When Means become Ends

Abstract: Quintessence has issued many articles in the series Optionality by Comparison. This article looks at capitalism and concludes that one of the problems is that capitalism for many is an ideology, something that they believe in. Consequently, capitalism cannot be directly compared with optionality. Quintessence argues that capitalism is part of a culture that is about to be followed up a new culture, i.e. DonParagon's Vision of the Future.

A. Capitalist Rhetoric

People who have targets they aim for are fortunate indeed, because so many others fail to envisage even a single target in their entire life. Ask old people what they have achieved in their lives and many will warily shake their head, unable to identify a single worthwhile achievement. Of course, there are always jokers who come up with incoherent stories about the highlights of their lives, having fun, their sexual conquests, ripping other people off, the trophees they earned. Then, there are many people who are happy just to live their lives, perhaps raising a few children in the hope that these children will lead similar lives. But why are there so few people willing and able to set themselves specific goals, work hard to achieve them and get the tremendous feeling of satisfaction and achievement when they are successful in those goals? Why are there so few who transcend beyond a mere robot and who identify with something that makes them more than just another statistic?

The primary cause of all this is a cultural one. In today's capitalist society, people's actions are rarely self-initiated. People are held liable for their actions, but few people are in a position to achieve targets they set themselves. In capitalist rhetoric, everyone is an entrepreneur. But in today's reality, most people fit into hierarchical systems in which one receives instructions from a superior.

In the capitalist society, people work for money. Money, banks, stock exchanges, etc, it is all part of a specific culture. The ideological part of this culture comprises a specific form of logic and rhetoric. Some may argue that money is merely a means to achieve something that you really want. But the capitalist society will bluntly claim that all such desires are personal vanities and that, ideologically, capitalism itself is the end-target.

B. Vision of the Future

It is important to realise that this capitalist rhetoric is part of a specific culture. Quintessence has for many years presented optionality as an ideology superior to all other ideologies. But, importantly, Quintessence does not present optionality as a target, nor as the measure of success or as something that can be achieved. Instead, Quintessence presents optionality as part of a newly-emerging culture, more specifically, as the ideological part of this culture and as something more and more people will start to believe in as this new culture becomes more widespread. This new culture has been described many times by Quintessence and one of the most extensive descriptions is the article on DonParagon's Vision of the Future.

Importantly, Quintessence does not regard optionality as the ultimate measure of success, nor does Quintessence regard capitalism as an ideology. Instead, Quintessence sees capitalism as part of a culture and, within this culture, the ideology that is associated with capitalism is competition. DonParagon regards optionality as his preferred ideology, as something he believes in, but Don uses the word appreciation to describe what will replace capitalism. In Don's Vision of the Future, capitalism will no longer determine what constitutes success, instead appreciation will be the measure of success in future times. Again, Don argues that capitalism is not an ideology in itself, but that capitalism goes hand in hand with the ideology of competition policy.

In Don's Vision, capitalism cannot directly be compared with optionality, as they are two different aspects of culture. By pitting optionality against capitalism, one therefore takes things out of context, in this case the context of Don's Vision.

C. Optionality by Comparison

What is the importance of all this. Well, the issue arose as Quintessence received a request for an article in the series Optionality by Comparison. In this case, the request was to compare optionality with capitalsim. As explained above, such a comparison would send out the wrong message that capitalism and optionality are similar concepts that can easily be compared. A direct comparison between optionality and capitalism misinterprets capitalism as an ideology. The very problem of the capitalist society is that means and goals are blurred. Money, originally a means to assist with achieveing success, becomes the end-goals and the measure of success. In the capitalist society, earning money becomes an ideology, and this is exactly what the problem is.

If there is to be any comparison, such comparison will have to be between today's society, call it the Information Society if you like, and DonParagon's Vision of the Future. The weakness of today's Information Society is perhaps most evident in examples that show its inconsistencies. In the capitalist society, everything is for sale and everything has to be paid for. Talk about someone or something and you face litigation. Make a hyperlink to someone else's page and that person may sue you for doing so. In such a world, most people withdraw to the pseudo-safety of following instructions from a superior. Most employment contracts deny individuals rights to their work. If you work on your own and talk to someone about your dreams, your ideas and the things you are working on, that person may well register the rights to it. Even if you manage to get such rights in your name (and pay for the privilege), you lose them if you do not pay your bills in time. In most cases, the end result is that someone else owns your work, prohibiting you from using your own creations.

Is it any wonder that there are so few people who say what they think, who are willing to share their dreams, to have any dreams in the first place? Most organisations tell their staff not to talk about work to outsiders, for fear of insider trading allegations, industrial espionage, competition, litigation, libel and defamation, divulging personal details, etc. Most organisations fear that investigative journalism into their activities may expose practices that edge on the illegal or immoral. Marketing and public relations is claimed to be a very delicate activity better left in the hands of specialists that design strategies with a great amount of diplomacy. The typical result of such strategies is to get a celebrity to promote a product name in a silly TV add. There are no dreams in a world full of fraud and theft, where everything is deemed to be property, where everything is ruled by contracts and decided in court.

DonParagon argues that nobody can take away what you believe in. What you believe in is not for sale, almost per definition. Nobody can decide for you what you like, what you appreciate. If you like a song, then you like it. If a judge tells you otherwise, then that judge is a fool. The capitalist society is wrong in making people believe that the ultimate thing people want is money. It isn't. Money is merely a means to achieve an end and it is a poor way of achieving things in many ways. You may decide to save money in order to buy the things you want. But what you ultimately want, is up to you to decide. Understand the difference, and you will see optionality!

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