Theory of Subordination

United for Peace and Justice March in response to the Republican National Convention, New York City, 2004.

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The spirit craves autonomy, and in many societies there are few things more dishonorable than visible subordination. Classical realists from Thucydides to Morgenthau understand this phenomenon and recognize that power must be masked to be effective. Subordinate actors must be allowed – even encouraged – to believe that they are expressing their free will, not being coerced, are being treated as ends in themselves, not as means, and are respected as ontological equals, even in situations characterized by marked power imbalance.

- From Hitler to Bush and Beyond by Richard Ned Lebow

  • David Smith

    Working Toward A Theory of Insubordination

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    The Theory of Subordination suggests that we willingly, albeit unknowledgeably, consent to our own manipulation and ultimate destruction. Institutional “isms” are fine examples of this theory in motion. As institutional isms manipulate our social fabric – the very same fabric that keeps us warm at night – to, ironically, smother us. The fabric is thick, and tightly woven. New, innovative, more efficient and effective ways of weaving have been developed over centuries to insure that this axiom remain true. How does one grasp a breath of fresh air? How does one breath freely? Has one ever? Therefore, can one ever? As humans, don’t we need fabric to keep us warm at night? To protect us from nature? Isn’t it ironic that the most dangerous force in nature is human nature? Isn’t it ironic that human nature created the fabric?

    - From David to Erin and Beyond (lol) by The Akashic Records

  • Erin O’Rourke

    Short and succinct, but says so much!

    “And there it was again. Another religion turned against itself. Another edifice constructed by the human mind, decimated by human nature.” – Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

  • David Smith

    Agreed. Its structure suggests a recurring cycle in which the human mind continuously constructs, while human nature decimates that which was constructed. Under this logic, the human mind – through architecture – creates cities; while human nature – through war – decimates them. Simple enough. But lets challenge our understanding of this cycle, and its inherent logic, by contemplating the vice versa. When, if ever, does the human mind decimate that which human nature constructs? The creation of human life is an artifact of human nature, yet; this artifact is decimated by the human mind in myriad ways. One such way is through neglect. Another is over indulgence. Any thoughts?

  • David Smith

    As a matter of fact, the human mind develops new and innovative ways to decimate that which human nature creates. Torture is a great example, death camps are another (though the two aren’t mutually exclusive as occupation in a death camp could be construed as a form of torture). Isn’t it ironic that the human mind can be so inhumane? Would Arundhati Roy attribute this inhumanity of the human mind to human nature? Do you?

  • Erin O’Rourke

    I can’t speak for Roy. When you think about it, it seems much of the philosophy that shapes Western society attributes negative qualities to human nature that must be tamed. To some degree I think this is an idea that everyone holds as true and is something that is shaped by the media in the way they select what to cover. (Black “looters” in Katrina who were getting much needed supplies and food were regarded as criminals – and of course, there’s a whole different dimension of race going on there – those ten people at a protest that may be violent as opposed to the thousands that are peaceful, etc.)

    I suppose with recent reading that’s something I’m really beginning to explore – is it human nature? Is the default of human nature war, tribalism, division, cruelty? Though one part of me seeks to say yes, another one hesitates.