Behaviour Actualisation Winter 2001
A conference on conceptual structures
Randall J Guepwheldt Memorial Lecture
Speaker: Prof EK Blankenship
Place: Institute Hall, University of Bink
Topic: Today Argentina, tomorrow - the world! -?
Prof Blankenship ascends the podium to sustained applause. As he adjusts his glasses, a strand of light coming through one of the stained glass windows of Institute Hall reflects off the lenses in a bright, rainbow-like arc, drawing a hushed awe from the audience.
Prof Blankenship: An auspicious beginning. [Laughter] Or perhaps not.
You obviously find something amusing.
I've had an interesting moment just now. Studying you. You entered this auditorium, after waiting in line. You filed in, found a seat, and amused yourself for about twenty minutes. And then, when the speaker came out, he adjusted his glasses and - an amazing thing happened! We all saw it! A bright, sparkling rainbow.
And I think I can safely say that it was the most beautiful thing I have seen for many years.
Those of you who are familiar with my work may be surprised to hear me speak this way - one columnist recently referred to my "post-modern old-fogeyness" [laughter] -and again, you find amusement. I noted it earlier to throw you off guard. No one wants to think they've made an ass of themselves. And to have someone point out in a superior, disdainful way that you have relaxed yourself for a second - there can be few things more horrible.
Except death from the sky.
And that is what I want to talk to you about today. At least in part.
Mostly, I want to gain an appreciation of "where we're at", as members of the Behaviour Actualisation community. We stand at a crossroads, and the opportunities before us are immense.
If only we don't "blow it".
I can remember, some years back, being told by various wise men that the future would be a technological marvel, that would render all labour problems an historical oddity, and usher in a golden age - well, you heard it as well, I'm sure. And some hopeful souls bought it. The 80's and 90's really seemed to be unstoppable, from the point of view of surplus-acquisition. Money was being made hand over foot and the stock markets looked unbeatable.
And then, things started to go wrong in the Asian economies, the Russian miracle failed to materialise, and all of a sudden, those weirdos at demonstrations no longer seemed so weird.
To say this poses a problem for those of us involved in the Actualisation process would be, well…overstating the obvious. That we need to find a solution - note that I did not say "solutions" - this is an imperative. And of course it won't be an easy task. But find the solution we must, because, and I'm not seeking any kudos as some sort of oracle - this is insight from a lifetime's work. Because if we blow this, then we will spend our twilight years watching mediocrity's rise to unparalleled heights. We will watch mere Enablers strutting around on history's stage. Well, it's an awful thought.
So where do we go? Well, what do you do when you're lost? Cry? Panic? I sincerely hope not. I hope that you would, instead, take stock of your surroundings, try and get your bearings and move on. If you have no map, you must simply try to find your way. And eventually you do. If not, well - you would still be lost, we've all been lost at some point, but we find our way eventually - if this were not so, none of us would be here, or not so many, at least. You'd be somewhere - crying [confused, halting laughter].
So, in the context of Actualisation. We are clearly, at a loss. Of course, at the moment, we've seen some ground clawed back. Because there is a war. Now, some dear souls think they have found the solution - but let's be clear, what works one day will not necessarily work the next. And what is being proposed? Permanent warfare? Well, that's fine, fine from the point of view of control - but surplus acquisition? To put it in vulgar terms, are we going to make a profit? Of course not. The military-industrial complex, which it could be argued, is as much a global concern as the manufacture of shoes, is one of history's most heavily subsidised enterprises.
And that's fine - however surplus acquisition occurs, that's fine. As its public money - something which I am in theory opposed to, what with it being "public" - well, at least its well spent. Weapons of mass destruction - fuel air explosives, daisy cutters, whatever - well these things help to maintain control. Very important.
But unless we are willing to use them on, say, striking labourers - well, for us, what use are they ultimately? Not much I fear.
"But what do we care about striking labourers?", I hear you ask. After all, union membership is down from the "bad old days" of the 70's. True. But unions are making something of a comeback, in the United States for example. And look at the recent demonstrations. Unions, environmentalists, gay rights activists - all linking arms and fighting on the same side. Now, back in the bad old days, these groups were usually at odds with one another. Not so now.
And remember, like it or not, we've been here before. An organised labour movement in the USA was smashed by Woodrow Wilson and after World War I came red scares and increasing wealth for the productive classes. And then came the 30's, militant labour and the Welfare State. But fine, control was maintained again, as the House Un-American Activities Committee helped regain ground. And then, the 1960's, popular forces rose, and control was not seriously regained until the 80's. And we've had a good run, let's face it. But, as CLR James said, "nothing - no matter how profitable - lasts forever". A scary thought.
So do we have to ride this terrible thing out? Well, yes - but. And it’s a big but.
Those of you familiar with my work will know that before September 11, I advocated corporate terror. Now, according to my Law of Diminishing Outrage, this should have worked. But since September 11, this has lost its lustre, to say the least. And so I have since revised my proposals. Fundamentally, there has been no change. But as Actualisers, we must, like Daumier, be "of our time". OK, so let's say labour makes a comeback - who knows, perhaps "people power" will once again rear its vulgar head! [Laughter].
So be it. Let's imagine this brave new world. Will it mean the end of surplus acquisition? Hardly. Will it mean a return to the Welfare State, and its degraded values? Probably. And you know, once you give people an inch, they'll take a mile, its true. So let them.
Because if the pendulum swings one way, you can be damn sure it will swing the other. And if we're careful, if we follow the advice of Jesus, and "be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves", we will be half way there. In the past, the problem has been to try and put the brakes on change, and then there's been the inevitable waste of energy trying to make things right again. But if we anticipate the next move of our opponents, if we can let them think they've won, then that's half the battle. Then we sit on our hands for awhile, act cowed and humbled. Oh dear, oh dear! The sky has fallen in! It was all our fault, sorry folks! [Laughter]. You see where I'm going.
Then, when they're comfortable, we hammer them. Death from the sky. Courtesy of Mega Corporation International. Something like that. Can you imagine the demoralisation of our opponents then?
And then, with the offer of voluntary slavery or prison, we can finally rid history of the twin menace of reciprocity and egalitarianism.
But where, you might ask, does it stop? You would be better to ask, where does it start? Because, I am afraid, ladies and gentlemen, that it starts with you.
Don't look so confused. After all, dear friends, you paid me tonight. Were you the sort of person who would be exempt from this future slavery of which I speak, I would be paying you. An important difference. Do you see what I mean? I have an Institute to fund, and if you think that I can do that by casting pearls before swine, you display an idiocy that is breath-taking. And I really do believe that for my ideas to have any currency, they must make the transformation from thought to action. The essence, really, of Actualisation.
You may notice, if you look over your shoulders, that all the exits have been carefully secured with heavy chains. You may wish to consider these chains to be representative of your future. You may come to think of this symbol as a hateful thing, or a comfort. Whichever way, its no interest of mine.
These armed gentlemen now marching in from behind the curtain are your guides to a fulfilling new future, one which will take place far, far from your past. Did you know there are now, at this moment, an estimated 2.7 million slaves in the world today? Mostly children, as well. Fascinating stuff, I agree. And lucrative as well. Take my word for it on that one. [Shouts, scuffles].
Excuse me, calm down there! I can't see the point of that. No need for that.
Anyways, I shall take my leave, ladies and gentlemen, and remember what we're fighting for - the privatisation of the public. You can take comfort in the knowledge that you are pioneers in that great cause.
Oh, and by the way, the rainbow you saw earlier - all done with lasers. Amazing, isn't it?
Thank you for listening, good night, and sleep well.
© EK Blankenship 2002
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