We try to pass on lessons through story-telling. There are repeating patterns which show up in fairy tales or stories of ancient battles of derring-do.
A popular story involves the granting of three wishes. You know the one – our hero finds a magic lantern and releases the genie, who grants him the wishes. Of course, there are always rules – so you cannot wish for unlimited wishes.
But then the hero is wary of a trap and not ready to believe his good fortune. So the first wish is used to establish that the wishes are real and asks for something trivial – like a giant ice-cream in the desert.
Then we come to the nub of the lesson: the hero has not thought through what he really wants. He asks for something that only creates more problems for himself – such as: “Everything I touch should turn to gold” – duh!!
Thus the final wish is used to undo the second wish! There you go – back where you started, sadder and (maybe) wiser.
Which brings us to the millions of people around the world demonstrating, marching, chanting – all demanding – what?
Freedom!! – from what? to do what?
Removal of … (fill in the blanks: Mubarak, Ali, Ghaddafi, Osborne) – to be replaced by whom?
An end to corruption (my favourite) – again – duh!! How do you measure that? They think they will change a fundamental human condition just like that? What about the causes of corruption?
Democracy – don’t get me started! – as Thomas Jefferson said: “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% tell 49% what to do“.
Most of us are not aware of the way that think-tanks have influenced our ideas and thinking patterns. Hundreds have been formed since the fifties (Wikipedia lists a hundred in the UK and another hundred in the USA alone. Despite their apparent diversity, they have many shared members and have acted intentionally to ‘cognitively frame‘ our thinking about the world. The terms of the debate are set before we even open our mouths.
For instance, current debates about economics, austerity measures, military budgets, all assume that economic growth is not only good but necessary. Why? – increased GDP is a measure of activity – not profit, gain or well-being. More growth just means more activity – we must do more! For whom, you may ask.
It is very difficult to uncover the real facts about wealth and power – who owns what. Mostly, the public do not want to know, they do not have time (because of all the extra GDP activity) to realise that the Federal Reserve in America is a private bank, owned by wealthy families (as is the Bank of England, effectively).
What is clear is that, inexorably, wealth and power are sucked into the grasp of a powerful elite. They own or control all of the major global corporations. They fund think tanks to constrain our thinking, they fund politicians to constrain our actions and they fund the media to manipulate our moods. They take 95% of any benefit from extra GDP – leaving the rest of us to squabble over the remains.
And they will not release power without a fight.
It is their framing that drives the slogans shouted by the protestors – “give us democracy, freedom, less corruption“! The elite are very happy to see these phrases – they taught them to us! They learned the lessons of the three wishes long ago. They know the difference between potent and impotent demands.
So, be careful about what you ask for. Start with something clear and simple, such as a Debt Jubilee. What the elite do not want to hear is: “We are taking control of our assets”.