Posts Tagged ‘ getting from here to there

The Bikecast Episode #53: Which Virtues will Flourish in a Free World?

A gross misconception exists about the nature of a free world. Actually, a large number of misconceptions exist, and usually I find myself talking to people who believe that a free world would be swarming with Roving Bands of Armed Thugs who will systematically and perpetually victimize everyone else[1].

Lately, I’ve begun to sense another hypothesis in the ether, this from the libertarian camp itself. I haven’t heard anyone come right out with it, so this is kind of a patchwork of implied narratives.

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The world envisioned is mostly peaceful sparsely populated by wise, intelligent and strong men around whom industry and civil society forms. These men are not to be trifled with and disputes among them, if they can’t be settled by peaceful means can sometimes involve the judicious use of arms–perhaps modelled after the gentlemans’ duels of ages past.

These occasional clashes, though, needn’t be common because of the nobility and virtue of these men of merit. They don’t pursue selfish ends nor those destructive to others, so there’s no reason to challenge their will–which is a good thing because they are strong, quick, and well armed.

These men (both those of the imagined future and those that imagine them) could be described as consumate “porcupine pacifists”–the analogy speaks for itself–because they want to be sure that it’s understood that, although they won’t attack anyone, they will kick (or kill) your ass if you mess with them. They will also let you know about all the other people whose asses they will kick or kill if those people mess with them–the list is often long.

I have a couple of issues with this narrative–a couple posts worth at least. One related to the above bikecast is around my strongly held opinion that in a free world the virtues that will thrive and reproduce are mostly the opposite of those held by the honorable men in the above narrative.

To caveat: it’s of course impossible to predict the future with much reliability. It’s quite possible that, in the future, humanity abandons the standard of living produced by a thriving and tightly interwoven network of market relationships in favor of more isolation and simplicity. It’s possible that somehow that the armed and vigilant men never cross a line and threaten or bully a weaker person. I don’t know what long and transformative path would have to be tread for humanity to find itself in such a place, but as I say, the future is unknowable and this particular libertarian fantasy might play out somewhere down the line.

That said, I think a far more likely scenario is a society founded on something similar to the day-to-day relationships most of us enjoy now. These relationships aren’t based on fear of reprisal from some third party authority, but rather on trust, respect, empathy, and reciprocity. Flourishing in this possible future depends on skill at maintaining peer-to-peer relationships and a reputation for fair dealings instead of a strong right hook and good aim.

In this imagined libertarian world, understanding and anticipating the motivation and needs of others will be a highly valued and much sought after skill. Cooperating, negotiating and nurturing long term, win-win partnerships will be foundational to accumulating the social and physical capital to be a leader whose judgement others will voluntarily trust and defer to (without dueling).

In the fast paced and constantly adjusting economy that will be the engine of a global society that allows billions of people to thrive and prosper, guns will, I forecast, almost never be brandished. This is not to say that people won’t carry firearms for personal safety. I assume they will as they do now–sociopaths will always be with us, I fear. They will be used for this purpose very rarely. Even now, many people go a lifetime without needing to use lethal force to defend themselves (at least from strangers, assaults by spouses and family members remains very common).

That the very idea that empathy, cooperation, and relating to others as peers strikes some libertarians as weak, feminine and maybe sorta pinko (if you’re old enough) gets to the heart of the issue.

The virtues that will provide value to the future are frequently denigrated by self-labelled liberty lovers. Those that are antithetical to a free and prosperous world–primarily centered around the prominence of defensive or redemptive violence–are simultaneously given much attention.

There are universally positive qualities around independence, free thought, determination and other traits expressed historically in “free men” because their position in the social hierarchy allowed them to express these traits and society rewarded their expression. It’s an error to blend in physical size, strength, and martial ability–the traits that kept men atop the hierarchy–with the others and label these as masculine virtues.

In the same way, there are universally positive qualities around cooperation, empathy, ability to communicate and to maintain a complex web of social relationships–the traits expressed historically by slave classes, primarily women. It’s an error to blend submissiveness, humility, and self-deprecation–the traits that kept the slave alive–with these others and label them feminine.

The future belongs to the courageous and independent free thinker, the empathetic communicator and the social negotiator. These characteristics have no gender or race and are the cornerstone of a free and prosperous society. The martial virtues, physical strength (beyond what improves health and vitality), and a belief in redemptive violence have very little use in any popularly desirable free future world and yet they seem to play such an core role in the current libertarian movement. I believe that, going forward, it will be increasingly important to examine and question this tendency and those who hold it.

  1. [1] I always like to point out, usually to poor effect, that there already are Roving Bands of Armed Thugs systematically and perpetually victimizing everyone else, but apparently national militaries and police don’t count).

The Bikecast Episode #40: Giving Up on Politics

Another element of Getting from Here to There is giving up on politics. The theatrics and drama of politics, along with the ever appealing us vs. them dynamic involved, freezes people for years and decades in the mistaken belief that the state can effect a reversal of social ills. Endless energy and resources are expended in the pursuit of political solutions and are thereby diverted from alternative efforts. This starving of effective, decentralized, and sustainable non-governmental approaches to social problems insulates and protects the existing power structures from the threat of any substantive change.

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Case in Point, Ralph Nader

I recently watched a documentary on Ralph Nader titled, An Unreasonable Man. Nader is the platonic ideal of a citizen in a democracy. His roots are in small town New England where the image is of political activities occuring with every town person present and having a say in the decisions affecting the community[1].

Tangential note: this direct democracy is the model that the populist-statist mind attempts to wrap around 300 million people. The idea that everyone is participating and has a say and is therefore justly bound to the decisions arrived at by the political process.

