CAN the “swamp” be drained?

And if so, under what conditions?

Once, as a doctoral student in philosophy, I taught a seminar at Boston University that generated a tension between two books: Summerhill and Lord of the Flies.

Both books focus on a group of British school children, and both ask the same implied question: Given immense freedom, what would children do with it?

In 1972 I was hired by the then very experimental New College of California, only one year old (this school finally closed in 2008), and entered the fray as a celebrated Socratic teacher who refused to grade for classes, didn’t require classes, and passionately be-lie-ved in education as “educare” —  pulling up the wisdom buried within rather than inputing data from the outside. To this end I argued long and vociferously with other teachers, students, and the idealistic college president at our Monday morning weekly Community Council meetings where the educational policy was hammered out by all of us “as equals.” I put that phrase in quotes because, as I pointed out at the time, “then why are some of us paying and some of us getting paid?”

Predictably, after one year, as the most radical teacher, the college trustees decided to fire me. Looking back now, I realize that I, and just about everybody else there, had been influenced hugely by Summerhill, as per this review of After Summerhill: What Happened to the Pupils of Britain’s Most Radical School?

Summerhill is notable for the fact that it does not require any of its pupils to attend lessons. Furthermore, the school is run by a council of pupils, teachers and houseparents where questions of discipline are decided democratically. What, one may ask, is the likely outcome of sending a child to such a school?

My focus on personal freedom is still very much with me, and in that sense I am very American, indeed, red-blooded, and over the past few years, decidedly red-pilled! On the other hand, after founding a number of experiments in human community at different intensities and scales, I’ve become a bit more nuanced in my views, recognizing that we all need some kind of external structure as well, one which allows and encourages cooperation between free individuals.

Do we call this structure “government”? Well, we certainly can, and do, especially when we try to scale up such cooperation. And, it seems to me now, we need to radically de-centralize on this planet, so that governmental structures cannot get too big, but instead, are built into households, neighborhoods, and small communities, themselves  networked into bioregions. My reasoning? Larger centralizing structures are much more likely to degenerate into faceless metastasizing bureaucracies, at best, and/or vile, corruption-ridden deep states at worst.

The two books I focused on for that long ago seminar both ask the question,  is (external) “government” necessary? And their conclusions are polarized: utopia vs. dystopia. Fifty years later, although my viewpoint is more nuanced, I am still asking that same question. Indeed, it may be the question that drives my entire life.

As Q continues the flood of new posts (19 yesterday, after 31 the day before), as radioactive fall out from the Jeffrey Epstein arrest continues, essays like this begin to enter the news cycle —

The Jeffrey Epstein Case Has the Potential to Be The Biggest Scandal in American History

— alternating with gobs of salivating MSM posts that continue to attempt, and fail, to tie Trump with Epstein.

Let’s admit it folks: all of us are longing for some kind of utopia where only “good government” exists, and the bad guys have all been taken down. Or at least that’s one part of me; a larger part of me knows damn well that the problem is (the scale of) government itself. And that even so, “government” does seem to be necessary, since at least at this point in our evolution we humans do not seem to be mature enough as a species to police our own behavior, to recognize our own projections, and thus learn how to truly cooperate without some kind of external authority telling us what we can and cannot do. In other words, according to most people the only alternative to government, good or bad, does seem to be chaos, or, to make it personal: EVIL.

Here’s 18th century philosopher David Hume on the subject:“Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then cometh evil?”

Here’s an interesting take on this question, one which begins with Plato’s Cave (something not enough contemporary people know about, as I discover whenever I wear my Plato’s Cave T-shirt), and ends . . . where?

Most important: to keep our questions alive, especially during times like this one, with “chaos” lapping at the shores of our collective psyche during a year of record floods, seemingly drowning the swamp even as evil creatures are plucked from it and held up for all to see and learn from.

Plato’s Cave and The Matrix

 

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