Archive for June, 2010

The Bikecast Episode #22: The Abuse of Concepts, Self-defense

This entire post is mostly an excuse to post this Bill Hicks clip. The podcast was originally the last in a bunch of recordings related to the misuse of concepts, but I think it makes sense even by itself.

Download this episode of the bikecast

The background premise is that while concepts are an indispensable tool that allow the human mind to process reality, they can also be misused to cloud moral clarity in otherwise clear contexts.

As an example, most people believe they have a “right” to defend themselves from an attacker. This prerogative is connected to our “self-ownership.” To put it in a less mind-bending way, we can defend ourselves because we are not the property of another person–ideally, anyway.

The belief that “we” have the right to defend ourselves gets messy when the pronoun “we” gets crossed with concepts such as a nation state.

A helicopter full of armed thugs descending into a village to kill and kidnap the complete strangers living there is terrifying to imagine and the absolute evil of such an act is crystal clear. The same clarity surrounds an armed attack on a convoy of ships bringing food and medicine to sick and hungry people. When these acts are recast as the United States or the state of Israel “defending itself,” we’re magically transported to the realm in which the moral horror is replaced with an examination of the subtle details in an effort to explain the necessity of the events and to exonerate the murderers.

Imagine that the Jack Palance character in Bill Hick’s hypothetical western* had a better PR scheme. He could recast the shepherd as a would-be serial killer whose murder spree was cut short just in time by the brave defender of the people. He might further claim that anyone who questioned the necessity of such defense is him/herself a danger to the town. If the Palance character had done so, he might have been a hero to the townspeople instead of an unhinged villain.

To somebody watching our imaginary movie, Palance’s actions would still be clearly evil. Being an outside observer of events provides moral clarity in such matters. Like a movie audience, observers in much of the rest of the the world understand that the actions of the United States and Israel are unambiguously evil.

But “we” americans are befuddled and ambivalent about the morality of the situation. Throughout our lives, a constant confounding message has been been endlessly repeated: it’s our country, it’s our government, it’s our army, it’s our foreign policy.

Eventually, the defense mechanisms that a person has developed to protect their ego from attack** the prevarications and dissembling and shifting of blame, are extended to protect “our troops” and “our leaders” from what would otherwise be bald-faced crimes against humanity.

Thus the danger of the abuse of concepts.

An interesting final note that I hit in the podcast: in our current system of social organization, the intuitive, nearly self-evident nature of the individual right to self-defense is trumped by the abstract right of an arbitrary collective to self defense. If a person protects themselves from a badge wielding person in uniform, that person is “bad” and the uniformed individual is “good.” This extends quite some way.

To be punished, a uniformed badge wielder pretty much has to kill somebody while intoxicated, off-duty, in a stolen car full of drugs, and in the course on carrying on an affair with a pre-pubescent child. Even then, the killer will be suspended with pay for the duration of the official inquiry and most likely cleared of charges in the end. But I digress.

* I was unable to find a western in which this sequence occurs.

** Defense mechanisms developed and honed by abusive parenting and the “Lord of the Flies” social structure of public schooling.

The Bikecast Episode #21: Once and Future Anarchistic Societies

Another nice setup from a previous correspondence:

Is there any example of a stateless, non-hierarchical society? Or are these purely thought experiments and hoped-for utopias?

Download this episode of the bikecast

This is a classic shut-the-fuck-up argument that one runs into frequently when talking about statelessness. Like most STFU arguments, it’s entirely vacuous.  The limits of human vision do not a convincing argument make.  An analogous human living at the time would, no doubt, deny the possibility of agriculture without slavery in the 17th century, or marriage without ownership in the 18th, or inquiry into nature without the supernatural in the 14th. 

It’s not as though anarchists are proposing a world in which humans inhabit the oceans breathing through their newly evolved gills.  Human societies instantiating circumstances as mundane as non-ownership of people or reliance on the physical reality for explaining natural phenomenon didn’t exist at some point in the primitive past. The idea of society not organized around the brutal and archaic principle of might-makes-right will, in the future, be judged as natural as a universe without deities or the moral equality of races and genders is today*.

