Titles of Nobility

Column by Paul Hein.

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A question frequently asked, and one which has often troubled me, goes like this: the state is corrupt, rights are ignored or denied; justice cannot be found. But what can I do about it?

As I’ve said before, the state will collapse of its own weight eventually, so, in that sense, we need do nothing. The likelihood, however, is that another state, eventually just as bad, will replace it. And what can we do about it? Nothing.

There burns within the human soul a desire to know the truth, however unpleasant it may be. It’s hard to obtain peace of mind when that mind is divided, or uncertain. So my very modest suggestion is simply that we open our mind’s eye to reality. It may not save society, reform the State, or accomplish any mighty task. It might provide a modicum of personal satisfaction. If you realize that the Titanic is doomed, you can prepare yourself as best you are able, rather than wasting energy running about aimlessly.

A method I’ve found to achieve this is to look beyond impressive titles. We are controlled by psychology, and our enemies are expert at the use of words with psychological overtones. Indeed, it comes to them so naturally that they do it automatically. For example, if a number of them want you to give them money, they won’t write you a letter, over their names, demanding it. Rather, they will use a letterhead such as “Department of Revenue” which is much more impressive, and a printed “signature” of someone with a title: perhaps “Director of Revenue,” or “Head, Collections Department.” Wow! The return address “Internal Revenue Service” on an envelope will get your heart beating faster, even if it’s a form letter sent out by a computer.

A ploy recommended to a novice public speaker who feels intimidated by an audience of hundreds of people waiting to hear him is: imagine all the people in the auditorium in their underwear. It’s hard to feel intimidated by people in their underclothes. So when you read that the Fed is going to tighten credit, don’t be too impressed. What is actually going to happen is that a handful of men with a vested interest in doing so are going to raise interest rates.

A headline may read “U.S. to Raise Taxes,” but think about it for a minute. Does the “U.S.” need a new pair of shoes? Is it in need of a new roof? What the headline is actually saying is that a handful of strangers in D.C. are going to take more of your money. There is no lofty, idealistic organization objectively deciding important questions, but only men like you and me, with their own self-interests as motivation.

Are you, as a single individual person, awed by such entitles as the State of Missouri, or the United States, or the United Nations? Keep in mind that these are aliases used by people with designs on your life and/or property. The same is true of “private” organizations. Does “General Electric” deny your warranty claim, or do a few individuals do so, under that title? There are only people, not organizations or societies. Without people, there could be no organizations or societies. People come first, organizations follow.

Think of the number of times each day you, as a single person, encounter anonymous individuals operating under some title. The meeting may be entirely innocuous; nevertheless, the implication cannot be avoided: you vs. an organization. You are at an immediate disadvantage. In a dispute with a clerk at a big box store, you may find yourself face to face with The Manager. It says so, right on his name tag. He is better dressed than the clerk. He stands erect and gives you a disdainful smile. “How may I help you?” he enquires. You are immediately on the defensive. The Manager! But only a month before, The Manager was a lowly, but ambitious, clerk himself. Had you met him then, you would not have been impressed. So what has changed--except in your mind?

At the conclusion of the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy and her companions finally reach the Emerald City, and meet with the Great Oz himself. He is behind a curtain, from which his voice resounds, accompanied by thunder and flames. Golly! We’re sure not in Kansas anymore! But Dorothy’s dog, perhaps thinking of the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” is not impressed. He pulls aside a curtain, revealing a man shouting into a microphone, and manipulating levers and pedals to produce his awesome effects. Realizing he’s been seen, the “Great Oz” commands, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” But it’s too late. The spell has been broken.

All I’m suggesting is that we not allow ourselves to be caught in the spell of impressive titles: Congress, the United States, Federal Reserve, Governor, Senator, the media, etc. Those are all pseudonyms for people whom you would find quite ordinary if you were to meet them unofficially. And perhaps the most dangerous label of all is “we.” How politicians love to use that term! By doing so, they introduce the idea that you and I have, somehow, cooperated with them in whatever they have done. Not I!

