The “Useless” Myth

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Cult of Financialist Utility

It seems that everywhere we turn these days we can read about how artists and art historians, curators and critics, photographers and writers, architects and interior designers, musicians and performers as well as scholars of all Humanist disciplines are self evidently “useless.”¬†¬†This narrative is so widely promulgated by politicians, university presidents, accountants, administrators and ubiquitous media pundits that it has become a clich√© truism as uncritically accepted as was the concept of the Ptolemaic universe five centuries ago.¬†¬†This contemporary leadership cohort are generally devout adherents to the Cult of Financialist Utility.¬†

This same Finacialist class appropriates the prerogative to dictate to society what it deems useful.¬†¬†According to this cohort, the “useful” are those who pursue careers in finance, accounting, law, administration, mathematics, engineering and its sister medicine. Marketing/Communications/Public Relations is the bastard conjoined stepchild that is permitted to ride the utility relevancy caboose, contingent on its necessity for producing propaganda.¬†¬†Everyone else is essentially superfluous. Not surprisingly, the members of this elite Financialist group have determined that they are the only ones who are essential. This superstitious worldview has serious consequences for humanity.¬†

In the recent election cycles worldwide, we have seen the result of the ubiquity of this myth of the “utilitarian” and it isn’t pretty.¬†¬†If you want to know what is truly useless just look to the American Rust Belt.¬†¬†An American factory worker without an assembly line won’t fabricate a single product.¬†¬†An American coal miner without a coal mine won’t dig a single ounce of coal. An American oil field worker without a well to drill won’t pump a single gallon of crude if it can’t be done at a profit. An American farmer who has been driven off their land by lawyers employed by a financier, an Archer Daniels Midland or Monsanto executive or an eminent domaining politician, doesn’t usually then resort to gardening.¬†¬†But the fact that these people are no longer financially productive doesn’t mean they are irrelevant. As a collective force, these formerly essential laborers can become socially and politically counterproductive once they have been subjected to Financialist indoctrination. This too has potentially devastating consequences for humanity.¬†¬†

Fine art painter painting

Interestingly, we have a term for people who are prolific¬†authors but who are unpaid for their efforts, we call them “writers.”¬†¬†Likewise we have a term for skilled painters who cannot adequately financially support themselves from the practice of their craft, we call them “artists.” And a person who spends all day practicing their instrument so they can play a gig to a handful of people who will not pay them enough to earn a reasonable living is still called a “musician.”¬†¬†These people seemingly inexplicably tend to remain culturally productive even without a primary financial incentive to do so.¬†¬†

This fact is utterly unfathomable to the Financialist administrative caste. It violates every dogma of their superstitious worldview and is tantamount to secular heresy.¬†¬†Who are these apostates who have priorities greater than their “rational” economic best interests?¬†¬†

Ironically, the Financialists and administrators have more empathy for the coal miner and the factory worker.¬†¬†Coal miners don’t mine coal for their health and the typical factory worker doesn’t show up on the assembly line for spiritual fulfillment or because they are motivated by social conscience. Like their Financialist¬†masters, these workers are principally motivated by the prospect of necessary lucre.¬†¬†While they may have competing interests with their bosses, these more conventional workers are prone to equivalent metrics regarding wages, hours, working conditions, pensions and profit sharing. Both the corporate employer and employee share a common secular Financialist religion even if they may have differing sectarian theologies.¬†

The Soulless Fanatics

It is the apostates from the creative professions who are the epistemological enigmas to the Financialist administrative caste. A shovel is a useless tool to a man without arms. A monstrance is a pointless artifact to an atheist. And aesthetics is an alien discipline of thought to persons without a soul. The Financialist is not born soulless but rather loses authority over it when they put it up for sale. Once it has been on the market long enough, its only worth to them tends to be its exchange value in terms of lucre. For the Financialist, their soul has no intrinsic value at all and, hence as an article of faith, is deemed useless. 

