In an ideal state, the ruling class doesn’t need to threaten people, because they will rule correctly and this will inspire devotion. Whether this is unrealistic or whether we live in a degraded age is unclear, but what is clear is that our ruling class threaten people a lot, sometimes covertly, sometimes overtly. As this essay will show, the ruling class has three major strategies for keeping the plebs in line.
The easiest way to keep the plebs in line is to starve them. Starvation is represented by the element of clay. In the old days, the rulers of the community would gather together all the product of that season’s agricultural harvest and portion them out to the deserving. Anyone deemed to be undeserving was given a smaller portion of food, or none at all. This is natural logic – one can see it replicated in lion prides.
If a child is seriously misbehaving, the go-to strategy for many parents is to send them to bed without any dinner. This is unpleasant for the child, because it plays on deep, primal fears of starvation. Much like a hand around the throat, which quickly gains compliance thanks to the fear of death, withholding food from someone can quickly cause submission. People are hard-wired to be afraid of hunger, for obvious biological reasons.
Starvation is more subtle than just denial of food. It can also refer to denial of the means to procure food, i.e. money. The way this is most commonly achieved in the modern world is to create uncertainly about the future of one’s job. All talk about economic downturns, mass layoffs, global financial crises etc. has the psychological effect of inducing submission among the plebs by stoking subconscious fears of starvation.
Some people often wonder why, in poor African countries, people still starve despite the enormous amounts of foreign food aid that is pouring in. The answer is that the people in charge of those poor African countries regularly refuse to distribute food aid to those groups thought to be enemies. If the dictator in charge comes from a particular tribe, he might withhold food aid to that tribe’s traditional foes as a way of settling scores.
Threatening to impoverish someone by taking away their food supply is the most elementary and primal way to establish control and compliance, which is why it’s so effective. This is the ultimate reason why men “follow orders”, even when those orders are criminal – the alternative might be unemployment, which means starvation.
Imprisonment is represented by the element of iron, and is the way that the ruling class threaten anyone they cannot starve. If you can access your own food supply, or earn your own wage with which to buy food, fair enough, more power to you. It means you have avoided enslavement at the level of clay, but the ruling class can escalate things to the level of iron.
Imprisonment is what happens to you if you break the law. The law is how the ruling class gets you to do things when the threat of starvation is insufficient.
The ruling class determines what the law is by drawing up a list of all the things they don’t want you to do. The initial list is one of all the things that common law has agreed causes harm to people, because making these things against the law grants the ruling class legitimacy. To this list they add certain things they don’t want people doing.
For example, the Western ruling classes have been afraid that if cannabis were legal, their livestock would be less productive. The belief is that cannabis use saps ambition, which our economy relies upon. This belief is warranted to some extent – cannabis use tends to cause a drift away from materialism, which implies less interest in money and consumption. So making it illegal causes the cash cows to grow fatter.
The threat of imprisonment is the threat of ripping someone away from their usual environment at gunpoint, and then putting them in an enclosed environment with people who have caused harm to others. Furthermore, if you don’t want to go in the cage the Police will kill you on the spot. It’s the threat of a deeply unpleasant experience, which is why the threat of iron is so effective at modifying the behaviour of the peasantry.
Ostracisation is represented by the element of silver. As silver is more subtle than iron, so is ostracisation more subtle than imprisonment. However, as silver is more valuable than clay, the fact that it is more subtle than iron makes it stronger, and not weaker. Ostracisation can affect people who cannot be targeted for enslavement in the realm of clay or iron, on account of that their behaviour is not objectionable enough.
The ruling class can still threaten to destroy their social reputation, and these threats are just as capable of insidiously affecting a person’s mind as the threats of starvation or imprisonment. Whispering campaigns and rumour-mongering are both capable of making someone’s life much less pleasant, and the threat of being subjected to these is often enough to induce compliance where other methods are inapplicable.
In practice, ostracisation is an extremely powerful tool, because all it takes to employ it is to tell enough lies about the target. A sufficiently motivated rumour-mongering campaign can blacken the reputation of even the most exalted of people. Such campaigns can be waged with the strength of thousands if the person spreading the rumours is influential enough.
Moreover, the clay and iron strategies of starvation and imprisonment only work if the ruling class has clear physical dominance. Ostracisation can be employed by any member of the ruling class, established dominance or not. All they have to do is induce people to feel contempt for some other member of the collective. They can also target other members of the ruling class with such means.
Ostracisation also plays on fundamental primal fears, because humans are a social animal, and the vast majority of us cannot function well without healthy social interaction. The real beauty of it, from the ruling class’s point of view, is that it’s always possible to change what’s fashionable within society, and therefore always possible to ostracise a person (or group of people) so long as the apparatus of propaganda are controlled.
Through combining these three major threat strategies, the ruling class is able to induce submission in virtually all of the members of the lower classes. These three are enough to cover the entire spectrum of man’s lower nature, and therefore are sufficient to appeal to all elementary human fears.
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