Friday, September 25, 2009

Synergistically bad

With this financial crisis, I have - along with millions of others - wondered how we got ourselves into this mess. How did we lose control? How did we blind ourselves to the consequences of our actions? Some of my answers lie in the make-up of the entities we have raised: Created by man, morphing machinery beholden to The Man, growing larger than man, controlled not by man but by some synergistic other. Often, in creating these entities, we cede our agency to something larger than we ourselves can control, something mercurial that does not abide the laws we originally intended. Lackeys of this, our great creation, we run around believing we are fulfilling our desires, only to discover we have been duped by the monster we have been feeding. We may suddenly find ourselves apologetic at the actions we are performing; but, no longer the bosses, we watch in horror. Some grow to accept what they must do to maintain the machine of their own creation, despite the stark differences between intention and actuality. Others may rage against it, but feel confused as to how to stop the engine of something they should - but do not - control.

I think of The Grapes of Wrath, the owners coming to boot the tenants off the land: "We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man."
"Yes, but the bank is only made of men."
"No, you’re wrong there—quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It
happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it.
The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it."

How is it that we can create something and then lose total control over it? Is it possible to create something that builds up the creator, rather than building itself up? Likewise, is it possible to continue unscathed by what we create, continue to see things as they are, and not as this creation views them? Can we continue in our authenticity, doggedly pushing what we believe the entity should be? Can we keep the end user in mind? Or will this new-fangled, evolutionary entity "goggle [our] mind, muzzle [our] speech, goggle [our] perception,
muzzle [our] protest" until we no longer recognize the realities and physicality behind our actions? Will we allow ourselves to reach the point where we "eat what [we] did not raise" because we are so disconnected with the repercussions of our creations? Can we, as insinuated in The Grapes of Wrath passage below, remain intimately involved, wise stewards rather than absentee landlords?

"Funny thing how it is. If a man owns a little property, that property is him, it's part of him, and it's like him. If he owns property only so he can walk on it and handle it and be sad when it isn't doing well, and feel fine when the rain falls on it, that property is him, and some way he's bigger because he owns it. Even if he isn't successful he’s big with his property. That is so.

"But let a man get property he doesn’t see, or can’t take time to get his fingers in, or can’t be there to walk on it—why, then the property is the man. He can't do what he wants, he can't think what he wants. The property is the man, stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his possessions are big—and he's the servant of his property. That is so, too."

Most importantly, do we have the integrity and bravery to admit when we have created a bad thing? Do we possess the courage to forge ahead and try again?

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