Todays of Old – The Modern Feudal Illusion

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The Hidden Truth
Years ago I was walking through a WholeFoods with my best friend.  We were doing some shopping for him and his new wife.  They had recently been married and had moved in together, and we were picking up some of the basics to live.  Walking around the store I was struck about how much it looked like a commissary.  It was then I was struck by the fact that we still live in a feudal system and that this was a place for us to get our supplies to survive.  We really didn’t own anything and it was hidden right before our eyes.

What is the feudal model?
We have to fully understand the feudal system to see how it still exists.  Many concepts are hidden in its contextual definitions, and rarely are these challenged.  The feudal system is often contextualized by a time period and the geography of Europe, however feudal has been used to describe an overarching concept beyond 16th century Japan.  The primary idea of feudalism is a cast society where one class produces and maintains resources owned by another class.  Feudalism is a socio-economic system that revolves around relationships and the holding of resources, historically land, in exchange for service.
The change to the exchange of resources from the use of land creates the illusion that we have evolved past the feudal design. We have not. Stemming from the gothic word faihu which means property, feudalism is a social system in which labor is exchanged for any property owned by an elite class.  In this light we can analyze our current socio-economic system by looking at who owns what and how does another get access to these resources.

The Case for Modern Feudalism
The feudal system can be broken down into 3 primary classes.  There is the nobility, this is the modern day upper class, the infamous 1%.  There are the serfs or vassals, who are the middle class.  At the bottom is the slave or servant class, these are the impoverished.
At the very top of society there is the ruling class.  In the day of old these were the kings and queens.  While a lord is any person who had authority, power and control over others.  These are the rulers of the nobles, and have power and authority over all.  The ruling class are the Lords of Lords.
Spirituality has always been used as the foundational reasoning to support the system of the day.  In many cases a king would be considered a deity in of himself.  In cases where he wasn’t, he was destined to power by the supreme authority of the gods.  While it is not currently discussed this spiritual justification of rule is still held today.
The United States of America was founded on the principal of manifested destiny.  This is the idea that the will of God enabled the colonization and extermination of all inhabitants and lands in North America.  The fact that the American society has not reversed this policy and still holds these lands, demonstrates that we have not yet rejected this idea.  By not challenging the current structure we are also supporting its founding original ideas.  And while this is no longer blatantly expressed, this idea is still present in our culture.  Our legal tenure states “In God we Trust”, implicating a spiritual endorsement of our society.  Our political leaders almost religiously end any national address with “God bless America”.  And in our foreign policy such as the Gaza strip we do little to vail the spiritual justification for our classicist perspective.
This has been the foundation of feudal systems from ancient Egypt through the European monarchs up to todays economic system.
John D. Rockefeller, one of the founders of modern America, built his economic empire on the foundation that it was Gods will that he did so.  This manifestation of the puritan work ethic and its justification of divine right of property is the basis for our capitalistic ethic today.  To work hard and maximize ones resources and then leverage those resources to lead your fellow man, is a moral and ethical imperative.  Modern lordship is earned and endorsed by the authority of God.  It is not only a privilege, but the moral obligation of the 1% to oversee and direct their lesser brethren.
They do this by wielding influence via their resources.  The more someone performs and aligns with the values and interests of ones lord, the more access one gets to resources available to their lord.  This reality has been hidden in modern society with tools such as Super-Packs, education, corporate policy, and tradition.  To win office a candidate must have the backing of the owners of resources or resources them selves; the means to gain exposure to the public; and must have alignment to a standing political party.  And if they pledge their allegiance to the right people, they will be given access to all three.  Because these rules are unwritten and unstated, they are often overlooked and hidden to the modern public.
This method of enforcement by unwritten rules however trickles down through all of the classes.  At the bottom is the underprivileged, the poor and lower class.  Their purpose is to remind society of the potential punishment of failure.  They are also used to demonstrate the grace and charity of the noble class.  This is the hardest class to escape, but with the help of nobility, they can be plucked from their impoverished state and given a chance, a record deal, a scholarship, an athletic contract.  We are constantly inundated with propaganda about how the kind hearted wealthy family took in an impoverished child or adolescent.  That if you work hard, and “get lucky”, someone will see that spark and give you a chance.  But studies show that people who have lived in poverty for more than 7 years have less than a 13% chance of this ever happening, and that less than 60% of the people to enter into poverty ever get out.
Above the impoverished there are the serfs.  These are the workers of our society.  This is often referred to as the middle class.  This is a class without freedom.  They are beholden to the Nobility without the the potential of the “lucky” grace given the impoverished.  While this class in theory makes up over 80% of the population in America, it is currently shrinking by the devaluation of their labor.
This is also the class with the most mobility.  They can go from a low skilled employee to the upper middle class professional in a single generation.  The highest of these is the successful small businessman.  They are equal to the merchant in the days of old, and have the most opportunity to traverse the line from serf to nobility.
The purpose of this class is to support nobility.  A king isn’t a king without a kingdom to rule over.  Like a king needs subjects, the wealthy need people to be relatively wealthier than.  These people feel the influence of the nobility the most because almost all decisions of the noble class concerns them directly.  If there is a decision to go to war, it is this class that will provide the majority of the troops.  If there is an adjustment of resources, it is this class that will have to adjust their lifestyle to support it.  And if one demonstrates the ability to better serve the desires of the nobility, they can be promoted to the sub-noble class of upper middle class.
The requirement to serve the noble class is true even for the upper middle class small business man.  Like the politician, who IS nobility and DOES have actual power over resources directly, the small business man is dependent on the owners of resources to produce.  To sell wool, one is beholden to the owner of the sheep and the owner of the land on which the sheep graze.  One is beholden to the owner of their residence and the supplier of their food.  Money is the method used to hide the feudal system in the upper middle class.  Since money is the tool to transact trade, it is symbolic representation of a right to use.  When you buy food, you are giving up your right to use other resources, to use food.  But you don’t actually trade a specific resource at all to buy food.  You trade resources when you work.  Your labor is what you own, and the only thing you own.  In return for your labor you get a note of trade, which you can use to consume someone else’s resource.  The nobles are the owners of these other resources.

