By now you may appreciate that Americans are a complex assortment of groups and characters, volatile in comparison with most peoples. They carry heavy bundles of different problems through a lifelong storm; peace is of the grave.
Americans are composed of individuals, and of hundreds of religious sects, thousands of governments, tens of thousands of occupations, and hundreds of thousands of associations. Sometimes this multitude of intersecting, competing, and cooperating affiliations appears to be producing "a war of all against all," setting one against another, a polyfrenia. Whereupon you may well wonder how this jostling mass of people and groups can evolve into the universal bureaucracy that I have frequently highlighted.
Perhaps an image will help you conceive of the transformation. Imagine a great city of a million lights, many small, some brighter than others, some flashing and then turned off. They move in straight or erratic patterns, many shining in one direction, then turning or reversing in another direction.
Imagine now that this city has become covered with a giant geodesic dome, which has grown up over time like an enormous shade tree fed by the energies of all of the little lights, each adding to it some energy of growth. Then the great dome gradually acquires its own illumination, taking from all the lights some of their energy, and imperceptibly growing in luminosity.
And as its general light glows and expands it reflects down upon all the particular lights and they grow dimmer, both from actually feeding their power to the domed vault and from appearing dim relative to the luminosity of the great dome.
At some point, yet to come, the lights below will diminish and extinguish in such numbers that finally everything will be illuminated by the one source. At an even later time, that great source will diminish and a relative darkness will pervade the whole vast sphere of the city.
This, as I see it, is the relation of the free culture to the coercive culture of bureaucracy. The myriad forces will be incorporated into the executive force. The executive force cannot subsist of its own power. Yet it cannot gather the power of the myriads, once these come to realize that their force has become concentrated into the single force that is foreign to their understanding and beyond their control.
Thus it happens that I can talk of the myriad of forces while observing all the while the huge social transformation occurring in America.
Intelligence sees and understands. Aggression is blind and uncomprehending in whatever form it takes: words, manipulation, or violence. The two are therefore placed in acute opposition. Intelligence expresses itself in opening up spaces inside the person and in society. It is intelligent to wish to know oneself and the world, intelligent and, of course, honest. It is aggressive to shut oneself in and batten down the hatches of the mind for combative social encounters; it is also deceptive.
How intelligent are Americans? How aggressive are they? First to the question of intelligence.
There are numerous tests of intelligence intended to show how people can be scored differently if they answer questions that "make them think." These are not of great concern here. One may assume that Americans will score generally the same as people everywhere and not be far off the truth. It is unfortunate that so much attention is given to technical tests of individual intelligence, for the good that may come from improving the social intelligence of people is far greater and more possible to device. Further, social intelligence is the foundation of and reflected in individual intelligence. Also, social intelligence is directed at good objects, whereas individual intelligence is an anarchistic concept.
Social intelligence is the ability to see what is happening in one's society and to understand it. That there exists a genetic intelligence potential is true. But this is highly diffused, rarely pointed up by formal education, and in itself, if cultivated in special ways, can be antipathetic to social intelligence. For a long time to come, nobody will be able to make any policies that will mine genetic intelligence and meanwhile a great deal of harm will come from focusing upon this issue. It is well to assume, and it is probably true, that a person with an IQ of 100 can have superior social intelligence. Paradoxically, people of high IQ are often to be found in the ranks of psychologically aggressive types, joining in this malicious endangering of community bonds and wasting energy in a stupid hunt for a social policy of repression of individuals and groups who are alleged to be intellectually inferior by class or race.
Unhappily, persons of average and low IQ-type intelligence can, more readily than the nimble-witted high IQs, be alienated and turned hostile by the attempts of colleges and other centers of the intelligentsia to locate them and discriminate against them. One of the final results of this tortured and fruitless process is the reactive distrust of intellectuals on the part of great numbers of people who are made to feel inferior. Thence emerges an indifference and even aggressiveness therefore to whatever bespeaks social intelligence in American politics.
One crime of individualistic and competitive intelligence, then, is that it institutes, hierarchy and social resentment. Resentment spells uncooperativeness. Hierarchy spells the limitation and narrowing of intelligence, the reduction of its scope and independence. A person who is convinced that only specialization can bring profit and discovery very soon becomes a victim of hierarchy and dependency. If his influence spreads, so much the worse for the society.
