Glossary of Life’s Power Struggle
I’ve been pondering this stuff in recent years, and trying to frame it in a new concept I call “inertia“. Trying to create a vocabulary with which to be able to discuss the issue of power in the world.
Inertia: whoever’s at rest wants to stay at rest; whoever’s moving wants to keep moving (and in their frame of reference, they are actually at rest and everyone else is moving against them). Examples: recreation, survival/strife.
It is a universal principle of “nature” (q.v.), and those with the most “mass” (whether literal matter, or the social or political power held by people) will have the greatest power to not be moved from its current course (unless they want to apply energy to accelerate another direction). As “nature” is often the justification for those wielding power that steps on others, inertia can be defined as the power to follow nature with the least resistance.
Resources: The means to self-improvement. A lot of it involves “Timing, Talent, Temperament“. (q.v) Examples are knowing the right person at the right time, natural abilities, and having the personality type to command others, or to “win friends and influence people”.
Accommodation: resources or situations that help one maintain inertia (e.g. money, power, fame/respect, ⦅the pampering of the rich⦆, having things done by others, including the system, to meet your wants or needs, etc).
Gratification: The accomplishment and satisfaction of getting one’s way or experiencing pleasure. The fruits of power. Whether food and substances, control over others, “winning”, “getting over” in some way, sexual conquest, etc. Whether one is ultimately made “happy” from it or not. (Christians trying to discourage those jealous of gratification often focus on “happiness” as the goal, and how it’s so elusive, but the real goal of gratification seems to be the satisfaction of a feeling of power in its own right).
Equilibrium: Any violations of inertia are paid back, either with more accommodation, or with “penalty” to offender’s inertia. (e.g. if you break rules of power structure, you are chastised, but when power structure is corrupt and you have no status in it, you just have to “deal with it”).
Compensation: The method of maintaining equilibrium. Everything taken must be paid back somehow.
Respect: The right to maintain one’s inertia, often through the deference of others.
Benefit: maximum inertia or gratification obtained through power, status, or even good luck/fortune
Expense: the state of least inertia, constantly having to suffer or adjust to tough situations; defer to others, etc.
Debt: the state of having to pay “dues” to gain status or respect
Credit: the state of having “paid one’s dues”, and thus be entitled to the most inertia
Scarcity: the paradigm often experienced by expensees. You have to make due with little, as if there just weren’t enough good things for everyone. Leads to what I call an “ice age” mentality, where even those who have still act as if they have to scramble for survival, and this gets passed down by making things rougher for those with less power.
Abundance: the concentrated resources and pleasures enjoyed by beneficiaries.
Nuisance Quota: when things that don’t really “have to be” nevertheless “are”, and it just fulfills that “life is hard”, “man is born to suffer”, etc, almost like filling a “quota”.
Like internet spammers who really think you’re going to buy their [bootleg-looking] junk because they fill your box with it over and over (end even often send malware that slows down the computer).
Why do they do it then, if the real goal is to sell something, which they likely won’t do? It’s like a compulsion that is totally un-thought out, but it just fits in with the “sin” or “imperfection” of “the world”, and they’re essentially creating a nuisance for no reason at all but to create a nuisance.
Bottom-up pressuring: High standards are maintained for those at the bottom, entering the “rat race”, but once in, and having climbed the ladder, there are more loopholes, and opportunity for inertia increases.
It’s like you’ve already “proven yourself” by passing the difficulties of “starting out as a worm”, so now, having “delayed gratification”, you are given much more leeway.
Those at the bottom end up being treated as “subhuman” when it comes to “rights“, but “superhuman” when it comes to “responsibilities“. Those with power of course, have superhuman “rights”, and subhuman “responsibilities” in the [moral] sense of being excused as only using their power to survive.
Timing, Talent and Temperament: The factors beyond our control, which help shape how much power we can gain.
Timing is something like being in the right place at the right time; like someone who finds a million dollars (and with no indication that that might be the place to find it at that time, which involves four spacetime coordinates).
Talent is the natural gifts one has. Someone very physically fit will obviously have a better chance at becoming a star athlete than someone born with no legs. But neither could determine which condition they would be born with.
