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Hierarchy, Hoarding, And An Anti-Dote To Anarchy

By       Message Patrick Ajamie     Permalink
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If stocks and commodities, as market analysts say, are struggling to find their place, their bottom or their 90-day moving average in a volatile market what kind of statement is this about the abrogation of individual responsibility? Seemingly there is a persistent and almost counterintuitive willingness to allow for the supernatural. On trading floors which have 15 super computers for every man, woman, and beast, unwittingly many of us will ascribe a stock, bond or currency movement to it's anxiety, uncertainty or other purely human emotional term. And yet, we live in a scientific world that largely believes in evolution and fact.

Let's look at this behavior as would any scientist in her study of any artifact of an extraterrestrial event, knowing the fragments would yield incredible knowledge of the make-up of the universe, or in the manner of a biological anthropologist in his study of the fossilized stool sample of a giant saber-toothed tiger in order to better understand it's feeding habits, the nature of the surrounding ecologic community, biota, the eco system, weather or food supplies, and on and on. And, we must ask". what possible value is there in studying the language of the stockbroker whose slang and colloquial expressions migrate the general observation of the market's movement to the good or bad, better or worse, from the third person objective to the first person conditional.

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What does it mean when a theoretically smart and competent financial market maker imputes an internal humanistic design onto an asset class, suggesting an innately capable prescient animus in inanimate objects? It is true markets fluctuate and to the trained eye may appear to be seeking a mathematical formulation or spot regularly inhabited on a parabolic curve.  But the fluctuation is the outcome of many forces. All of which are mechanistic or chaotic or the sum of each but not the results of a humane and prescient personality. Though it is perhaps true too human behavior is a proximate cause for some of the swings of one stock or commodity or another, it is not true there is any intent or prescience imputable to the thing itself. Inherent in the very statement, albeit nuanced and scarcely notable is the slippery path of imputing knowledge to inanimate things, and if we examine the 4000-5000 years our recorded history, this is curiously both the necessary and sufficient condition to commence, what we have euphemistically called, a "belief in the divine.'  

All rational people know gold does not struggle to find it's footing in a global market anymore than the equities as an asset class are wary or anxious (or read any human emotion) to be somewhere or not.  However our language reflects a profound and implicit, if unspoken, belief that such anthropomorphic behavior is not only possible but also likely. Extraordinarily, if we look back over the course of human history and study the view of those among us who believe profoundly or even marginally in the likelihood of god there is the very same behavior and practice of imputing rational and humane ability and capability to inanimate objects. It is true we can predict thunder storms, and sometimes earthquakes, famines, pestilence or war. It is not true that any of these elemental macro behaviors have any of the stuff of human thought, emotion or reason.

So why, one might ask, does it matter. Everyone flips a coin. Everyone plays rock, paper, scissors. And many people, to this day, kiss the blarney stone, cross themselves before getting up to bat, taking a test, having a baby, betting on red, or facing many of the uncertainties of daily life. What possible ill may come from such a tic or superstition beside a measure of good luck, even if we were to win anyway, a prophylaxis from warts, knowing we didn't touch the toad or the relief from not breaking a leg for not stepping on the sidewalk crack. In days before carbonization when water was impure, sickness and pestilence was known, though not scientifically, to be passed by unclean water, many inhabitants of large cities spent much of the day inebriated. Beer and the safety of carbonated yeast was the only water purification around, and when, before the industrial age, the family provided a network of safety, comfort and commonwealth, none of the derivative issues arising still from the stockbroker's abrogation of science meant much. We do not live in that world. Here a flap of a butterfly's wings in Tokyo immediately and absolutely effect the weather, the markets and quality of one's way of life. In short, it matters.

From a purely academic view most of us agree it matters little how one postulates the beginning of the universe, the basis of morality, the right of the might, the cause for commonwealth or any of the myriad of moral issues which impact more than just ourselves and devolve into the general structure of culture. The reasoning is quite simple for whether one believes in god or the devil, Baal or Dionysius. If our beliefs are held within, which is a natural process for all of mankind, then they do little but color, for better or worse, the lens through which we see humankind, life and our world. In the instance that our beliefs trickle past our immediate person and inform the immediate family of when to harvest, when to sow, when to pray and when to let go, there is again no harm or foul. When tribes and families in a more rural and agrarian setting were more appropriately separate then no right or wrong and no malfeasance or misjudgment could trouble any for whom we did not have direct responsibility.

