Joost van Steenis: Road to the future
- The following article will shortly be published in "The Journal of
Future Studies, http://www.ed.tku.edu.tw/develop/JFS
The road to the future
Humans distinguish themselves from all other living beings because
they can learn from the past, experience the present and dream about
the future. To apply what they have learned, experienced and dreamed
on the road to the future is one of the most important things they
can do in the not yet hundred years they live. How society will
exactly be organised over two or three hundred years is only
academically interesting. The practical road towards a future
situation is more human than discussions about a far future that may
never be realised.
Human life is movement from one situation to another. Humans petrify
when they remain too long in one and the same situation, they lose
their creativity, they lose what makes humans human. To travel from
one place to another is more interesting than to reach a vague and
fairly unknown destination. Far away places can often hardly be
described from a distance but on the road to the unknown the
traveller gets already a glimpse of what can be expected. The
political future is even more difficult to predict. How society will
then be organised is better left to people who live then. But in our
lifetime we can cover part of the road towards the future. On this
road we can already consciously introduce elements that should belong
to a different and more agreeable future.
I expect that in the future humans will be freer. Now they are fenced
in but can liberate themselves when they take the right road to the
future. This road should be paved by a new kind of temporary minority
organisations of active, interested, independent, autonomous and
involved masspeople who will act on the time, the place and about the
subjects they choose. Then people will change their attitude and will
become more autonomous and independent. This cannot be achieved by
education alone but has to be inserted in human nature (and the human
mind) by practical activities. By the way, by introducing the
importance of minorities I distance myself from democratic ideas that
are based on majorities, not in the least because I think democracy
is a dead end. Democracy will lead to alienation and petrifaction, to
a society in which people have even less to say than in the past when
democracy gave people hope they could free themselves from the
arbitrary rule of the leading class.
People are not isolated individuals and should have contact with
other people on just those subjects in which they are involved and
interested. Because the interests of people are changing over time
small groups of activists will be formed for a restricted period of
time. In this way the autonomy of the group and the participants will
be safeguarded. The present political organisations continue to exist
for a long time and ordinary members are dependent on what leaders
tell them. Deviations from established ideas are hardly permitted and
others decide when, where and about what people may become active.
Even in ordinary life temporary groups should be dominating. Not the
family must stand central in society but temporary groups that have
limited goals. I only write about political goals but the development
that marriages more and more appear to become temporary connections
between independent humans is already widely experienced and
To determine which road has to be taken and which characteristics
must be strengthened on the way to the future we have to consider the
past and the present, analyse how society is up till now organised
and think about how a new and different future should look like. But
most of all we have to take into account the possibilities of the
human mind and of the human existence. I will bring some points
forward that I find of importance. Other people can advance other
aspects but all characteristics will originate in the basic feeling
that the present society is not ideal and that freedom to live one's
own life is too much restricted by mighty and often anonymous people.
Our world is divided into two separate entities, an eliteworld and a
massworld. There is a great distance between the two and most misery
and suppression is found on the massworld. The eliteworld is more
prosperous, the inhabitants freer and elitepeople are driven by the
idea to safeguard their privileged position of more power and wealth
and to leave this position to their progeny. The masses that live on
the densely populated massworld have hardly any future to live for,
their first goal is to survive. Most elitist conflicts take place on
the massworld and most damage in wars and economic conflicts is
inflicted upon the masses. When the economic situation deteriorates,
masspeople may fall from the massworld, elitepeople that fall down
are saved by the massworld that can be found beneath the eliteworld.
Elites have dominated humanity for many centuries. Gaetano Mosca
spoke at the end of the 19th century of the circulation of elites, I
prefer to say that there exists one nearly eternal elite that renews
itself by new blood from the massworld. To be accepted this new blood
must however to a great height accept the rules and customs that are
already present in the eliteworld. In this way the power position
(and the privileges) of the elite is continued and safeguarded
through the ages. The development in the United States, the Soviet
Union and China where complete new elites came into power confirms
this idea because after some time these elites were hardly
distinguishable from old elites.
The coming into existence of democracy did not change the balance of
power between elite and masses. The system was an improvement of
other methods to organise society because old democratic countries
are still more prosperous than the rest of the world. Though the
general prosperity increased the prosperity of the elite increased
even more. In most parts of the world misery is however still
rampant. A slight downturn in the economy forces many masspeople to
move nearer to the edge of their world and the chance to fall down
into death and oblivion increases. The Asian Financial Crisis brought
misery to the masses while the elite was hardly affected.
The present situation is shocking.
A billion people live in shantytowns.
Many other masspeople are not living in houses in which they can
develop an independent mind.
One billion children live in poverty.
