Duck! and Gather

OWS and Hierarchy

Posted on: November 11, 2011

Perhaps the most stark distinction between the OWS movement and the forces that they oppose (Corporations and Government) is found in the notion of hierarchy. Whereas OWS has no hierarchy, their opponents are all about hierarchy.

What does it mean to say that OWS has no hierarchy? To find out, watch the following video (highlighted at http://www.nycga.net/about/):

Since 2003, I have predicted that the coming “war” in America, will be in the form of People vs. Corporations.

But I was never comfortable with that pithy description. I mean, for example, in my consulting practice, I run my own little corporation, Jack Polymath LLC.

Now if I identify myself as a member of the “People” in the coming People vs. Corporation war, and yet I run my own little corporation, it would seem that I have some ‘splainin’ to do. That’s what this post is about.

This post is about the kind of hierarchies that OWS opposes. They don’t oppose any and all hierarchy. What they oppose are large, monolithic, and rigid hierarchies. These are hierarchies of people in which the lives of the “leaves” of the hierarchy tree are many orders removed from the life of the person at the “root” of the tree.

What kind of hierarchies are these? Org charts of multinational Corporations. Org charts of the U.S Government.

The older a Corporation is, the larger it grows, and the more rigid and extensive its hierarchy becomes. At some point, people in the company don’t even know each other. Everyone is just blindly serving the Corporate interest, with no feeling of human responsibility in anyone for the actions of the Corporation.

The U.S. Government is similar. The incumbency advantage of sitting Senators, and even of most of the Congressmen, is such that these people treat these positions as if they were lifetime appointments.

Due to this monolithic, rigid quality, Corporations and Government lose their touch with basic human decency.

If this discussion seems too esoteric for you, consider the hierarchy at Penn State University as of a week ago. Joe Paterno was the shadow head of that monolithic hierarchy, for over 40 years. From the outside, until this week, the monolithic Penn State hierarchy looked like a paragon of human virtue. At least that was the persuasive PR of the monolith.

But then this week, we all found out that the PR was bullshit. Instead of virtuous, the core of Penn State was revealed as rotten — rife with the worst of human depravity.

We, those outside of this monolithic rigid hierarchy, were shocked to hear of multiple individuals in that hierarchy, from the very top (Paterno, and Spanier), to the very bottom (the janitors), to the folks in the middle (McQueary), all behaving exactly the same way: shielding a child molester in their midst. Shielding him from the coming impalement he justly deserves at the hands of fellow prisoners (or the suicide he will probably choose).

Are these bad men? Joe Paterno? Mike McQueary? Graham Spanier? I doubt it. At least, I doubt that they are materially worse than you or I.

I believe that their shocking behavior is part and parcel of living our lives inside massive, rigid, self-perpetuating hierarchies, and blindly serving the interests of those hierarchies.

Another example: I believe that Big Pharma and Big Food are killing America. I’ve written a little about it here.

But even with this belief of mine, do I also believe that the people who work within these industries are bad people? Hell no! I believe that the vast majority of people in those industries are just doing their socially acceptable job.

I’ll say the same thing about the Nazi Holocaust. Were the thousands of people that worked in this “industry” — from the train drivers, to the camp cooks, to the Jewish kapos, to the scientists — all bad people? I highly doubt it. I believe the Milgrim experiment laid rest to the notion of “evil other people”.

IMHO, we are all, each and every one of us, “evil”, when we blindly serve the interests of large, monolithic, rigid hierarchies. It’s mob rule, only worse.

Mob rule creates temporary chaos, but then dissipates.

Large, monolithic, rigid hierarchy, on the other hand, creates endemic human depravity. A single human thread binds Sandusky at Penn State, GMO wheat in America, and Zyklon B in Auschwitz.

That thread is monolithic, rigid hierarchy.

“Corporation” is the best name I could think of for that concept. But as you can see, it’s a rather misleading term.

3 Responses to "OWS and Hierarchy"

I’m glad you’ve made this point. Over the years it did seem a tad hypocritical that you owned your own corporation, and enjoyed the benefits of gasoline, the internet and other products created by large multinational corporations, yet at the same time criticized Corporations.

The implied distinction you make regarding monolithic rigid hierarchies of large corporations and less entrenched flexible hierarchies, is an important one. In this way, your People vs. Corporations position has more clout.

The irony, is that in order to move their mandate forward, I believe the leaderless OWS people must adopt a hierarchal system, otherwise their complaints are just noise to be heard and eventually ignored.

For massive change to occur via a non rigid hierarchal process, I believe the creation of millions of valuable and significant small corporations must be created; small corporations that are more or less self-sufficient and self-generating.

(OT: While it appears clear that the entire chain of command in the Penn State case is morally culpable, if not legally so, the person of most interest to me is Mike McQueary. While he is not at the top levels of administration, in my eyes, he is the most culpable, and yet he has escaped indictment. He, and Calhoun the janitor, are the only people to have actually witnessed a crime taking place. The others in the up-line chain of command only heard about it from him. Hearsay used in any judicial process will never be as powerful as direct observation and direct testimony from a witness. While so many people at Penn State failed these abused children, McQueary and Calhoun failed them the most because of the unique knowledge they had and were privy to. They are not evil people. They are just extreme cowards that I believe should be punished. I suppose senile dementia may be karmic in its own right (Calhoun). However, indefinite termination of duties with pay is abominable in McQueary’s case. McQueary should be fired with no pay so as to send a message to the victims that this type of cowardice and lack of protection cannot be tolerated in a society that is compassionate to the weak and vulnerable).

(Another OT: What a difference in behaviour between the integrity and intent of the OWS kids to protest, and the students of Penn state rioting with regards to Joe Paterno being fired. Unbelievable.)

Re OWS, I also see a future that is small and local, but internationally connected. I just think until every “gets” this “rigid, monolithic hierarchy” meme, OWS need to be the exact opposite.

Amazing to me that our culture doesn’t even have a single word for “rigid, monolithic hierarchy”. Yet this is the dynamic that is destroying our nation.

Gotta name it to fight it.

Re Penn State, I should start a separate blog on it. Too frigging interesting to just serve as one of three examples of the pathology of rigid monolithic hierarchies.

You write: ” I just think until every(one) “gets” this “rigid, monolithic hierarchy” meme, OWS need to be the exact opposite.”.

ITA. Not because this exact opposite position is one of action or one that embodies change, but because it is easier for the larger populace to see the dichotomy of hierarchal systems, and thus the problems associated with them.

I do not believe that black/white thinking promotes a cooperative process leading to change, however, at the very least it gets the issues on the table so that change can happen. Therefore, to reiterate, OWS needs to be the exact opposite.

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