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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Praise of the Death of American Democracy?
Democracy as it currently stands in America is probably the greatest single obstacle to human development, and therefore also to spiritual realization.
Democracy as it currently stands in America is probably the greatest single obstacle to human development, and therefore also to spiritual realization at higher levels of development, which is what integral philosophy is about if it is about anything at all. Of course, MAGA supporters appear to oppose democracy, too, but that is a symptom of a much larger problem, and that is the illegitimacy of democracy as a system that represents the interests of economic and political elites rather than the will of the people that vote.
Researchers from Princeton, no Marxist haven for academics, conclude that
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
Thus American democracy is, in effect, rule by elite interests, and democracy is no more than a figment of the collective imagination. Moreover, public opinion polls consistently register that a majority of Americans support things like universal health care, maternity leave, labor union and abortion rights, strong gun and environmental regulations, but little or no progress is made in these areas, specifically because of corporate special interests who contribute to political campaigns.
The current crisis of democracy is therefore a crisis of the representation of elite and corporate interests as the popular will. This frustrates the popular will against democracy, and so democracy as the representation of the will of the oligarchy, the economic elites who pay for the politicians to get elected and to represent their interests, must die for the will, desires, and needs of the people to be realized. MAGA supporters feel used, betrayed, and abandoned by the political and economic elites because that's precisely what has happened to them. If this is what representative democracy in America brings to people then democracy in America must die.
The employment of politicians as managers of citizen-workers by oligarchs who own the public sphere, which means not only the work and political spaces but the communication spaces of social and corporate media, must end if human development is to progress rather than regress into a neo-feudal order of parasitic dependency, aka a co-dependent relationship of addiction to wealth accumulation as the mode of societal organization.
If the oligarchs are unwilling or unable to change themselves from within, and they can't because they are wealth addicts and psychopaths, politicians being the bought and paid for pimps and prostitutes for the oligarchs, then they must be changed from without, and if not by means of mandatory psychedelic therapy for all political candidates as I have proposed elsewhere, then by a revolution or coup whereby “democracy” would be overthrown. Such a death of American democracy would in reality be the death of the American oligarchy, a praiseworthy outcome if there ever was one. And that, my fellow Americans, is what the January 6th insurrection was really about, albeit in the frustrated political unconscious of its perpetrators who chose Trump as an extremely poor substitute for the oligarchy they sought to replace. But how can this death of “democracy” actually come about, what would it look like, and would it actually be any better than oligarchy?
The key to recovery from any addiction is first an abstinence from the substance or thing one is addicted to, which is money in the case of the current system, which compels everyone, and some people more than others, to value it (money) over any other thing or substance. Now, to exist in the absence of something one must be self-sufficient and without need of that thing to exist. This would mean in the context of the present discussion that either everyone could exist without money (including politicians who need it to keep their jobs), or what amounts to the same thing, that money would no longer be a scarce commodity that one must urgently and anxiously acquire in order to exist at a certain level of minimal sustenance, and which would cause one to compromise oneself in order to acquire it.
In the absence of the compulsion for money one would no longer be compelled to secure enough money to exist by any and all means necessary, but would be provided enough to meet ones needs in relative abundance, in short with a Universal Basic Income, with a guarantee of employment, and/or with enough public funds to campaign for political office, all equivalent to being put on a methadone recovery program, so to speak, for our involuntary addiction to money. Here we all need to learn modern monetary theory (MMT) and the possibilities it gives us as a weapon in the class war the oligarchs have been waging against the people for lower wages and financial dependency on the oligarchs. Indeed, austerity generates desperation, and desperation is the mother of dependency, or what I'm calling here a heroin-like addiction to money, where MMT is the methadone.
However all of this is just a fantasy wish-list, a “what if” scenario of waving a magic wand and being granted the conditions necessary for carrying out our solutions. The real beginning of change would look more like the January 6th scenario where the ritual procedure of transferring power from one oligarch to another would be physically disrupted and overthrown. The current oligarchs say that the only alternative to their “democracy” would be autocracy in the evil form of Russia's Putin and China's Xi, but in the form of Trump.
However if one looks at how Putin and Xi have actually controlled their billionaire oligarchs by preventing them from initiating financial coups and power grabs over national interests rather than allowing their billionaire oligarchs to control (and employ) politicians, as in the Western “free world”, one might begin to see the possible virtue of having an autocrat in charge, albeit not of the sort that billionaire Donald Trump would be, who is an autocratic oligarch, or an autocrat for the oligarchs, who totally blows their cover and embarrasses the hell out of them, endearing him to “the people” and enraging the oligarchs.
