Social Control in the Future and in the Past

15 Aug

Recently, the social circles I engage with have been talking a lot about the riots in England and the political changes that are going on all over the world.  A lot of people are, with reason, afraid of what the future might bring, concerned that some combination of money, technology, and politics will render the future bleak.  I personally can’t help but feel the same thing, especially since, as Neil Degrasse Tyson said recently, “We’ve stopped dreaming….  Tomorrow is gone.”

But of course, we still have hopes and dreams, even if they have had to be scaled back for a variety of reasons.  If there is one thing that is missing from the lower levels of the hierarchy of needs – if there is one thing that every human being shares a fundamental need for – it is hope for the future.

So when I followed a link that a friend had posted and read Socially, How the Next 20 Years Will Play Out, perhaps it was only natural that the thing that really stood out to me was not the dour predictions that what is now considered the First World (or, as I’ve been convinced, the One-Third World) was going to hell in a handbasket, but the idea that there would be a resistance.  The seemingly-inevitable direction that we humans are currently going, as blind and self-absorbed as it may be, doesn’t have to be the only way.

When I came across another, seemingly unrelated article about polygamist and religious child rapist Warren Jeffs, another component of this thought fell into place.  The church once had a great deal of power in the life of most people in the Western World*.  Most people were farmers living in rural communities, and if you’ve ever lived in a small town even today, you know how badly a person can be ostracized for not following the norms of the community.  Yet following the norms of the community then meant entrusting your social and political life to an institution that could be just as corrupt as any governmental organization we know today.  While there may not have been the same types of surveillance in place as we have today, living in a small, tight-knit community that you depended on for your livelihood and safety could act as the equivalent.  The infamous Salem Witch Trials are the perfect example of how members of a community could use their spirituality, and the institutional manifestation of it, to turn against each other to disastrous effect.

And yet in spite of the combined power of church and community, people resisted.  They wouldn’t have had to have witch trials in the first place if everyone had followed exactly what the church said.  And people resisted in a great multitude of ways, outside of and within the institution. Ultimately, these struggles led to major reforms like the formation of the many branches of the Protestant church.  Martin Luther was a revolutionary as much as Che Guevera; he merely fought against the church rather than government.

The Christian church of the last 2000 years is not the only example of this happening, but the way that history is written and taught, most people have no idea about the forms resistance has taken.  History is written by those with power, and those with power usually don’t want to acknowledge that anyone disagrees with them.  But sometimes we’re lucky and can find power differences archaeologically, or read books like A People’s History of the United States (which you can easily find online for free) can be a huge revelation.  I hope my blog helps in its own small way too.

I can’t imagine that there won’t be resistance in the future against whatever forms of new social controls that are implemented.  One of the first steps in that resistance is simply knowing that you are not the first one to find something wrong with the system and try to change it.

*I don’t want to make claims that I can’t back up, so I will only speak about the Western World on this issue.

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