is a Chivalry-Now commentary concerning the BBS documentary
The Trap, directed by Adam Curtis. You can see this
documentary by clicking here.)
John Forbes Nash, subject of the movie, Beautiful Mind,
developed a mathematical process called Game Theory,
where variables interact like players in a game, each modifying
strategies according to the opponent's situational response. By
using this theory, it was proposed that reliable predictions about
human behavior could be made.
His original premise, and the conclusion that
followed, was that if everyone limited themselves to pursuing their
own interests, society, both economic and social, would run just
fine. Each person should view everyone else as competitors for wealth
and/or power. A mutual balance of selfishness, or greed, would provide
an understandable rationale that would create a reliably predictable
formula for stable, harmonious coexistence.
This fit in well with the economic models developed
by economist Friedrich von Hayek, who actually went so far
as to decry such variables as altruism or a concern for fairness.
Economist James M. Buchanan carried the idea to its logical
conclusion. Businesses should choose managers who are motivated
by self-interest alone. Qualities like compassion or job loyalty
are not only meaningless, but problematic. Greed is easier to define
This theory has spread its influence into politics
and everyday relationships as well, trying to push self-interest
ahead of patriotism, friendship and love. Its influence feeds into
the growing culture of greed on which consumerism is based.
Philosopher Isaiah Berlin contributed
to this by describing two types of freedom. The first he called
negative freedom, which means, quite simply, a lack of outside
coercion. He defined positive freedom as something more directed,
the opportunity to fulfill one's potential. Berlin concluded something
similar to that of Nash and von Hayek. He decided that negative
freedom was sociologically safer than positive, because it
avoided violent insurgency. He identified positive freedom as the
cause of such atrocities as the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions.
Negative freedom was envisioned to be more like laisser-faire capitalism,
which would control people through market forces.
Chivalry-Now suggests something very different.
Positive freedom is reflective of very real human drives that produce
thoughtful, independent choices, creativity, and authentic living.
It should be protected and not suppressed or sedated by market forces.
The ability to fulfill one's own potential must always be an obvious
goal of being free. Negative freedom, on the other hand, which amounts
to little else than social license, purposely leaves individuals
prey to non-coercive, yet still very effective, social manipulation.
Negative freedom eventually produces a highly stratified society
in which a minority of powerful people gain economic and political
control over the masses. We see these results very much in evidence
today. It produces a very different kind of oppression and violence,
one perpetrated by corporations and military engagements for economic
In the light of Chivalry-Now, freedom
is recognized as an essential element of human nature that allows
what is best in that nature to blossom. It is freedom with purpose,
in that it alls upon the individual to find that purpose, not the
State, and certainly not corporations. Whatever revolution happens
is personal. For this kind of freedom to thrive, it needs traits
of both positive and negative freedoms. Government controls should
be minimized, as negative freedom claims, but for reasons of allowing
people to grow on their own, which is positive freedom. For this
to happen, however, people must resist being brainwashed by heavy-handed
marketing machines as well as government.
Berlin's obvious mistake was to identify positive
freedom as something that could only be imposed by maniacally despotic
leaders, such as Robespierre and Joseph Stalin. This
imposition is the very opposite of freedom. Berlin failed to see
that the American Revolution provided a unique and workable
example of positive and negative freedoms, because it was based
on Age of Enlightenment ideals, the rational growth of human
A Scottish psychologist named Ronald David
Laing, used Nash's Game Theory to show how reliable social interactions
can be harmoniously controlled by basing them on greed. He considered
all human interaction, including love, to be forms of asserting
one's power over someone else in order to get what is wanted. If
all people do this, and he concluded that they do, certain ground-rules
apply that construct a viable continuum based on greed. Human behavior
was being reduced to something that social scientists could mathematically
When all this comes into play in society, freedom
loses its positivistic elements, which include a certain amount
of moral responsibility. This underscores the steady rise in power
of faceless corporations, risky deregulation of financial markets,
the increase of national and personal debt, and using the military
to maintain the global interests of civilian investors.
When we surrender to these dynamics, placing
self-interest before everything else, we buy into the idea that
self-interest explains the totality of who we are. The question
remains: has something of our humanity been sacrificed in this trade-off?
In the meantime, idealism (and that includes
chivalry) has become synonymous with naiveté. The result?