More scholarly advocates of statelessness have compiled lists of anarchistic societies in human history. I’ve created a Sqworl page that I will add to as I come across resources related to this argument. The one I heard about most recently are the Zomia. Frankly, while I think the historical examples are interesting, and they do provide examples of non-hierarchical societies, anarchism of the future will not resemble any of these past societies.

Statelessness based on a superstitious cultural system can be overturned by the introduction of a new religion. Statelessness based on tribalism can be overturned by contact with the “outside” world, or by increased population or industrialization. The stateless society of the future will be one growing from the humane treatment of children and the corresponding abandonment of sadistic religious ideologies and willing subjugation to a violent, privileged elite.

Anarchism will grow around each person who refuses to use violence, emotional manipulation and bullying in their relations with other humans and refuses to associate with those that do. Already, most of us go about our day almost every day without using violence to navigate the social realm. We work, date, play, socialize, and engage in any number of activities with any number of people in a peaceful yet organized manner. On the flip side, we, to varying degrees, accept as legitimate the use of violence by parents, police, husbands, and soldiers against their victims–some of these are increasingly seen for the barbarity they are, others are still honored and protected from scrutiny. Once this paradox is seen for what it is, and we demand the extension of the principle by which we wish to live our lives to include the victims of violence, anarchy will be at hand.

Children that develop in loving environments, free from violence, in which their material needs are met empathize with victims of violence. Without the fairy-tale narratives of God’s just vengeance and the wisdom and nobility of governments, they see violence for what it is, a breaching of the one principle that absolutely must not be breached in a civilized society.

I don’t believe we have any notion, as the children of a broken world, of what is possible in a world in which violence is no longer held up as a just and moral way of dealing with other humans. Humanity has witnessed changes that were unimaginable to our ancestors, changes that were warned against as portending the end of civilization societal collapse and a return to barbarism. I find it exceedingly small minded to retreat behind the same warnings of calamity and chaos to defend against the idea that society can be organized around a principle other than violence. It’s parochial, magical thinking to believe that a non-hierarchical society will somehow spell humanity’s doom. As reason and justice gain ground, the justifications for the protection of wealth and privilege behind a line of guns and prisons will cease to find purchase in the minds of an evolving society.

* I realize that some of the human race longs for a return to human ownership, the subjugation of women. I’m still confident that these primitive types are increasingly irrelevant socially and economically. There is no place in the modern world for such barbarism. We have already a society that shuns such people–of course, they’re still able to achieve their ends politically, providing another argument for the end to legitimized social violence.

The Bikecast Episode #20: Human Nature Expansion Pack

I’ve gone a long time without saying it–in fact, I’m not sure I ever said it in a podcast that ended up surviving–thanks for the comments and the feedback. I received a couple comments related to episode #17: Human Nature vs. Human behavior and related material.

Download this episode of the bikecast

It’s heartening that I don’t get push-back when I point out the monstrous war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by government. I didn’t get alot of static from my comparison of communism and fascism and my pairing of the two as very similar forms of totalitarianism. Nobody disagreed substantially with the idea that the Purpose Of a System Is What It Does. People have some very strong beliefs, however, that violence, obedience, and animal response to base instincts are immutable aspects of human nature.

I’ve found this attitude fairly prevalent within the social circles I travel. Nobody vouches for the virtue of the state, nobody supports the military or the neo-colonial policies of the corporate ruling class. Nobody thinks that justice is being served in the court system or the the prison system is anything but a racist racket for those who build, provision, and staff prisons. The one trait that separates these people from the anarchists I’ve met is their fear of other humans. Take the following email correspondence for example:

I’m not convinced of your points about human nature. I don’t think human nature is some monolithic entity, of course there is a large amount of variation. Some small percentage of people seem to lack empathy (sociopaths), and there seems to be a genetic component (that is, sociopaths are not necessarily created by their environment).

Humans are capable of horrible, unspeakable things. My point in episode #17 was that those are the result of mental and physical trauma during early development. The science around this topic is, as far as I’m aware, entirely conclusive. Sociopaths suffered some subset of a very well understood suite of supremely sub-optimal developmental conditions. This isn’t to say that no genetic pre-disposition exists, but it won’t be expressed without a traumatic developmental environment. I think the next bikecast will elaborate on this a bit further.