Would this simple realization change the world? I don’t know, but I am sure that just as we are ruled by psychology, we could set ourselves free by seeing beyond it. The power of our rulers over us is directly proportional to the respect we attach to their titles, their office, and the pomp which surrounds them. In the past, certain individuals were given titles of nobility. This was very important, because without such titles, the Duke might have been indistinguishable from his butler, who, absent HIS title, might have been confused with the footman, who, untitled, might have been mistaken for a delivery boy.

Open your eyes, and see them for what they are. They’re not very impressive in their underwear!

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 85

Comments

GeoffreyTransom's picture

You make a valid point - that titles are specifically designed to exploit the 'halo effect' by generating a halo around the entitled.

However there is a huge (and to me, irksome) flaw in your opening gambit.

The answer to "What can we do about it?" is absolutely NOT "Nothing".

It is a pet peeve of mine that people in the anarchy space seem to have adopted a dotcom-investor's idea of "What can we do?": by that, I mean that folks want to be able to 'do' something that has the same results as the protests in Tahrir Square... "big ticket" stuff that yields results on short timeframes (regardless of whether those results 'stick' in the way intended).

What can we do? We can make the State's job harder, at every single opportunity (including opportunities that you invent). Nobody gets to strike the 'killer blow': all that happens is that the State's demise is hastened by a trillion mosquito bites.

Example: the Fed recently got hacked by Anonymous. A bunch of sensitive data got liberated.

**I** was among the people who suggested that action, three years ago (at about the time that the first big data liberations were happening). I was not the only one to make the suggestion, and it's unlikely that I was the first... but I did so openly and publicly (meaning I could not do the thing myself).

The hack of the Fed is a small thing in the scheme of things, but what does it tell folks who see that piece of news?

It tells them that the Fed is critically flawed: it is revealed that the organisation that purports to be able to centrally-plan the most important price in the economy (the short term time value of money), can't even protect its own data.

Which brings to mind the question: It failed to properly plan its data-security, what odds are there that it has failed to take some OTHER important thing into account?

And thus the halo shines a bit dimmer.

Of course, the hack is being played down - attempting to emphasise the 'illegality' of the hack, rather than what it says about the infosec practices of the hackee (the Fed): but it's one small thing out of many MANY things that we serfs can do to throw sand in the gears.

And you don't even have to go to the lengths of joining a subversive clique: you can do even smaller things.

Patrick Moore - a famous English TV presenter who died recently - wrote (pseudonymously) a little pamphlet in 1981s called "Bureaucrats: How To Annoy Them" (sadly, out of print... but doubtless someone will digitise a copy shortly... EDIT: the entire text of "Bureaucrats: How To Annoy Them" is included in "The Twitmarsh Files" which is available on Amazon).

Moore's "Ten Commandments" of driving jobsworths potty is excerpted in an article in the Daily Mail, - if a hundred thousand people did this, the State would grind to a halt in a week: ten thousand bureaucrats would quit or go on stress leave, and a hundred thousand people will have each done their small bit.

Glock27's picture

Oh! There is something that can be done about it but there is just not enough collective intelligence to do anything. Just too much cognitive constipation or as it already is, terrified of the government thing to do anything. In your conclusion you provided an answer or solution. Now that that has been accomplished what more is there to honestly talk about in the little club house?

Paul's picture

It doesn't seem as if you two are disagreeing, other than about the single answer to that question, since both are advising doing something.

I suspect that what Paul was saying, when he said there was nothing that could be done, was that "the world will carry on in its own way no matter what we do", which is not quite the same thing as defeatism. One can certainly follow individual monkey-wrenching efforts even at the same time realizing it will accomplish little besides personal satisfaction, because personal satisfaction is nothing to be sneered at.

Glock27's picture

Can't beat that with a stck!