Never doubt that all contemporary soft methods of compulsion are smelling with blood. This flavor has been known to humans for millennia. Cruel jokes of great apes found themselves in successive human rituals of punishment and vendetta. Even though apparent cruelty was tailing off over the development of human civilization, pleasure from hurting neighbors hasn’t gone anywhere.
Today we are delighted with only latent forms of personal violence.
We are too tolerant to openly laugh at cripples, losers, and mentally disabled. Today’s readers feel huge inconvenience reading about Don Quijote despite the book was created as a comic fiction aimed at making the contemporaries of Cervantes shriek with laughter. Our mighty social conventions prevent us from expressing stormy emotions when we see somebody’s pain or suffering. Various BDSM exercises don’t count — this is always an agreement between parties who are pretending in one way or another.
With regard to the real violence, we appreciate what can be called the end product of the evolution of human brutality — debt.
Debt is as fundamental for any kind of human society as money. Lending people money we impose obligations on them. Obligations imply control. Not just an ability to monitor people’s behavior, but the real power to kill or forgive. A debtor is a slave once using violence against a debtor is as legitimate as society-sponsored.
A debtor-free society is impossible in the present commercialized-to-the-core world. Even a communist utopia was grounded on a specific non-monetized debt of individuals to the State which we used to call duty. Its softer version is present in every constitution, by the way. Any vertical hierarchy is barely imaginable without creditor-debtor relationships.
The contemporary liberal paradigm propagates a nation of nobles (sir, mister, mistress) rather than a society of equal opportunities. Throughout the ages, lords had someone deserved to be hurt rightly or wrongly. Slaves, gladiators, court buffoons, serfs, soldiers, prisoners, servants, wives, and subjects were always available at the hand of the powers that be. And a collective memory about it is imprinted in our subconsciousness, Dr. Jung could confirm.
The older days were more straightforward rather than crueler. People of the past openly celebrated every opportunity to watch how debtors were punished. Debtors in that context meant everyone who violated obligations of any sort. Just recollect cheers from the crowd when a guy from Nazareth was sentenced to death on religious grounds. Was he a debtor? Of course, he was, once he dared to undermine the then social values. Public executions attracted all available populations of ancient cities from kids to grannies. That was a norm and nobody could have an idea to put an “18+” warning near a place of auto-da-fe.
What did all those people crave watching how executioners were torturing their victims? Was that a manifestation of their primitive bloodlust?
Far from it. That was an imperative need to persuade themselves once again that justice did exist, that authorities did not lose their power, and, above all, that debtors paid their debts in full. Health and life were evaluated as equivalents to certain amounts of debt. And that was a huge step forward in comparison with the more ancient times of Egyptian kingdoms when debtors were left unburied and, therefore, deprived the most valuable thing ever — the afterlife.
The modern societies allow punishing debtors in mass. This is the first major difference from the old times. It’s not about technologies only, it’s about the very social structure of capitalism where the population is addicted to a great variety of bank loans. The second difference is the imperceptibility of debts however small amount is implied. Once the modern-day creditor is a global banking system any particular debtor is too insignificant to be forgiven. In the past, a sovereign could forgive a debt being personally touched by the begging of his vassals. That was a unilateral decision of a lord that was accepted by underlings as law. The contemporary democracies have no such lords capable of forgiving debts solely.
Today people owe banks, governments owe banks, banks owe banks, that is to say, the entire population owes the System. In this regard, we have a clear right to state that global social equity is achieved. The equity against debt.
Is there a difference in the behavior of the modern people and the ancient ones in terms of a moral satisfaction obtained from watching how debtors are punished? Some may argue that nowadays humane societies are too civilized to celebrate public executions. Nothing could be further from the truth. What has changed, actually, is the scale. Now, we operate with global concepts. Today, we celebrate the punishment of debtor countries. And again, a debtor in the present context means a nation that violets some international obligations.
We are delighted with the tremendous inflation of bolivars in Venezuela since this country owes the IMF whose predatory credit interests have forced the local economy to a heavy stagnation. We nod our heads watching how the international coalition turns Syrian cities into dust because the local regime dared to be different from our social values. We are swollen from happiness when our parliament adds another set of economic sanctions against Russia because Russia… well, Russia is always worth punishment.
People will remain the same as long as the debt remains a basic element in a structure where the property is the highest value. The great apes with their cruel jokes performed a quantum leap to homo sapiens when awareness of property happened among the majority of the species. Property induced the creation of money after which debt appeared automatically. If we want to reach the next evolutionary stage, something should be invented instead of the primary cause of debt — the property. Otherwise, we will have to follow the same self-repeating scenario whatever technical advancement humanity might achieve.
It’s barely a pleasant way to put it so, but maybe in a couple of ages, somebody who gets back to the present topic would complain again that nothing changed in human nature since the dark times of the 21st century and people still keep appreciating punishment of debtor planets.