A Great Machine

An ideal’s longevity is based not on its truth or nobility, but on its innate defense against corruption. This is an interesting attitude to have as it runs contrary to the belief that “truth will have its day” or that “love conquers all.” Every idea that man creates and pursues will have, built in to it, mechanisms that defend against the “corruption” of the idea. Corruption in this sense can simply be defined as the acknowledgment of other ideas that are contrary. As an example, the ideal of freedom is protected and fostered by the mechanisms of a free press, personal property, etc.
This idea of mechanisms designed to defend ideas does not require a judgment on whether the said ideas are true or even based in fact. It simply serves as a device to introduce the next part of my analogy. If those mechanisms can be thought of as gears which, in their turning, drive our daily actions, then each person’s mind as a whole can be thought of as a great machine which is, throughout the great journey of life, trying to find the best configuration of gears.
Society also functions this way. Each idea has its adherents, each religion its followers, each industry its own wants and needs. Every system in society has its own “gears” that support and drive it. In many cases the mechanisms that form around concepts are neutral, serving only to protect the idea they surround. But sometimes the mechanisms can interfere with or directly attack the mechanisms of another idea. For example, in older times arranged marriages were common (and still are in some areas of the world). These marriages existed as a mechanism to maintain the power of the family. Heads of households would make matches for their sons and daughters to improve bloodlines, consolidate power, gain wealth and prestige, etc. The mechanism of marriage defended the all importance of the family. This mechanism came into conflict with the growing idea of freedom of choice in love, the idea that you should be able to choose who you want to be espoused to.
What arises then is a system in which the ideals and beliefs that society as a whole subscribes to are in constant friction with each other’s defensive mechanisms, like two gears that don’t fit. This is distinctly apparent in today’s political and social debates. The two major political parties in America have ideas and values which are so different from one another that many times the outward expression of those values clash and grind together in a most distressing way. We each try and fit the gears together in a configuration where they complement each other in some places, or simply don’t encounter any resistance in other places. Sometimes certain gears are even discarded entirely in our vision of this “great machine”, when judged to be completely incompatible with any others.
When seen in this light all the conflict that arises between humans is the result of us trying to either uphold a mechanism or tear one down. Each of us has an idea, no matter how rough or abstract, of how we think the gears should fit together. To carry this analogy even further, some gears appear to our eyes to be inferior to others. Some gears are clearly flawed or if used would cause damage to others. This is “truth” and “falsehood.” What we see as truthful has a place, what we see as false does not. How we see those gears all depends on what purpose we think the greater machine ought to have.
So where does this leave us? When considering new ideas we should look at all the turning gears and effects that the idea has on the greater system. Does what we think we know really fit with our core beliefs? Do the policies we support and the daily actions we take mesh well with other ideas we see as truthful?
It is said that we should judge people not on their words but their actions. I think it should be the same with concepts, ideas, beliefs, and philosophies. Look at the fruit that these things produce. Look at the mechanisms that drive them. Do we protect certain ideas we have because that is simply what we have always done or is it because we have actually examined them for ourselves. Are they a good influence on the greater “machine” or do they produce a negative effect?
The questions that arise as we see the world as a product of the interaction of ideas is important. It allows us to strips away much of the emotional baggage that too often clogs good, intellectual thought and makes us look at the foundations of life on this planet. The foundations are key, because without a firm foundation what can we possibly build that will stand? Without a societal “machine” that is not constantly striving to become more efficient how can anything be achieved?


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