I have a new metaphor for my psychic state.
Most egos in society center around some industry or job. These are the known roles which support society. These are the “good citizens.” The members of these roles often form into groups and defensively oppose other groups. Say the Writers’ Guild wants to oppose the Hollywood studios for whatever reason, for example. In each group you have the more talented people and the less talented people. Since the more talented people are rather versatile, they need hide behind no defensive scheme such as a guild because they can earn their money and reputation by talent alone. But most people in a societal group will want greater assurances of security, and so they tend to erect defensive walls around what it is they do, trying to make it seem like something special. The reputation of the profession becomes valuable in its own right and members want to experience the profits of its reputation.
When too many professions depart from the mainland, as it were, of pure markets, in which you sell a service at market price with no job security, society can feel corrupt. A powerful body can influence politicians through the democratic process of withholding their votes. With enough influence, the guilds (I might as well call them this) make politicians learn not to mess with them. And their influence is not all about money, by the way – probably more important is people’s sense of belonging to the group – for example, a “gun owner” member of the NRA may be very passionate and his NRA status is far more important to him than how much money is spent trying to win his vote. Because the majority of people don’t have the talent to sustain them in a world based purely on reputation, and because of the critical fact that the average person is not happy unless they’re above average, membership in groups threatens to become the dominant factor in how people vote. When this happens, politicians can hardly resist the pressure from the organized groups to pass laws which favor their group at the expense of other groups. Politicians therefore seem to have an inherently schizophrenic job, having to split their loyalties between doing what’s best for the country and passing laws which favor the groups which got them elected. Even the idea of “doing what’s best for the country” doesn’t make sense after a certain point (in the end it’s just a line on a map), but that’s a different discussion.
So we’re faced with a world in which the many roles which sustain society, in their sense of righteousness, form little islands apart from the mainland. The further they get from the mainland, the more corrupt they may become. What allows them to get so far from the mainland is if they’ve acquired a monopoly status on their field.
What happens is that the original job they were performing becomes conflated with the particular practices which have developed as a way of life on the distant island the profession as a whole calls home.
Now to return to my original topic, about my new interpretation of my psychic state. I felt the sense of the corruption I refer to rather early in my life. I associated it with several things. First, my father was a lawyer and the “breadwinner,” for better or worse, and I certainly sensed a strange island-like effect associated with the law. The law is a fascinating topic, and there is still room in it for brilliant minds as you can tell from interviews with the justices of the Supreme Court. Hopefully that will never change, because then the laws will change based on which family you happen to be a member of. But nonetheless, my father’s law practice operated in peculiar ways which in the end were to be traced to the insular (“island-like”) practices of being a lawyer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The “way it gets done” in Pennsylvania is particular and it does depend a bit upon your connections as opposed to purely your talent as a legal thinker and doer. At any rate, I did not like experiencing two “versions” of my dad, the robotic legal version and the happy-go-lucky outside-of-the-office version. The robotic version always seemed like it had something to hide, and I did not want to become like this.
The second institution I had problems with was, of course, school. “I’ve tried never to let my schooling interfere with my education.” I should have kept Mark Twain’s comment close to heart. The quality of basic education is a factor of enormous concern and debate nowadays. In tenth grade, I committed the “original sin” of feeling like school was not helping me and demanding that I understand it before proceeding any further, which in effect meant that I stopped doing school work. I thus became an enemy of all those members of the educational profession who happily fortify their defensive island far from the mainland. School must obviously be broken up into categories, that between the public 1st through 12th grades, and “The Academy,” “higher learning,” a.k.a. colleges being the most prominent. Nonetheless, one’s efforts in high school correlate with how a college perceives its applicants – these islands are connected, in other words, by at least that small bridge of how well you do in high school affecting which colleges you may attend.
Losing faith in The Academy was a big loss for me. It remains true that despite a widespread “corruption” of sorts in the academy, huge numbers of very intelligent people still enter and remain involved with it. Not to mention the valuable pieces of paper they issue, sometimes holding monopolies on certain professions (lawyers, doctors) entirely.
So what’s my new metaphor for my psychic state? Most people focus on one role because they don’t want to make enemies by being members of opposing groups. Their ego, therefore, finds an island and sticks to it. I’d like to use the metaphor “planet” instead of island now. Each planet is the home of a type of ego, and each ego has a place in society and thus the planet can sustain its members economically. Now my ego was shattered many years ago. What I found was that there is truth everywhere. Each development on any planet has a ripple effect throughout the whole universe, but the effect is generally ignored on the home planet because it interferes with its simplistic mission of selfish gain.
To be sensitive to the various ripple effects is a different process from living on one planet and ignoring all others. I live in the space between planets. I have no clear route to social success because many of the planets have a monopoly on their type of professions. But I do understand how the habits of the different groups affect one another, so I may be able to act in a way which benefits the whole without making great allies in any of the parts, since they are selfish and narrowminded. When acting, I make progress on many fronts – I understand both atheism and religion, for example. However, progress is slow because I must consider all of the parties involved before acting. All actions must be filtered not by a single type of consideration, but by the many considerations (planetary bodies) which make up the whole. Hence the slowness and peculiarity of my actions.