Hobbes famously described life in his hypothetical state of nature as “nasty, brutish and short”, which is why we come together to create society.

The social “we.” It’s awfully convenient for the wealthy and privileged that “we” came together to subsidize their industries, fight to maintain control of minerals and supply lines, and replenish their riches when they suffer losses. Hobbes and the other enlightenment political thinkers depended for their very lives on the ruling class. From the enlightenment onward, it became increasingly clear that decreases the power of the aristocracy and the lessening of the oppression of the peasant and merchant classes lead to far less bloodshed and even the beginnings of prosperity. Because of their situation, they were in no position to follow their logic to its conclusion.

This isn’t to discount the novelty or value of their thinking, but Hobbes, for example, existed in a time in which the scientific method was in its infancy. He had no understanding of anthropology, sociology, psychology or child development. He and his intellectual peers provide an interesting look at the modes of belief in their day, but their opinions as to the necessity of Leviathan based on human nature, I feel safe discounting in the face of modern discoveries and understanding.

I think you are a bit quick to dismiss any dissenting evidence. For one thing you seem to focus on individual human nature – but as we know, individuals in groups behave differently than individuals alone. There was a famous case of a brutal rape in NYC in the 80’s in which at least 50 neighbors heard what was going on but nobody intervened or called the police – they all assumed that someone else would help.

I am interested in dissenting evidence, but I think this is another non-example of said evidence. I agree that people behave differently in groups–that’s been clearly demonstrated in both the laboratory and in history. I maintain however that this instance and many similar instances in which even more thoroughly evil activities are participated in by otherwise “normal” people are examples of broken people with broken minds acting in groups. The group may amplify the individual lack of human connection to a person being raped and beaten in earshot, but it’s fairly far fetched to imagine that happening in a crowd of self-aware, empathetic and emotionally healthy human beings.

In a related facebook post of this video,

I got the following comment:

I have to question this idealistic principle of global empathy. I find it difficult to empathize with the Haitians and I attribute that kind of phenomenon to the fact that I can only manage care for a limited set of other individuals at one time. I read in some book years ago that the average group size of primates (don’t remember if it was bonobo or chimp) is around 200. And to me it seems likely that it hasn’t been that long since 200 was a large number of contacts for humans as well. However, within a few hundred years, we are expecting ourselves to be able to really grasp caring for 6.8 billion people? Maybe I am just being contrary, but I think it’s asking a bit much.

Then again, it’s not people like me who care for a small group that is the main problem–it’s those who regardless of their environment tend toward narcissistic, materialistic, aggressive behaviors, right? Or perhaps this man is implying that those traits are completely a response to our societal structure??

Here’s my reply:

. . . I think that understanding that it sucks to lose one’s family to aerial carpet bombing, or to be so poor that one lives in a plywood shack on a hill on a seismic fault line is really all that’s necessary. We *should*, if we are mentally healthy, be able to understand that those things are painful and to be avoided–even if we don’t experience it at the same level that we would experience *our* family being murdered or *our* hovel falling to an earthquake.

The speaker sort of skips that part and pretends like people generally do feel that level of empathy. I don’t think that they do. He wants to expand people’s empathy, I think that the issue is developing that empathy in the first place.

The narcissistic, materialistic, aggressive people among us are damaged humans, not examples of human nature. I think that’s the most important part of the piece . . .

I’m entirely convinced, after considerable, albeit amateur, research that it is the case that the damaged sociopaths among us are products of horrific childhoods. The contrapositive, of which I’m also convinced, is that loving, nurturing developmental conditions leads to healthy, social adults.

Even if I’m wrong, the anarchist position on the optimal social structure still stands. I’m straw-manning a bit here, since neither commenter outright claimed that their views of human nature necessitate a state. If sociopathy is an immutable aspect of human nature, then the very worst mechanism on which to found societal organization is violence. Sociopaths can dispense violence without concern for the victims or lingering regret. They are natural authoritarians, both as physical enforcers and as social engineers who can indulge their intellects by experimenting on human societies.

