6. Disempowerment

You probably know the experience of unsuccessfully trying to make a computer do what you want it to do; to produce intended results. And then all of a sudden, you understand what you have been doing wrong. You adapt your behavior a bit and now everything works.

In retrospect you know that you caused your own problem: you didn’t understand the (computer) system to a sufficient degree. But you can also argue that you only had a problem because the system was designed to behave counter-intuitively. And because it behaved counter-intuitively, the system — instead of facilitating you — trapped you until you understood it better. And while you are trapped your development stalls.

The world is just like this. If you understand it, it is a rich source of opportunities, but if you do not it is a frustrating place to be trapped in. This site assumes that we are all trapped in global and local systems we do not understand and that we have to educate ourselves out of the ignorance traps to change the world from a frustrating trap into a world of near limitless opportunities.

It is useful to contrast self-empowerment and disempowerment, as depicted in Table Contrasting disempowerment and empowerment

Contrasting disempowerment and empowerment
Disempowerment self-Empowerment
1) One is powerless if one cannot produce intended results 1 ) Power is the capacity to produce intended (and predicted) results.
2) The production of intended results is impossible if efforts are based on unrealistic beliefs (that lead to random results). 2) The production of intended and predicted results is a real-world validation of beliefs and a proof of a good grasp at reality.
3) Ineffective efforts leads to reduced confidence in self and fosters dependence through a self-initiated search, for authorities as source of more effective behavioral options. 3) The capacity for effective actions lead to confidence, independence, liberation from the pressures of the direct environment, and forms a basis for (natural) authority
4) This result is self-enslavement in suboptimal conditions. 4) This results in independence and self-ownership of life.

The ultimate crime: preventing humanity from the realization its potential

Our culturally shaped world has aspects designed into it that are counter-intuitive and that —purposely — trap and exploit us all. The reasoning behind this conclusion is about as follows:

  1. People who do not understand the system they are involved in cannot reliably solve the problems resulting from this lack of understanding (true according to the definition of understanding)
  2. Understanding of the systems one is part of leads to self-empowerment because the system exhibits more predictable behavior (a definition of understanding)
  3. Not understanding the systems one is involve in leads to dependence on individuals who do (definition of dependence)
  4. Dependence can be exploited (is a basis for capitalism: “I have something that you need”)
  5. Not understanding the systems one is part of makes it difficult to detect conscious exploitation (because ill-understood system defy explanations)
  6. The perfect crime is to exploit a victim without the victim realizing it (it will never be prosecuted)
  7. The ultimate crime is to exploit everyone without them realizing it (crime on the grandest scale possible)
  8. Only very few people understand the most relevant local and global systems they are part of (only a very small minority is a true well-informed libertarian)

The ultimate crime — exploiting humanity without humanity realizing (the full extend of) it and in doing so robbing humanity of opportunities to realize its full potential — seems a bit over the top. But is it? One might also argue that this is precisely the dynamic that kept the aristocracy in power for millennia.

Organization centered, not student-centered.

In the 20th century, duration has been taken over by bureaucrats. And bureaucrats are (at work) in an authoritarian mode. Basically this led to an uniformization of education and, worse, a change of focus from the needs of the student to the needs of the organization.

Students who make it to the University are selected for compliance: they have a 15 or so year history of pleasing their teachers and performing the desired intellectual behavior at command. No wonder that many have not been able to think for themselves or to be truly creative. Ken Robinson is clear about this in his TEDx-talk on “How schools kill creativity”

The process of how the change in focus from student to pull came about is a great example of disempowerment. The question whether education is aimed at learning full time or part time skills is closely related to this. And these form the roots of hierarchy.

Section overview

    1. A short history of education in the 20th century
    2. Full time or part time skills
    3. The roots of hierarchy
    4. The top of the hierarchy
    5. Obfuscating reality