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The Finacialists’ fanatical adherence to their superstition is substantiated by their truncated epistemology which is based on only two things:¬†¬†numerical metrics and politics.¬†¬†For the Finacialist administrator, the oracle is the spreadsheet.¬†¬†It alone has uncontested auspices.¬†¬†This is because the spreadsheet has the veneer of objective “truthiness.¬†¬†Everything on the spreadsheet is laid out along a grid and that grid offers the illusion of being inherently rational.¬†¬†Its elements can be given numerical coefficients that can be mathematically derived through equations both simple and arcane.¬†¬†Its alleged rationality¬†is unquestioned because a testable numerical equation’s aegis ostensibly proves its veracity. Hence, the Financialist consults the spreadsheet and prognosticates with impunity, certain that their oracular vision alone lacks the stigma of being perceived as superstitious and hence irrational. Their numerical metrics are their magic wand by which they make all competing priorities essentially disappear.¬†

The Augurs 

But then there is the other oracle, the only one that can currently challenge the hegemony of the spreadsheet for the Financialist, and this is the augury of politics.¬†¬†Politics is what happens when the Financialist’s numbers come up against social reality and populist power.¬†¬†In this circumstance, every Financialist administrator knows that perception is reality, regardless of what the spreadsheet might allegedly actually reveal.¬†¬†When a spreadsheet reveals a politically uncomfortable truth then the message must be managed. Stockholders and regulators must be proffered information that has the appearance of the spreadsheet’s oracular auspice, hence the spreadsheet is manipulated.¬†¬†Special purpose entities are created to lay off debt, derivatives are conceived to allegedly hedge against unforeseen variables, highly speculative potential revenue streams are bundled and securitized to conceal their individual risks. ¬†Values of all sorts are calculated with instruments pre-calibrated to produce the desired augury.¬†¬†Hence the expression, “Figures don’t lie but liars sure can figure.”¬†

octavian

Two thousand years ago, a young Octavian recognized that simply being the heir of Julius Caesar was insufficient auspice to guarantee a successful career in politics.¬†¬†Interestingly, among his first steps on the career path to Emperor was to pursue a job as an official State augur.¬†¬†This practice involved the prognostications of a professional class of technocrats who observed everything from the flight of birds, to the entrails of animals, to the movements of heavenly bodies.¬†¬†Before setting out on a course of action, whether it was when to plant a crop, when to make an important investment, when to wed or when to go to war, the augurs were first consulted to reveal the prospects for the success of any venture. Then the augurs would present¬†their auspicious¬†findings. If their pronouncement was favorable, the prospective venture immediately gained political favor. In the absence of a favorable augury, the venture was pretty much dead in the water.¬†¬†Hence, the augur possessed incredible power to determine political reality. It is no coincidence that, when Octavian assumed the role of Emperor, he did so under the title of Caesar “Augustus.”¬†

In the modern era, it seems preposterous to many that one might find it necessary to consult an astrologer in order to determine the rationality of a course of action.  But we tend to forget that astrology was accompanied by copious objective observations of natural phenomenon. Those observations were then put into spreadsheets and extensive complex calculations were performed to derive their meaning.  Scientific instrumentation was used and even calculus itself was conceived by no less illustrious a personage than Isaac Newton as a tool for calculating the movements of the heavens for the purpose of astrological prognostication. Anyone who questioned the course of action proposed by a Ptolemaic adminstrator of the era was expected to answer to the evidence provided by the court astrologer.  Astrologers invariably came armed with charts and numbers.  Both Ptolemaic and Financialist charlatans love a chart.  Charts have a positively mesmerizing effect on administrators. 

