Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Three Peoples and Power

It's all very well to talk about my reductive Three Peoples theory, but what about power? I told an acquaintance about my theory and he immediately started talking about being in meetings where people naturally genuflected towards the guy that exuded power.

Yeah. It's a problem. How do my Three Peoples -- the People of the Subordinate Self, workers and peasants;  the People of the Responsible Self, middle-class bourgeois; and the People of the Creative Self, artists and writers -- stack up with respect to power?

My unconscious finally decided last night, and woke me up to tell me. I think that the determining factor was having lunch with a guy in Manhattan on Monday. He had come up through the Irish Bronx, and his dad had made it as a city bus driver. One day, he told me, the call came in from an Irish friend for his dad to be at the bus depot on Monday morning, and his dad was a made man.

That's how the People of the Subordinate Self relate to power. They don't expect to wield it; they just form up next to a power outlet and hope that one day they get to plug in. Of course the other side of it is that, when the power goes out in the power outlet, or the jobs leave town, or the political regime changes and abandons our subordinate chappies, then they just wither away, "die of despair" in the words of the Washington Post, or even stage a futile riot or uprising. But power, for the People of the Subordinate Self, is something that someone else does for them.

What about the People of the Responsible Self? I think it is pretty obvious that for responsible people, power is something you find and develop in yourself. In consequence, responsible people are in favor of limiting power in the human world: limiting the power of politicians and government, limiting the power of others. The only legitimate power, in the words of Jordan B. Peterson, is the power of competence; you acquire power and status not from force or intimidation but from the power of your competence. And of course competence is a positive power, that benefits the world rather than looting it.

Then we come to our friends, the People of the Creative Self. I've puzzled a bit about this, because I want to keep it simple, and really, power is not all that simple. But I think that the experience of power for People of the Creative Self is encapsulated in the notion "we are the power." Whether we are talking about a king or an elected politician, or a business magnate, or a rich-kid intellectual or a lefty "activist," we are experiencing a person that believes in power, the power of their creative genius to change the world. Now this power might be beneficial, as in the power of a technical innovation to transform peoples' lives or the intellectual power to reform society to reduce injustice. Or it might be the creative force of evil, such as the power of the Frankfurt School intellectuals to create an identity politics that teaches people a new form of hate or the power of a new government program to make people into subordinate drones. And there is the creative power of activism to get people fighting each other.

My point is that power in the People of the Subordinate Self is the power of sucking up to the powerful, using the power of others; power in the People of the Responsible Self is the power of competence, of being useful to other people, a two-way exchange of competence more than power; power in the People of the Creative Self is the power of transformation, transforming the world with the power of your originality, your charisma, your brilliance, projecting yourself upon the world as the source of power and light.

In my view, the power of sucking up, while annoying, is basically harmless; the power of competence is beneficial and social. It is the power of creativity that is the problem, for it drives forward with a self-confidence that is often conceit, secure in the faith of its brilliance but too proud to submit its creative brilliance to the judgement of its fellow men.

In my judgement the great problem of the world is the conceit of the People of the Creative Self and their faith in their own brilliance. For the problem is that there are many brilliant ideas in the world but only a few that are any good. So anyone with half a brain knows that every creative idea needs to go through the annealing fire of a blacksmith's forge and the tempering process of the hammer. The model that works is the business start-up, in which a brilliant technology or business idea is tried out by people that are willing to accept the verdict of the market and their fellow humans.

Right now the business model of the People of the Creative Self is that they enlist the People of the Subordinate Self in their brilliant ideas with visions of sugar-plums, not to mention jobs and pensions. But then, in due course, they tire of their feudal serfs and abandon them. We have seen how the People of the Creative Self seduced and abandoned the white working class, and then seduced in turn blacks and women.

It is my hope that when blacks and women find out how they have been seduced and abandoned they will be ready to enroll in the ranks of the People of the Responsible Self and found their lives upon the acquisition of competence rather than subordination. If and when that happens we will then be able to insist that the proud People of the Creative Self, also called "Cloud People," submit their grand and creative plans to the verdict of their fellow humans, and abandon their current creative model in which the Cloud People get to open their creative ideas on the Great White Way without an out-of-town tryout and then force the rest of us to buy tickets in perpetuity.

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