It makes intuitive sense and is amply borne out by the facts that social structures based on violence select against empathy, cooperation, and participants seeking win-win solutions to problems. It selects for narcissism, materialism, aggression, and a disregard for the health and well-being of others.

Instead of shielding society from the activities of sociopaths, the current system gives them weapons, badges, uniforms, legislative power, armies, prisons, and nuclear arsenals.

In either case regarding the nature of humanity, statelessness is optimal. In the one case, it’s inevitable, without a culture of violence, the state is impossible. In the other, it is essential: if violence is an inevitable aspect of the human condition regardless of upbringing, then the state must not exist if the species is to have any hope of long term survival.


I make reference to The Project for a New American Century in the bikecast as an example of policy promotion that assumes the necessity of a violent management structure for all of humanity. It may not be the best example, but it’s what I thought of at the time, so here’s the link.

The Bikecast Episode #19: What is Government?

I’ve started to think that, in many cases, the “show notes” are actually superior to the recorded material. The bikecast seems to be functioning as notes that turn into a more coherent and complete written form. When dealing with more structured topics, like this one, that tendency goes double–the notes will provide a much more complete picture than the bikecast. Hopefully they are supplementing each other well. Let me know what you think.

Download this episode of the bikecast.

I’m sensitive to the statelessness meme. With the emergence of the tea party and the reemergence of political libertarians and their sympathizers, Rand Paul among them, the topic of “the role of government” has reared its ugly head. In my perhaps fanciful personal narrative, the left-libertarian/anarcho-socialist/anti-state-pro-human, message is being repeated loudly and often enough now to register among the politically conscious. The idea of no state is being responded to, and it’s clear that the participants in the public discussion don’t have an agreed upon definition for the state–though they are uniformly terrified or dismissive of the prospect of its absence.

I myself sort of skipped a clear definition of the state in the bikecast, and operated on an unstated definition. It occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to go back and fill it in–especially given the amount of blog noise about the subject lately.
Here’s a good starting point.

A government is a compulsory territorial monopolist of ultimate decision-making (jurisdiction) and, implied in this, a compulsory territorial monopolist of taxation. That is, a government is the ultimate arbiter, for the inhabitants of a given territory, regarding what is just and what is not, and it can determine unilaterally, i.e., without requiring the consent of those seeking justice or arbitration, the price that justice-seekers must pay to the government for providing this service.

Put simply, a government claims a monopoly on the use of force. Its other powers, ultimate arbitration and taxation, stem from the monopoly of violence. I’m happy to entertain other definitions, but this one battled its way through a bunch of alternatives for me and has maintained its truth value for a couple years now. So much so that it is in the category of things that I sometimes forget “we” don’t all agree on.

Most other definitions are a cursory dressing up of this truth. The use of “authority,” “political unit,” “control,” or “administration” is a conceptual ruse to draw the mind away from the fact that the state exists and imposes the will of the rulers through violence. They don’t, however, disagree or challenge the above statement significantly.

More disingenuous are attempts to indicate the inhabitants of a geographical region as the source of government through some kind of social contract or expression of collective will. But at least this type magical thinking implies that the originator had some notion of the important questions around the nature of government.

The stuff I’ve seen over the last few weeks shows a shocking lack of even the most basic logic applied to the analysis of the state. Take Tristero @ hullabaloo

Living in society – like breathing! – is unavoidable; we can’t escape it for very long. Every society, no matter how small, has rules, ie, a government. . . . that government exists, must exist, and will always exist as long as there are humans . . . Social structures – government – are as vital to an individual as breathing. We cannot exist without governments.

See IOZ for a more thorough and hillarious refutation of the whole nonsensical post.

The idea that government == society == rules is just bizarre. If this narrative is believed then it must indeed be terrifying to imagine oneself outside the life bestowing protective shield of government. Tristero’s post seems to indicate that either 1) violence is required for rules to be followed–in which case, I’m never inviting him/her to board game night–or 2) the government doesn’t require violence to enforce it’s statutes–in which case, he/she is dangerously naive about the nature of the state in an all-to-common way.

On the same post, there’s a comment by mtraven:

There’s a libertarian syllogism that goes something like this:

1) violence (“coercion”) is bad
2) government has a monopoly on violence
3) therefore, if we get rid of government, we get rid of violence!