In the current era, much as in times past, numerical truthiness and charts are the mechanism by which Financialist administrators accrue political prophylaxis for the consequences of their decisions. These are also the mechanisms by which they gain political support for pending policies which may or may not yield results even remotely resembling the promised outcomes.¬†¬†The alleged discipline of economics bears a striking analogue in its precedent of astrology.¬†¬†Despite its rational veneer of copious data sets accompanied by esoteric mathematics and charts, astrology was founded on a fallacious first premise, namely a Ptolemaic understanding of the universe.¬†¬†All the calculations in the world could not correct for the fact that the Earth was not flat and was not actually situated at the center of the cosmos.¬†¬†Likewise, the contemporary economic worldview is equally based on a fallacious article of faith propped up by the illusion of truthiness provided by esoteric mathematical calculations and charts. The auspice proffered by these graphic illustrations with their accompanying mathematical sanctity provides political prophylaxis to the agendas and values of Financialist administrators. Much as with court astrologers of a previous era, economists, accountants and lawyers of the current era who decline to provide charts that confirm the wisdom of the ruler’s agendas, quickly find themselves replaced by colleagues who are more politically accommodating. Hence, regardless of the veracity of the underlying premise be it Ptolemaic or Copernican, the augurs tend to prognosticate according to political exigencies.¬†

In Copernican terms, there is perhaps nothing that is so truly useless¬†as a court astrologer operating under a Ptolemaic delusion; although, five centuries ago there was no pariah so unemployable as a Copernican astronomer running two steps ahead of a Grand Inquisitor who was armed with a portfolio of Ptolemaic charts. The same is true of creative professionals in a contemporary era, running two steps ahead of a politician, a university president or a media pundit expounding the Ptolemaic/Financialist dogma of STEM education armed with a portfolio of statistics regarding¬†which occupations are ostensibly “useless.”¬†

For the contemporary Financialist administrator, any occupation that doesn’t yield maximum financial remuneration commensurate with skill required and hours applied, is by definition, “useless.¬†¬†This is because their court astrologers have assured them of the preposterous Financialist presumption that all real value is a coefficient of money.¬†¬†According to this dogma, every other metric is mere superstition.¬†¬†This dubious fact is then allegedly confirmed by the creative heretic’s inability to make a corresponding argument through the depiction of charts and the application of calculus. Hence, reality is once again established by affiliation with mere numerical truthiness¬†which is little more than a merkin for politics. In this way, the Financialist simply appropriates the auspice of revealed truth through the augury of the statistical charlatan.¬†

Technocrats have possessed oracular power since the first augur was financially compensated millennia ago. And not surprisingly, the augurs have been patronizing their paymasters since they deposited the first coin. Hence, Financialist augury is eminently useful to those who would compromise its auspice to attain political acquiescence for their own agendas to maintain and accrue secular power. Not surprisingly, the Financialists’ augurs have almost invariably accommodated the status quo.¬†¬†Hence, one might quite rationally question the ostensible legitimacy of the augurs’ own allegedly rationalizing¬†auspice.¬†

The Anti-Humanitarian Ptolemaic Eunuchs

ptolemaic-universe-1660-grangerThe Financialist administrators remain oblivious to the implications of data sets they did not gather and questions they did not ask. They have no clue about the significance of charts they have not seen and calculations that were never run. They know nothing of astronomy therefore it has never even occurred to them to question the veracity of their Ptolemaic/Financialist optic.¬†¬†Hence, the creative professional is as useless to this Financialist administrative cohort as a condom is to a eunuch. This doesn’t necessarily indicate so much about the inherent utility of the condom as it does the impotency of the eunuch.¬†¬†But since they were aesthetically castrated along with the rest of their cohort in early adolescence, the Financialist eunuch has little awareness of the significance of their own impotence. Since their cohort were victims of mass creative castration as well, then they are afforded a broad consensus for their aesthetically impotent optic.

Hence, the prevalence of the myth of artistic “uselessness.” Paradoxically, the Fincialists perpetuate their breed by accruing financial and administrative power that they deploy through policies like STEM education which are conceived to socially engineer creative people out of existence.¬† Consequently, art’s “uselessness” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy born of a destructive impulse that is fundamentally anti-Humanitarian.

