• C. Peters

Progress, Power, Popularity and the Pyramid of Sand

Every action has an equal opposite reaction. Disorder in our world is a search for order. Chaos is a consequence of the breakdown of order, which itself serves as a means to an end: Crimes seek rewards, punishments demand justice, terrors have aims, wars have objectives, disruptions seek to aggravate or attract attention, and crises are caused by mistakes, misdemeanours or misguided intentions. All can cause chaos but rarely is chaos sought for chaos’ sake.

In nature, weather, seismic activity and life are all effects of an environmental system, a natural order. While the explanation of nature remains imperfect and incomplete, at the very least in nature order presents itself over or through disorder; we identify patterns, classify articles, recognise evolutions and even deem natural phenomena to have recognisable causes and effects.

Amongst humanity, we seek what is often described as a golden age; an age where perfect order is achieved in every faculty of life that we require it to be. Of course, there is no, there has never been and never will be a golden age, yet there will always be a pursuit of one. Humanity aspires for enhancement.

A golden age never has been and will never be, because no situation will ever suit all; human needs and wants are too varied. Ironically, what humanity needs and wants exponentially becomes more and more varied over time. Human progress across all fields is constantly creating more and more concerns that manifest as necessities or desires. Thus the golden age resembles the horizon, for it remains at distance that is ever unreachable.

Human needs and wants reach beyond the natural instinct for long life and reproduction. Humanity has tangible and intangible desires, from material possessions to conceptual states of emotion such as love and happiness. This is why humanity yearns for a golden age that will never be, but also why progress towards it is considered so valuable. The golden age is an abstraction. Progress is a reality that is to be both appreciated and feared; progress can emerge from or bring about both order and disorder, for progress is imperfect.

To understand progress, an even greater understanding is needed of what drives it; ignorance is a most common cause of fear and fear is a most unwelcome source of disorder and obstacle to progress. However to appreciate progress, part of what drives it may need to be re-evaluated or reconceived, otherwise humanity is a slave to all that compels it because it is always subject to those driving forces.

Humanity should not be led blind nor should it always accept the path it can see. We should ask, what drives progress? What leads humanity? And is the path it is proceeding down the one we should choose?

It is certainly not the market that drives all progress; humanity is not lead by the pursuit of riches or material comforts alone. Material comforts are a form of wealth often more sought than money.

Material comforts are those satisfying objects that are not quantified by a monetary value alone, but rather their worth is also based on their utility or sentimentality to an individual or group. While humanity is of course greatly influenced by wealth and deeply craves it, it is not the sole object of human desire or the sole measure of its contentment.

It is not natural instincts that drive all progress either. The human hunger to survive is natural, as is its instinct to attract sociable and sexual companionship for pleasure, reproduction and the creation of mutually beneficial communities. However sociable communities do not differentiate humanity from many other mammals.

Moreover survival and reproduction has not relaxed progress in the modern age, when many (but not all) are capable of living long healthy lives and many (but not all) are able to attract partners and friendships. Genes (and the environmental effects upon them) are as significant as wealth, but are not the single driving force of progress.

Neither is the driving force of progress a combination of both the market and nature together. Natural competition and market competition are compatible, with the latter often explained by or even justified by the former. Nevertheless, humanity is complex, it is capable of craving a metaphysical entity that is beyond those wants associated to its wealth or its nature; this is the hankering for meaning.

For much of human history, and amongst much of humanity at present, religion has been a highly significant a driving force of progress. Progress is not just determined by technological advancement or social development, which some may argue religion has historically stymied (this is not necessarily true, for religion has also been a stimulant to both in many cases).

Progress also concerns the organisation of humanity for its intended improvement, which has been the design of most if not all religions, for better or for worse. Although neither has this been the exclusive domain of religion, for secular states have acted with similar measures for similar reasons. These reasons relate to the meaning upon which societies are founded upon: whether they are established and arranged for the purpose of pleasing God or the gods, or for Civil principles that seek to maximise the human condition or the communal utility.