Temperament is the likely neurologically based drive towards response time delay and sustain. (How quick you tend to approach other people or courses of action, and how long you hold on to the resolve to meet the goals in these interactions). It also ties into personality type (our preferences in perception and judgment). This will affect how well one is able to take initiative and be able to sell themselves to others and do what it takes to climb the ladder.
These are often ignored, even called “excuses”, while the people on the top, claim to be in complete control of all their situations, so anyone else can as well, and if they didn’t make it, it was their own fault. But even scripture asks “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
Tao (nature): The universal principles that govern these dynamics. Especially things like “the strongest survive”, which operates on both a physical as well as social/political level; and of course, the drive for procreation.
Integrity (te): An ideal “untouched” state we should bring into our paticipation in “Tao”/nature. Consisting of ethics of “Justice” and “Care” (which includes “amiability” or being nice to others, and “constancy”, which is a patience in maintaining an identity of caring), it would mitigate the effects of nature, but what offen ends up happening, is everyone expects others to maintain integrity, while justifying their own actions with “nature”. (i.e. “gotta do what I gotta do”; “the cream rises to the top”, etc.)
So in the “bottom up” system of nature, those with least power (inertia) are the ones this ends up falling heaviest on.
The goal of power seems to be to enact or enforce rules which affect others’ inertia with the least affect on one’s own.
Maintaining inertia seems like a double-bind, because of the principle of the “jungle” or “survival of the fittest”, where those who strive the most to “climb the ladder” and attain power are the ones who get the power, and the inertia and accommodation that comes along with it. (And this in theory would maintain “equilibrium”, so that everyone has a season of inertia; either sooner or later).
But it’s much easier if you already have the resources to start with. I also say that success is largely also a matter of “Timing, Temperament, Talent“; factors that are largely beyond our control. (Again, like knowing the right person at the right time, having the personality to command others, and just natural abilities, respectively).
But none of this is allowed as an “excuse”, for those who do not have them. “Those who got shall get; those who’ve not shall lose“, as the song “God Bless The Child” laments. This probably reflected blacks’ tough experiences generations ago (hence the music being called “the Blues”). It is a corruption of the scriptural parables of the Pounds and Talents. In one, everyone was given the same amount, and in the other, the different people were given different amounts. The common point was that the person who squandered their resource had it taken away and given to those who produced something with them. (It had nothing to do with oppression or lack of opportunity of the one who had less).
Of course, this is precisely what conservatives have been saying about blacks in America for several generations at least. (Or to try to hide race from the rhetoric, —so they can accuse the blacks and liberals of being the true “racists”, they substitute some nondescript group they call “the takers”; —basically their term for “beneficiaries”, which could include any poor, even struggling middle class such as union workers, and also now, illegal immigrants).
Of course, we are also told that the [true] beneficiaries of the politico-economic system “are not happy”, and they themselves cannot really rest because someone is always trying to unseat them or take what they have. (They’re also called “the makers”, which is the conservative’s term for “expendees”, basically).
So this creates a top down struggle, where everyone has to strive to maintain inertia, and hopefully gain ground. Sometimes, gaining ground is even necessary in order to in effect maintain what you have. Like when prices rise. In the analogy, the self-willed states are either inertia, or acceleration, which is you applying energy to push yourself into a new frame of reference from the one you were in. Then, you have a gravitational field, where a force is constantly pulling you down, and to maintain inertia is to freefall to the bottom, and the only way to maintain altitude is to accelerate upward or sit still on a surface, which is in effect being pushed in a state of constant acceleration. The further up you go, the closer you come to true inertia where you are not pulled down; but it is hard to get up there.
So some make things “fair” as they are; after all, those at the top “worked hard” (expended) to get there, and they’re still working hard to maintain it. But it seems they are naturally driven that way, such that even their acceleration becomes a kind of inertia and even benefit.
Many in positions of power or influence will justify their being hard on others by saying they’re “hard on themselves”. But then they are the ones who control the rate they interrupt their own inertia (i.e. they push themselves when they want to; not someone else pushing them when they don’t want to).
The de-facto purpose of life would seem to be survival. But while animals only live to survive, humans take it further than that. We want to enjoy life and have convenience.
In religion we say the purpose is really “to love and serve God”. (And we’re supposed to bring “integrity” into our dealings with the world). But this of course often goes against our inertia, and thus is admittedly not the natural drive.
Inertia is the cause of people being passive and not doing what they can do to improve the community. So a subculture hooked on just abusing substances and getting over will not want to improve themselves.
