Cole Webber

7660 — Stupidity or Malice?

There are a lot of insane things happening in the world right now, and I am often stricken as to whether it is being done by psychopaths who are pulling one over on us, or idiots who really mean it. Malice is the far more terrifying option, because it implies a shadow world with ties and powers so vast as to be unbreakable, un-overcome-able… fortunately it is the least likely option. There are many people who have no regard for other human beings, and unfortunately for us a great many of them are demonstrably ‘in power’ — but just because they are ‘evil’ does not also mean they are not ‘stupid’. They can be — and often are — both. Psychopaths are not evil geniuses for lacking empathy. Nor are they even normal geniuses. Human’s value is in collaboration, and the value of our technological tools is in doing more with less: which is always, has to be, to find a win-win. Anything else is not a value-add, is not revolutionary — it is a con, even if it may be earnestly meant by the conman, and engendered out of an inability of empathy rather than disregard-of-it maliciousness. I was recently thinking about the economic downturn we seem to be headed to, which is still very odd and very much up in the air: there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy. To tell a business to completely close all activity and income for a quarter, and to find it goes bankrupt is not at all to point out that business doesn’t work. It would work if it was working. Many are still going bankrupt now. But ultimately, we can ‘flip the switch back on’. There was no fundamental economic crisis, rather everything was on hold. So we may very well be able to try to pick up from where we left off — if of course leadership is smart enough to push the pause button for everyone, which I am increasingly worried they will not do. The only real solution is to suspend collections across the board. Not just rent (the renter pays the landlord — who still often has to pay the bank — who still has to pay its clients, you). When the Depression happened — as is happening now — there is still the same amount of money in the world. People have just begun to desperately cringingly hold on to it. Economic disasters are funny, because they make people want to save, but are driven by not spending. But once again: are the state organizers Machiavellians, scheming to withhold precious dollars from us? It would be easy to say so, except that they lose too. Even if they mean it, they’re being stupid. It is completely short sighted. The beautiful case in point is Mr. Henry Ford, who, well not good in a lot of ways, pioneered the improvements in efficiencies that have brought many of the staples of everyday life to everyone — and in a sustainable way. Ford was one of the last ‘titans of industry’ to actually build a company — not just borrow one, or sell one on speculative stock price to guild-gaurunteed income-underwritten siphoning professionals (doctors, lawyers) looking to gullibly expand their investments. People act as if Jeff Bezos is a panderer to a corporate elite (which surely also he is). But he is the richest person in the world. He could not have curried favour with just one person, who bestowed it on him. He is the richest. Where did that money come from? Stock valuations, by the people buying the stocks, or the people providing the money to the investment bankers to provide the stocks. They’re not the ‘1%’ as we usually think of it, but the 10%: doctors, lawyers, and other licensed professionals who generally want investments but don’t want to make their own investments. They are not looking carefully, and easily swayed by image and promise, making Amazon, in name only, the largest company on Earth — even though their ‘revolutionary’ idea is simply to ‘own everything’, and their ‘skyrocketing’ margins are a little over 1%, only for a few years of their existence. With them, as much as with Tesla, Google, Facebook, almost every other ‘meteoric riser’, most of the value is just not there, only up-bid by perception. Ford on the other hand did build a car, and built a way for almost all the population to have it (not just promise to). And how did he do it? He made the simple and very accurate observation: that thinking of the whole system, his employees are also his customers. And his suppliers are also his customers. And all the rest. So he built company housing for his employees, and designed his entire supply chain, not freelancingly outsourcing to lowest bidder (as we see is causing great issues now as global trade is halted). Most importantly, he paid his workers more: far more than minimum wage at the time, ushering in the era of America where you could own a house on a factory worker’s salary. And why did he do it? He was clearly not a selfless man, just the opposite. But he was smart. As Buckminster Fuller notes in his books (he knew Ford) an economic calculation was literally run, which concluded: at this scale, your employees are your customers. Paying them enough to buy your products will allow you both to grow. That seems to be the message lost on founders of companies that tank in a quarter and buy a private jet — of the founders even of the largest companies on Earth today. Where is this mentality in requiring Amazon employees to pee in bottles? In bailing out the big corporations, and letting unemployment claims flood? I am worried for many people in the short term, and my heart goes out to them. But I am not worried for ‘the masses’ in the long term. We always win. Because the simple truth, which is only irrevocably accelerated in an interrelated and connected world, is that it is stupid to screw someone over. Not just cold, or psychopathic, or selfish, or cold blooded. Not just morality guides against it: it is stupid. Human beings are collaborators. Technology is win-win. Everything that is not these things are frauds. Which is why, though maybe these efforts succeed sometimes in the short term, over the very long millions of years of human beings on board the planet, and since civilization records began, the long and large overwhelming trending is for the rich to get less rich, the powerful less powerful, quality of life to expand, and people to have more say. If you are afraid of Amazon — which, fairly you should be — well wait until you hear about Standard Oil. Or the monarchies, who literally owned everything in their country. Even the great power players of today are not very powerful. The largest cash hoard in the world owned by one person (as per Mr. Bezos) is equal to only 0.17% of the money that is made in the world in one year. Not all of the money in the world; only all of it in one year. Not all the money in one year — only that which is ‘made’, not what stays tucked away. The richest man’s pile is just 0.03% of all the money to change hands in just five years. There are more resources and potential than anyone realizes, it is only that our brains have trouble dealing with numbers over a certain amount: a number such as that of humanity’s enormous present resting potential. The world is much bigger than you can even comprehend. People will be able to fix it — just perhaps not the present people ‘in’. It will be fixed. Which only makes me existentially worried for them. Because: even if a quarter of our population is unemployed, if debt flows up, and all the rest… that part is not real. The only real value of the real economy is the technological capacity of humanity. The factories are still there. The people that know how to use them are still here. The machines are still in the field, and the crops are still planted. We simply cannot lose it all overnight — we only can, somehow, on paper, which would call into question the validity of those approximating accounting methods in the first place. There have at times been events like this, which have usually resulted in massive restructurings. Debts can be cancelled. People can be put back to work. Countries even, can change governments — not just in name, but completely. And so while I am deeply worried for many of the masses in the short term, we are the force that must not be controlled but reckoned with in the long term. Always. You cannot simply beat us. You cannot lay off 25% of humanity — there is still the work to be done, and the capacity to take care of us! We will be employed, just not by you. I am called to the phrase ‘eat the rich’ which I originally detested as overly violent but only recently learned the full quote and origin of. It is greatly misused today. It is from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau living very close to the French Revolution. It is not a grotesque call to action, but rather a simple and patient observation — and warning… to the rich. The full quote is: When the poor have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich. Simple and matter of fact and true. Their dollars are part of this economy too: they can’t crash it and then walk out with the bags of gold. They have to make it work, or else they will go down too. They have to figure it out, or else be toppled. If anything, I am not worried about a dystopia but a revolution. In the past months the governments of the world have proved that they can do, rapidly, what they usually pretend they cannot. They can completely alter society, form new organizations, develop new technologies, create programs to catalogue every citizen, raise and spend trillions of dollars — nearly overnight. Nobody on Earth has not noticed this. When the immediate threat begins to subside, if they say they cannot levy the same to deal with the run off problems: evictions, unaffordable housing, debts, etc. etc. — nobody is going to believe them. They can do it, and the must or be replaced.

— cole