Meaning is ascribed to the human capacity to place its own existence in the context of a greater entity, spiritual or temporal (worldly). This often is religious belief but it may also be a sentiment for an area, an identity, a code, a cause, a movement, a purpose, an understanding, a group, family, personality, an activity, an article or a combination of any of such things.

Meaning may be found amongst anything in which an individual would place as equal to or above the goals set by the market and nature, whether life and love determined by genes (and the environmental effects upon them), or luxury and leisure determined by wealth. Meaning may be found amongst anything that is enough to consider compromising one of them for it, from religion to an addiction, from nationalism to an obsession.

In modern society, religion has often been supplanted by the alternative ways of achieving meaning, which has created a historically unprecedented diverse human society. The abundance of knowledge, the variation of opportunities and the plethora of consumer products has allowed humanity increasing possibility to create an individual or group identity in modern society that is detached from the spiritual meaning; this is the temporal meaning.

The temporal meaning is less conceptually substantial than the spiritual, as the temporal meaning is restricted by finite mortal existence, thus its effect is limited by space and time. However, when meaning is determined by the temporal and not the spiritual, humanity is empowered with a greater scope for definition; temporal meaning grants group or individual identity. Even so, the spiritual and temporal are not incompatible, but recognising the spiritual may affect the significance of the temporal to that group or individual.

Meaning may give humanity definition beyond their nature or wealth; meaning relates to a human cause and its desired effect, no matter how considerable. The significance of meaning is in its inconsistent, but possibly immense, influence upon human progress. The greater the meaning, the greater the influence upon human progress; this is most evident when related to religion, identity, politics or scientific knowledge. Thus, the effect of meaning is determined by power.

Like genes and wealth, power is not bequeathed equally upon humanity; it is relative to human potential. Human potential is affected by wealth, genes and the environment; the richest by influence, those that live longest via time, the most beautiful through appeal and the most talented using intelligence or an ability, all have a greater capacity for greater power. Disproportionate power will be bestowed upon humanity according to the time, situation and capability of those to use it; whether they are born with it, achieve it or have it thrust upon them.

Genes, wealth and power are interrelated. Genes are directly associated to heritage, thus affect the accessibility of wealth and power, which may be simply inherited directly. Genes (and the environmental effects upon them) also denote a person’s talent and appearance, which may be used to attain wealth or power. Talent and appearance is often marketed to make money or to achieve a position of influence. Talent and appearance may attract the wealthy and powerful for sociable or sexual companionship, thus gaining wealth, power or both indirectly.

Equally wealth may attract the sociable or sexual companionship of the brilliant, beautiful or powerful. Wealth may be used to gain power by acquiring prestige or position and imparting influence. Wealth allows access to superior education and resources that may improve intelligence or teach a skill, as wealth may improve appearance through the greater access to superior fashion and beauty treatment; yet both are relative to the limit allowed by genes (and the environmental effects upon them).

Power may be used to gain wealth, either by marketing the power (political and cultural elites sell their skills, stories or connections for instance) or using it to obtain riches (this could be by force, as criminal gangs do, or by appealing for it, as religious bodies do). Power can also readjust what the parameters of talent or appearance are.

Power determines fashion, which along with natural inclinations judges how beauty is measured. Power determines the criteria by which intelligence and skills are measured, which alongside the market, judges what talents are worth in monetary terms. Power determines meaning, which defines the measure of everything, including the market and nature.

A monarch for instance, will likely have gained both wealth and power through genes. By affection and taste a monarch may judge what is good or bad, with implications upon culture, justice and morality. A monarch may have a preference for a particular appearance or service, thus setting fashions and influencing value. By decree and interest a monarch may decide what is deemed to be talent, for instance by sanctioning only approved fields of science, sport, art or theology.

Past figures considered brilliant today were frequently not appreciated in their own time, often due to a lack of favour from the powerful. Many women deemed the most beautiful today would have been thought too slender in ages past, considered not fit for child bearing by the powerful. The powerful may prefer physical to mental strength, therefore in that kingdom the genetic inheritance of intelligence would be subordinated in value to that of bodily might.