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Said another way, it mattered little if one believed in witchcraft, threw bones at the family dinner, saw the wrong constellation of configurations and whispered curious and mischievous wonderings about the future to a child or grandparent. Though laughter and sometimes fright and tears would result, there was, at the end of the day, an absolute and unspoken responsibility borne by the shaman to care of the others. The categorical imperative that each be taken care of as well as the other was unambiguous and emphatic.

As resources became scarce, or were thought to be scarce and hoarding or shortage from whatever occasion was a fact, the growth of the tribe, at one time in balance, was, upon meeting the trap lines of another, suddenly at risk. Shortage or the fear of shortage almost inevitably leads to discourse and acrimony, uncertainty and all of the elemental acts that inevitably lead to war.  To be sure there are tribes, cultures and civilizations that can live with shortages and all the while still maintain a homeostasis through which all have a little less than is wanted or needed but the distribution is shared and the hardship, if it results, is balanced.

The extreme example in stark opposition to balance, even in shortage and with an allocation of resource insufficient to meet the population's need, but balance and harmony maintained, is the example of the Western civilization in the United States.  In the U.S. 80% of the wealth, a shorthand term for resource, power, raw material, commodities and the wherewithal (power) to employ is controlled by 2% of the population and 93% is controlled by less than 10% of the living.  Such imbalance of resource is not in and of itself an a priori reason for imbalance or the diminution of the likelihood of commonwealth. When there is uncertainty in determining the cause of, or a superstitious attribute connected fundamentally to, wealth, this allows for the possibility the excess of money sitting in my bank as opposed to yours is an act of chance or wonder or god or the mystery of the universe. Allowing for such a possibility we pass through or beyond the realm of reason, if only starting by the etiology employed, describing the failure of the wheat crop, the impoverishment of a culture, the famine in one part of a country or another and the serendipitous but unaccountable accumulation of gold and riches by one class rather than the other.

And with the slightest, scarcely noticeable attribution of sentience to the thing in itself, the attribution of corn not liking one field but flourishing in another as this is what it wants, we are suddenly in a world where the natural or manmade impoverishment of one class or another, one country or another, one mate in a marriage or another is not our direct and absolute responsibility; for the loss or hardship or catastrophe or bad luck arose not from our personal responsibility, or lack thereof, but rather some intrinsic attribute of the time, the place, the commodity, the peoples or even the will of some evil or angry god, and thus our lack of responsibility thereto. This is an old and oft repeated argument for or against any given responsibility we undertake or shirk. The point of this conversation ultimately is only to underscore that from the dark ages, when there was pestilence and black death, to the new ages when there is foreclosure of monumental magnitude and famine it is no mistake and no happy or unhappy coincidence that some are rich and some poor while some hungry and some well fed. Undoubtedly there are sufficient stores and resources for all. Similarly, given the will, we have ample reserves of food, clean water and shelter for all; yet every man knows the system for an equitable distribution alone is lacking. Homeostasis, the categorical imperative of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is but a hollow saying which makes perfect philosophical sense but whose reasoned exercise is, increasingly, well nigh impossible.

What if the etiology of god, the origination of the thought, from superstition, or from whatever was it's true origin (beside the belief of it's veracity) is no more or less than substance first iterated in Freud's two century old hypothesis; that man seeks, as a near biologic and evolutionary mechanism, to be or have or possess what he most fears. What if, in Freud's posit of the "identification with the aggressor', man's implacable thirst for power, or the attributes as seen in the possession of well more than his need and the ability (read power) to distribute, hold, deploy, share or hoard, was as infantile and original and unequivocal as every child's innate and perfectly natural acquisitive self and natural fear of things that go boom in the night. What if we could hypothecate a distinction between power and hoarding.  Or apply a similar distinction between the control of resources way beyond imaginable use and the psychological component of surcease and salve that lent to the person or personality or even, through evolution, to the culture as a way to stave off and reckon with the very element first learned in a world in which hardship, pain and suffering, or the sense of it was derived from the near universal fact of our birth and the utter, if momentary helplessness we nearly all experience.