Individualistic intelligence, which abounds in America, also tends toward detachment, legalism, and historicism. The difficulty of finding a place in the political process leads the intelligentsia to denounce and eschew politics, giving politics a bad name and then proving the name is correct by instituting a boycott and engaging in irrelevancy. The bookish charms and pettifogging of legalism and historicism divert a great part of the American intelligentsia. It is easy to understand the anger with which Chinese communism has turned, time after time, upon the decadent traditions of the ancient scholars. You see the old intelligentsia in its onanism, spilling its seed upon the sands, while the country needs to be fertilized by intelligence. The absence of intelligence from the forefront of the social struggle, too, turns the struggle over to decisions characterized by patchwork, to violent action, to mob rule. These behaviors, in turn, react upon the condition of the intelligentsia to make it more furtive, deceptive, and counterrevolutionary. In America, as in China, the intelligentsia has to be told: "This is your revolution, come and get it."
Chinese usually imagine Americans as gray-skinned. About one in five Americans has a dark-colored skin. The dark coloring comes from being of African or American Indian ancestry, in whole or part. Far from being an asset, dark skin results in a nagging and persisting handicap in a person's search for the goods of life. Inasmuch as the dark-skinned have suffered vicious discrimination for two centuries, it has come to be associated usually with economic failure and lack of schooling, and then with suspiciousness and segregation. Jobs and housing are unusually hard to find, one gets poorer services from the government, and one can expect from time to time some arbitrary insult or injurious action from any quarter.
Over the past hundred-year period, the Constitution and many laws have attempted to stop the setting of American against American out of feelings of color. But so deep have been the prejudices, or at least apathy, of the gray-skinned and pink-skinned population, especially those coming from the British Isles, that the laws are abrogated in practice. So intense has been color prejudice in the southern states, where it was entrenched in the system of slavery, serfdom, and caste segregation, that these states endured in turn a century of violence, colonialism, poverty, and cultural decline in their struggle to keep down the people of dark color. During this massive polyfrenia, the Northerners oppressed the Southerners who oppressed the blacks and Indians.
The situation has become more fluid and complicated today. Racial polyfrenia is dispersed around the country-north, east, and west, as well as south. The bronze and brown skins find themselves in the midst of an equally long-continuing, though less poisonous, struggle of ethnic and religious groups of pink and gray skins. The combinations of one against the other are many indeed.
The identities and types in any certain aggregate are many also. The Jews of America, for example, are at one and the same time geographically dispersed and congregated, assimilated and segregated. They consist of orthodox, reform, and humanist schools. They are Zionist and isolationist; they are political protagonists of every persuasion; they may live strictly according to the Talmud or carry nothing of Jewishness except an affirmation in their hearts.
Two ideals about cultural groups have achieved equal recognition: "the melting pot" and "cultural identity." Obviously these are contradictory. If everybody assimilates to a common identity, no one will remain to preserve a culture. If the American Indian conducts himself, and is treated by others, as indiscriminately American, not Indian, then whence is to come the American Indian whose tribal culture and way of life are to be proudly preserved?
What happens is that some Americans will be assimilated in one part of their life to a general outlook and life-style, but will be culturally distinct in another. Some other Americans will play out their life roles in a segregated way, and still others in an undistinct and assimilated way.
In accord with this complicated pattern of behaviors, the laws promote both segregation and assimilation, both cultural identity and a single uniform behavior and outlook. That all of this occur without discriminatory conflict and hullabaloo is too much to expect. It is the price we pay for accepting two contradictory, ethically valid ideals at the same time.
This ethically good dualism is not to be confused , however, with the vicious prejudice to which I alluded earlier. So long as any American is blocked by racist hostility from finding a way of life in accord with one or the other or a combination of these ideals, a bad contradiction besets the American system. Such is the case today with especial regard to Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans, and Afro-Americans, and to a lesser extent to a number of ethnic and religious groupings. The distress caused is great; the psychic injury to Americans of all colors is costly in regard to every major value of the country.
Violence among individuals is more common in America than in any other country in the world. The press, by which is meant newspapers, magazines, movies, and television, are fixated on violence; they grossly exaggerate and thereby promote it.