Physical attributes will be more attractive in more dangerous societies, mental attributes more attractive in lawful societies. However, the wealth of a society has the greatest effect upon its social circumstances (its danger or lawfulness). Moreover, natural inclinations will have the greatest effect upon the instinctive interpretation of circumstances (who are deemed the best sociable or sexual companions within that society). Nevertheless power shapes many of the considerations within a society, whether through making judgements, setting fashions or establishing systems (of law or conduct for instance).

The powerful set standards, this is no different for the present. The powerful are not just politicians, bureaucrats and officials who direct the public sector; neither are the powerful also just the wealthy elite who direct the private sector. The powerful are those with influence, not just wealth (although wealth is usually associated with influence). Power is also achieved through fame; the popularity of personalities or of their actions amounts to influence over others, especially through the vast exposure given to them in current information age.

Fame may be gained, intentionally or not, via the fortune of wealth or the fortune of genes (and the environmental effects upon them) that gift beauty, brilliance (in talents contemporarily well considered) or both. Nevertheless, fame may be gained without a considerable wealth, beauty or brilliance, but by recognition; it is popularity that confers power, fame alone does not.

Popularity also reinforces the power gained by wealth or talent and appearance. The rich and famous, the brilliant and beautiful often endeavour to seek popularity, consciously or unconsciously, for power. Popularity is changing the terms of social status, which happily is at present based less upon class or race than it did in the past.

Popularity is becoming the modern form of establishing social status, which is itself enhanced by wealth and genes (through appearance, talent or personality and the environments that affect them). Social status confers power, and with popularity as its foundation, rather than class or race, status is considerably more insecure; but not by as much as you may have thought.

At present, popularity is increasingly becoming the prevailing means of holding power. Power and popularity is consistent in politics, dependent on polls, and without which a politician or policy does not have credibility. Power and popularity is consistent in the market, dependent on acquisition, and without which a brand or business cannot succeed. Power and popularity is consistent in culture and sport, dependent on appreciation, and without which an artist or sportsman would not be highly considered.

Social status in terms class and race has historically been linked to wealth, and conversely not genes. Genetic (and the environmental effects upon them) qualities of appearance, talent and personality were less likely to grant power than the inheritance of wealth and position would. Popularity is linked to talent, personalities and appearance, rather than wealth alone. However this is only more preferable as distinction of social status if the qualities that achieve popularity are socially beneficial; this is questionable.

The market, nature and meaning have always driven human progress. Fortune in nature allocates genes, success or failure in the market awards wealth, while discovering, distinguishing or dispensing meaning apportions power; each interrelate and often sustain the other. One means of distinguishing meaning is social status, presently becoming more established upon popularity; thus popularity is associated not just to power but to the progress of humanity.

Therefore, popularity is dangerously important. It is dangerous because popularity relies on the presentation and management of an image of oneself to meet the approval of the intended audience. Presenting an image is by definition superficial; yet whether through particular mannerisms, use of language or portrayal of appearance, image has always been important to defining social status.

However, the range of mediums in which a person may be portrayed in modern society has multiplied and magnified the use of image immensely. The terms of social status are changing to already capricious criteria, popularity, which is based upon the superficiality of image, viewed from a scope looking more widely with ever-increasing intensity and projecting it to more and more observers to be judged. Humanity is enslaved to popularity by the chains of image.

It may be argued that popularity is a democratic tool in which to judge humanity, where personality is the qualification, not class, wealth, race or creed; this is mistaken. Were this so, those with the highest social status would be those who are most affable, most amiable, most charitable; however, the popularity of the benevolent is limited to their personal sphere.

To become popular enough to gain very high social status requires the manufacture of image that appeals to humanity’s natural inclinations, consumerist habits or propensity for meaning. These inclinations, habits and propensity have the capacity to be good, but the race for greater popularity requires images to appeal to such at their most simplest, which is often their most base.

Put simply, it is easier to appeal to vice than it is to virtue through the superficiality of image. To use the Catholic concept of the seven sins and seven virtues as an example: popular sport induces pride not humility; popular media and popular culture evoke lust and envy, over chastity and kindness; popular consumer brands appeal to greed and gluttony, rather than temperance or charity; popular politicians purposefully stir up wrath to damage rivals, rarely patience, while popular policies often promote sloth not diligence.

