Thursday, January 3, 2013

Controlling the Stuff

Whoever controls the story, controls the stuff. Whoever controls the stuff, controls the people.

Stuff is what people need to survive and be happy, whether essentials like food, clothing and shelter, or less essential things. Stuff can, of course, be controlled directly, but there are so many varieties of stuff that competing controllers of other varieties of stuff can make it difficult for the stuff-monopolist.

To control all stuff is nearly impossible in any but the most savage totalitarian state, and is self-defeating too, both in terms of kickback against the controls, and in terms of overall profitability of the state. In contrast, controlling by means of story can, if managed right, result in decent profitability, while arousing little opposition from the victims majority of the populace, who are not in the habit of challenging or deconstructing the stories that control them.

Part of the difficulty is that what people perceive as story does not encompass all the stories that are used against them. Money is a story, as are popular history, prejudices, images and laws. All these are very useful (even prejudices, which inform me that, chances are, the cougar in my back yard is not Charley the Disney cougar, looking for a tummy rub.)  A society without our web of stories is unimaginably poor and precarious.

Can any individual story be invariably recognized as malign or benign? Not easily. It depends on how they are grouped and used.

But a rule of thumb is: lies are the ultimate markers of control through story, just as violence is the ultimate marker of the control via stuff. (At the deepest levels, violence will always back up lies when they have lost their potency, but violence is clearly an attack, in a way that lies are not, and so is saved only for special occasions.)

In controlling a populace against its own interests, armies of malign stories work together. They can be recognized when they rely on untruths and anti-truths, rigid or meaningless rhetoric, and when they work to undermine sources of fact, speculation, and disagreement, and attack even the ability to reason.

Totalitarians, whether relying primarily on control of story or stuff, need to control any sources of story which are not their own, just as they control any sources of stuff which are not in their grip, because the ultimate control desired is the control of other people -- the source of all wealth.

Who controls the story, controls the stuff.

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