Politics in the world of Populace

Sometime in college, the world was mapped out to me as follows: there’s a category for economic stuff, a category for government stuff and a category for cultural stuff.

All of life, my teacher proposed, could fit in one of those three buckets. For example, the military invading Afghanistan was a government decision. Cattle ranchers cutting down the Amazon rainforest to make more beef for American consumers is an economic decision. And me writing a book with the hopes that it might shed light on the plight of the working class men and women I grew up with — well, that’s a cultural decision.

I came to understand just how deeply flawed these three buckets are. For example, America’s participation in the Gulf War in 1991 came in response to Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, but it was nearly entirely financed by Japan, which received a vast majority of its oil from Kuwait. Moreover, the economics behind oil and Hussein feeling that Kuwait was stealing what was rightfully his led to their invasion in the first place. All of this is greatly simplified, of course, as there was an American election at the time for George H.W. Bush, and he wasn’t looking so hot. In fact, despite history looking favorably on his approach to the war, he stopped before invading Baghdad, leaving Hussein in power until his son came along. What can you say his motivations for stopping were? Were they culturally motivated? Did the shadow of Vietnam still linger over the situation?

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

My point is that everything is so tightly interconnected there’s no sense in the buckets at all. Looking at any situation is like looking at pointillism art — we believe it makes sense when we stand back to admire it from afar, when we’re distant and a stranger to the situation, but then as it encircles us, all we see is the minutiae. We see the dots, not the art.

While this can be a charming analogy for having perspective, I also think that the individual dots in any complex system are remarkably complicated. And, in terms of Populace, and I believe in real life, those individual dots are you and me, and the complex systems we make up are corporations, countries and smuggler rings -- whatever your particular poison is.

Thinking that we can stand back and understand them with analogies often leads to the kind of hubris that gets us into dangerous situations. Enter the politics of Populace (*cough* out now in paperback and kindle on Amazon *cough, cough*). Sorry, a bit of shameless self-promotion got caught in my throat.

Anyway, back to the politics of Populace, which is trying very hard to reconcile a Greek utopia of Democracy with a Hobbesian view of people and an American focus on individualism. What do you have? A few men who run everything with tight fists. You have a world not so different from today.

I once read that to draw a chair, sometimes it is easiest to draw where the chair is not — the space around the chair. The same is true for mapping out the future — answering the question of what we as a species will be doing is much harder than what we won’t be. And when you look at the vast technological progress we are making, the abilities of computers and automation to make the world experience an egalitarianism one never before seen, you have to wonder what will remain — what won’t be disrupted.

As I wrote Populace, it became clear that there will always be men who want to rule the world, regardless of its condition, as sure as there will always be villains and sociopaths who prey on those around them.