If, by some miracle, every writer were suddenly paralyzed as he was about to write about violence, and if all the old movies and books on violence were withdrawn from circulation, how long would it take for the violent Americans to stop swinging their fists and firing their guns? Very long. And miracles do not happen. Their sporadic and personal violence is comparable to the class violence and secret police violence of communist countries like Russia and Cuba, and to that of reactionary fascist and military regimes like Spain and Chile.
Following several fighting quarrels of childhood, the overwhelming majority of Americans never strike another adult in anger. Some do, hitting spouses, quarreling at work, fighting to get work, striking competitors, inflicting blind vengeance or a stranger for psychological of sociological reasons, and fleeing from crimes against property.
Will it surprise you that in a country where practically anyone can run for office, where people believe that they are everybody's equal, where the strains of work are hard and the movements of people swift and incessant, where people belong to many different ethnic, religious, and sectional groups and associations, in such a country personal assaults and clashes occur with a frequency much greater than in countries without these traits?
Remember, too, that the glib tongue, the slick written word, the bureaucrat's order, the police's command the rich person's purse, and the boss's demands are all challenged fundamentally and are not regarded as just in themselves by most Americans. They believe in their hearts that, unless based on fairness and felt justice, these actions lack validity. Personal force, they feel, can be justly applied against all of them when a personal harm has been suffered, especially when the remedy otherwise imposed for one of these is more of the same or another of them.
But what of the many cases of blind aggression, of violence prompted by hate against historical injustices, of gangsterism, of sheerly wicked and exploitative threats and violence? The country is not incapacitated by these activities, of course, less by far than it is by strikes, legal snarls, and red tape. Violence is regrettable as is also every kind of injustice perpetrated by the glib speaker, the poison-penned writer, the calloused judge, the overbearing boss, the evasive bureaucrat, the social snob, and the corrupting buyer. Implicit inmost of the violent literature and pictures of American life is the hope that people can be more equal and more justice can be expected if violence is accepted along with all other methods of arbitrarily ruling others. If force against great tyrants is just, then what of force against little tyrants? The first cheap and reliable handgun, the famous Colt, was at one time fondly called "the equalizer," because it made a little man able to stand up to a big man.
As for the question of how personal violence flows over into collective violence in civil affairs and war, the answer is that it does not. Americans have less of an urge to involve themselves in collective civil violence than, say, Hindu, Muslim, and communist populations. As soldiers, they are not at all as bloodthirsty, say, as Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians, Sudanese, and Koreans. Nor do they behave as violently toward an enemy civil population as most troops do. Partly this is because they are not subjected to such iron-fisted rule in their own units, and because they are well paid, well fed, and fight with the heavy support of aircraft and other mechanized weapons.
Welfare, in brief, is basically alien to the American character. If it were not, America would have gone on to conquer the world in 1945. It commanded almost all strategic positions, most of the world's resources, and a vast army, fleet, and air force. But the idea of world conquest never occurred to its leaders or people.
When the well-equipped burglars, in the high fashion of international espionage, were discovered penetrating Democratic Party recesses at Watergate, it was comic in a way. What secrets, some experts asked themselves could a party headquarters posses to make it a profitable target for such elaborate crookedness? Conclusions: "None. Therefore they had to be political amateurs, afflicted with paranoia, and loaded with cash." All of which turned out to be true.
A political party in the U.S.A. does not make important decisions; whatever decisions it makes are publicized with the pride of a crowing cock, or, if confidential, are leaked. And, more likely than not, the decision is immediately attacked by a party faction; it is reversed, or it is denounced, at an early occasion. And it is followed only by whoever wishes to do so among the candidates.
Political deals are of course many. And of deals, many are illegal. By a deal i mean, for instance, agreements of candidates to support each other. Crooked deals involve bribes or illegal campaign contributions, plans for illegal tactics such as vote stealing (though practically anything goes in a political campaign except physical assassination). But deals aren't usually made at party headquarters. Times have changed, too. Once, in many places the party managers were professional bosses who occupied the same offices over decades of time, surrounded by their henchmen. Modern managers are here today and gone tomorrow.