Class and Place in society
And this brings me back to the Whole Foods, where upper level vassals procure a broader variety of higher quality nourishment for their better service to the noble class. Who is the top of the noble class?  This can be answered by a simple mental experiment.
Walk through production and ownership and use questions like the following below to determine who actually owns what in your life.

Questions Hypothetical Answer
Who do you work for? Verizon
What does your company produce? Media Services
What is 1 raw material for that product? Office Space
How is this raw material procured? Money from shareholders
From where do they get shareholders? Financial institutions
What do you do for your company? IT Support
What do you get for your labor? Money
From where do you receive this recompense? The Bank (Financial Institutions)
What is one thing you needed to be able to do your job successfully? An education
How was this requirement purchased? A Student Loan (Financial Institution)
What is 1 thing you own? A house
How did you pay for that possession? A mortgage (A loan from a Financial Institution)

Who is the owner of actual resources?  This is the one illusion that is not.  The owner of our resources in America has their seal on the promissory note giving us access to utilize these resources.  The Federal Reserve, a bank, a Financial Institution.  And how these institutions came into power is a blog for another day.


References and additional interesting reads


This is Value

Intro: The Value of Value
One of the most valuable things is time <see time blog here>… So I will discuss the value of value, with the value of your time in mind.

Lately there has been a lot of talk in the work world about ‘value’.  The abstract measure of value has been attributed to everything from approaches to employees.  There has been a particular focus on “value add” (or add value, depending on the manager).  This phrase, “value add” has increased in usage by approximately 3 fold since 1990.  What does “add value” mean?  And why is it important, if at all?

What is add value
In general value is synonymous with worth.  More specifically value is the measure of somethings worth.  Worth is best defined as something of usefulness or importance.  Using transitive logic, we can say that value is the measure of somethings importance or usefulness.

The corporate world value can be broken down into 3 general categories:
Accounting – where value is the monetary worth of an asset measured by how much money could one harvest from the asset.

Economics – where value is the worth of all of the benefits and rights of ownership, like the right of first refusal.

Marketing – where value is the extent a good or services is perceived to meet the customer’s needs.

Creating add value is the creation of either perceived worth, additional function or benefit, or monetary worth.

What is YOUR value?
This is the main question.  It is how you are measured your entire professional life.  What is your inherent or intrinsic worth?  What importance, usefulness, or benefit do you bring to the enterprise that you serve?

The idea of intrinsic value is that there is value in something for its own sake.  This would be like saying your valuable because you are.  If there was intrinsic value in you professionally, a company would hire you because having you as an employee in of its self would create value.

The question of if this intrinsic value actually exists in the corporate world is more complex than one might initially think.  The instinctual answer would be “no”.  Enterprises don’t value anyone unless they produce.  But is it possible for you to produce by being who you are?  This is what an endorsement is.  Michael Jordan didn’t have to MAKE shoes, or design shoes, he didn’t have to do anything but attach his name to the shoes to increase their value.  While we might not feel like this concept applies to us, it does.  There is worth that are you, that you do and that you bring, that are inherently apart of you.  Identifying and strengthening these attributes will maximize your intrinsic value.

New Value Culture
At a high level, everything anything does is to create some value.  What makes the difference is the audience of the value and the type of value that is being valued.  Recently, when the business world says value it has been in reference to shareholder value.  Shareholder value is monetary, and immediate.  This is a shift of values from when the value of an enterprise was social, to valuing the benefits provided to beholden individuals.  American steel was not the most profitable steal, but the BEST steel.  Being the BEST would in turn create profit.  Now we increase the perceived value of a company to the benefit of those who own those shares.  These shareholders, do not work for the company, are not a part of the company, and in many cases have no loyalty to the company at all.  A shareholder values the value of their shares.  One could think through and extrapolate how this would drive decisions.

Value for the shareholder does not just tie value to money, but to the current perception of that company’s monetary future worth.  The way a company creates value is by looking like they will create value in the future.  The question that is being assessed to improve shareholder value is “what can we do today to look like we will make more money tomorrow?”

The value problem
And this is where value becomes cyclical.  What is currently valued is the perceived value of future value.  This value problem trickles down to the employee.  Your value is not what you contribute, but what you will contribute in the future.  Your employer is paying you, and shareholders are paying the company, to grow, to create more value.  But not value in the sense of ACTUAL value, the benefit or worth of the good or service provided, but the monetary value of providing that good or service.  And value that enshrouded this swirling black hole of value is the value of money…  But that’s for another blog.

References and additional interesting reads