Suppose for a minute one might watch the babies of young, borne in the fields of agrarian nomadic tribes women who, after the passage through the canal are taken immediately to breast and milked and soothed and handled by all and sung to and fed all the while in these early times which imprint the child's absolute sense of wellbeing, or the reason to fear the lack thereof.  How many of our Captains of industry, having balances of billions idle in their checking accounts were simply the recipient of a culture who, for no ill or purposeful harm, placed their newborns, as they hatched, not on their mothers hip or at her breast to feed and find succor but rather, in sterile settings of infirmaries and nurseries and infant care birthing rooms, all set in rows, looked after with all due care, but left alone in hospital day cares and clinics for days or weeks after birth, and to face a terrifying solitude only a mothers smell and milk and arms and breast might assuage.

In trying to tease out some of the fundamental and universal behaviors of man, those of benefit and those creating hardship, we must recognize there are vastly more resources available, already extracted and hoarded, but not shared, to equal the need of mankind. The agonizing question must be: how can it be possible we watch a society of 750,000 souls in Somalia perish in front of our eyes for lack of food and water, whose needs can easily be met by a fraction of the wealth we have collectively hoarded, but are not willing to share?  What possible twist of fate, biological imperative, atavistic or dysfunctional behavior could lead to such studied indifference and or absolute unwillingness to reckon that the needs of the commonwealth trump our own fears of poverty, need of hoarding, it's prophylactic, or interest in the maintenance of the power that arises from the ownership or control of so much stuff.

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Our research and inquiry suggest there are distinctly different emotional and psychological needs and components arising from resulting in the accumulation of stuff. Wealth and raw materials do not know enough to understand the nuanced difference between power and wealth. Despite the potential satisfaction afforded by either, neither know their effect and the extent of satisfaction imbued is not always consistent with very different emotions and needs in question. Stores to live by, as compared with the power to reckon with the random chaos of life are not equally nourished by the elements of hoarding and the accumulation of so much stuff. Indeed one's placement in the hierarchical superstructure often confuses, one for the other, leaving both, the attributes of power and the attributes of the great collection of stuff and it's cultural statement of power, ever unfulfilled.

The formulation of this hypothesis takes form from very specific and replicable events. One of the notable and likely intended outcomes of the accelerating and exponential growth in the disparity of wealth in the United States is the accumulation of sums of money, in currency or various forms of commodities or stuff, which by a magnitude of thousands represent more dollars, or more stuff than the owner, hoarder, recipient might possibly use in all of their lifetime and all of their families and all of their extended families and because of the nature of compounding, forever. So if it is possible that one can live on bread and water, and in the protection of a young family the progenitor hunts well and learns the art better than most and by dint of his acumen and inherent will and a great gene pool passed along, wily nily by his parents, it is natural, in the flush of the hunt, grizzlies at the river side while salmon spawn, to catch more bread than ever he could eat and even more than he might cart home to his children, old folks and mates. There is a point, in all of the allegories and metaphors when all of the bread available, salmon for bears, rabbits for wolves, mesquites for hummingbirds, when the predator can catch or hold or take home no more.  Somewhere in the weight to aspect ratio, in the distance from the glacier's edge to the mating ground for the emperor penguin, there is a limit of how much they can catch, even in the best of krill seasons, to save in their bellies, while safely waddling home to in turn regurgitate to their crying and hungry mate and young.

There do not appear any vertebrates beside man who display the inverse of this behavior, though to be sure all species, from chipmunks to beavers will lay stores by and set off enough nuts and berries, or dead carcasses in trees for the grizzly as they need, few will take or get or stockpile more than they can use, within a standard deviation or two, but for man.  So we must ask why would a bear or bird or hippopotamus kill, hide, store, or hoard more than they could eat or rely upon to feed their kith and kin, and one of the obvious and only answers is, oddly, to help feed others in the tribe.  There are many examples of predators and species of vertebrate who like more than they can eat now or in the dry or winter season, but those who do, typically do so for other members of the tribe or troupe or family or clan. Why then, will man repeatedly and at an increasing rate take and accumulate, to the detriment of others, way more than he can use not only in the season, or the next, but in the whole of his life and for any he knows or to whom he is related.

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I represent the author Guy Herman who thinks critically and writes powerfully on topics that are at once political, environmental, and scientific. With such an interconnected and globalized world, drawing from diverse sources as Mr. Herman does (more...)

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Hierarchy, Hoarding, And An Anti-Dote To Anarchy