If meaning can become power, power can become popularity, popularity can become meaning. The powerful of the past were revered by the powerless, accrued the wealth with their power and used their power and wealth to define the limit of talent and appearance; class society was thus established. In tiered society those at the top are mistakenly considered superior beings by both themselves and those beneath them.

Ominously, by definition the popular are to be admired by the less popular; society is manifesting again as a veneration of the few by the many. The popular become the powerful. The many rely on the judgement of the powerful few, who use the media to influence the many by the appraisal of events and people, often endorsing or denouncing them. The many meanwhile substantiate their judgement by aligning it or subconsciously agreeing with a powerful few. As a result the limits of genetic fortune of talent and appearance are defined by the powerful.

Without revaluation, progress is heading towards reinforcing this society. Progress is driven by the usual longing for life and love, for leisure and luxury, and for significance; significance, or meaning, is increasingly, and discouragingly, found in popularity. The consumer market is based on the popularity of products, social status is based on a person's popularity and environmental success is more dependent on sociability than strength.

The present course of progress aspires to a golden age that would have everybody beautiful and brilliant, everyone rich and living in leisure, and everyone popular; this is, of course, impossible. And while by the force of nature humanity cannot help but appreciate beauty and brilliance. And while by the force of ambition humanity cannot help but aspire for prosperity. Humanity surely can help but desire popularity, desire pride, desire superiority of status to others; surely there is more to meaning?

Significance need not be found in the superficiality of popularity or in the oppression of class or race. Meaning is not instinctive. This appreciation and aspiration need not be the veneration or resentment of those who do have the greatest amount of what one desires. Humanity is venerating or resenting what it merely should accept, may wish to change and in only in certain circumstances should admire or find adverse.

Humanity must know that it is fortune that effects where were you born, what you were born with and what you were able to do since you were born. Humanity must know only the latter fortune should matter. Fortune creates the great diversity in life, which should be celebrated as a source for meaning not detested as a source of division. Meaning through power can limit the affects nature and the market, thus meaning and power may limit the distortion of fortune.

Those fortunate in where they were born and what they were born with, should find meaning striving to limit the differences between those less so. The less fortunate should find meaning in what they were able to do since they were born, despite where they were born and what they were born with. Meaning should be found in action not image.

This does not comprise curbing humanity’s ambition; it comprises redefining the object of ambition. Ambition should not be a race from those at the bottom to the top; for those at the top will instinctively protect their position and thus become venerated or resented by those at the bottom who know they can never get there. Ambition instead should be a race to the middle, where the more fortunate gain meaning from helping those less so pull away from the fringes of society.

The social structure of humanity should everywhere resemble the shape of a revolving sphere, rather than the pyramid of sand presently formed. The revolving sphere should be akin to a planet, shaped by its core acting as its centre of gravity; the race to the middle would be humanity’s gravity. The pyramid of sand is not a fixed structure; the sand, which represents humanity, may be blown from top to bottom or bottom to top as the Aeolian process shifts sediment, but those deep inside the pyramid will move very slowly over time.

Progress in wealth, in the market and meaning should be the endeavour to equalise humanity. The golden age aspired to should have everyone equal in wealth, everyone equal in natural gifts and everyone finding significance in wanting others to be equal; this is of course impossible, yet the progress towards this has more desirable consequences than those of present progress.

This cannot be done by trying to revolutionise the market or distort nature from the outset, for both are unyielding driving forces of progress. This cannot be done with the deliberate and immediate distortion of meaning, through the establishment of a new form of state, or code, or religion. It can only be done with the gradual but necessary re-evaluation of meaning. The revolving sphere cannot be established by a few pulling at the resistant many.

Everyone must participate in the reassessment of meaning. Everyone must ask themselves, frequently, from what is it do they find meaning, and does it satisfy them? If a person finds that popularity and image is disproportionately important to them, they should ask: will the pursuit of pride (this includes popularity and superiority) achieve happiness for both themselves and others?

