The Earth revolves around the Sun and so do the Planets
The ancient Athenian philosophers and astronomers were certainly brilliant but what fun it would have been to tell them that their great discoveries were so fundamentally flawed: “the Earth revolves around the Sun and so do the Planets”. The really peculiar thing is that, one of our philosophers might have said “it doesn’t really matter”. And it doesn’t if you have no intention of leaving the Earth or firing rockets at things. Athenian calculation devices actually worked in terms of their predictive powers: there is Mars right on time although he seemed to have done some sort of moon walk and soft shoe shuffle to get there. And our gathered Athenians might not have been particularly gracious or Socratic about it—they might have gone all surly just like the Church when it was Galileo’s misfortune to have to break the bad news about Heaven to the Inquisition. His book ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ was partly nonsense of course, but it is the repercussions of getting things so gallopingly wrong that annoyed people in power. When it is pointed out how useless and stupid their system is, just as the powerful wish to appear ‘right’ in all manners and matters, all the time: so the whole facade seems to fall flat and the powerful are proved wrong in every direction of their thought. Why should they be in charge?
But then something odd happens. Like the old Buster Keaton joke, the facade has fallen but they still seem untouched by the calamity—a window has appeared which leaves their authority still standing. In Keaton’s stunt a real window saved him, for the Church back in Gallelio’s time, the pretence was that the consequencies of the falling of the facade should be postponed so that power could be retained. For followers (and those made to follow) the facade is a postponed falling, no final judgement can be made—so that a perverse absolute can be maintained in more general areas that restrict, dictate and control what people can and cannot think, and then subsequently, possibly do. This doing might of course be the undoing of the powers of the powerful. As Albert Einstein said in the foreward to Galileo’s book:
A man is here revealed who possesses the passionate will, the intelligence, and the courage to stand up as the representative of rational thinking against the host of those who, relying on the ignorance of the people and the indolence of teachers in priest’s and scholar’s garb, maintain and defend their positions of authority. His unusual literary gift enables him to address the educated men of his age in such clear and impressive language as to overcome the anthropocentric and mythical thinking of his contemporaries and to lead them back to an objective and causal attitude toward the cosmos, an attitude which had become lost to humanity with the decline of Greek culture.
What Einstein recognized in Galileo’s work was the “passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority.” For him only experience and careful reflection are accepted as criteria of truth and this was what Galileo thought too. The revolutionary appearance of Galileo’s thoughts at the time are the same as the revolutionary appearance of any idea that doubts the truth of opinions which have no basis but authority. Einstein notes that we are “by no means so far removed from such a situation even today as many of us would like to flatter ourselves”. For Einstein: “in theory, at least, the principle of unbiased thought has won out, and most people are willing to pay lip service to this principle.”
Our present day is different: there is no point speaking truth unto power. The powerful are omni-right when they are demonstrably omni-wrong because no dialogue concerning two chief World systems can exist because there is only one. Thus this way of thinking has become lost to humanity and is kept lost: without dialogue no dialogue is possible. Our present day predicament is simply a larger outgrowth of this denial that demands greater reinforcement of its illusions—that is almost a definition of power today. That Buster Keaton facade is not really falling: postpone the falling from your mind and belief in anthropocentric and mythical thinking will do the rest. The reality that this belief produces in the real world sets off a train of events that means, for example, that organisations only need efficient sacking mechanisms rather than efficient methods of responding to any problems raised by any of those Earth-revolves-around-the-Sun Galileo-type people. A business will run along with any ‘ignore the 500-pound gorilla in the room’ belief system as long as the money keeps rolling in. What imperitive exists to change that if the consequences can be willfully ignored? Money drowns out the cries of the poor like an anesthetic.
When bankers and their political representatives (because bankers are not political right?) still engage in the activities they insist are sound and responsible it is despite the social havoc they cause. But the facade has fallen, people have been crushed, there was no window except for a tiny minority. We see the Sun revolving around the Earth when what is being denied is that irrational capitalism is exploitative and that the system only works for a tiny elite. J. P. Morgan are still back in their World War One days of making money out of loaning money for a war, making money wagering when each side was in the ascendancy when the war was on, and then pulling the plug when Germany became a democracy. It’s like watching drunk people at a dog fight. No moral lesson will ward away the rationality that the dogs must die for their sport. If money is to be made out of anything we will not view building as any more constructive than destroying; or life as any more important than death.