The first two premises are roughly true, but the conclusion rather obviously doesn’t follow. But it’s amazing how much libertardian reasoning reduces to this form.

Boy, aren’t libertardians dumm! It’s possible that there’s some young, sheltered libertarian who thinks that all human interaction is peaceful and voluntary except those involving the state. I imagine such a person would be one hell-of-a-fantastic human being, albeit naive.

Most of the rest of non-political libertarians certainly understand that people use violence to solve problems outside of government. Guess what? That’s bad too! What’s really fucking stupid is jumping back and forth between booing and cheering when the story of a murder unfolds: “a guy shot an unarmed man in the back” (boooo!), “but he was a police officer and the man was a drug dealer” (yayy!); “a village full of shepherds and their families was vaporized” (boooo!), “by a US airstrike to protect America!” (yaayyy!).

Either killing or threatening to kill people as part of social interaction is wrong or it isn’t. If it’s wrong, then the state cannot function morally. If it isn’t wrong, then we should expect that people will use it in social interactions. The state claims that violence is a legitimate way of achieving goals. As long as enough people agree the state will continue to use violence. Spousal abusers, child abusers, violent racists, and the like claim that violence is a legitimate way of achieving goals. As long as enough people agree, they will continue to be violent. It’s tempting to imagine that violence can be compartmentalized (state violence is good, private violence is bad), but the government is just a concept. In reality one person is actually hitting, kidnapping, stealing from, or killing another person. The morality of the situation doesn’t change because the aggressor self-applies a concept (police, soldier, parent, spouse).

BTW, kudos to the commenter for a least sort of admitting points 1 and 2!

I linked to this salon article a couple of bikecasts ago, but it displays a narrative similar to the one above, albeit more sophisticated.

. . .we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments on the one hand, and bankers and merchants on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution . . . Get it? The government didn’t just help make the “free market” in the first place — although it did do that.

To be fair, I’ve introduced, with this quote, a couple additional words typically ill-defined in peoples’ minds. When the author talks about capitalism and free markets, he’s referring to state corporatism–and yes, it does require a state to do that. But to trade? To produce and exchange? To organize complex social structures to tend to peoples’ needs? These things were clearly done, in many contexts, before the police and legislators pointed their weapons and demanded a cut. They still are done in defiance of statutes in a whole host of cases (see “illegal” labor, drug trade, agorism, mutual aid). The ideas that 1) we should be thankful that the state has done such a great job of protecting bloated, vile corporations that should have ceased to exist decades ago, and 2) beneficial and thriving economic activity is predicated on the existence of government, are both examples of deeply flawed, ahistorical, statist propaganda. They are also widely believed.

Alot of what I consider achievable freedom is the freedom from illusion. I don’t think that society will be free anytime soon of the small groups of violent sociopaths who direct the robbing, imprisonment and war waging on the rest of humanity. But I can be free of the illusion that they’re somehow my creation necessary for my existence and that I owe them some kind of allegiance and gratitude. Once this myth is sufficiently widely dispelled, and enough minds are freed from the narrative that people are incapable of peaceful interaction, the sociopaths will have to find other ways of making a living. They cannot exist without a critical mass of legitimizing worshipers.

Other notes:
In the bikecast, I also reference Andrew Tobias’ post. He’s arguing that the government is the agency which takes from the rich to give to the poor and that this is a necessary function. He doesn’t really ask the obvious question: “Does the state take from the rich and give to the poor?” the answer to which would challenge his claim that this is a necessary function of government.

The Bikecast Episode #18: The Imperial Model, Environmental Racism, and Statist Psychology

Download this episode of the bikecast

Years ago, it occurred to me that most of the United States were just colonial holdings of East and West Coast harbor cities and New York City financiers. The resources of the colonies are stripped out of land on which the poor ‘indigenous’ population lives, often by the indigenous population itself, and then processed and sold by corporate holdings centered in the urban core. The financing of said corporations, the richest capitalist racket of them all, takes place almost exclusively in New York, making it the pinnacle of wealth, prestige, and culture at the expense of the backwater that is the rural 95% of the country.