Since most people, if they read anything, read from old books or listen to people who read old books, the illusion is still widespread that old-time political organization is still the center of political struggle. In fact, the centers have been dispersed into numerous individual offices, rented for the time being, of candidates who work through numerous auxiliary aids: public relations consultants, mailing services, advertising companies, and para-political committees on this or that issue, such as ecological conservation. The main office is likely to be filled with acquaintances and volunteers who do a variety of clerical tasks and agitation on behalf of the candidate. Money is usually collected and disbursed by a finance committee who give and ask others to give funds.
Usually nearly everybody is dispensable, so that any embarrassing incident is promptly followed by somebody's resignation or by dropping someone from the omnipresent letterhead of the candidate; the campaign proceeds little affected. So the would-be "bug," to be useful, would have to be planted as a boutonniere of the candidate and a friend or two for a long time to bring any conceivably valuable results. Now many politicians will deny what I say, but we all have our own idea of what we have that is worth stealing, and it hurts our sense of self-importance to argue differently.
If this is true, then what really is the political party? The party really is the following things: it is a myth of a fellowship of principles, carried in the minds of a hundred million people. It is a form of legal organization, a structural and legal monster, which, under laws and its own rules, governs anyone who wishes to engage in politics of a conventional, non-revolutionary character.
The system of political parties is most of all a reinforcement to the system of checks and balances that helps keep the organs of government from devouring each other and then turning upon the people. One party keeps the other from blanketing the public with a single viewpoint and from monopolizing the organs of government and therefore from suppressing ultimately the people. We hope that the parties will continue their desultory but functional careers.
You can visualize how difficult it is establish a dictatorship in the U.S.A. unless there has been a grave erosion caused by disaffections of popular morale, by foreign economic and military failures, and by thoroughgoing bureaucratization of the country creating a universal dependency. For, wherever a threat of dictatorship arises, the other organs of government unite against it, the states resist, the press explodes, and the party in opposition rises up in high moral indignation and denunciation. Thus it is that Americans have been spared a dictator.
Let me confide to you the most secret and yet the most public fact about the way America is governed. You exclaim: "How can something be secret and yet public?" An example is,"If you ask people what they exhale after breathing, they will say stale air. Everyone can find out that they exhale, most significantly, carbon dioxide; it is public knowledge, but in effect it is secret because few seek to know it."
Now if you ask how America is governed and you are a typical American or foreigner, you will be told "by higher authorities giving orders to lower authorities." But if you see the way decisions are made in America, you can become bewildered. Because no one seems to pay attention to "orders"in America.
The head of a great company that produces more machines than all of china will be openly contemptuous of the President, the "commander in chief." He will openly say, "He is no good. Impeach him," "To hell with him," or words to that effect. Or when the head of an investigating committee asks the head of the greatest oil company of the world what dividend that company paid to its stockholders, the president of the company may not know. The senator is irritated but no one imagines that this president will be removed or punished, and he is not. He goes home and eats a hearty meal. And when Israel was attacked and won a brief small war, the commander and other officers were to resign for not being fully triumphant, but when America attacks first and fights a losing war, in Vietnam, no generals are fired. President Harry Truman once said, "One word from me and everyone does as he pleases."
America is quite unlike a communist country and many other countries in this regard. In China or in Russia, conduct of this sort would be unimaginable. Everyone says, "Yes, sir," when authority speaks, whether he knows what he is saying or not, Whether he lies or not.
If this is the way decisions are made in America, then how does the country hold together and how are decision made? The truth is that America works by a strange kind of cooperation in which the leaders owe little directly to each other, in which they cannot be forced to obey each other, but where their goals in life and their circumstances are such that what they do adds up to the same thing as a clear hierarchy where one man orders another to do something.
If most Americans do not realize this, the rest of the world can hardly be expected to understand. That is why, except for rare English and French writers, almost no deep analysis of the American system of government exists. And all kinds of foolish analyses come out of Russia, Italy, Africa, South America, India and Asia, and unfortunately, China.
Foreigners and many cynical Americans believe that there is a hidden conspiracy to rule America. They believe that there is a secret government. But their own failure to see is the secret, for the secret government does not exist.
What exists is the political environment-that ponderous political, social, and economic system-that makes leaders who do not like each other behave alike and produces in the end a far more effective result than (and one that is just as bad as) the supposedly well-organized leadership of communist, socialist, and authoritarian regimes that govern nine tenths of the people of the world. The strange American system resembles to some degree only a few countries in Western Europe and elsewhere.
