Saturday, March 06, 2010

Planetist Political Science

Servant Authority

Pyramid Power, Part III

By John Taylor; 2010 March 06, Ala' 07, 166 BE

My research lately is preoccupied with political science, which one authority defines as the study of power shifts,

"Political scientists study anything about and related to the allocation and transfer of power in decision making..." (Political Science, in Wikipedia)

In this essay series on pyramids, I have been talking about how it seems that every organization has some sort of pyramid shape with a few on top making decisions for the majority below. Once a society takes on the pyramid form, it is very difficult to make major changes without turning the pyramid on its head, that is, by means of a revolution.

The greatest revolution is the upside-down pyramid of people power. The people end up at the top and their leaders are servants to all. This is known as servant authority, based on Christ's saying, "The greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matt 23:11) This topsy-turvy concept of servants leading seems to have been the idea behind the original way Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus.

The Christmas we know was changed in the middle of the 19th Century into a family gift-giving celebration, but originally it was closer to the "opposite day" celebrated by Spongebob Squarepants in the children's show. That is, on Christmas day slaves played at being their master, masters served their minions, women and children led the home while the head of the household waited on them, and so forth. This probably started out as a good idea for shaking up the old pyramid, but with the addition of lubricants like alcohol and free love, boundaries were crossed, indiscretions took place, liberties taken and, long story short, we are probably better off with the quiet family gift fest we all know and love. But still, we do need something to remind us regularly of servant authority and rule of the people. Something like, I don't know, democracy day, or upside-down pyramid day, or something...

Here is another interesting point found at the start of the Wiki article about political science:

"In the United States, political scientists known as `Americanists' look at a variety of data including elections, public opinion and public policy such as Social Security reform, foreign policy, US Congressional committees, and the US Supreme Court -- to name only a few issues..."

What we really need are political scientists calling themselves "planetists," borderless researchers who would deal with the statistical connections drawn around the entire planet, perhaps using software tools like Microsoft's new meta-browser "Pivot."

We desperately need such planetists to run ongoing experiments to find out what will improve democracy. For, as we all know, present power arrangements are only nominally democratic, underneath they are nothing but a tool for protecting elites and preventing true servant-authority from coming into being. The planetists should study each of the various ways of shifting power and apply whatever assures that the upside-down pyramid does not topple over. There are many ways to shift decision-making power that have not been tried. Ants have survived for millions of years using a sort of mixture of consensus and (literally) voting with their feet, or to speak more exactly, by the chemicals on their feet. Bees vote in a similar way, by increasing the vigour with which scouts perform a dance reporting on a prospective new location for the hive. We need to look closely at whatever particular power arrangement keeps servants at the bottom, that is, at the top of the power pyramid.

At the same time, we need planetist educators to teach the history of democracy in schools around the world. There are long traditions of democracy in Africa and China that probably go further back than the Greeks. Even in the Fertile Crescent we now know of at least one government, that of Ebla in present-day Syria, which for a time elected its kings for limited, seven-year terms.

This idea that time limits should be placed on those in power is extremely important. It is basic to science and religion as well as politics. Every ruler is limited by his or her usefulness to the people. The criterion is the good they do in their service. This is service, and it is at the very heart not only of democracy but all good governance.

Perhaps the first to lay this principle out in detail was the Chinese Confucian philosopher, Mencius, who was absolutely certain that the ruler is set up by heaven for the benefit of the people. Whether a leader deserves to lead depends on how he carries out this duty. If he fails in this, he should be removed. Like Comenius, he distinguished three aspects to power, each with its own place in the order of things, one, the people, two nature and three, religion. Each is accountable to its serviceability. "The people are of supreme importance; the alters to the gods of earth and grain come next; last comes the ruler." For him even what he calls the "gods of earth and grain" should not be above replacement.

"When a feudal lord endangers the alters to the gods of earth and grain, he should be replaced. When the sacrificial animals are sleek, the offerings are clean and the sacrifices are observed at due times, and yet floods and droughts come, then the alters should be replaced." (Mencius VII, B. 14, also cf. Mencius, Intro 37)

Abdu'l-Baha called this concept that even the "gods of earth and grain are not above replacement" the principle of "religion is a remedy, a cause of love." If a religion stops serving and starts to do harm, we all have a holy duty to replace it. This is now part of the definition of science too; if a scientific theory ceases to reveal new truth it is now routine to replace it with a new theory.

But note the brilliance of Mencius in the above passage, for he clearly links climate degradation to human influence. If nature becomes turbulent, seek out the rot in our spirituality and the quality of religious beliefs of the people, for out of that comes the qualities the change human influence from evil to good. In spite of the career of Richard St. Barbe Baker, who proved that trees improve the climate and lack of trees causes deserts, this insight still escapes both scientists and politicians today, not to mention religionists.


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