Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is an original American sci-fi TV series from the 1950s. The show has been revamped and brought back to modern audiences in the 90s. Both iterations are quite good actually. The first however is not just good. It is mind-altering, spectacularly good. In my mind, the show’s creator, Rod Serling, was solely responsible for its success. This unassuming WW2 Pacific war veteran, managed to bring this mind-altering program to great heights. To his credit, this happened before the age of special effects, CGI enhancements & alterations, and electronic gimmicks.
The entire show promoted a wide range of existential questions such as the notion of life after death, the nature of alien life, close encounters of the third degree, time travel, doppelgangers, government overreach, dystopian realities, war, peace, inner peace, the end of the world as we know it. You name it and Rod Serling’s made it into a Twilight Zone original show. So what carried the show then? The entire dramatic mis-en-scene was based on script and actors’ play. In one word: talent and interpretation.
The State vs. The Obsolete Man
One particular episode, “The Obsolete Man”, is eye opening in its nightmarishly premonitory and foreboding perspective on modern society. You see, the enemy of Man is not Woman, as most feminists would have you believe. The enemy of Man and Woman alike is the State. It is the State that created conflict between Man and Woman. It is It that deliberately decided to sow the wind of discord and rip the whirlwind of deceit by creating artificial animosity between different segments of society.
It did all that because the State craves Power. The problem is that the State Already has Power because We the People one day foolishly decided that We needed a Higher Authority to kowtow to.
The State in its Immense and Exalted Glory, was not content with its elevation and station in life, and dominion over society. Absolute Power was that which It was seeking. Because Mere Power, you see, is Shared with the People. Absolute Power, on the other hand, is Not.
The State needs to assert itself as Our Overlord while diminishing the role of the individual citizen. It does so, all the time, in all fields of human endeavour, and it affects everybody, everywhere. Today, the State rules Supreme over the past, present, and future. It rewrites history. It compels human behaviour. It changes human habits. It alters the fabric of society. And It demands total and instance obedience. The State has de facto replaced God. Some people have claimed that the State has also managed to take over the human collective psyche to the point where people have stopped caring about the nature of power. I agree.
The French Revolution, Res Publica, Democracy
We have suddenly granted the State or the Government the de jure power over our bodies and even our souls. Many people, myself included, think that this process did not start yesterday. In fact, it may have started well before the French Revolution, which by destroying the stranglehold of the Church over Mankind, has in fact replaced its secular power with a demonically nefarious one: the temporal power of Government.
But before we delve on the intricacies of this major game of Bait and Switch, called the French Revolution, we must examine the roots and nature of this longer or eternal, power struggle between people and government.
What is government? The nature of government is best defined by the Roman concept of res publica, meaning all matters public must be referred to the adjudication of the people. 2,500 years ago, the people comprised solely of the landed gentry, latifundium owners, in short gents who could afford to pay land taxes, and who made up the Voting Citizens. Nowadays, the voting franchise has been somewhat extended to include all citizens, of both genders, over 18 or 21 years of age, regardless of material means or financial capacity.
If I was facetious, I’d say that the world today sorely lacks of educated citizens who are able to place their own country on a map, and who can name the type of government they labour under. But I am not, and I am not saying that. Because, as I live and breathe, I believe that democracy should know no such bounds. I will always advocate for the equal division of power between the 8 billion inhabitants of our planet of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens persuasion.
But that is neither here not there. As it happens, we are still feeling the aftermath of the French Revolution, which was in a sense the natural inheritor of the Industrial Revolution, which in turn acted as its main Catalyst.
The Industrial Revolution
Yuval Noal Harari, a brilliant Jewish scholar historian of Jared Diamond calibre, was one of the first to properly seize on the detrimental effects the Industrial Revolution had on human society.
Among its many cogent demonstrations, I found myself inextricably absorbed in the argument positing the Industrial Revolution as the unleasher of “rapid urbanisation, disappearance of peasantry, rise of industrial proletariat, empowerment of the common person, democratisation, youth culture and the disintegration of patriarchy.” While I may not agree with him on all these consequences, I do find his conclusion fascinating.
Yuval asserts that all these “upheavals” are surpassed by the gigantic collapse of the nuclear family and the local community and their replacement by the state and the market.
