Mostly. That is, decentralization creates lots of opportunities for dynamic efforts of various sorts, some of which might well be very successful. By “successful in human history”, I write of both history proper (written narratives based upon facts) and also prehistory (the reconstructed narratives of pre-literate men and even of apish ancestors of men). By success, I write of the proper enrichment and complexification of human being, individual and communal, where that enrichment and complexification is such as to encapsulate those realms of Creation reachable by human mind and heart and hands at a particular time. In three earlier essays, I noted that this sort of human development (intertwined with significant evolutionary changes over surprisingly short times) has to take place at multiple levels of human being: individual and small communities and large communities up to that ultimate of all human communities, the Body of Christ which is essentially a completed and perfected human civilization with the Christian Church as its central organ. The three essays which very roughly sketch this viewpoint are:
- What is the Totality of a Human Life?: Individuals and Communities.
- What is the Totality of a Human Life?: Individual and Communal Intent
- What is the Totality of a Human Life?: Unity, Coherence, and Completeness
I also wrote the first in the set of another three essays, Is God’s Creation Compatible with Centralization of Authority and Power?, before realizing I was ahead of myself in the sense I was far from ready to write this essay, the second in the series. To keep the momentum, I’ve decided to write in a more tentative way than I had planned. A third essay, even more tentative, will pretty much follow directly from the first two, trying to pull it all together.
I’m ever repetitive during the months or years when I’m developing a new line of thought, and somewhat repetitive on a consistent basis. Perhaps I’m too concerned about those who come into the development of my ideas at a point where much water has already gone under the bridge. But I’m also ever going at my important ideas from various directions, trying to find the best way to develop a particular idea in the context of an increasing and increasingly complex set of ideas, in the context of a developing worldview.
For the past few years, my philosophical thoughts have been largely concerned with human communities and their reality. Now, I’m turning to an effort to describe some more dynamic aspects of human being. These dynamic aspects come into play in this situation because I’ll take a position related to that of Adam Smith, of classical liberals and libertarians in general. The classical liberals and libertarians say that individual human beings form contractual and breakable relationships that provide for their needs and desires; I say that individual human beings along with the fundamental communities baked in our genes form relationships that lead to the formation of new human communities and even new types of human communities. Many of these newly formed communities will last for at least some generations and perhaps so long as humanity exists in this mortal realm. And some of these communities will reflect back and cause deep changes even in individual human being—changes which, if they last and lead to reproductive advantages for some, might be baked into the genes of future generations of individual human beings.
And so it is that I can claim that structures akin to hierarchical structures arise naturally, through the processes of community formation and especially in response to demographic factors and to increases in cultural or technological sophistication. Ideally, most structures will be—or least will evolve and develop to be—confederal or distributivist in the sense that authority and power is located at the lowest level possible.
I’m not trying to write any sort of complete account—if such is possible since I claim that new forms of human being come into existence with these new communities and even inside of individuals and of pre-existing communities as the new grows out of relationships involving individuals and those pre-existing communities. The production of better understandings of human being as it is and as it was will itself lead to enrichments and complexifications, new forms of human being.
I might be writing a book covering human being in a bit more detail—it seems nearly impossible that I can write such a book in less than a few years or so. For now, and as I explore new ways of thinking about this interesting stuff and non-stuff which is us, I’m motivating myself to move on and do more disciplined thinking about human being in the context of all of Creation. Perhaps some of my readers might also move on to such thinking and exposition of the results. For now, I’ll write a few paragraphs about the sorts of issues to be considered.
A man can’t do what that man can’t do. More of some things, such as irrigation or building defensive walls or temples, can be done by greater numbers of human beings. Some things, such as the forging of new types of weapons or tools or jewelry, can only be done by those who have the creativity and technical skills for innovations of that sort; on an ongoing basis, such work can be done by those at not so high a level of creativity but having at least steady hands and good eyes and good procedural memories. In effect, more people can lead to new forms of communal human being and so can a population with an increased number of certain types of individual human beings or new types of small-scale human communities—such as guilds which develop and pass on skills. Archaeology and ancient literature (including the book of Genesis) tells of the importance of new technology which was dependent upon the development of new skills.
Culture, in the form of literary or philosophical or artistic works, give human beings of a certain time and place an understanding of at least a major region of this world and maybe even of the Cosmos by some definition. The West, which seems to be enduring a prolonged, self-inflicted death, had a Christian Civilization of extraordinary depth and richness which drew upon the teachings of early Church Fathers. Western Civilization also drew upon the various Indo-European cultures, including those of Rome and Greece, and, over time, drew somewhat upon various Asian and North African cultures. The tightly related understandings found in the West had become the sea to the European fish swam by at least the early Modern Era—say, around 1300. The sea is draining and becoming more and more toxic by the day, but this is a sea which can be replenished by the efforts of men. The replenishment would take much hard work and some amount of time (perhaps a generation or two if we get to work yesterday with a major effort), but it’s quite possible. It’s more likely that sophisticated schools of full-blooded, sacramental Christian fish will soon enough be swimming in a sea with Chinese or Russian minerals and salts, but I’m trying to start this replenishment with waters and minerals and salts flavored in my Gaelic and Saxon and Roman and American ways.
What can I say about the technological aspects of human life in this regard? Don’t we all know that knowledge, true and false, can be distributed more rapidly by way of printed books than by handwritten texts on expensive parchments or animal hides? And the speed grew so much with radio and then television and then cheap recordings of music and movies and documentary materials. We’re nearly at the point where current human information could be put on small devices which would be affordable for many; at the same time, vast amounts of falsely or truly presented events could play their way across the widest of screens even as they occur. For now, this has played a role in a tremendous drop in literacy, which is the foundation of the styles of thinking which have produced the cultural and technological products of the West. (See From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun for a historian’s brilliantly detached telling of this decline in literacy and in the styles of thinking which led to quantum physics as well as to the poetry of W. H. Auden as well as to the truths and the partly manufactured image of American greatness—see The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel J Boorstin.)
There are more discussions, perhaps more than one complete book, that I hope to provide. I think that there is much that can be done, perhaps better, by others in this endeavor I have trouble even naming, but here’s another try within this context: I wish to describe the sea and its minerals and salts as it’s replenished by me and by others.
So, for those who think I strayed from the topic of this essay: God’s Creation is quite compatible with decentralization. In fact, most of the evolutionary and developmental processes in at least this concrete world occur by processes of self-organization, decentralized processes being explored under sometimes misleading terms such as “chaos theory” or “complexity theory” as opposed to centralized design or control processes. The odd thing is that these decentralized processes do build the hierarchical structures so beloved and misunderstood by the advocates of top-down design and control processes. And so easily corrupted into centralized, top-down control structures by those meaning well or ill for their fellowmen.
The longer discussions are delayed while I work out some ideas and some possible paths forward. I won’t have the final answers anytime soon, probably not in my lifetime on earth, but I hope to be providing some interesting possibilities before the end of 2017. Until then, I’ll be writing about various topic, some related directly to this line of thought and some not so related.