The Earth is not actually the center of the universe and the raison d’etre of humanity is not to simply fulfill some exclusively¬†materialist Maslovian pyramid.¬†¬†It is not a self-evident proposition that it is “he who dies with the most toys or the most secular power” who is the most actualized human.¬†¬†Perhaps it is not in fact the artist, the musician or the Humanist¬†that is of dubious human utility.¬†

Financialism’s Insufficiency

In most nations, the number of laws outnumber the governed.  Yet every year, every legislature and dictator on Earth issues yet more laws and more edicts.  There are no shortage of technocrats emerging annually to parasite off the various regulatory systems. 

There is a global crisis in providing quality affordable education worldwide, yet every year the cost of the education goes up as the salaries of educators stagnate or decline because the cost of administration seems to voraciously increase no matter how much information technology or data it is provided to produce its spreadsheets.  

As the populations of advanced nations age, the demand for engineered healthcare solutions increases yet the administrative costs associated with providing these becomes ever more financially prohibitive making access to them all but unattainable for most people. 

In most years, the size of the overall global economy seems to grow and more wealth is created yet the coal miner, the factory worker, the farmer and the teacher don’t seem to see their economic security grow nor do they perceive their quality of life improving by any other metric either.¬†

carville-featureTax rates may rise or they may fall in any given season, but in every season we see legions of very useful accountants hired to create spreadsheets that guarantee that the wealthy will never have to pay the legislated marginal tax rate no matter how it is assessed.  At tax season, the corporate spreadsheets become documents conceived to conceal as much as they reveal oracular truth.  

Every election cycle, the citizenry are reminded that “It’s the economy, stupid” because Finanicialism’s dogma is ostensibly self-evident to all but an idiot. ¬†Then Financialist politicians, ostensibly from the Left and the Right, promise to rectify these disturbing realities while displaying charts, proffering the electorate competing sets of dubiously derived figures produced by their respective in-house astrologers and spun by their paid media propagandists.

At which point one might reasonably ask, “Between artistic Humanists and hegemonic Financialists, which group is actually¬†‘useless‘?”

Reasonable Auspicious Aegis 

Whose prerogative is it to determine human utility? Not surprisingly, those who currently possess Financialist¬†administrative power also appropriate the prerogative to dictate the value of humanity and, not surprisingly, they coincidentally¬†determine that Financialists¬†are the most essential members of society.¬†¬†Predictably, they conclude that those whose utility is not rationalized¬†by the Financialist’s self-affirming metric are therefore “useless.¬†¬†This convenient piece of circular reasoning is by no means any more self-evidently rational than the dance of a whirling Dervish.¬†¬†It is full of more logical holes than a wheel of Jarlsberg.¬†¬†

The Financialist is about as qualified to administer humanity as a lifelong eunuch is to administer an orgy. They not only lack expertise, they are dispositionally and experientially handicapped.  Why should a person who has never prioritized studying what it means to be human be considered an authority on what constitutes human utility?

Art historians at Palazzo VecchioOne rarely encounters the art historian or the musician, the painter or the poet, the anthropologist or the historian, the psychologist or the priest citing the spreadsheet as the authoritative oracle on the human condition.¬†¬†While all of these creative Humanist professions apply the principles of mathematics and scientific method in their practices, none of these Humanist professionals is so obtuse as to believe that a human being’s utility¬†can be reduced to a numerical coefficient. None will cite you a number that indicates whether or not your life’s pursuit was a wasted opportunity.¬†¬†

The next time you hear some Financialist politician, some university president, some administrator or some media pundit regurgitating the myth that art, music, design, architecture, dance, literature or Humanities and social sciences are relatively useless occupations, remember that the only people who proffer such nonsense are themselves eunuchs and charlatans, irrationally propelled by a superstitious worldview in which, like Ptolemy, they reside at the center of their own universe.  

Beware of those who look at another human being and see only property or a numerical coefficient.¬†¬†They don’t actually have a clue what makes someone¬†a useful¬†person. Rather, such astrological Financialists are merely calibrating human¬†potential for exploitation by a group of aesthetically¬†castrated Mammonist fanatics.¬†¬†

Cultural and spiritual suicide in return for material prosperity and secular power is never a reasonable exchange, no matter how many¬†charts the Finacialists’ astrologers show you.¬†