Tens of millions of people are still dying from hunger while food is
The position of half of the worlds' population, women, is in
important parts of the world abominable.
Illiteracy is widespread and the general standard of education is far
below what people may expect of a decent society.
Health problems in the Third World, and not only because of the AIDS-
problem, are appalling.
Billions of people still live on less than a few dollars a day.
In many Third World countries (and nearly only there) devastating
wars are being conducted.
The future is not bright.
It is time for a change.
It is time to look for other roads to advance humanity.
This new road will be long and a better world is still far off. The
power relations between elite and mass did not change fundamentally
over the ages and can thus never be changed in a fortnight. The minds
of elitepeople as well as of masspeople, of rulers as well as of
ruled, of dominators as well as of dominated can only become more
equal and free over a long period in which more and more (mass)
people become active. And they have one overwhelming and human
purpose: all people should have right on an equal status because all
are member of the human race (see Francis Fukuyama).
Only movement can disturb the petrified power relations. Yes indeed
petrified relations. Humanity has suffered greatly in the past
because the elite held on to its privileged position while the
political situation asked for a change. Life-long dominance (being
dominated and dominating others) is contrary to human nature but
promoted and preserved ancient social structures. By the way
structures are dead entities and are only wheelbarrows for (powerful)
living humans that want to realise their private benefits, to
safeguard their privileged positions and to give this power and
prosperity through to their progeny. It is not enough to change dead
structures it is imperative to change (the minds of) living people.
Otherwise comparable divisions as between the present elite and mass
will reappear in the future.
In former times many societies petrified, went down and vanished.
Mandarin China, the Roman Empire and the Islam World stopped being
the most developed societies. The petrifaction of Roman Catholic
institutions and the Catholic leadership caused the rise to power of
Protestants. When freedom, individuality, autonomy and creativity are
being suppressed, society will die.
The proposed activities of masspeople do not fall from the sky. Quite
often masspeople unite for a short time to pursue a single objective.
Success is however most of the time very small if any. Activities are
mostly directed against dead objects as governmental or industrial
buildings. Clashes in the street involve only demonstrators and
police officers that all live on the massworld. The rulers that use
the structures to preserve their rule are hardly influenced by people
that demonstrate in front of their workplace. Actions are often
controlled by leaders of big organisations as trade unions, NGO's or
political parties that know a comparable hierarchical power structure
as the rest of society. Freedom and creativity of individual
activists can hardly be found and certainly not blossom.
Organisations that control actions are lead by people who do not want
to lose their relative powerful position and do all to prevent that
still more powerful people threaten the benefits they get from their
higher position in society.
Already more than a hundred years ago Roberto Michels advanced the
Iron Law of Oligarchy by which original free mass organisations
transform in organisations that control the masses. The history of
trade unions, the development in France after the French Revolution
or in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution are clear
indications that this kind of organisations give only limited
advantages to the masses. A strict hierarchy prevents the free
development of humans and leads in the end to petrifaction. It is not
strange that in 1989 the petrified Eastern European regimes
disappeared after the sudden and unpredictable Fall of the Berlin
What to do on the road towards a new future must not be inspired by
an utopian picture of a new world. Activities must in the first place
be based on the idea how humanity in general and individual humans in
particular can better use their unique characteristics as creativity,
independence and autonomy. It must be based on the idea that all
humans must reach the equal status that is embedded in their
membership of the human race.
The present social organisation is based on power. The elite can only
maintain its privileged position because it possesses a surplus of
power. So activities must be directed at the undermining of the
unequal balance of power and against the division of the world in two
parts, a massworld and an eliteworld. When masspeople advance on the
road towards the future they will better realise what a society of
the future will look like. But it can never be predicted when this
point will be reached. When the conditions are ripe one small action
can, according to the mathematical Chaos and Catastrophe Theories,
cause a catastrophe. Then a new situation will come into being in
which people see old facts on a new way (free after Thomas S. Kuhn).
Then humanity will enter a new phase in its development that is now
threatened by petrifaction. A catastrophe and a temporary chaos will
open new roads to unknown but interesting futures.
But what exactly can those temporary minority groups do? How can the
petrifying situation be turned around? When we realise that the
present hierarchical society is preserved by the power of the elite
the target is clear: people from the elite that live in a distant and
safe place that is called the eliteworld. The use of power is now one-
sided and directed from elite- to massworld. It is all top-down, what
for example is expressed in the monopoly on the use of violence by
the state that is one of the instruments by which the elite maintains
its privileged position. The same is true for communication. The
elite has a firm grip on the media and alternative news is hard to
come by. All news is seen from the ideas and the interests of the
Because power is very closely connected to violence (and wealth) it
should be clear that activists should also use some violence in their
actions. It must however be a special kind of violence that largely
remains within the limits of the present society. An imprisoned
massperson cannot exercise any pressure on elitepersons. Moreover it
must be avoided that the elite can use organisations of mass
restriction (police, army) that for the greater part consist of
masspeople. Then the struggle will become a struggle between
different parts of the masses. It should be a struggle between parts
of the masses against parts of the elite. Attacks must only be
directed at elitepeople and any attack on masspeople must be avoided.
