where governments have been clear what those rules are and why, around the COVID 19 pandemic?
The short answer to this question is that open, free society requires it.
The long answer is a whole lot trickier for most people to get, especially those of us who tend to be obedient.
The problem lies in our primal nature in regards to authority.
Most people are obedient to authority and always have been across a million years.
Simultaneously, people have always exploit loopholes and bent the rules. And creative and imaginative people are better at it than others.
To understand these characteristics we must understand the evolutionary success of human clans and the advancement of human civilisation over the past 10,000 years.
The evolutionary success of human clans are based on primate hierarchical and social support behaviour. This behaviour hinges on an alpha male, a female harem, and progeny. The human alpha male is to a large extent what we now call psychopathic. Their (our) success, as against other primates that haven’t socially changed for millions of years, developed around the opening up of clan society to sycophant males who were allowed female relationships as reward for that submissive support. Their female harem also had a hierarchy. Kinship and successorship to the alpha (chief, king) developed according to the male children of the female hierarchy, although subordinated by the most psychopathic natures in the system.
The political tensions within clans were terrible, with death waiting around every corner, harnessing two types of proclivity: intelligent rebellion for domination; and shame provoked submissiveness. Intelligent rebellion for domination not only lead to successorship of the chief or king but also to the development of hierarchies of sycophancy. In other words, a way to dominate is not to hold the throne but to hold the highest positions in the hierarchy serving the throne. Shame-provoked submissiveness created a safety ‘red-flag’ in all social circumstances from the earliest ages. Children with shame would survive by immediate submissive responses in the face of any authority: parental, older sibling. This is very important in a social environment in which death by an irritated chief was immanent and uncurbed, even for a child.
If we see that the degree of intelligent rebellion and shame wove (and weaves) a composite individual nature, then we can see how political hierarchies eventually developed, as powerful sycophants worked to increase the territories and subjection for their chief. We can also see, as a parallel process, the development of religious hierarchies both as alternative ways to dominate the society and the chief himself. I caution, here, to let go of any impression this is giving that these are simple transactional behaviours. From the earliest human times, dealing with the issues of death and our awareness of our relationship with others and other species, and our killing them for food and resources, has been an existential challenge that required a intelligently deft vision, a meta-story to comfort our burgeoning moral consciousness in the face of requirement for survival. Spiritual and religious visionaries command a space that submits to the right of kingship, while offering comfort to all subjects of their ‘rightness’ in subordinate life and death.
Spiritual and religious visionaries also set up their own hierarchies. Within those hierarchies, additional allowance was made for the freedom for a certain type of intelligence to become immersed in the metaphysical landscape through practices of the mind, language and reflection. As societies advanced, artisans (product makers) became artists. Some artists and religious visionaries shared the proclivities to divine the metaphysical and theological.
A particular form of intelligent rebellion was able to be fostered in larger societies. This took place in the form of a youthfulness that no longer needed deep shame to survive, and an artfulness, a creativity, to formulate new social constructs and ways to promote them. The promotion of new social constructs that mostly challenged the authority of the king, while developing a following in times of general social tribulation, tended to be visited by programs by the political and religious leadership. It is worthwhile pondering the ebb and flow of these tides, as, finally, every civilisation that enters a certain internal tribulation, falters, collapses, and then finds that once youthful vision rise in the populace with a more loos, open (not entirely new) social construct.
Fast-forward to the modern society. Dr Barth Hoogstraten who was a medical student in the Dutch resistance in WWII wrote in the foreword to his 2008 book, “Resistance Fighters: The Immense Struggle of Holland”, that throughout history, students and artists have been in the forefront of struggles against tyranny. In Nazi-occupied Holland, 1,671 Dutch men and women paid the ultimate price for their heroism. Hardship, terrifying suspense, and sacrifice that characterized their life were interspersed with the moments of humor, simple beauty, and love that persevered even in the darkest of days.
In their research on the behaviour of french resistance fighters of WWII, Andre and Alex L. Juliard noted that they found a new insight into the nature of human motivation and into our own psychological makeup may sometimes result from the observation of individuals living in unusual conditions such as people who joined the French “resistance” during World War Il. They had been participants with other young and middle-aged persons who belonged to a “maquis”’ in Southeast France. Their observations induced them to discern in human beings a larger variety of innate aptitudes, or inclinations, than those currently recognized in normal daily existence. Some of these overlooked inclinations, nevertheless, play an important part in the behavior of dedicated people.
