Thwarted Intelligence Disorder
EDITORIAL, 28 Oct 2019
Simple people go about their lives in simple ways – farming, fishing, carpentry, baking … and more. Sometimes they are happy, and sometimes they are sad; sometimes they celebrate, and sometimes they quarrel. Not being very “sophisticated”, they cannot even articulate clearly that they are “pursuing their self-interest”.
Billions of people have lived their lives in this manner over tens of thousands of years. We hope that simple people will continue living their lives in simple ways for millennia more.
But – alas! – things are not that simple; there is a “deadly fly in the ointment”.
Some members of Homo Implacatus do not like to live simple lives. Neglecting basic biology, self-proclaimed “highly civilized” people consider themselves another kind of being altogether. They label simple people as “deplorable”, “lower caste” … et cetera.
Amongst the self-proclaimed “highly civilized” people, it is seen as a mark of sophistication, refinement and smartness to apply all of one’s intelligence – along with its hired, stolen and feigned variety – towards one’s “enlightened self-interest”.
Amongst these people, “self-interest” has a meaning which is surprisingly consistent across cultures; to them, “self-interest” denotes a steady increase in one’s wealth, status, power, fame, options for sense pleasure … et cetera. Strictly for the sake of argument – keeping all our reservations on hold – we shall stay with that meaning of “self-interest”.
With that meaning, however, the second word “enlightened” becomes hugely problematic – because that meaning of “self-interest” has nothing whatsoever to do with enlightenment. In fact the word “enlightened” appears here merely as a disguise or a fig-leaf. To speak of “self-interest” without a glorifying adjective gives the game away – that is, the uncivilized and unrefined game of greed and lust; and hence the glorifying adjective.
In practical terms, “enlightened” seems only to mean “while appearing smart and not getting exposed”. In so-called “civilized society”, it would be bad form to suggest that “enlightened” might have something to do with truth and compassion. Eyebrows would be raised.
Among such people, when the phrase “enlightened self-interest” is tossed in, it serves as a signal to convey this hint: “I know how the game is played, if you know what I mean”. In any society, the ugly truth of “naked self-interest” must be disguised in “civilized” language.
In such a world view, a person’s worth is reckoned by how much he or she contributes to the aggregate societal pool of the illusion of refinement. No law of conservation applies to illusion. Therefore, through clever PR tricks, illusion can be multiplied over and over, without any upper limit. With the help of technology, a “smoke-and-mirrors civilization” of illusion and deception is created. Everyone is in thrall to it – and especially the high priests and priestesses of the said “civilization”, who invariably stand to gain the most from it.
Wealth is the indispensable fuel for such a “civilization” – and therefore it must be kept rolling in somehow, anyhow. If pools of cheap labour dry up, other means are quickly taken up. Lying, cheating, torture, murder, robbery, war … all this is “grist to the mill” for the self-proclaimed “civilization”. High priests and priestesses duly sanctify “whatever it takes”.
Thus do we contrast the life of “sophisticates” with the lives of simple people.
Unfortunately for all such so-called “civilizations”, Mother Nature has something else up her sleeve – the laws of inertia and of diminishing returns. Over time, and inexorably, empires of illusion and deception crash against these laws.
The time periods for which fruits of such a “civilization” are enjoyed are getting shorter and shorter. Using computer simulations, present-day MBAs and PhDs can run through scenarios in a few hours which a court adviser in earlier times might have taken a few weeks to work through. We are faster by at least two orders of magnitude today – but miscalculations and disasters are as common as before; and therefore structures tumble down faster.
Today the myths of “civilization” are confusing the plunderers as well. Brutal tricks which worked in earlier centuries are not working out so well. Other people have seen through the dirty games of the “civilized”. As desperation sets in among the latter, their tricks become even more puerile and ineffective. Search for short-term gains leads to long-term decay.
The root cause appears to be intelligence which is (a) muddied by greed and lust, and (b) boxed in by total lack of compassion; a deadly combination commonly mistaken for strength.
