Uncommon Sense

February 16, 2018

More on Civilization

In recent posts I have been parsing the claim that, if I may use Karen Armstrong’s words again, “… historians argue, without this cruel arrangement that did violence to the vast majority of the population, humans would not have developed the arts and sciences that made progress possible. Civilization itself required a leisured class to cultivate it, and so our finest achievements were for thousands of years built on the backs of an exploited peasantry.

If one accepts this argument as being valid, then I must ask: why is it necessary that the coercion and exploitation of the masses continue as it has? Isn’t it time to say, well now that we have civilized societies all over the globe and extended the benefits to all people, poorer people should no longer be exploited.

Basically, I am asking if this coercion/oppression is the driver of civilization, will it ever end?

Will it? Will we say “Enough!” loud enough to get the elites to drop the whip? Or do we need to, as Charleton Heston once inferred, “Pry it from their cold dead hands.”

The answer to this question may revolve around crafting a new role for the elites. If we, for example, were to laud “Stewards of Humanity” enough, might it become attractive enough to elites to have them stop the exploitation and start helping people instead or would people, like the Koch brothers, think “that’s what we have been doing all along.” Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt any more, and I suspect that we would need to be very, very clever to pull something like that off.

Have any ideas about what attributes someone would have to have to qualify as a Steward of Humanity?


  1. I agree we will have to be very, very clever to pull off changing the way the elites think and act. As to those Koch boys, yeah I know they say it is pronounced like coke (I do watch PBS now and then even these days, not often, but enough to have heard some supposed science type program sponsored by one of them) I call them koch as in the former mayor of New York city. I often add an “r” to their name, yep, krotch boys.
    The biggest obstacle, my opinion, is not just getting them to think and act like stewards, but getting them to stop their bloody greed. I know I must sound like a broken record as I am sure I’ve said this here before, if the top 1% of the top 1% owned the entire solar system, they’d still want even more. Hell, if they owned the entire Milky Way Galaxy, they’d still want more. How can we even begin to combat, let alone over come that sort of greed? Oh, I need to add, without resorting to a bullet to the brain pan.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — February 16, 2018 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

    • Ah, I did mention prying the whips from their cold, dead hands did I not. This is a BATNA they would be wise to realize. Right now they are fearless and we cannot let that continue.

      On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 3:29 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 17, 2018 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  2. I find the term “Steward of Humanity” quite offensive. It implies that civilization and human prosperity are dependent upon elitism. I reject that notion on historical grounds which clearly detail our very complex and multi-faceted social evolution. Furthermore, how would one define being elite?

    Is it hereditary, as in royalty and monarchy?
    Is it material, as in oligarchy and plutocracy?
    Is it psychological, as in dictatorship?
    Is it ideological, as in theocracy?
    Is it intellectual, as in technocracy?

    Hereditary arguments have been consistently refuted by genetics over the last century or so. Material arguments have been likewise discounted by sociology which show that the accumulation of wealth results more from familial inheritance and good luck than any “superior” ability to succeed. Psychological arguments are obviously erroneous as the rise of megalomaniacal dictators directly relate to a population’s negative social circumstances. Ideological arguments are irrational; and, intellectual arguments correlate more towards education than to innate cognitive capacities.

    The ancient Athenians were generally right (but not perfect). That’s why they developed democratic governance and created a highly advanced civilization.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Robert A. Vella — February 16, 2018 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

    • I am defining elites by the Golden Rule … Them’s that has the gold makes the rules. You seem to be impose your idea of who is an elite onto this discussion. I am speaking of elites as drivers of civilization. I tend to think of them as being neither refined nor cultured, but typically white (in this country) and male, and mostly being insensitive assholes, which is what wealth and power do to you.

      I would like them to stop contesting with one another as to who can be more, or the most, wealthy and the bigger asshole and start contesting as to who can benefit other people the most. That is all I am saying. Find a way to wean them from obscene riches and political power for their own ends and move them over into working for us all.

      On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 3:52 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 16, 2018 @ 7:42 pm | Reply

      • Never mind, I didn’t think you’d understand.


        Comment by Robert A. Vella — February 16, 2018 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

        • Apparently I did not. I am speaking of aristocrats, defined loosely as those who do not work for a living as the elites (wealthy people who live off of investments, etc.). I am aware of an historical urge to allow elites to rule/govern. Our Founding Fathers were elitists, for example. I am probably just hammering home my lack of understanding here.


