by Steven R Cebula
Ever since the age when humankind began building cities, control and oligarchy have raised their ugly and disdainful heads. Movement, commerce and even dreams began to be drawn through these conglomerates of power and control. The epoch changing event of the city-state could not exist without control of the populace. The two most important factors in this were control of the food supply, which required large scale agriculture due to the newly formed concentration of people and of course the tip of the blade.
Up to this point in prehistory humans had existed in a semi-nomadic state, relying on hunting/gathering as well as mobile flocks of animals and seasonal small scale subsistence farming to exist. Living in groups of extended family and at times in small multi-family packs, these early humans looked to their elders or to the greatest hunters as natural leaders. This was seriously witnessed and recorded, although through a Eurocentric view, from the 18th century on through to the 20th. With the advent of the city-state there were new dynamics at play and whenever that is the case there are those who seek to gain profit and power from the masses. It's not hard to imagine one of these hunters or elders suddenly infected with the ideals of a demagogue, for forms of control surely existed when we were still little more than cognitive animals with a pack mentality. A slight push was all that was required to unleash the obsession of a power crazed madman.
Ideals of control apparently emerge from the darker side of our nature. From the very beginning as early humans up to this day we use a measure of control over our offspring, though I like to think that this is out of nurturing instincts rather than power-play. The same must be said for rearing livestock, though ultimately destined for the palate, the shepherd needed to care for his wards with diligence and compassion for cruelly treated animals don't grow fat in traditional animal husbandry. Regardless of your stance on meat consumption, one must remember that this was not the age of the supermarket and vegan health food store. In times past humans did not have the luxury of being finicky when it came to their dinner.
Many would envision that the first form of control as violence would stem from one group of men wanting to control another group of men's cave, or something along these lines. I suggest that the first form of control driven violence starts closer to home in the domestic situation. The problem first arrives when the male desires to control the female, female resists said control and man, in his brutish and primitive state can only find one answer to controlling the situation; violence!
From this starting point humankind finds it easier and more convenient to use control through violence rather than compromise or allowing others to live without dominion. We begin to feel the need to control everything. Walls are placed around the cities to control who comes and goes, calling to mind the Spartans claim that walls are meant to keep the people in and not to protect those within. Henceforth the land becomes controlled by warlords who take the name of kings and begin to draw imaginary illogical lines across the earth, caging tongues and cultures that are different from their own, claiming a right of conquest they control these abstractions called borders. Men and weapons are placed upon them, tension mounts; more control is needed, more treasure, blood and labor is demanded of those under control. All of this, oftentimes under the pretense of protection from danger, this ignoble class of disillusioned men; the warlords liege men, now call themselves land-holding nobles. Hand and hand with this comes control of the mind, superstitions and tradition, cowing the governed into psychological submission, generation after generation blindly and ignorantly under the heel of a "leader". From time unmemorable, men have been told that God is with them as they entered the fray, did any of them wonder why the Creator would support their side and not that of the enemies; so deep is deception sown.
As time erodes the fallacies of empire, they wither and are split in fractions of what they once were. Pockets of chaos and pockets of freedom in turn thrive then disintegrate. Eventually a new warlord gathers his retainers about him and they start the cycle anew. A piece of ground is taken and controlled, a flag pierced into the soft bosom of the earth. The dark gift of violence is control's reward. A fief grows into an Earldom, then into a Kingdom of another name, all along the people at the bottom, the true victims of control as violence, are the ones who suffer. The King declares his realm needs more land, he needs more control. He and his inner circle find reasons to hate the other across the border. Do they speak another tongue? Are they another religion? Regardless of truths his advisers will find a reason in a bed of lies to justify a war: simply to satisfy a lust for control. As this happens, the old truism is once again revealed and nodding heads agree "In wartime the greatest sufferers are the civilians". Separated by these fictitious barriers, humankind shivers in fear and trembles in hate toward the "other". From the highest mountain to the lowest cellar the deadly ideology of nationalism is birthed from an abyss.
The primary reason for Nationalism is that of control. It is true that it can have a unifying effect on the populace in times of extreme distress but most often times, even under these rare occasions, the system of nationalism or systems linked to it have caused the stress that the people are undergoing. In times past the "nation" was formed by a cultural or a linguistic group, with fluid borders and loosely governed. With the rise of nationalism and its ultimate form, the modern nation state, we still see the unnatural patterns of conquer, contain and control; but now we see it to the nth degree. We start to see standing armies internal, security forces and secret police in one form or another, each selectively put in place to maintain the sanctity of the halls of power.
As humankind continues to grow intellectually, literacy is no longer the sole gift of the upper classes and there scribes. The dissemination of views with the printing press is also a weapon of thought unleashed upon the world. No longer are the oppressors and the conquerors the only ones who write histories: it now belongs to all. These two events caused great misery to the lords of land and capital. With this new paradigm, those who wish to control had to form new ideas to wage this battle.
There comes a time when the direct route becomes too arduous a task, with very slim hopes of succeeding especially when people start to think for themselves. New methods of deception and division have been adapted to support the iron fist of controlled domination. One of the greatest of these adaptations I believe, is when you allow someone or a group of individuals the ability to choose; much like the method of electing our leaders in the United States. The representatives who are put forward by the two ruling parties are in fact two sides of the same coin. Sure they each have their standard rigmarole on one side or the other, conveniently putting themselves in an alleged diametrically opposed position with virtually no wiggle room for compromise. This conveniently brings division and as you know a house divided always falls.Two hundred years in the future historians will look back over the past forty years or so and determine that these two parties actually had more commonality than differences. This illusion of choice is a most deadly device of control.
Another new method or rather a newly rediscovered method is largess. In the past, this was only shared between noble types as equals and to ensure loyalty to his retinue. Now in the age of mass-production and cheap labor from overseas, the populace is made to feel content and happy being vested with multiple goods that a mere hundred years ago only the rich could have afforded. The government, in collusion with the capitalistic hierarchy have pacified a large portion of the population of the first world. Even those just above the poverty line, known as the working poor, are granted access to these inexpensive goods, nearly guaranteeing their direct support of the current system. This technique of neo-largess goes even further when it begins to give handouts instead of a hand-up to the most unfortunate of our society, again bribing the population. In this situation, the people start to depend upon the powers that be. Soon they are some of the most ardent supporters of our puppeteers. Even the wildest beast knows not to bite the hand that feeds.
All does not need to be lost though. There will come a moment in time; a threshold, a place on a great empty plain that is the future, laying out two roads before us. We, humankind as a species, will have to make the most important step that we have since we first put on the yoke of subjucation; this weight that makes us stoop to the ground, returning to all fours like the beast. Will we continue to bear this burden, this lease, this illusion of freedom that has led us into bondage. This state of subjugation, this illuminated cage in which the few control a few more who pass the load unto us. Thousands of bitter years and the greedy beast is still not satisfied! Or will we, humanity, stand together and reject these chains, this control, this violence that is so subversive and silent that we barely even know it exists?