A second feature of colonialism is that, as manufacture and processing of industrial components becomes increasingly dangerous and polluting, these activities can be moved away from the urban cores and into the poor and minority communities. The greater the danger and the radius of potential harm, the farther from the east and west coasts the activities must be moved.

While I like the imperial framework for viewing the internal dynamics of the United States, it’s superfluous given that the same distribution of resources, labor and the wealth derived from them can be understood in terms of race and class.

The very poorest populated region of the country is the deep south and the gulf coast. It is for this reason that the most environmentally detrimental and dangerous industrial processes take place in this region. Refineries, chemical plants and, of course, oil exploration that isn’t allowed near the wealthy cities of the east and west coast, are packed cheek to jowel throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

The populations of these regions don’t have the political clout to prevent the locating of dangerous and toxic industry in their environments. They don’t share the benefits that accrue to the distant investors and financiers. When the results of a toxic environment strike, they don’t have the political power or the resources to seek restitution for the damage done them.

The monstrously classist, racist nature of these corporate endeavors are well documented and readily apparent to casual observation. And, at every step along the way, the state is clearing the path of their corporate patrons, seizing land, circumventing community standards (and often their own standards), providing physical security and capping liability for the ghastly catastrophes, both human and environmental, that inevitably result.

In an amazing display of third party (not that kind of third party) projection, the leftist authoritarians then heap scorn and shame on the rural areas, especially, again, the deep south, for their small minded racism.

Like the closeted conservative politician who rails against homosexuality, nobody is louder about the perception of bigotry among the ignorant poor than progressive statists.

The attempt is to call to mind the time when personal racism was subsidized and supported by legalized segregation and attribute that level of injustice to personal racist attitudes among the powerless underclasses. The goal is to push from the mind the pillaging of the resources and environment wrought by the wealthy, white elite on the poor and minority population.

By any metric chosen, the ruling class and its institutional racism is responsible for incalculably more harm than the personal racist attitudes of redneck morons. The educated, self-identified progressive political class who believe themselves to be in control of the state–especially after the overwhelming electoral victory [sic] of 2008–must create a fantasy in which this ordering is reversed. In this destructive alternate reality, all of the oppression, robbery and harm must be ascribed to powerless idiots with racist attitudes and the state must be granted more power, latitude and patience to rectify the situation.

This is in line with the general leftist authoritarian magical thinking in which the most grotesquely racist, classist, bigoted power structures are going to be the mechanism by which a more just world comes into being.

I am (sometimes) hopeful because well-intentioned statists both right and left have constructed such elaborate and ridiculous fantasies so obviously orthogonal to reality that I can’t imagine they can stand much longer. In any case, their children will never believe them. Much as we can’t understand the conviction that multi-racial societies require a caste or slave system, in the future, people will marvel that it was generally believed that a gang of wealthy corporations with an army, police force, and global prison system would work to solve social problems.

For the first time in history, an international human rights body has agreed to review a case involving allegations of environmental racism in the United States.

Mossville, Louisiana is a “rural african-american community” around which 14 chemical plants were built.

A bibliography focusing specifically on the existence of racist tactics in the locating and placing of waste sites in communities with a high percentage of people of color.

Blue Vinyl is an excellent documentary on the topic.

The Bikecast Episode #17: Human Nature vs. Human Behavior

Last week, the secretary of state was in asia threatening North Korea. The proximate reason for this round of threats is the sinking of a South Korean ship six miles off the N. Korean coast. This is a true gem of political theater: a country that is actually in a declared war with it’s adversary sinks a military vessel closer to it’s shoreline than I am from work and it’s up for international reprimand. The country delivering the reprimand has murdered, maimed, tortured, imprisoned, and destroyed the lives of tens of millions of non-combatants thousands of miles away from any conceivable “national” interest.  I am in no way defending the North Korean attack, but the obvious hypocrisy of the U.S. condemnation renders them morally impotent.

Download this episode of the bikecast

There is an interesting parallel between the language in the international missive and the threats and promises made to a child in order to “make them behave.” This is the purpose of the language. When we hear it, even in a 2 minute propaganda piece, it immediately registers with us. The schema is the irrational child who could be playing with friends and enjoying goodies but is choosing to behave badly despite increasingly harsh punishment from a just authority.