The Collapse of the Family and Community – Their Replacement by the State and the Market
Let’s start with how the State and the Market managed to disrupt the Natural, Organic Way of Life Humans have enjoyed for tens of thousands of years.
You see, most people are not aware that the state and the market work hand in hand to subjugate the common folk. We see that everyday, yet we all walk away from the visible conclusion. Let me give you some examples.
For instance, most people today when they want to buy a house, at least in the Western world, they go to a realtor. This person is usually a middleman, an intermediary, a go-between who, for a fee, will ‘guarantee‘ that the transaction is kosher and that the buyer and seller will experience no bad surprises.
In reality, this is almost always not the case. When one adds the possibility of the notary public being crooked, and sometimes absconding with the clients’ fiduciary escrow accounts balances, the situation becomes entirely dire.
But let’s assume that the transaction goes well and both parties are happy. Assuming the economy is booming, the housing market prices rise too. This is excellent news for the sellers but extremely depressing news for the young families who want to start their lives in their own homes. They are effectively bought out of the market. Normally, they may turn to the government and ask for it to hit some levers, and put a decency cap to the astronomic and vertiginous ascent of real estate values.
Do not get me wrong. I am not one for willy nilly state intervention in the market. I believe that the market, in ideal conditions, when monopolies are banned from it, will self-regulate more efficiently than the state ever could. However, and this is important, when a moderately sized three-room condo in downtown Vancouver costs between $1-4 million, and takes multiple generation mortgages to pay, then I would have to say there is a problem with the real estate market.
Will the state intervene? No way, Jose. The state won’t even consider intervening. Because why? Because, if it did, and capped the prices to a reasonable level, allowing for a huge profit margin for the builder, developer, realtor, and client, it would effectively be like shooting its foot off with a 12-gauge shotgun. Why would the government cap the price when the $2-million property is taxed at 1 percent, yielding $20,000 per year?! In 10 years, that’s $200,000 in fiscal revenue.
Any capping of real estate values would result in lost fiscal revenue, which is a Big No-No with the government. So, there you have it, folks. That is the nature of the collusion between the state and the market. This unholy alliance is making all of us poorer. We end up working more hours, paying more taxes, and getting more into debt because of the state and market’s combined insatiable appetite for power over us, the working bees.
Up until the 1930s, most people were renters not homeowners. That all changed drastically, during and after the Big Crash of 1929. Who promoted home ownership? The Corporations and the State. You see, people were told that they could own a house. But there was a catch. Since they didn’t have the capital for such a large investment, they would have to take on a mortgage from the bank. Since the bank owns the house until the last payment is made, and given that the state gets its ‘lion’s share of horse flesh’ too via property taxes, the people would be easy prey and captive for a long time. So people were sold on this quixotic dream. The banks told them that if they smarted up, got a steady job, worked hard and long hours, and stayed in their place, they’d get to have the cake and eat it too.
You see, the corporations/banks/governments discovered that debt-incumbent home owners DO NOT go on strike. In fact, they don’t rebel, and almost never revolt. Instead, debt-incumbent home owners begin to have a stake in a rotten system that condemns them to a life of toil. They do all this in the name of the ‘Holy Grail’ of achieving something at the end of their careers as productive members of society.
So, whereas beforehand, capital and labour had been going head to toe, exchanging heavy blows via strikes, lockouts, marches, and revolutions, from the 1930s onwards, the Capital knew it had Labour by its Testicles. I know, I know, most people could do without the image. However, I think people should know the Truth no matter how hideous and upsetting it may be.
Not only did the State started working in direct and close collusion with the Market, but for more than two centuries now, they have been busy at undermining the basic nucleus of society: the Family and its corollary, the Community.
You see, the Family has been the one constant that endured since the beginning of time. One million years ago, humans lived in small, intimate communities, most of whose members were kin. They lived more or less as big families. As Harari puts it, the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions did not change that. What it did instead was to glue them together in tight knit units. Since all big things have small beginning, these were in order, clans, tribes, cities, kingdoms and empires.
Later on, came the notion of nations. In fact, this came about just before the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Nations came of Age during the Age of the American and French Revolutions.
“- Col. Harry Burwell: This is not a war for the independence of one or two colonies, but for the independence of one nation.
– Capt. Wilkins: Tell me, Colonel, what nation is that?