So people look at the inertia of many [disenfranchised] blacks (or whoever else they deem “the takers” to be), and criticize it, as if they themselves and the rich “beneficiaries” they always defend, don’t have the same inertia, though it may come out in other ways. It’s just that those “other ways” wind up being justified.
Namely, greed, corruption, pulling strings, overpaying themselves and then blaming it on “the market”, and then living ridiculous abundance even as they are bailed out, while scarcity is left for everyone else; with many of whom then deceived into blaming those lower down than them; the biggest “expensees” of the system.
See how this vocabulary makes things a lot easier to articulate!
I basically got it from being an Aspie, whose behavior was not understood, so it ended up seeming like others always got the shrift. When I offended others, I was chastised, but when others offended me, “that’s life; that’s just the way the world/people are”. My parents tried to compensate for my unrecognized condition by setting the bar higher like that. But as a child, I did not understand that (totally violated introverted Thinking’s sense of symmetry, for one), and it made it seem “the world was against me”, which became something else they criticized, as if I had no reason at all to believe something like that the way things looked.
So a few years ago, I was having a similar issue with an online type “expert”, who didn’t like me sharing my ideas on a list, which was run and populated, basically, by Supine types (INFP, ISFP and some other NF’s) who tend to look up to forceful Cholerics like this (ENTJ; yet posing as another type). Being both Supine and Choleric, I’m conflicted between withdrawing/yielding and fighting back.
Then recalling having been told by both my parents, and later even my wife, about what’s called “playing the game” with people; and seeing how people like this always manage to command the respect and even tolerance of their behavior by others, and everyone has to defer or become the black sheep; the perfect term for this came to me, and it was “inertia”. I felt like a little asteroid flung around by the huge star or “gas giant” planet when their paths crossed.
Another source was thinking of how industries whose products are outdated in some way (technology, or health consciousness) will pull strings to keep their products relevant. Why don’t they just expand into the new industry that is replacing the old ones? Or produce healthier products?
No, they want to keep their power base as is, and keep their business going with the least amount of change to they way it is set up for them.
I eventually saw a parallel of this with the more social “inertia” I mentioned above. In either case, those with the most power fix it so that they have to make the least amount of change (and make everyone else change around them, instead) —unless they themselves want to change, for their own goals.
And also in general, a saying I got a long time ago, of people’s desire of “be“ing “good” without [actually] doing “good”! “Being” is basically a state of inertia, while “doing” is exerting energy to get out of that state. So that people could do anything they want [i.e. the “inertia” of continuing in the ‘direction’ of their actions] and still get the credit as being “good”, especially in comparison to others.
The other terms also came to me, especially as I thought all this stuff out, and wrote it down for my counseling over the years.
“Benefit” and “Expense” were from years of Christian teaching on the state of “the fallen world”. Like Philip Yancey pointed out “When Adam sinned, God met with him in person, explaining that all of creation would have to adjust to the choice he, Adam had made”. (Disappointment With God, p.64). This would include a lot of stuff he himself would never experience, including living in a world where sin and domination have become so rampant, and without the divine certainty of God meeting us in person, in a tangible way, anymore. Also, without the condemnation of Hell, since most Christians believe he was automatically “saved” just for wearing the skins God provided for him; where today, sinners must “repent” and have “faith” in the “unseen” and walk a hard “narrow path” of “dying daily to self”, to avoid Hell. Adam seemed to get off pretty easy!
But the terms really came about from applying Yancey’s statement to us, where we have to “adjust” (expend, basically), yet, the way I was feeling back then, it seemed those in power, were benefiting from this “fallen” state.
Of course, once again, the Christians assure us they’re not really “happy”, in addition to most of them being unconverted, and on the road to receiving their “just punishment” after death. But it seemed many Christian leaders were also “up there”, having it cozy, and it made me question their teaching that God sends us “trials”, and explaining the hardships such as what I was going through at the time, as “all that will live godly shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim.3:12).
