Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Six Stages of Society

1.     The family. Decision-making is easy, and internal conflict rare. More important tasks like gathering food and basic survival are more important.
2.     Then families organize together into tribes or city-states. Because of the small scale, true direct democracy is possible at this state. Tribes may fight each other at regular intervals in somewhat ritualized battle, but large-scale, devastating wars are impossible.
3.     Then the tribes in a geographic area organize into nation-states and empires.  This is where war begins, and democracy must be forgone in place of representative rule, monarchy, or dictatorship. Wars become total, as the state takes the place of God.
4.     Once people realize the State has become too powerful and dominant, they rebel. This is the Revolution, and it is a time of great tumult and hope. If the Revolution fails, the State remains in power. If it succeeds, a Revolutionary State is formed.
5.     As time passes, the Revolutionary State—once thought to be the salvation of the people--falls prey to the same excesses and errors that the original State had. Thus the Revolution itself must also be rejected. Then the society must go back to another stage.   

Here are 5 examples showing this to be true, both fictional and nonfictional.  

Example 1: Hunger Games. As we assume Stage 1 happened in the distant past, we then know that families organized into Districts 1-13 (Stage 2). After a devastating war, the districts are subsumed under the Capitol’s control (Stage 3). As Katniss Everdeen foments revolution, District 13 takes the opportunity to rise up in the Revolution. The rebels plan to start a new Revolutionary State (Stage 4). But Katniss, at the end of book 3, recognizes that the Revolution is heading towards the same excesses that the Capitol had originally gone, and rejects the revolution and assassinates President Coin (Stage 5). She moves back home, marries, and lives a peaceful life with her family (back to Stage 1).

Example 2: Star Wars. Stage 1 is also implied, as each sentient species developed itself on its home planet. Stage 2 occurred as systems and small-scale empires (such as the Hutts, or the Hapan Empire) organized little sectors. Gradually these systems organized into the Republic, a grand consortium of systems that ruled relatively effectively for thousands of years, while also enduring brutal wars against rival empires like that of the Sith. That was Stage 3. But the Republic grew corrupt and was taken over by the Emperor, and so the Rebels started a Revolution (Stage 4). The Rebels succeeded and established a Revolutionary State based on freedom. However, in the Expanded Universe we soon see the New Republic (later the Galactic Alliance) falls prey to the same corruption and errors that the Old Republic had. The revolution must itself be rejected—it is not the answer either.

Example 3: Revolutionary States like the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Iran, France (late 18th century), and the United States. These nations of course were (or still are) all Revolutionary States. The founders rightfully rejected the errors of the State before them and thought that they could bring forth a new nation founded on better principles—whether it be religion, freedom, communism, or “egalite, fraternite, and liberte”. However, soon enough the Revolutionary States become the very evils they sought to replace. America soon would have a high rate of taxation, like the British Empire had. China and the Soviet Union turned violent against their own people, just like the oppressive monarchies before them. France turned to the guillotine. Thus even the Revolution, no matter how high its ideals, must be rejected. As the Beatles sang, “You say you want a revolution/well we all want to change the world/…but when you talk about destruction/Don’t you know that you can count me out.”

Example 4: The Jews. The Jews started as one man and his family: Abraham (Stage 1). As his progeny grew more numerous, they became 12 tribes, organized and governed by a loose consortium of judges and prophets (stage 2). Eventually, the 12 tribes would clamor for a king, which HaShem (G-d) would reluctantly grant and they would enter Stage 3: Monarchy. But as the State grew powerful, it tramled on the poor, the widowed, the aliens, and the orphans. Thus Revolutionaries—the prophets—would rise up to criticize and seek to bring change. However, in general they were unsuccessful and Israel never entered a period of a Revolutionary State. (Perhaps the Macabean Kingdom might count as they revolted against Hellenism, but I don’t know enough about that time period to take a firm stance). 

Example 5: The Church. The Christian Church was founded essentially as a small family of disciples and close friends of Jesus, but soon it rapidly spread to different cities that functioned as tribes. Each city had a somewhat different culture and interpretation of how to follow the Bible, for better or worse. A lot of the New Testament involves the disciples trying to correct incorrect doctrine of a certain church or settle disputes between different cities (i.e. Jerusalem vs. other cities). This was stage 2. Stage 3 came into play with Constantine and the advent of the Holy Roman Empire. This existed for a long time, seemingly better than the pagan Roman Empire of before. But in reality, it fell prey to the same excesses and abuses of power as any authoritarian system. Then came Stage 4: the Protestant Reformation/Revolution. The Protestant Reformation took a couple centuries to totally displace Catholicism as the main power structure in the Church, but by now we see the extent of its strength. However, in our postmodern era we are now entering a period of Stage 5, where we realize that the Revolution has become as unforgiving, cold, and inflexible as the State it had replaced. We see a new rise of independent house “family” churches or city-based “tribal” churches (stages 1 and 2). This “Emerging Church” is a good answer to the problems of the Church, but it of course is not the final state of affairs.

How must the world end? Is there an end to this cycle of power, or must it continue on forever?

If you are a Jew or a Christian (and maybe a Muslim? not totally sure you guys’ end times theology), you must believe that one day it shall come to an end and we shall enter stage 6: Heaven/Perfection. According to the Jewish and Christian prophets, when the Messiah comes to (re-)establish his reign in the world and firmly plant God’s kingdom for all time, the world shall begin anew. In stage 6, we see a combination of various stages. Each man will “have his own fig tree,” a very Stage 1 view of things, as if we will all have family farms again. But we’ll also live in community with each other with every “tribe” which sounds Stage 2. But ultimately we all live in the New Jerusalem, a city with members of every nation—all citizens of the kingdom of God. We will have a perfect monarchy with a perfect king with perfect justice and perfect democracy—because all voices will finally be heard. Thus we will have a perfect stage 3 and no need for a Revolution. In Stage 6, we have perfection. We have heaven on earth. The Holy Kingdom (and it’s actually holy this time) will reign supreme under the Messiah. 

The Good Taliban

“Who is my neighbor?”

In reply, he said: “An aid worker from a Christian charity was going down the road from Kabul to Kandahar, when he was attacked by smugglers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A military convoy happened to be going down the same road, and when the lead driver saw the man, passed by on the other side. (The driver feared it was a set-up for an ambush). So too, a humvee carrying the US ambassador also passed by on the other side (the ambassador had an important meeting with the district governor). Soon, a member of the Taliban, as he traveled with his donkey, came where the man lay; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on an antiseptic and giving him a bit of morphine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out three hundred American dollars and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Then the member of the Taliban went on his way. Two hours later, an American drone fired a missile at the inn, thinking it was a Taliban base. The missile killed all inside: the innkeeper, his wife, their children, and the aid worker.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”