But what about a benevolent autocrat, one who can control the oligarchs not in the personal interest of himself and his family, or a party ideology, but in the interest of the people of a nation? Would such a philosopher-king be the solution to the pathologies of the system of wealth addiction and the compromising of our humanity that it entails? In ancient Greece they called such autocrats “tyrants”, strongmen rulers who overthrew the oligarchs, cancelled their debt peonage of peasants, and redistributed the land the oligarchs seized from the indebted peasants. This is what the true philosopher-king was to the ancient Greeks, one who could become a benevolent tyrant, and it's also what Michael Hudson argues was the true message of Jesus, the philosopher-king of the Jews who advocated for a debt jubilee (deliverance from their sins) as the salvation of the people.
Unfortunately we already had a Jew, Bernie Sanders, who may have served as a benevolent autocrat and philosopher-king for the people, but the oligarchs weren't going to allow that, especially Obama and Lloyd Blankfein (another Jew, ironically, and incidentally an historical repeat of Jesus vs the money-lenders?) who publically declared Sanders off-limits as the Democratic nominee. And when the banking oligarchs speak the Democrats listen, or in Obama's case they make phone calls on behalf of the banking oligarchs, being the largest campaign donors who literally hire Congress as the political employees of Wall Street, and sometimes eventually get them beach-front property in the Hampton's. This underscores why the system cannot be changed from within as Sanders tried to do, but must be overthrown, as Trump tried to do but failed.
So where do we go from here? Marianne Williamson and RFK Jr. have chosen to run within the Democratic party, which rules them out as possible sources of change. As I have already argued, change cannot happen within a corrupt party ruled by money and dependent on private sources of money that will not allow the current system not to be ruled by money. Just ask Wall Street if a Bernie Sanders candidate will ever become POTUS. Cornel West on the other hand has chosen to play the divisive race-card from the woke side of the equation, which rules him out as a serious contender as well, as not enough white people are infected with self-hatred for their ancestors to vote for him, despite the disapproval of (most) white people for the racial views of (some) of their ancestors and contemporaries.
If change can't come from political candidates, if we don't have the pragmatic sense and courage to put them through mandatory psychedelic therapy, then change must come from the people themselves. And as I have argued here, that would begin with recovery from our addiction to money and financial dependency on the oligarchs. This would mean ending money as a scarce commodity that we need to survive and which is accessible in sufficient amounts only to the few, putting us all into a psychological mode of anxious desperation and a willingness to compromise our humanitarian and spiritual values, pimping and whoring ourselves to a sense of security.
The good news is that the power of a sovereign government with its own currency is precisely what can allow us to kick the habit of dependency on artificial scarcity created by oligarchic hoarding of the money supply known as supply-side economics, where money is given to the oligarchs in subsidies and at low interest rates to create jobs mostly for their profits. Also, banks parasitically make compound interest off the money the government allows them to issue by fiat for mortgages and car loans, not to mention student loans. But such money is not used for needed goods and services like free health care and free higher education for all, affordable housing, cheap and efficient mass transportation, or even badly needed repairs to crumbling infrastructure!
Instead, the private profits of the rich are prioritized over the needs of the many by limiting government spending on social programs to the bear minimum, and providing funds to corporate expenditures on the military and scientific research whereby the pharmaceutical industries, for instance, or Elon Musk for that matter, can profit from the government funded research. Why? Because these are the people and the corporate entities who fund the politicians to be their employees once they get elected from the campaign contributions made by these same oligarchs. This of course is what everyone, except SCOTUS apparently, knows as the rigged system of circular monetary feedback from government to private interests and back again in an endless vicious cycle political corruption.
MMT for the people, as I spelled out in my previous essay, puts an end to this supply-side corruption, and no coup to install a benevolent autocrat would even be needed. All that would be required is for the people to understand how the power of MMT is in their hands as citizens of a sovereign government that controls its own currency, and to demand that it be used in their interests rather than in the interests of the oligarchs by going to those town meetings and getting pledges from their representatives to use MMT for the people, once they have been educated in its basics.
Now, putting the power of the national purse in the hands of the people rather than the oligarchs is the ultimate solution to the crisis of democracy, one that would directly address the political unconscious, the unspoken and unarticulated discontent of all those Trumpers who feel used, betrayed, and abandoned by the political elites. But educating the manipulated masses much less economists and intellectuals who benefit from oligarchy into an MMT understanding of how money works (which is so contrary to the false consciousness of most people that it triggers cognitive dissonance in many) and how it can be used to solve so many of the social problems plaguing societal discontent today, may only come when the pitchforks are at the door. And then it will be too late for Obama or Lloyd Blankfein to do anything about it, except to securely lock the doors on their beach-front property in the Hampton's.
The task is ours to learn MMT, or let democracy perish.