What really made the terms click for me, was when the MTA issued these bulky gas masks after the union complained we were not protected, in lieu of 9-11. So we had to stuff these masks into already heavy bags, along with the rest of our tools. Then, they would keep declaring that the mask we were given was defective, and then issue bigger, heavier ones. So we were basically carrying around that extra bulk for nothing! Originally sealed in a potatochip-like bag, then later ones encased in a metal canister (inside a buttoned pouch); they would take so long to take out and then get them over our heads, if we noticed other people dropping due to some poison gas, it would have us before we could get those things on. So again, while it is supposed to be for our “benefit”, it’s really not. You wonder who this is this really for, then?
One time, one of these exchanges occurred right before Christmas, and I imagined the people in the company that manufactured it probably getting a big Christmas bonus for the contract. “On my back”, quite literally! (Here is an example of my introverted iNtuitive “Senex” complex that imagines the worst about people and situations!)
So I felt both the company, and the union reps (who have their own offices, rather than carrying these things, out in the field like us) benefited, while I expend.
Again, it really seemed that there were simply “beneficiaries” and “expensees” in the world, and that the laws of the universe, particularly the “timing, talent, temperament” I mentioned, were what determined this.
I know no one has it perfect, but this seemed like a good way to categorize those who’ve managed to find their niche in the world, where they can make ends meet, and basically prosper. Everyone does not have it this way (even though many will try to deflect by telling you “To people in third world countries, you’re rich”. True, but if we were to remove all us inbetweeners out of the pictures, then the people on both extreme ends would definitely fit the categories, so they still do hold).
“Nuisance Quota” likewise was from being a young Christian hassled by my agnostic father and other situations in life, and this was interpreted, again, in light of 2 Tim. 3:12. Most of the stuff I was going through had nothing to do with what the early Christians suffered, but it did “fill the quota” read into that passage.
“Scarcity” and “Abundance” came straight from the Zeitgeist films people were selling DVD-R’s of on the subway a few years ago. I really liked the way they broke it down in these terms: The power structure creates an illusion of scarcity through the loan/debt/interest system where we’re constantly in a deficit and cutting back on jobs, services and quality (and then households have to cut back, or take out more loans/credit to maintain their standard; creating a condition that reminded me of the “ice age“); while there is really a great abundance out there, being hoarded by an elite.
The people behind these films have this ideal, utopian theory of spreading the abundance, that I can’t picture ever really being implemented and working (as conservative Christians always pointed out against Marxism; it ignores man’s sinfulness and assumes if you just fix the system everything will work. It basically ignores “nature”), but it was nice to see someone promoting awareness of what’s going on economically, instead of the totally ludicrous path of blaming those with the least, as the Right does.
In conjunction with this, “Debt” and “Credit” come from this, plus from pondering the ways of the world, where people justify unfairness and “winner take all” scenarios of “seniority” by saying you have to “pay your dues”.
And how people in authority (especially “Melancholy” SJ types with their “introverted Sensing” that remembers everything in detail) hold everything wrong you do against you.
Then, the typical Christian view where man is perpetually in debt to an angry God, and has to “give Him his life” in order to receive the “covering” of Christ. (Again, Adam received “credit” just for receiving skins as his covering, yet God seems to demand so much more from everyone else in conventional theology).
We can not forget where the term originally came from: finance. Both personal, and national.
In all of these cases, there is just this tremendous sense of “debt” just in being alive as an “average” human, while others (including celebrities, who get more fame and money than anyone can do anything with) get so much “credit” for their existence (and also, rich CEO’s get credit for “climbing the ladder” and “deserving” everything they have, even as they lower quality, raise prices, cut jobs and services, mismanagement and corporate “welfare”, etc; and people such as the American founders get credit for their “faith” and “good works” before God compared to all of today’s sins and unbelief, despite colonialism, slavery, and the fact that many of them were unorthodox deists, Masons, etc).
This sense of “debt” would be apart of the “shame” I mentioned recently. (And we see how it comes in handy for people to manipulate, or “benefit” from!)
Hence, the Gospel is Grace, through Christ’s work, not our own. Though living in a world still structured on “law”, which is basically “give and take” (hence “compensation” and “equilibrium”), and religion is the biggest champion of this mindset, as much as it speaks of “grace”; —sure makes the sense of shame linger!
“Tao vs te” (nature vs integrity) I learned from from Jungian theorist John Beebe’s Integrity in Depth (1992). It is derived from Chinese philosophy, but would parallel the Bible’s “flesh vs spirit”, as the division between man’s fallen state, and the unfallen ideal. We often count on nature to do everything (whether justifying our abuse of power, or fixing it), but we need integrity.