If this Taoist system of ruling were not rapidly being replaced by one much more like what the rest of the world has, and if the future were not closing in on the system so quickly in the form of energy and material shortages, pollution, and impossible expectations of quality on a high level of consumption, then we might expect it to last for a very long time and to perform creditably in comparison with these other systems. Such not being the case, the American ruling process has only a choice between reform or ruin.
"Culture" has a popular meaning and a scientific one. Vulgarly it means "high culture," a superiority of life-style. A country or a social class or a single person is credited with being advanced and highly cultured. But the meaning of "culture" here is the one used by students of societies, often primitive ones. It carries no connotation of good or bad. A culture is the pattern of practices of a society. A culture consists of the typical behaviors of a people.
Parts of the American culture are formed of different and often clashing practices. It contains, often living next to each other, people who believe in the infallibility of the pope and others who are irreligious and others who can assemble a new church like a box of crackers and then later on abandon it and assemble another church. America contains many absolute pacifists and many confirmed violent characters. It holds many teetotalers and also many alcoholics. Many millions read books and know nothing of football on television.
Which is "American culture" in all of these contradictory types and practices? One is tempted to say, "There is no culture there." Yet there is a "there" in American culture. Americans by and large pay attention to the same happenings. They understand, they make and use the same kinds of products. They share the same worries, the same language, and propose solutions to their problems. Americans also have several typical sense of humor, and express hostilities to one another in their own peculiar ways. They also share myths about themselves that non-Americans usually disbelieve whether about Americans or about themselves. Huge majorities form on sports, food habits, dress, the Constitution, the value of education, and whether President Nixon knew about the Watergate affair when he said he did not.
An experienced pollster such as George Gallup or Louis Harris or Mervin Field could continue everyday for years unerringly to choose different question that would evoke agreement among large majorities of Americans. Not only questions such as "Do you like ice cream?" or "Should the two-party system be abolished?" but also "Do you believe women should have equal rights with men?" and "Do you agree with the President's efforts to become more friendly with China and the Soviet Union?"
There is a pattern among the thousands of activities and ideas of Americans. The pattern is seen and felt; it is conscious and unconscious. It makes Americans abroad say that they want to go home. It makes Americans feel resigned to their country even at its worst moments (although about 10 per cent wish to move to another country, but somehow do not do so). It makes them identify their personal fate with the fate of the country. It does not matter that these ideas occur in a negative mood, that "there is nowhere else to go." The effect of the mood reinforces the effects of the behavior and produces the Americans and an American culture, despite its contradictions, or, better, typified by its contradictions.
Chairman Mao, with his penchant for discovering contradictions, would make great sport with America. When two large groupings, two widespread ideas, or two kinds of behavior are in opposition and the whole culture and social system will go in a different direction depending upon the victory of one of these groups,
ideas, or behaviors, then a basic contradiction exists. When President Lincoln declared before the American Civil War began in 1860, "This nation cannot exist half slave and half free," he was stating a contradiction that a great many Americans had come to realize. Removing this contradiction nearly ruined the country. It was a bad trip.
This book dwells upon a similar contradiction: America exists half forced and half free. The opposition of the two terms "free" and "forced" is hostile, not friendly. The two forces of America are irreconcilable, not mutually supportive. One or the other will win out and dominate more clearly the American system a few years from now.
One way to explain this contradiction is to show how freedom and force are each composed of a set of elements that stand in opposition. Thus a primary component of a free culture is personal and group honesty, while a force culture depends upon personal and group deception. And so it goes; each of the eight goods can be matched with one of the eight bads, eight contradictions in all, which add up to the free culture on the other.
Dose a people have to recognize and grant that it is faced by a powerful and disturbing contradiction? Recalling the Civil War crises, the answer must be on. For a large number of people were passive and indifferent. Many others were busy pursuing their own affairs. A great many recognized the contradiction but thought that it could be suppressed or even that it should not be regarded as a contradiction at all but merely as an accommodation of two kinds of culture under the same flag.
Today's contradiction of force and freedom runs into similar difficulties of awareness and acknowledgment. And there is no geographical segregation of the parties-no slave states and free states-to highlight the division. The contradiction is imbedded inside and among the groups, classes, occupations, ideas, and souls of the people wherever they reside. Americans live the contradiction.