Luxury and leisure, life and love will all be instinctive concerns. However, if a person awards significance to excess of any of such goal, then they should ask: will distorting meaning, for the excess pursuit of such an instinct (this may include wants associated to greed, gluttony and lust), achieve happiness for themselves and others? Meaning should not cause any form of injury to others.

This calling requires leaders: leaders who will be willing to publicly revaluate what they deem to be significant, so that others may follow and do too. A future is surely possible where humanity can find meaning, find happiness, find progress, in sacrificing advantageous inequalities to make up for the disadvantageous inequalities of others. There are many who endeavour to do this today; there should be more. Humanity should be in awe of not those with most to give, but those who give most of what they have.

Find meaning in the prevalence of good and the market and nature will adjust progress to that end. The advantage in modern society is that it is has never been easier to publicise an image to be consumed; this philosophy must itself be consumed. Ironically, the popularity of this philosophy will force its ultimate success or failure; is being good good enough? If it is not the disorder of the present may progress towards a future of an order undesired: the perpetuation of the pyramid of sand.


Spherism; this is how I would like to term the philosophy that aspires for a structure of society resembling a revolving sphere rather than a pyramid of sand. To continue with this sentiment, I feel that I must emphasise that a true Spherist, ([s]he who endorses Spherism) should not expect the State to build this society. Spherism would need to be greater than a political ideology; it would have to be a way of life.

This great ambition would need to start small, by simply asking humanity to contemplate where they find meaning? Then one would have to ask themselves; does that the pursuit of that meaning make them happy? Then; does the pursuit of that meaning make others happy? If the answer to all three questions is yes, then that person will be content. If it is no, then they have to ask whether there is an alternative; I suggest finding meaning in the prevalence of good through alleviating the disparities caused by fortune. This is Spherism.

The reason why changing the structure of the State cannot do this alone is because the foundations of the state are always meaning. Meaning may be held within a constitution, code, philosophy or theology. Meaning is power. Power may manipulate what distinguishes wealth and genes. Therefore the State may address the inequalities caused by wealth and genes. However, the State cannot do this without severely unbalancing the inequalities in power. The State would need to have limitless power to address these inequalities alone.

A society based on power can only structure itself as a Pyramid of Sand, with social status based on those within that society who have the most state power. Twentieth Century Communist states are the most striking recent examples; in communism meaning is found in endeavouring to eliminate inequalities of wealth, which distorted how status was attained in their society. The structure of society remained as a Pyramid, with the powerful often requiring those underneath them in the Pyramid to revere their power. Communism is Pyramidic.

The State must not assume it knows better than the people who constitute it. The State’s role is to protect its people from internal and external disorder (including economic). The State should limit the imbalance of fortune associated with life and wealth only with the people’s consent. The State’s power should only be as much as the people consent to allow it.

Power is an imbalance of fortune. The State should moderate its own power by handing as much power to its people as they are willing to accept. However, it must be assured that the State does not hand power to the people to the great advantage of the affluent, the influential or the intellectual; this would occur if power was distributed in a plutocratic system (where the rich may buy or inherit office), in system where action approved by plebiscite (where the media would hold sway) or in a technocratic system (where supposed specialists would have disproportional control of their area of expertise).

Democratic government is thus preferable. Representative democracy may therefore be the most practical. However a Spherist would insist that their democratic representatives are not driven by the vanity of popularity, but rather by effective action to address misfortune. Yet sadly, popularity and image forms the foundation of representative government. Representative government thus upholds the current form of the pyramid of sand (therefore, it is also Pyramidic at present).

For true Spherist government by representation, Spherism would have to be its measure. Spherism may then become the meaning that upholds the state. Until then, it can only be hoped that Spherism will be a consideration of the state and for politics. It is so that this is a calling to resonate a reconsideration of meaning. Reconsideration could cause a colossal change to culture and restructure society as a Revolving Sphere, not by State action but by mass social recognition of the great flaw within.

Simply ask yourself; in what do you finding meaning and does it make you, and those around you, happy?

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