A cold, dreary and pointless life steering away from ideals that
would inspire it. We are condemning ourselves to a perpetual state
of strategizing for greater wealth and position, courting envy,
counting profits with Scrooge-like fanaticism, hoarding possessions,
allowing the market to shape our values, voting for candidates for
all the wrong reasons. As negative freedom prescribes, the coercion
is not there, but therein lies the subtle poison. It does not have
to be. Lacking personal inspiration, we surrender something of our
own volition. We become slaves to carefully crafted, dehumanizing
conformity within ourselves.
If we believe that greed is something good, something
that establishes ideal ground rules for social interactions, if
we believe that everyone is greedy by nature, and our values should
predicate that idea, if we conclude that mutual distrust produces
a stasis of competition similar to trust, and that love, benevolence,
altruism, and even patriotism, are dangerously unpredictable, then
it is time to look into the mirror and see who we really are
no more illusions.
We need to ask ourselves what human beings become
when the exceptionality of moral conscience is replaced by greed.
Will the world be a better place because of it? Or does the primacy
of self-interest, and the forces that cater to it, open doors to
all kinds of abuse - psychological, economic, political, environmental,
and domestic? Are we sacrificing the spontaneity of human life for
the convenience of consumerism? Are we losing authenticity for the
homogenized, lab rat predictability of classical conditioning, ruled
by the marketplace?
The Golden Age envisioned by ancient philosophers,
and perennially resurrected in our own hopes and dreams, is being
replaced by another Gilded Age, where self-interest, wealth
and power have become self-perpetuating. Social Darwinism is
alive and well.
The question then becomes: is it to late
to turn this around?
When the nation suffers from a deficit, and huge
tax breaks are recommended for the wealthiest citizens, who invest
most of their money overseas, the masses nod in thoughtless agreement.
When pundits judge politicians on strategy and self-interest, rather
than deeper issues of morality, patriotism and competence, we go
along with them. When clergy teach us that God rewards people with
monetary windfalls, we casually discard quotes of scripture that
teach the very opposite. When political leaders listen more to corporate
CEOs than the will of the people, contradicting what democracy is
all about, we shrug it off as politics as usual. Consider the blind
faith we had in market forces, despite all rational considerations.
When the economy fell apart like a house of cards, our blind faith
is shattered, and we have no idea how to fix it.
So, what is the answer?
Our best and brightest developed simplistic models
of human motivation that ignore the complexities of our behavior.
Their idea of negative freedom was incomplete,
void of visionary concepts that have always driven humanity forward.
Its implementation through market forces brings violence of its
own, and institutional hierarchies that negate freedom for masses.
Their conclusion that positive freedom inevitably
leads to mass violence was based in historical violence instigated
by fanatical, half-crazed leaders and their duped followers in vast
revolutionary movements. That is not positive freedom, which is
something quiet and personal, and cannot be imposed by leaders,
but only inspired one-by-one by each person who aspires to find
authenticity. Berlin's version of positive freedom is not freedom
Chivalry-Now speaks to us in very different
terms. Yes, freedom is best achieved in a state free from coercion,
but certainly there is more. It involves personal growth and development
of one's potential. It includes virtues that are humane, already
part of us, that must be liberated for freedom to be complete.
Chivalry-Now rejects the follower mentality
that leads to detours and violence. It places its faith in no one
outside of each individual in relationship with the world.
Maximizing freedom does not come from maximizing
dependency and minimizing independent thought.
While abhorring the violence of various revolutionary
movements, which led to mass murder and oppression, the above economists
and philosophers failed to recognize the successful lessons gleaned
from the American Revolution, that were inspired by Age of Reason
philosophers. Liberty was achieved and sustained without governmental
impositions. Negative freedom was balanced by positive, humanistic
Although much of that enthusiasm has been lost
in the United States, replaced by subtle politics and herd-like
consumerism, its initial success speaks volumes for us to learn
from. The founders put limits on their own powers, leaving freedom
to the people to decide. But this was not freedom void of ideals.
Their articulated idea of "pursuit of happiness"
included the pursuit of virtue as well. Without virtue, there could
be no happiness.
All this may sound good, but is it too philosophical,
and not grounded in our every day lives? Can we approach it in more
The answer is yes. We can approach it
by contemplating the 12
Trusts, or just approaching life itself as a personal quest.
Listen to the stirrings of your heart, and learn from them. Dedicate
yourself to truth, and to the greater good, and always, always,
think for yourself.
Make your presence known in the world as a person
of honor and integrity. Confront the evils of the world not with
anger, but with wisdom and forgiveness. Follow no one, but work
side-by-side with everyone.