With their muddied and deluded intelligence, the “elite” have trouble accepting the unity of mankind. Emotionally, they are unable to accept oneness in kind with the poor, the deprived and the simple people. Having fallen into the delusion of being “another in kind” altogether, they further justify their relentless exploitation of common people.
Today the “elite” are in a dead-end situation and are incapable of finding a way out. Their desperate antics are attempts to deny and to run away from the simple truth of oneness of mankind; they betray fear and denial of suffering – not its acceptance as a noble truth.
The deep-down sense of being boxed-in, and the outward display of greed, lust and vanity, form a deadly vicious cycle with no avenue of escape. Desperate antics – akin to rattling and banging the cage – only make matters worse; the only possible prognosis is senility.
One is tempted to call this state of mind the “thwarted intelligence disorder” (TID); words such as “demonic” have been used for such conditions in earlier times.
In a globally interdependent world, how does this disorder affect life on the planet?
For answers, one must first see through the many seemingly sensible labels applied to different ways of being muddied and boxed-in – labels such as “modern”, “liberal”, “conservative”, “socialist”, “progressive”, “expert”, “elite”, “western”, “eastern”, “white”, “non-white” … blah blah blah. The list is endless. Each label has some emotional appeal; each is a different way of covering up the unspeakable underlying reality, a kind of adult fairy tale.
Each such label is but another way of building structures in the mind to deceive oneself and thereby to deceive others. Over time, the walls close in; all labels being in the same category, one label cannot exorcise another. One brand of deception cannot cure another.
A headlong rush towards wealth, fame and power is a rush to sustain one’s delusions, to avoid facing the truth. But has history ever rewarded delusion?
Fortunately, for an individual, there is a way to avoid delusion.
The first step has to be clear diagnosis. Folly must be seen clearly for what it is. It is an error to be in awe of it, no matter how much “worldly power” folly commands.
An individual must see through the elaborate stage show of deception. The deceivers usually figure out an individual weakness which can be exploited; hence the need for self-knowledge. One must understand oneself better than any deceiver does.
To be able to imagine and develop alternatives, one needs to disengage from the games of power and wealth. Over millennia, there have been many great teachers who have explained these matters simply and clearly – Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ, Jalaluddin Rumi and others. Their original, clear, first-hand message must be re-interpreted in today’s world.
Beyond what is intelligible, there is literally “nothing” for intelligence to blabber about. To fulfil itself – of necessity – intelligence must see its own limit; that is the litmus test. An individual must sense not only that limit, but also that there is no squirming out of that limit.
For the victims of TID, however, all that is nonsense. And therefore their false show of hubris must go on – for fame, sense pleasure or a few pieces of gold.
Unfortunately, the thoughtless antics of TID victims are today causing immense harm to all life on the planet; TID has become a deadly serious malady.
Is youth a messenger of Mother Nature?
An amazing event, unprecedented in the history of mankind, occurred in mid-September. Youngsters the world over took their elders to task for neglecting grave dangers to the planetary ecosystems.
Most youngsters – because they have not yet “grown up”! – have not fallen into the trap of muddied and boxed-in intelligence. Their intelligence is sparkling with freshness, clarity and indomitable spirit; it has not yet sunk to the level of naked self-interest masquerading as “enlightened self-interest”.
We pray that these youngsters achieve all that they have set out to achieve – and much more! If need be, they must “kick some elder butt”, but that would all for the good of mankind. To be honest, we would enjoy the spectacle immensely! One cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but perhaps one can cower old dogs into submission.
Therefore, Dear Youth – more power to all of you! Most so-called “leaders of societies” are trapped by their own crooked and limited intelligence. Set them free with a well-directed kick to their lower backside!
Dr. Naresh Jotwani is a semi-retired academic living in India and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. Apart from part-time engagements in engineering education and consulting, he engages in an in-depth, personal exploration of how Gautam Buddha’s profound discoveries and teachings can be applied to the acute problems of modern life.
Tags: Nonviolence, Politics, Social justice, Solutions, World
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Oct 2019.
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