– Peter Howard: An American nation!”The Patriot (2000)
Throughout this accretion process, Families and Communities remained the basic blocks of all human societies. What took hundreds of thousands of years to form, the Industrial Revolution managed to break down and destroy via the agency of the State and the Market, in little more than 200 years.
The Collapse of the Family and the Community – How the Traditional Functions of Families and Communities Were Handed Over to and Appropriated by the State and Markets
As Harari so aptly describes, before the Industrial Revolution, most people ran their entire lives within three circles. These were the nuclear family, the extended family, and the local community. As it happens, this applied to their chosen professions as well. Given that they most often than not worked in the family business, shop, trade guild, or chose to work for their neighbours’ family business.
Not only that, but the Family doubled also as the welfare system, health system, education system, construction industry, trade union, pension fund, insurance company, radio, television, newspapers, entertainment, bank, and even police.
Many people at this point will undoubtedly think I have lost my true North. Let me assure you this is not the case. Open a book written about the late 18th century and even early 19th century and you will find ample evidence that what I say was true then.
From a purely social point of view, the family took care of the old and sick. It also supported their dependants while that person was sick or dying. After their demise, the family took care of the orphans. For instance for those of you who gasp in disbelief, look up the short life of John Keats, that giant of a poet. You will notice that after his father and mother expired, he received some inheritance from his grandparents. Yeah, that is how life used to work back when the State knew better than to intervene in every nook and corner of people’s lives.
Wait but there’s more. When someone wanted to build a home, the family kicked in. Same went for when one wanted to open a business venture. The family pinched in. Marriages were vetted and supported financially by the family. Conflicts with neighbours were managed by the family. However, however, when the scope of the construction project, business, or quarrel exceeded the resources that the Family could muster, then the local community came to the rescue.
The community offered help on the basis of local traditions and an economy of favours, which often differed greatly from the supply and demand laws of the free market. In an old-fashioned medieval community, when my neighbour was in need, I helped build his hut and guard his sheep, without expecting any payment in return. When I was in need, my neighbour returned the favour.A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
I guess I am a relic from that age because that is exactly how I prefer to operate. I would rather help my family, friends, and neighbours when they require my help on the understanding that when the time comes, they will reciprocate.
“At the same time, the local potentate might have drafted all of us villagers to construct his castle without paying us a penny. In exchange, we counted on him to defend us against brigands and barbarians. Village life involved many transactions but few payments. There were some markets, of course, but their roles were limited. You could buy rare spices, cloth and tools, and hire the services of lawyers and doctors. Yet less than 10 per cent of commonly used products and services were bought in the market. Most human needs were taken care of by the family and the community.”A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Throughout history, local potentates, be they kings, emperors or erstwhile chiefs of some minute parts of our minuscule and ” Pale Blue Dot” of a planet, who needed money and resources to wage wars, build roads, and construct palaces, raised taxes and enlisted soldiers and labourers. But even they realized that to come between the inner workings and affairs of families and communities was a Big No-No.
In the rare occasions where they felt they had an intrinsic need to intervene in the daily lives of the peasantry, as was the case with the Qin Empire in China, the Emperor converted the family heads and community elders into government agents.
But in 90-96 percent of world history, due to transportation and communication difficulties, the State was not able to intervene in the business of remote communities. What the Government did instead was they ceded even the most basic of royal prerogatives – taxation and violence – to communities. Case in point. The Ottoman Empire allowed family vendettas to mete out justice, rather than pay a large police force. How convenient and practical! Many people will cover their mouths in awe at such a shocking proposition – that people take justice in their own hands.
But to think of it, who else is better placed to mete out justice than the victim of a crime?! The State? Come on, do not be silly now! The reason why the last 10 generations or so have been taught not to take justice into their own hands was because the State wanted to exercise a de facto monopoly on violence. And as well know from Economics, all monopolies abhor competition. They cannot stand it. But the State couldn’t well tell people not to take justice into their hands because It wanted to do that in their stead. So, Government came up with a seemingly fair story about why it was better for People to Let It Dispense Justice.
What the Ottomans did, and I cannot believe I say this, was to take a step back and allow Justice to be Served Locally by the Victims as Justice should always be done. In practice, this meant that if my kin killed somebody, the victim’s brother might kill me in sanctioned revenge. Or, as most often happened, blood money was extracted for crimes, or the family of the criminal surrendered them to the justice of the victim’s family. Which btw was swift and did not take decades to occur like nowadays, by which time nobody ever remembers what really happened anyway. And the system worked as long as violence remained within confined to the crime; not even the sultan or provincial pasha would dare come between the victim’s family and the culprit.