          Comment by Steve Ruis — February 17, 2018 @ 7:54 am | Reply

  3. My grandparents taught me that we all should be good stewards of this planet. I have to agree with Robert here, stewards of humanity just sounds way to elitist to my old grumpy self.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — February 16, 2018 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

  4. Is a social hierarchy not inevitable in our species? And if that’s the model, doesn’t the rest just unfold “naturally”?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by The Pink Agendist — February 17, 2018 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

    • The purpose of society is to moderate the extremes as well as to be the whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The whole purpose of gossip, for example, was to make sure everyone in the tribe was aware of everyone else’s strengths, weaknesses, and misdeeds. In that way nobody was caught unawares of a member of the group who broke the rules. And, just because someone in the group had superior qualifications, that did not make them a god. In the story of Gilgamesh, the story includes the people complaining about King Gilgamesh who does what he wants to whom he wants, so the taking on of airs and “rights” began very early. These should have been checked earlier on because one thing leads to another. “Aristocrats” got and stayed rich by raiding other tribes, villages, cities. They developed an attitude that it was their way to take what they wanted by force and disdained mere traders or farmers as being beneath them. And, as you said, one thing lead to another. But what if the “gods” wanted something else from the aristos? What if the gods wanted them to be caretakers fo the people? What if they had not been rewarded with riches, but with respect? One can dream.

      On Sat, Feb 17, 2018 at 12:57 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 17, 2018 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

      • There was an interesting debate happening during the last French election concerning how the concept of aristocracy has morphed. It used to be officialised with titles and rank, and based primarily on birthright. That was done openly. What developed in the post war era was a very similar model, but with different labels. Sometimes concealed labels. What hasn’t changed is how it’s the people controlling the most resources who can and will create the best conditions for their offspring.


        Comment by The Pink Agendist — February 18, 2018 @ 4:17 am | Reply

        • I had another thought: it is interesting that now, the “titled” of our society prefer anonymity rather that overt displays of their rank. The Koch brothers hid their political activities and themselves for quite some time. They do not need the limelight and indeed secure their fortunes by making sure their children get the best of everything and, also, make sure that the mass’s children get training to be drones and not competitors to their children. They only believe in “competition” when it involves others, not themselves.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — February 18, 2018 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  5. I wonder how it was that “ranks” and titles came into being. I suspect that once a small group of elites got the top slots, they had to fend off wannabes, so they defined a ladder for them to climb. Give the wannabes a title when they provided a large enough bribe and then create titles for them to aspire to, each one being a step closer to the top, but not being the top (from the perspective of those at the top). There is nothing inherently logical or sacred about those titles. The same thing happened in the church.

    Those who still have titles but not the wealth/power to be still climbing the latter and hanging on to whatever they can keep of the trappings of those positions. And we still defer to these … people. Merde!


    Comment by Steve Ruis — February 18, 2018 @ 9:02 am | Reply

    • Modern titles like duke, marquis and count were first public offices under Merovingian kings. Soon they became hereditary as people wanted to give their offspring “birthright” advantages. And the mythology associating nobility to valour is born much later.


      Comment by The Pink Agendist — February 18, 2018 @ 11:50 am | Reply

      • The “royals” were connecting themselves to the “gods” as soon as they became royals. They also were connected with their personal gains. The first thing a medieval Pope did was to enrich himself and his family, then he got around to politics, but first things first. The gods and the power were to gather wealth for themselves and their families. The earliest elites say their “kingdom” and their people as their property because in effect they stole them from the previous owner and possession is nine-tenths of the law, whether there is any law or not. Hammurabi codified the role of the royals to protect the weak from the strong (gag, choke, puke) and invented the direct appeal to the monarch as an indicator of this. That was straight window dressing designed to convince the masses that their king as “good” and should not be rebelled against.

        There is nothing I see in history that contradicts that the elites have to be killed to stop them, something as a collectivist I find very, very depressing.

        On Sun, Feb 18, 2018 at 11:50 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:


        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Steve Ruis — February 18, 2018 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  6. The kind of people who want power are usually the last people who should have it. Democracy had the right idea in that it opened up the opportunity for less self-interested people to take on positions of responsibility. Perhaps a pragmatic approach is all that is needed. Just a tough line on keeping criminals, especially middle class con artists of every variety – white collar criminals – out of high positions, and ruthlessly expel any engaged in criminal activity. The default position seems, without excluding criminals we end up being ruled by criminals every time. With the results we see.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by conartistocracy — March 8, 2018 @ 6:59 am | Reply

    • We need more control over our elections to effect this. The Costa Ricans, who based their federal government structure on ours, add a fourth branch of government, and independent group which runs all of the elections: the debates, the balloting, the whole thing. Imagine what our elections would be like if they were run by, say, the League of women Voters, rather than the political parties themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 8, 2018 @ 8:29 am | Reply

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