Over or Under
~ Who are we to look up to?
I mean today, in the world, among our leaders.
Who are we supposed to look to — as paragons, ideals, the proverbial Übermensch or *Overman*?
Can we name a non-corrupt world leader? Can we find a “star” worthy of the name?
Who wields the wisdom of the Allfather? Who carries the compassion of Christ?
Does anyone in power deserve it?
Choices are sparse. Politicians are bought & paid for in advance; empty suits and bugmen, careerists and power mongers and parasites all. (And forget “speaking truth to power” — journalists are most often happy to be their sycophantic Renfields.)
Most actors and artists and athletes are just regular people, but now with talent and fame. Humans can become sickos when we trust there’ll be no consequences, and when we have easy access to all our desires… Else they are just playing games or make-believe anyway; we shouldn’t be relying on them in any political capacity.
Priests and police? You gotta be kidding me.
Our teachers? Maybe so, but do we treat them like community leaders? Do we pay them like they are indispensable to our children’s futures? Are they ever shaping public policy, or more often the victim of it?
CEOs? What is their sole job (else they will be replaced)? To raise shareholder value; they are beholden to nothing but increasing profits for the corporation they helm. Any executive that widens the lens of their organization’s concerns to comprise care for “stakeholders” beyond direct investors or the natural world or anything else will lead his company’s stock market ticker into freefall relative to competitors.
Small business owners? Surely, for they are the backbone of our economy. About 70% of all businesses are sole proprietorships and LLCs. The corner market and the restaurant down the street making homegrown meals for the community — they must carry some of the weight of our highest aspirations. Right? But they’re struggling, if not disappearing. Do you know these people?
Perhaps this is all a bit parochial. Who cares about businessmen, what about the real geniuses? Scientists and doctors and engineers. Or more generally, the *technocrats* of our world. The real decision makers. The inventors and the “innovators.” I’m sorry, but don’t they all just become capitalists? Go fast and break things, i.e. ethics is overrated, how do we become millionaires as efficiently as possible? Who has time to change the world for the better, when you can overpromise, launch a public company with a snazzy name, and get away with all the money… (also: all apps are bullshit, SkyMall-ass non solutions of purely convenience and data tracking.) At best, these folk just become overworked workers — who got into the game of medicine or aerospace to save lives or send us into space — and end up expending themselves for overlords that want to exploit both their talents and dreams to the bitter end, for the sake of yet another bottom line.
“Do nothing or be evil” is not really the binary, exaggerated choice our economic system provides to society’s best. But at the same time, where are the benevolent billionaires? Shouldn’t someone be cornering the market on that by now…?
The 1%er ruling class rules in their own interest. Obviously. But when will their interest ever coincide with ours? With the future of human activity on the planet?
The truth is: People are people and we have a society that often rewards misbehavior, especially for the sake of wealth and power accumulation. And of course, great talent or intelligence or money-making capacity do not always make for good guidance. We are all operating within a complex — and constantly self-reinforcing — matrix of systemic incentives and norms. Call it capitalism, greed, the all-encompassing locus of infinite growth. The need to uphold such a system becomes paramount to those with the agency to make that choice, lest they bear the brunt of its collapse.
“A path opens to those who are honest.”
Is it true anywhere but in the movies?
In the reciprocal estimation of Nietzsche’s mythic Uber-man, there is also his complement — the “Last Man.” He’s a man who is weak, with nothing to live for and no meaning to his existence. He carries no transcendent ideals and cannot make a ‘self-actualized ethos.’ He does not create in any true sense, only destroys. They are the antithesis to the superior being, that is to-be; the Last Man is the no-man and he’s here right now. He is a devolution of Man, a regression borne of deteriorating material and spiritual and social forces. The underman. He is someone we are intimately familiar with; maybe he is you.
The underman can be a moneymaker, but he cannot be a leader.
Undoubtedly, the underman must be moved beyond, their world is a world to be ascended past.
It is true that a full deck of undermen run the world and all of us with it. There is no one to truly look up to, or hope to influence or be influenced by, beyond your neighbor. There will be no future as long as the undermen, the money shufflers and article heads and market soothsayers, remain in command.
It raises the question why we’ve been looking *up* at all. Every Man worth his salt knows that we must make fast to be our own example, to BE the change you wish to see in the world. Look within. Or whatever.
The truth is that we have no power individually. We’ve built a world that allows for a diverse range of voices to be heard, sure — on social media and in artistic endeavors — but do they ever move the needle? Do any of us feel like we live in a democracy? Do governments and corporations listen to the people and responsively move to create more cooperative and less destructive modes of production? In the wake of a great film or documentary, do lawmakers move to reduce inequality, to ensure the basic needs of the working class — who are tasked with continuously building this world of convenience we’ve now taken for granted — are met? To their legions of impressionable fans, do thought leaders with real clout move to express the evils of racism and dehumanization, the tyranny of corpo power and the plight of your average worker, and the dangerously real roads to full bore fascism our rulers are currently plotting?
Are any of those in power looking out for us? Are they shaping a world for our children, or for any generation or class beyond their own?
Such harsh circumstances that we see today — rampant inequality, homelessness and hunger existing within society’s mass abundance, mental crisis, environmental crisis, never-ending war, the bottomless exploitation of the global underclass — are made more dire every day by the fact that we have leaders we absolutely cannot count on, that do not deserve to be looked up to, let alone voted for or fought for. Our world leaders are leaders in name alone. In truth, they’ve abandoned us.
Over or Under, we are alone. These days, it is unfortunately quite easy to become nihilistic.
At least it feels this way to me. There is only the path ahead of you and the things you can build with your own hands. There is no hero coming. There is no dreamed of revelation in store for the man that thinks enough, or makes enough, or manages to get his name and face emblazoned on every billboard in the world. There is no destined way out.
We can still lose. We *will* have to save ourselves.
Over or Under, we are here. And we must find a way to do the right thing every day — directly in spite of a world-historical lack of examples to lead us anywhere worth going. ~