“Accommodation”, “Equilibrium”, “Resources”, “Compensation” and “Gratification” are common terms that fit what I was thinking nicely.
“Gratification” again, is a better concept as the goal of strife than “happiness”. “Delayed gratification” is often something credited to the powerful, as if it justifies their immense wealth. It then even becomes a sort of “character” judgment in favor of the powerful and against the struggling. The latter apparently went for “instant gratification”, which in preaching is often listed as the cause of many vices. So now, they must suffer, as it wears off. But those who “delayed” gratification reap it later, and as the saying goes “he who laughs last, laughs best”.
What they aren’t telling you is that many of these “movers and shakers” who become the powerful ARE gratifying themselves (their ego) as they pull themselves up! This is the “temperament” part of “Timing, Talent, Temperament” (a nice same-letter trio that came to mind), and “Talent” goes along with it too. When they or their conservative defenders talk about this “delayed gratification” of them taking all these “risks” and “pulling themselves up”, we are made to put ourselves in their position and think of ourselves breaking our inertia to do all of those things, and being tired, scared and miserable. Poor dudes; it must be rough for them!
But on the contrary, people like that enjoy the process of climbing and stepping on others along the way. They love the challenge! It’s fun! Like my time on the computer writing this stuff and others, which is often called “leisure time” when compared to work and household, but it is a lot of work, which could conceivably pay off somehow (in which case it would no longer be seen as “leisure”). So is it really delaying or instigating gratification? Gratification isn’t really delayed; it just increases as they reach the top.
“Equilibrium” fit how I just want things to be equal, between myself and others.
“Compensation” especially, from its use in Jungian terminology, where our ego consciousness chooses one orientation (internal or external) or a function (Sensing or Intuition, and Thinking or Feeling), and suppresses the others. These others will form sort of mirror images of the preferred ones, in the subconscious or unconscious, which “compensate” for the preferred functions and orientations. Especially with the various archetypal complexes that attach to them.
So it was a nice term to explain mirror symmetries.
“Bottom-up pressuring” is from the pressure my parents put on me when first entering the workforce (by this time so frustrated with everything else in life I was lagging behind in, so being particularly stern), and then noticing how corrupt things were at the top of business and government.
The example, is how as an employment applicant, your application, resumé and appearance must be SPOTLESS. A single wrinkle, a single typo will likely result in instant disqualification, with a judgment of “irresponsible” or “not caring enough”, etc. Yet I would think of all the people who got in, past all that, climbed to the top, often ruthlessly stepping on others and doing all sorts of shady stuff to get to the top, and then being full of corruption, incompetence (bad decisions that can even bring the company down), or even stuff like greed, sneaky cost cutting measures (poor products as prices and executive salaries rise, etc), etc. that’s not even seen as wrong by many people, yet still has a negative effect; even moreso than the “irresponsibility” of any little visible mistake.
They were SO STRICT screening out people at the entry level, yet unethical, incompetent people are still able to make it to and often thrive at the top, yet it’s that position that bears the most power and influence, and has the greatest affect on the world. This was one of the great double-standards that loomed in my mind the first time I read Christ’s criticism of people “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” and “making clean the outside of the cup“.
This is the total opposite of the more top-down “incarnational” approach of Christ, being Lord, yet setting the example Himself by living perfectly, then giving His life for those “below” Him. “To whom MUCH is given; much is expected” He said; rather than the other way around, as is often done in practice in the world.
Another example of “subhuman rights, superhuman responsibilities” is the way blacks have been portrayed as subhuman in racist rhetoric, but part of this is blaming us for ruining the entire nation. As one author pointed out, if we could really do what they are claiming, we would be superhuman! (i.e. all the “responsibility” for the well-being of the nation is being put on us. Plus, we can add, the males also often being viewed as physically “superhuman” beasts, responsible for filling the land with violence!)
I kept forgetting about this one, and along the way, figured it was merely a part of some form of “bottom-up” dynamic (which it is, in a way), but only more recently (as my wife has been looking for a job, and trying to put together that perfect resumé) was reminded of it and finally remembered to include it here.
It seems for an introverted Thinker with iNtuition, having names for concepts makes it easier going through midlife, and having to come more to terms with Sensing and Feeling matters. (the concrete world and people).