This narrative has two purposes, the first is to turn the rebellious nation, group, or person into an irrational actor who we should be angry with for not knowing what’s best for them. The entity or person who is punishing/promising rewards is always in the right and always has the disobedient entity/persons best interest at heart.

The second purpose is to make us afraid. We smart, obedient people should always remember that there are bad/crazy/evil people out there and they just won’t listen to reason! The only thing standing between them and us are the various agencies of state security.

It is important to the power structure that we believe that this unpredictable, dangerous element is essential to human nature. Its eternal presence requires eternal vigilance on the part of our brave and ever expanding defense forces. This narrative is critical and must be told as many times per day as possible in order to counter-balance the obvious cataclysmic failure of the state in all aspects of social management.

In conversations with “very smart people,” I find that we can quickly dispense with the formalities of demonstrating the the state is a vile, murderous institution. They get it, but they fear a greater state of chaos that lies in the uncontrolled interactions of their fellow humans. Most of the people I’m talking with aren’t mystics or nationalists, or any other kind of fantasy dwellers. They’re skeptical and accept reason and evidence as the ultimate arbiters of truth . . . unless the claim is that humans are, ceterus paribus, social, cooperative animals. A claim supported by any number of studies as well as classical economics and modern game theory.

The existence of numerous genocides, wars and conflicts around the world do not represent a refutation of the premise that the natural state of human society is cooperative. Rather they provide instances that we can examine in order to determine what factors lead to the exceptional case of violence and the disintegration of civilized society.

The statist will attempt to indicate the strong, central authority as the structure around which peaceful societies grow, and claim that weak central authority or statelessness leads to the tragic human conflict we find around the world today.

This is a classic piece of “Big Lie” propaganda. States are directly involved in every modern conflict and, in fact, the most powerful states are implicated–directly and indirectly–in the most heinous genocides.

What is the difference between societies, or segments of societies, that follow the default human condition of peaceful cooperation and those that disintegrate into self-destructive chaos?

The difference is how children develop and is another aspect of the genius of evolution in creating a hyper-adaptive programmable organism. A child born to a mother who is relaxed and cared for by his/her community; a child who is nurtured and cared for, loved and interacted with; a child who sees empathy modeled by the other members of its society, will grow up to be a thoughtful, peaceful, empathetic and intelligent adult. What the society needs and communicates through the conditions of childhood, the biological organism will seek to provide in order that it and its species survive and prosper.

Meanwhile a child whose mother is exposed to malnourishment and stressers (such as the type encountered in a warzone or as a refugee) while in the womb; who’s starved and neglected in early childhood; who grows up surrounded by brutality and violence; will not develop empathy, gentleness or reason. The survival of this individual and his/her society requires an unquestioning killer, an unthinking brute. Where generation upon generation are born, grow up and die in this manner of human strife, the sociopathic behavior will deviate increasingly widely from the norm to the point of demonic barbarism.

Recovering from such a state–a state such as existed in Europe during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries–take many generations. Hundreds of years later, we’re just beginning to emerge into the light. The children of today, are pioneering a realm of peace, self-awareness and mental health yet unexperienced in the history of humankind. A small number of them will have a tremendous influence on the trajectory of humanity in the world.

When discussing this topic, the opposition usually ignores the reams of behavioral, psychological, and economic science on the matter and refers instead to the realm of fiction: The Lord of the Flies, The Heart of Darkness, episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone to support their position of an essential darkness in human nature. They also misapply “the prisoner’s dilemma” and the “tragedy of the commons” in an attempt to lend some legitimacy to their claim that the state, despite it’s obviously monstrous and anti-human nature, must exist in order than we may avoid chaos.

I’m always optimistic in situations like this because it’s not really a matter of opinion anymore. The beauty of the truth is that it will out-wait any malformed opposition. Going forward, I believe an increasing number of people will acknowledge the evidence and the logic of the situation. They will do so, I believe, via an empathetic connection to the reality of the harm being wrought which will force a dispelling of propagandistic narratives and a reexamination of the evidence.

I hope we reach a critical mass of enlightened humanity before too many more millions of innocent people have to die.