Alas, all that came to quite an abrupt end, when the State and the Market took over the functions performed admirably well by the Family and the Community.
Nowadays, we have the Welfare State, but in spite of paying astronomical dues and monies to feed a system that knows no bounds, we still have paupers and beggars who live under overpasses and in the streets. Good job, State, good job there!
The Health System is either Public in which case health care is slow, and nobody really cares about the sick, who have become a commodity, of particular interest to hospital managers, who only care about their bottom lines. Or it is Private, in which case, you get to pay twice, once into the public coffers through taxes, and again for private insurance. And God forbid you did not forget to buy private insurance, and you really need top notch medical care, because if you did, then you are out of luck and out of pocket for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Whatever services the State and Market, who seem to be in competition for but aren’t truly competitors, may dispense, the Family and Community had done much better, much faster, and with impressive results, since the beginning of time.
The State and Market can never replace the Family and Community because they are not your kin and they do not know you by name. They do not know your dreams and aspirations, and they do not care if you lived or died. The State and the Market are impersonal, cold, shallow, and impervious to feeling. The Family and Community know you, care about you, and are there for you, even now, when the State and Market pretend to want the best for you.
In reality, so many people fall through the cracks of the social systems set up by government and maintained at the extreme cost and expense of taxpayers, that it is risible to think that the State can ever do its job. How many times, people all over the world have paid into their government-run pension funds for thirty or forty years, only to find at the end of their active lifespans, that the coffers were empty, that the State had spent it all on frivolous goodwill gestures, wars, public image campaigns, inflation, etc etc etc.
If we add government waste, embezzlement, inefficiencies, redundancies, and straight up incompetence, then it becomes clear the State has become Obsolete.
Nowadays, each day seems to bring about another of Rod Serling’s 1984ish uncanny predictions.
The Vendetta System, which the Ottomans condoned in their Empire, was based on one common trait that all purely clan-based ethnic groups share: belonging to the same genetic pool – having the same blood. This is the only thing that insulates them from the overreaching arms of the State and Market.
Case in point. When one examines the History of the Organized Crime, a few facts become evident.
The only social structures that did not crumble under the two-pronged combined attacks of the State and Markets, were those communities a.k.a. clans ( i.e., Chechen, Sicilians, Albanians, Calabrians) who rejected the state’s takeover over the traditional functions of the family. These tight-knit, secretive, recluse and secluded communities united by common blood ties have always resisted outside tempering from all other ethnic groups who sought to invade or divide and conquer from without.
All came and tried to break in and subdue them. And all failed ignobly. In the case of the Chechen, it was the Russians. In the case of the Sicilian, it was a plethora of other peoples ranging from the Norman Vikings, Berbers, Arabs, Longobards, Byzantines, other Italians, Germans, and if one goes sufficiently back in time to Antiquity, even Greek, Carthaginians, Romans. In the case of the Albanians, the Turks, Serbs, and Greek did not manage to subdue their spirit. As for the Calabrians, I would recommend the movie Zero Zero Zero for those who require an education in the ways of ethnic-based criminal organizations.
And this is the second aspect that one must understand. These strong resilient peoples have endured because of their blood ties and in doing so they have got so impervious to the influence of the outside world that they became the archetypal nuclei of criminal organizations. The best mafias around the world are those who are centered around the ethnic nuclei of the family or clan or tribe. They cannot be infiltrated by the Agents of State because they contain no such agents within. They are Unbreakable Eggs.
Most people believe that Mafia is a criminal organization and they wouldn’t be wrong. Because it is, and they aren’t. However, most would object to calling the state a criminal endeavour. And that is where they are wrong because government is exactly that.
You see, most people think that the War on Drugs, or the War on Crime, or the Police going after the Mafia, all these are socially needed actions, meant to curb the criminal violence and maintain law and order. What they do not know, is that the State does all this because it wants to be the sole purveyor or organized violence. The State hates private competition when it comes to violence. Government wants to be the only Agent of Violence. The war against organized crime is basically the war between organized state crime and organized private crime. Most people think the former is preferable to the latter. I believe that Crime is crime, no matter who commits it and why.