The Bikecast Episode #25: From Here to There, Dispelling Illusion and Golden Moments
Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. — Declaration of Independence
Continuing the thoughts from the last bikecast: positive social change doesn’t require the affirmation of everyone or even the majority. Most people are content to live under a given social system as long as they have access to basic necessities and the system doesn’t interfere overly in their enjoyment of life–I realize this is broadly defined, but speaking broadly, as Jefferson rightly notes, people prefer social stability to revolution.
The Large Effect of Small Minorities
This preference will always work in favor of the status quo. Currently, it means that despite global war, crumbling infrastructure, ongoing environmental calamity, massive debt, a collapsing economy, wholesale theft of public wealth by the corporate capitalist class, all funded by a broad spectrum of theft from the working classes and all backed up by an enormous police state, most citizens are content to pretend that the current regime is legitimate, necessary, and even good.
On the positive side, once the state is gone, there will be the same resistance to undergo a period of chaos and uncertainty to reestablish it–especially given the increased wealth that comes from peace and freedom for corporate ownership.
Again, hearkening back to the last bikecast, historically, a small minority of people, as long as their numbers are growing, has been sufficient to end state support of objectionable practices. When the writing is on the wall, nobody leaps to the front of a movement faster than the government, both to take credit for social progress and to diffuse the radical movements that brought about that progress.
This tendency, combined with the cost of enforcement and the threat of political instability can push the state out of enforcement of a policy with only a small number of people actively agitating for it.
In the podcast, I refer to the “golden moment” when a critical mass of the population stops supporting a given regime’s use of violence. In it’s most dramatic form, this can include the refusal of the police or the military to follow orders–usually to fire on unarmed people. It is in these moments, with all legitimized violence temporarily absent, that a society can reinvent itself.
Historically, at these times, various political factions vie for military/police support and/or a popular mandate. Upon their ascension, the new rulers take control of the land and the people and the golden moment has passed.
In the future, a sufficient number of the people present will understand the necessity of societal organization free of violence. It will be during one of these moments that the minority will sway the majority to establish a society of equals.
The closest we, as a species, have come to this is probably the founding of the united states. There, the ruling class had to push for decades to get a legal framework in place to control the population. As part of convincing the people to support their own subjugation, some of the most cogent arguments for the necessity of protecting the individual from the state were made.
In the end, as we know, white male financiers, merchants, and military men were able to take control of the country. A mere two hundred years later, the country founded in the 18th century spans the globe as the most violent and oppressive nation-state of all time. This demonstrates, conclusively, that no hierarchical society can be crafted which will check the power of the ruling class.
Between these golden moments are countless smaller, personal moments where the decision must be made about how a relationship will be structured or a problem approached. Every time that non-violence is chosen, those concerned are consulted as peers, and consensus sought, community is formed, individual strengths are identified, and a sustainable solution is likely achieved.
When violence is chosen, resentment is stoked. People don’t respond well to having their humanity repressed in order to make them malleable objects under the control of another. The problem addressed violently does not have a sustainable solution. Rather, it will fester until such a time as the repressed anger can be expressed. Then, reprisals will be sought and further violence unleashed. As we know, the pendulum of violence does not stop until all parties renounce it as a means to resolving shared problems.
More on the Inevitability of a Stateless Society
Building on another point from the previous podcast, we are already in the process of moving “from here to there,” because that move is simply the discarding of the illusions that plague humankind. The homogeneity of religious belief and, to a lesser degree, of the belief in the efficacy and justness of violence as a means of social control are shattered. Where there is dissent, a safe space exists for further dissent. Where the dissent is from iron age superstitions and social systems that fail to cohere upon the most basic examination, this safe space will grow rapidly as the foolishness of the past is left behind.
This is happening rapidly in the realm of religion where opposition to religious beliefs are commonplace and supported by the reality based community. With respect to the state, progress is slower–the state has a far more pervasive propaganda system as well as an army–but the idea of living without serving a ruling class is at least an established idea. It will move from the margins to viability as an increasing number of advocates make themselves known.
As with atheism, most of the opposition to anarchy stems from reactionary propaganda about anarchists and the consequences of a society without a state (analogous to a world without god). Positive examples of anarchism will advance the ideas into the popular discourse in the same way that positive examples of atheism has done.
All around the children of the near future will be people who rightly see religion and the state as anti-human tools for the protection of privilege and the destruction of rational discourse in social organization. They will be able to compare the world view of their cultures, religions, and political factions to those of a growing reality based community, and will find the claims that some humans should wield unbridled power over another to be sick and preposterous.
For we adults, repetition is the key, the brain will likely discount a “low-probability” claim a number of times before engaging in a deeper analysis. Once engaged, however, there are near-infinite resources to aid the honest seeker. They are footnoted and have extensive bibliographies and are updated in real time. Evidence supporting the opposing viewpoints is non-existent: here-say and rank opinion from ancient texts, superstitions, and philosophers.
Where humanity has acted on the concept of universal equality, society has flourished–slaves have been freed and women have been granted personhood. When the concept is ignored, principally in the lack of recognition that the members of the ruling class are equal to everyone else, violent dominance, warfare, and deprivation result.
In the podcast, I mention Portugal as a state that legalized drugs. They’ve actually decriminalized drug use–selling drugs is still illegal. Even this half measure has had predictable benefits.
-  This isn’t a call for political action however, in the time it takes for to tear down an unjust policy, a thousand more have leapt into place and must, in turn, be opposed. My point is simply that social change doesn’t require universal buy-in. ↩