yes, we have developed language and communication skills. We have created art. We have advanced materially and technologically, building cities, creating marvelous machines, gone to the moon and probed nearby planets, but the structure of our brains hasn’t changed. In our heads, we are still Stone Age hunter-gatherers who kill or strive to eliminate “others” we perceive to be in competition with us for control of vital resources. Our tribes have grown larger, but our behavior is unchanged. It is literally written into our DNA.
Part of our Stone Age hunter-gatherer mindset is patriarchy. Men dominate and that has led to the prevalence of two behaviors that must change if our species is to survive far into the Third Millennium. First, as noted we are wired to eliminate or destroy any group or entity we perceive as being a threat or competition for control of vital resources. In the past, this trait helped our species conquer and dominate the planet, but there are consequences and what was one’s primary asset becomes a nemesis as times and circumstances change.
What began as the means for protecting vital resources and ensuring our survival led us to use force and violence to achieve our aims and eventually to the development of war and the cult of the warrior as a means to achieve desired ends. Secondly, the hunter-gatherer mindset led to a propensity for hoarding and the consequent focus on the pursuit of pleasure.
Pleasure includes more than the satisfaction of our physical needs. It includes money and the acquisition of wealth, profit, and more broadly, anything, activity, or object that provides happiness, delight, joy, gladness, glee, satisfaction, gratification, contentment, enjoyment, or amusement. The blind pursuit of pleasure at the expense of what is important puts the future survival of the species at great risk.
For all the illusion of progress and accomplishment, all we’ve really achieved is the killing and slaughter of millions while gaining more knowledge and building more sophisticated tools to accomplish it while destroying the planet upon which we depend for our existence.
Unfortunately, while our knowledge has expanded and our technological capabilities have grown immensely, we, as a species, have acquired little wisdom. Our brains are still stuck in the Stone Age and our behavior focused on trying to gather and hoard as much as possible at the expense of “others.”
Today, three Americans own as much as the bottom 50%. If asked, they will admit that the gross inequality we have is unfair. However, don’t ask them to give up one penny of their wealth nor to lift one finger to change the system that made their accumulation of riches possible. They want control of “their” wealth, seeing themselves as better able to determine how to spend it than all of us collectively. By controlling their riches, they maintain control over us and never is the cost to society and the planet that occurred as a result of their acquiring wealth and luxury included in the equation.
What I find saddest of all is that even if we kept this worn out and cruel system of control that the graphic above reveals, those who have most, as noted, are incapable of doing what is in their own best interests to ensure the systems’ survival. All they need do is make sure enough wealth is shared so that every level of society can perceive and know that their lives and the lives of their children are getting better. They only need to curb their insatiable appetites a little so everyone can feel comfortable and optimistic about the future. Doing that, the 1% or less might continue to enjoy their wealth, lifestyles, and “special status” that provides them access and influence over decisions affecting all of us, and most of us will be content to focus our concerns on family matters and the NFL.
Sadly, the ultra rich are not that smart. The greed and lust for money and power are too great. Instead, they continue to hoard their riches, ignore the needs of the many and continue destroying the planet while they party, feast, and drink oblivious to the tsunami that is gathering on the horizon.
Even at the last moment when they finally understand their wealth, opulence, and power are meaningless and worthless, they will look out at a dying world in utter disbelief and confusion and utter, “How could this happen?”