Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kinds of Power 9

Much of the basic furniture standing around in our minds was set there by Victorians between the 1830s and 1890s. It belongs to the heroic age of industialism and imperialism, deriving its style from steam engines and railroad tracks extending into a limitless horizon.

Whatever stands in the way can be met by fixing or fighting.

These inherited furnishings are not easy to move, especially since they are remnants of social Darwinism, the philosophical base of the modern age.

Social Darwinism can be condensed into a sequence of propositions. Progress is natural. What is natural is God-given. Therefore, progress is good. Progress advances by means of natural selection; the superior rise and the inferior fall out. There are always more at the bottom than at the top, more weeds than hybrid roses, so hierarchy is natural.

Because of the numerically narrowing ascending pyramid, natural selection requires competition which allows the fittest to survive. Only the fittest survive the competitive struggle. Survival is assured by getting to the top, and staying on top.

Each of these formulas regarding progress, selection, survival and upward struggle can be subsumed under one dominant idea: growth.

Growth has come to be a major indication of power and a term that substitutes for it, since the ability to grow assumes an innate potential to survive and to win out in the competitive jungle.

"Grow or die" is the prevailing modern doctrine fueled by anxiety, fear, arrogance and ego.

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