In my transient passages through corporate America and my distant observations of corporate government, I am occasionally reminded of the oft-spoken lament of Commissioner Gordon of the Batman TV series (the old one with Adam West, one of the funniest shows ever on the tube). Contemplating the criminal genius of the Penguin, Riddler, or Joker, the Commissioner would mutter, "if only that mind could be used for good, and not evil..."
Take a look at some of the dramatis personae of our post-9/11 world, and you get the same impression. Dick Cheney: very smart guy. Saddam Hussein: also intellectually gifted. Don Rumsfeld: sharp as broken glass. I'm betting even Osama's pretty smart, though I don't know that much about him. Every one of them is, of course, black-hearted, soul-dead, bloodsucking evil.
These psychotic and murderous tyrants have one common trait: a tumor-like sense of supremacy that is based exclusively on their intellectual grasp of people and events. So when Time Magazine proclaimed earlier this month:
SCIENTISTS HAVE EXORCISED THE GHOST FROM THE MACHINE NOT because they are mechanistic killjoys but because they have amassed evidence that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain.
I had to wonder what kind of a devil's bargain had been made, especially considering that there is another stream of research that tends toward a different, more holistic conclusion. If we are going to conceive of our brains as "machines," as Time Magazine would have it, or of our hearts as mechanical pumps, then cynical tyrants like Cheney and Hussein will continue to dominate us.
Now the brain is no more at fault in this than is my cat: the problem is a matter of perspective, or how we use (and abuse) the physico-psychological tools we are born with. To declare brain the King of Konsciousness is to misuse it, because then it is no longer an organic part of a living whole, but a separate and distant tyrant of the body. This is how every tyranny is started and perpetuated: through a declaration of supremacy—the same kind of supremacy-speak that says, "my country, right or wrong," and "dissent is treason."
So if we're going to rid the world of tyranny, we will have to clear it out wherever we find its ideological substrate. At the same time, we will have to affirm a more truly modern and quantum view of ourselves and the universe: that feeling is as valid as thought; that a poet can see reality as clearly as a physicist; and that the organic unity of being is a more practical metaphor on ourselves and the universe than some anatomical hierarchy. If we can reach for such an understanding, and teach it to our children, then science will be deepened; thought itself will be given the freedom that comes with equality; diplomacy will more frequently be considered over war; and tyrants, when they appear, will be easier to recognize and dispel.
Dick Cheney's heart is physically rotting not because of age, poor diet, or inadequate medical care: it is rotting from neglect, from a deeply cynical subjection. Demons are not born; they are made through the deviant belief in supremacy: one species' supremacy over Nature; one country's supremacy over the world; one man's supremacy over his nation; or one organ's supremacy over the bodily whole. If enough of us can overcome that belief, and keep those who are poisoned with it away from positions of leadership, then we may reach the day when Commissioner Gordon will never have to wonder again.