As I approach the dividing point of these lectures, I arrive in position to express the set of contradictions that contribute to the great contradiction of the force culture and the free culture.
Living in the past contradicts the intelligent solutions of today's and tomorrow's problems. Deception contradicts openness and honesty. Idolatry contradicts voluntary cooperation. Dependency contradicts productiveness. Alienation and anomia, the division of the soul, contradict the universal care of others. Hierarchy contradicts ruling well. Setting one against another contradicts justice. Pride contradicts friendship.
The lists of bads and goods are not mere epithets. From the start, those who would opt for the good outnumber overwhelmingly those who would choose the bad. So it has been throughout the sad and difficult history of humankind. Leaders and peoples speak good and do evil. They do so out of malice, ignorance, and incompetence. The contradictions arise out of social conditions, which one must increasingly strive to master.
The terms refer to two sets of clashing practices. They must not be merely mouthings. They must correspond to the actual and important ways in which people think and behave. As each one of the terms is taken up seriously, it will have to acquire a fixed and clear meaning and be shown to be in contradiction to widespread opposing practices.
When the realities of American behavior are assembled around them, four major connections are revealed between each behavior and the others.
The set of behaviors on the side of freedom is consistent as a whole. Each item of the set affects all the other items and is affected by them in turn. Honesty fosters caring and sharing. Caring and sharing foster honesty. Honesty and caring promote voluntarism and justice. Good community practices and justice foster honesty and sharing. There is a favorable, positive reinforcement among the members of the set.
Figure 1 is intended to show how the practices of a free culture foster and support each other.
However, the same is true of the set of behaviors amounting to the force culture. These also reinforce each other: deception contributes to the division of the soul, and vice versa; the division of the soul sets one against another and creates dependency, and vice versa.
Figure 2 depicts this condition in a manner that corresponds to Figure 1.
A third type of connection exists. The darker lines of Figure 3 join the pairs of practices that are in sharp contradiction.
Now the two wheels are superimposed upon one another, and their superimposition leads one to conjecture that perhaps each of the sixteen elements, bad and good, is connected with all other elements, bad and good. Such is the case, not only logically but in reality.
A fourth kind of connection relates each subculture behavior or good, such as "honesty," not only to his primary contradiction "deception" but with every other bad.
All of these sub-connections are revealed in the thin lines of Figure 4. The action is reciprocal. Every forced element affects the quality of honesty and openness of the culture. Open practices, in turn, affect adversely every forced quality of the society.
What is to be understood, then, by these figures?
They are to be taken as a mapping of the contradictions of American culture.
The acceptable free elements of American culture are shown to be in opposition to the forced elements.
The forced elements are interconnected. The free elements also form a pattern. They are interconnected and supportive of each other. These will be discussed in Part II of the book.
The opposition works out into a total confrontation. He who "buys" one bad buys them all. He who wishes to "save" an element that is precious to him runs the risk of saving elements, whether good or bad, that he does not want to preserve or that he may dislike.
Most important is the implication that every person has the possibility in one's own compass and sphere of activity to do one's duty by the whole. If a person is honest in dealing with oneself and others, one contributes directly and indirectly to the whole pattern of practices that amount to a free culture. To take another example, if a postmaster or an industrial manager or a bishop or a collage dean or a head of a family behaves in a representative rather than a bureaucratic manner with respect to the members and clientele of his group, not only does he strengthen the representative complex against the bureaucratic complex in the particular case and in the general case, but ripple of indirect effects are sent out that ultimately touch every type of human relationship.
Now and then, an American town council will launch a "Courtesy Week" in which the citizens are asked to be especially nice to one another, or a newspaper will send a reporter out to publicize ordinary people who manage to "Keep Smiling" in the face of irritating provocations. These are but fragile and pathetic recognitions of what is said here, that "if only people would do one thing" many different things would follow.
Or, to take another example, seemingly far away, there was the dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, who truly believed that bureaucratic practices were resulting in the gross failure of the Soviet economy. He exhorted everyone to decentralize agencies and create initiative. But meanwhile he maintained, at a level of sheer madness, his autocratic rule and a bureaucratic secret police apparatus. It was futile to expect the terrorized officialdom and population to respond to his pleas for creativity, initiative, and cooperation. In an extreme culture of force, an opening to free behavior becomes impossible.