I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you
Beat or cheat or mistreat you
Simplify you, classify you
Deny, defy or crucify you
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you
It’s a matter of who calls the shots. Winston Churchill, it is said, did not use public transport his whole life through. A notable story is told that a privileged guy found himself stranded late one night and got on a bus to get home. He told the driver his home address. The driver replied: ‘You go where the bus goes mate’.
So it is who has control who is able to call the shots; the bus driver or the guy who is rich enough to buy a personal service. And the inherent antagonisms that arise out of bids for, and assertions of, control, in this instance between the people as a mass, and the few who can buy personalised services, are likewise pointed up in this bus-ride anecdote.
The Bob Dylan lyrics I place as header to this article make a firm point that control is not needed, not required, and I would say in strongest earnestness, is not desirable.
There is no merit, no joy, no reward in itself, in compunction. A forced gift forced to be given to another is no real gift at all, just as a gift received unwanted forced on one is no gift either. As John Barbour rejoices:
Ah, freedom is a noble thing!
Freedom makes man to have liking!
Freedom all solace to man gives:
He lives at ease that freely lives!
A noble heart may have none ease,
Nor ellys nought that may him please,
If freedom fail: for free liking
Is yearned owre all other thing.
Nor he, that has aye lived free,
May not know well the property,
The anger, nor the wretched doom,
That is coupled to foul thraldom.
But, if he had essayed it,
Then all perquer he should it wit;
And should think freedom more to prize
Than all the gold in world that is
Compunction carries no innate value, adds no character, inspires no conduct.
The saying goes: ‘Knowledge is power’; the fact is that control of knowledge is political and social power. The persons who set the agendas for what enters the public domain for listening to, viewing, reading, hearing, learning, advising, instructing, guiding, recommending to others; are those who call the shots on what and how much, in which formats, are made available. These are the persons who exercise the power of control in and over our public and private lives.
A modest counter to these arbiters of the agendas is expressed by Hamlet:
‘I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space..’
And by Stephano:
STEPHANO: Come on, Trinculo, let us sing.
Flout ’em and scout ’em,
And scout ’em and flout ’em.
Thought is free.
Yes, thought is free, but Caliban quenches their celebration. He replies:
CALIBAN: That’s not the tune.
Thought is free and can range through infinite space whilst one is bounded within a nutshell, but such music is not always the actual tune.
Caliban is a sevant-monster. He is base; at the bottom of the social pecking order. His master Prospero controls him and forces upon him tasks like gathering in firewood. For his curses Caliban is pinched and baited by spirit creatures who are at the behest of Prospero, his master, the magician.
Caliban complains to Prospero:
CALIBAN: You taught me language, and my profit on ’t
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
Prospero has taught his language to Caliban; Prospero has set the agenda even for the means and range of speech for Caliban. Caliban rebels and curses Prospero for him having taught him language to no use but to curse Prospero. Caliban has limited knowledge (of language) without (concomitant) (political) power. Hence Caliban is the slave of Prospero. Caliban’s thought is not free.
Even when not bounded in a nutshell Caliban is constrained and thwarted from his free choice and from all freedom of spirit. He is no king and has no jurisdiction over any personal or political space, neither without nor within a nutshell, nor in the consciousness of his own mind.
Prospero calls all the shots for Caliban. For Caliban neither thought nor action is free.
The right to freedom of thought for each person one would like to suggest in a democracy to be inalienable, and generally available. The privileged guy boarding the bus would have thought so. The acid reply of the bus driver might have enlightened him instead to the fact that for the masses, in their separated world from his, a lumpenproletariat pro-forma existence in action and in thought is generally to be the extent of freedom provided/allowed.
These persons go where the buses go and do not get dropped outside their comfortable mansions. Unlike the privileged guy who expects to be and doesn’t think twice about the fact that it might be unusual taken across the breadth of society to enjoy and take for granted such personal service.
In the mind likewise the privileged guy will have been allowed access to an education at schools and colleges which provide what is considered the best in learning amongst his people. He will hold a far broader understanding of history, philosophy, and many other subjects; albeit attuned specifically to the outlooks and prospects of one typically born into, or having attained, privilege.
The crowds on the buses are generally not privy to such broad and generally emancipatory educations, life expectations and privilege. Their thought is free; but only (pace Orwell) not as free as is others’.
Yet every person with sentience has potential to think freely, even the lumpenproletariat has within itself a germ for being ‘bounded in a nutshell’ yet counting itself ‘a king of infinite space’.
It is the distribution, content, placement, timing, arrangement of agendas; all as made and directed by the persons in society who call the shots, which govern the lives and direct and delimit the range and depth of freedom, knowledge, understanding, learning, education, thought, of those who like Calibans are marshalled en mass by their privileged masters.
These masters are those who choose the content of the political manifestoes, of the newspapers, and news feeds and bulletins, of what is available as formal education, of programmes and of curricula, of semesters and prospectuses, of speeches and debates, of laws and regulations, who call the shots and in the course of nature reserve the places at the top of the table for themselves and their children.
They control and delimit the extent of availability, price, access, to learning, truth, understanding, study, belief, self-belief, evidence; and to that liberal and liberating lifting out of the morass of the commonplace that the generalised cloud of proletarian persons are unable presently witnesses as being the nobility of love, life, faith and well-doing amongst one other. At Metanomalies we stand for recommending this liberation.
[This article was originally published at “The Control of the Agenda“]
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