I have called this method "Small Violence".
Small minority groups are tiny parts of the immense massworld where
billions of people live. It cannot be expected that such small groups
achieve huge results on their own. When many groups are active at the
same time life becomes a sequence of ever different projects in which
masspeople are consciously involved. Because of the constant pressure
from the massworld in the direction of the eliteworld, from
masspeople on elitepeople, small successes will take place.
Elitepeople will sometimes change their attitude or even withdraw
from the active pursuit of elitist goals. This will encourage
masspeople and they will see that the future is bright when they
become more active. The present action methods suppress human
individuality and many activists have become so disappointed that
they withdrew from politics and never again took part in any
That is not right, people should remain political active. They should
have the intention to disturb, to move and to shake society in such a
way that petrifying is not possible. The minds of the elite must be
disturbed in such a way that they are not capable to concentrate on
the only purpose they have had up till now, the preservation of the
privileged position of the elite. And because the minds of the elite
are embedded in the bodies of elitepersons, actions must take place
in those places where elitepersons are most at ease, in and near
those places where elitepeople live, in their private surroundings,
in the eliteworld. When the eliteworld is shaken, when it is not any
more the quiet world on which elitepeople can live undisturbed and
far from the havoc they have created on the massworld, the effect of
the actions will become clear. When the elite has to spend more time
at directly defending its living space, the living place of the
masses, the massworld, becomes freer. The elite will then have fewer
possibilities to control the massworld and the masspeople. The
separate eliteworld will begin to disappear.
By the way it is not the intention to replace the old elite by a new
one. In our complicated society things have to be organised. When we
want to build an aeroplane some co-ordinating people, you may call
them leaders, must have the overall view of the production. These
people must however never get such power that their decisions become
in the first place inspired by the interest of the small elitist and
privileged group to which they belong. The interests of all people
have to be taken into account. In regard to property rights the
present policy is elitist. Music is made by artists and consumed by
consumers who all belong to the massworld. Some money has to stream
from consumers to artists. But music producers want to earn as much
money as possible even when they do not contribute much to the
transport of music from artists to consumers. Internet provides a
reliable method to get cheap music that excludes the music industry.
Because the music industry is in the hand of members of the elite,
the judiciary, also in the hands of elitepeople, tries to stop any
cheap transport of music from artists to consumers that will make
most of the music industry obsolete. It is clear that some action has
to be undertaken, action that in the first place benefits masspeople
interested in cheap music. The tycoons of the music industry and the
supporting elitepeople of the judiciary will however not change their
policies when they are not pressurised by those people that are
interested in cheap music. And the biggest pressure takes not place
in the courtroom but in the safe living quarters of the elite, on the
To change the minds of elitepeople I propose that creative minority
groups apply "Creative Disturbance". I propose that masspeople act in
such a way that the mighty though petrifying eliteworld becomes
disturbed. Because the chaos theory learns that a small disturbance
can lead to a big change, society will not go down but will again
begin to vibrate. A new world will come into being in which the
divisions between leaders and lead, between rulers and ruled will
have disappeared. But how this new world exactly will look like
cannot be predicted. It will only be clear that the division of the
human living space in two worlds, a mass- and an eliteworld, will
cease to exist. Then humans become freer, more creative and more
autonomous, they will become able to develop to an ever higher level
those characteristics that uniquely belong to the human race.
Joost van Steenis (powerelite@...)
For further information about possible actions, the background of my
thoughts, a deeper analysis of the present society and the roads
towards a new society I refer to my site that I have named "Down with
the Elite". You can find it on http://members.chello.nl/jsteenis
Thomas S. Kuhn (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
University of Chicago Press, second edition 1970. Roberto Michels
(1911). Les Partis Politiques, Flammarion, 1971.
The title of the English edition is: "Political Parties", Free Press
The title of the original work was "Zur Soziologie des Parteiwezens
in der modernen Demokratie - Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen
Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens", Alfred Kroner Verlag Stuttgart.
Gaetano Mosca (1890). The Ruling Class - Elementi Di Scienza
Politica. Arthur Livingston, 1939.
Francis Fukuyama (2002). Our posthuman future - Consequences of the
biotechnical revolution. Penguin Books, 2003.
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