And what of the masses of people who committed the atrocious acts of WWII, Stalin’s rule over the USSR, Pol Pot’s revolution in Cambodia, etc? “We may be genuinely puzzled as to how people could obey commands that seem both bloodthirsty and stupid. Puzzlement can vanish when we realize that in the eyes of their perpetrators the hideous crimes of history are not hideous crimes at all, but acts of loyalty, patriotism and duty. From the vantage point of the present we can see them as hideous crimes, but ordinarily from that same vantage point we cannot see the crimes of our own governments as hideous or even as crimes.” (Don Mixon, Obedience and Civilization)
Rebellious domination and religious vision has slowly and surely brought us to a place in the development of human society, when we no longer need a chief or a king. Yet we stand at a cross-road, and ebb in the tide of a kingless society. To a large extent, in times of difficulty, our behavioural responses are not so different from 10,000 or 100,000 years ago. Mostly we are looking for who to be submissive toward, who to be supportive of, who will give us security in return, even if with a sense of dread around each corner. And in turbulent times, alpha males will tend to come to the fore to provide that direction through their political hierarchies. Yet there are those, mostly young, mostly creative, mostly intelligent, who will take all kinds of risks in rebellion against the domination of authority and their sycophants. Theirs is not to have a far-reaching knowledge of all things worldly. That is for other, older heads. Theirs is to be the ‘resistance’ to the tendency for most of us to find a haven under an authoritarian rule.
“Man has continued to evolve by acts of disobedience. Not only was his spiritual development possible only because there were men who dared to say no to the powers that be in the name of their conscience or their faith, but also his intellectual development was dependent on the capacity for being disobedient, disobedient to authorities who tried to muzzle new thoughts and to the authority of long-established opinions which declared a change to be nonsense.” (Erich Fromm, On Disobedience and Other Essays)
A society is neither for the young or the old, the rich or the poor, the dominant or the non-dominant. It is for all of us, and, therefore, all of these. At this point in time, the advancement of civilisation requires that there are a number of primary agreements in place that support the strengthening of the collaborative and cooperative sovereignty. Under this form of sovereignty, the mass of us who are given to obedience, will avail ourselves of the servitude to the collaborative and the cooperative project. The psychopaths will become the true rebels, tending to strive to be dominant over everyone else in their sphere of influence, yet being held in check by their own drive towards self-interest that is held in the collaborative space. The youth, artists, activists, visionaries, disenfranchised, and children will enjoy the rewards of being in collaboration. The agreements include: we all hold equitable ownership of the land of our citizenship; we all hold equity in participation and servitude to the community; policing is in community servitude – violence physical force or coercion is forbidden except where an immanent threat to another is evident, and then only to mitigate that threat. While policing is sycophant to an authoritarian domination, while police officers are trained to hurt the common politic and those who rebel against that domination, so the rebellion will continue and broaden. It is not to say, the turbulent times are not the time for rebellion. The turbulent times are exactly the point when gains in equity and participation in the democratic advancement are being handed over by the submissive to the authoritarians. Turbulent times are exactly the the times of sacrifice for the next phase of freedom, peace, and the advancement of human society.
We, who would have this society, must stand for the agreement forbidding police force on peaceful citizens, regardless of the rules they have broken. We will then prevent police for using force on citizens of whom there may be a suspicion of but, in reality, haven’t broken rules. Police forces will be primarily negotiators of community upset, on rare occasions to prevent immanent violence against another, effecting physical intervention. On all but this very rare event, having accessible and cordial relation with community wherever they go.
We, who would have this society, must be generous in our attitude about youthful, creative, rebellion against authority. We must avoid our tendency to effect shame and submission, the bringing into line under authority just so we can have a sense of security as being a little higher on the hierarchy. We must recognise that in our own need for the advancement of civilisation lies a need for those who are devoted to working around authority and even sacrificing themselves against the true nature of authoritarianism.