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Spokes 7: The Pathos of Politics  (Table of Contents) {Notes}

The future of the human race is in the hands of politicians. Are we doomed?

Spokes 7 unfurls the history of political thought and its actuality, arriving at modern times, where dysfunctionality reigns.


From the section on Religion, in the chapter on The Descent of Polity:

There can be no overstatement about the importance of religion in human sociological development. Beyond family ties, religion played a critical role in establishing group solidarity and social order, particularly in codifying behavioral norms. It is difficult to imagine how humans could have evolved beyond clans without religion and associated rituals that form the basis for cultural indoctrination.

Political philosophy has ever been inexorably entwined with religiosity. Modern states have not abandoned the religious mantra. Far from it. The supposedly secular United States is exemplary.

Reacting against godless communism, the phrase "under God" was tacked onto the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. President Dwight Eisenhower approved "In God we trust" as the national motto in 1956, following a Congressional joint resolution. "In God we trust" has been on US coins since 1864, and on paper currency since 1957. No objection has ever been made by any politician holding federal office.


From the section on Statehood:

All political regimes have been elaborate expressions of human territoriality. Governance has always been exercise in resource apportionment.

Historically, the surpluses that support civilization have been agricultural; the toil of peasants and slaves in the fields, propping up urbanity. Only since industrialization has ingenuity played an especial role in producing economic surplus outside of food production.


From the section on The American Revolution:

The United States of America began in the early 17th century as an appendage of Europe. Native Americans were slaughtered and African slaves imported by European interlopers, who for decades considered the country a place to mine precious metals or reap a rich harvest of tobacco before returning to the Old World to retire to a life of luxury. But by the 18th century, Americans began to think of their country as a place with a unique character and destiny of its own.

Time wore at the ties to the mother country. In their place sprouted new habits and ideals, and a cultural fabric spun from heritage, but with a strongly self-reliant weave.

The British engendered autonomy with a prolonged period of salutary neglect. John Adams accurately appraised the dynamic when he wrote "the revolution was effected before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people."


From the chapter on Modern Government:

Throughout history, the core functions of government have ever been essentially the same: to control the populace, but especially, to extract bounty, so that the government may rule over them. Ultimately, government is parasitic.

But more parasitic to some than others. Governmental revenue flows represent a redistribution from the less favored to the preferred.

With rare historical exception, the disadvantaged classes are squeezed to benefit those not needing further enrichment. As power flows to the powerful, governments are, by nature, plutocratic.


From the section on Education:

From a political standpoint, an ill-educated electorate represents a danger to democracy, in easily being swayed by demagoguery. This prospect was so feared by the founders of the American republic that they refused to sanction democracy, opting instead for indirect election of senators and the President.

Thomas Jefferson saw universal education as "necessary" in "rendering the people guardians of their own liberty." While Jefferson viewed public education as the only effective defense against tyranny, others were more concerned with the potential for anarchy and violence by the ignorant masses.


Spokes 7 surveys the impact that politics has had in shaping societies, and considers the fate of humankind. Leaving the fantasies of ideology behind, Spokes 8 answers the ultimate question: what is reality?