Unsurprisingly, Nader has a number of tremendous successes finding corruption and inefficiencies in the ballooning federal state of the 1950s and 1960s. The legislative process still had enough remnants of openness that he was able to blindside the corporate-political partnerships of the time and force politicians to make at least a show of protecting their constituents.

Another tangential Note: Something I might talk about some other time was Nader’s role in drawing the revolutionary margins, especially the academic margins away from anti-state/anti-authoritarian activities and into the political arena. Ron Paul is the conservative equivalent in this respect.

In the bikecast, I focus on Nader’s persistence in the face of ongoing disillusionment. If we accept the documentary’s narrative, having reached his political apex in the 70’s, he is betrayed by Carter and then has the state agencies he worked so hard to create dismantled or perverted under 12 years of republican executives. Next comes Clinton and the vitual 4 and 5 term of republican rule (here’s a good summary of Nader’s views on Clinton’s presidency)

Finally, he decides to run for office in 1996, 2000, and 2004[2]. The viciousness and venom towards him since 2000 highlights the mental instability of a people looking for something, anything, to blame for their own weakness and cowardice–their own inability to admit to the systemic flaws that preclude anything but human suffering to come from the state.

The corrupt and despicable system that Nader believed in and that he encouraged so many others to believe in had at last destroyed him.

Nader supporters claim that the united states would be much worse off today without his legislative victories, even though most of them have been rendered impotent by subsequent legislation or turned, in some cases, into tools of corporate plunder.

I like to imagine what the world would be like if the Ralph Naders turned their attention away from the state and started solving problems on the community level via organic institutions akin to the townhall meetings of his youth. Continue to point out the injustices, yes, but stop asking the source of the injustices to increase its size and power in the vain hope that it will fight those injustices.

Unshakable Faith and my Own Dumb Story

Nader is also the ideal citizen insofar as his faith cannot (apparently) be shaken that the state can be made to serve the citizen, despite all of his experience to the contrary.

Luckily for the human race, not everyone has Nader’s loyalty. As the world burns and the nation plunges into financial ruin, the bar for loyalty rises. It used to be that several administrations had to pass before the astute would notice the pattern of state power.

I became politically aware in the early 90s and was completely convinced that, once a democrat took power, the globe spanning military would bases would be disbanded and the resources spent on war would be turned to education and social programs.

Disillusionment happened in a stair-step series of stages. After watching Nader get torched and then villified in 2000 and after the US invaded all points east despite the largest global protest in the history of the world http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2765215.stm (and with near full support of the opposition democratshttp://articles.cnn.com/2002-10-11/politics/iraq.us_1_biological-weapons-weapons-inspectors-iraq?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS), I finally accepted that these institutions of governance were irredeemably flawed. Eventually, I came to accept that governance itself, based on violence, was fundamentally unsustainable.

Establishment politics had me entranced for around 10 years. People younger than myself, who don’t remember the pre-Clinton political scene were alot more likely to get excited about Barack Obama, I think. Many of them won’t be fooled the next time around. The same is true, I think, for conservatives, and I imagine the inevitable collapse and/or co-opting of the Tea Party will send the more alert off the edge of establishment politics.

Another point tied to my 10 year arch from a believer in politics to near anarchist: I don’t think it takes nearly that long anymore. It may be a cliche that “information moves faster now,” and it’s probably the case that a number of my peers in highschool had already learned from their elders that politics is a racket.

I still think an 18 year old me in 2010 would be able to reason through to statelessness in a year or two–if I was even still a statist given 6 or 8 years of casual access to the sum total of all human knowledge. The possibility of being shielded the war pre-internet youth were from streams of information unfiltered by authority figures is much greater, in any case.

In Summary . . .

In the time before each disillusionment, though, think of the time, energy and resources squandered in the political process. Collectively hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of productive hours spent campaigning, arguing, worrying, cajoling, researching, defending, and attacking. All for nothing. Worse yet, all to create a façade of participation and legitimacy that provides an air of legitimacy to the crimes of the state.

The historical record is completely clear on this: democrats start wars, republicans grow government spending, democrats neuter social programs, republicans regulate small business to death. Of course both parties do all these things, but the tiny amount of influence that the whole weight of opposition public opinion can sometimes check the most egregious moves by the party in power. Any move in the direction of opposition finds no resistance at all.

Although this is obvious and the evidence is piled a mile high, most people will continue to support their chosen party. Most of those who leave one party will join the other. Most that leave both will attach to a third party. A small but growing super-minority is accumulating that have been sloughed off the ends of the political spectrum. The elements of this group may disagree on some issues, but each carry a piece (or two, or seven) of the airtight case against the state: practical, moral, around economic issues and issues of justice, racial, spiritual, sexual, statistical, philosophical, ethical, mathematical, you name it.

The future is unwritten and anything can happen, but I have high hopes that the accumulation of people opposed to imposing political solutions on their neighbors and on strangers will outpace the growth of people brainwashed into supporting the political establishment. I hope that the simple truth is eventually accepted by a critical mass of people: The historical struggle isn’t between left and right, it’s between the rulers and the ruled.

I’ve got a couple more “Giving Up on Politics” podcasts in the pipeline. Let me know if you dig them or if there’s something in particular you’d like to hear about.

  1. [1] Which doesn’t change the underlying immorality of imposing the majority’s will on the minority, of course.
  2. [2] He was actually a write in candidate in 1992. He ran as “None of the Above.” I had forgotten (or never knew) this

The Bikecast Episode #26: From Here to There, The Unimaginable Future

All manner of blueprints exist for future societies in which human interactions are governed by a principal other than might-makes-right. While these are brilliant in their own right and demonstrate the human capacity for problem solving, they are the tip of the iceberg of ideas and models of human social and economic relations. As alternatives to violence are explored, the number of people who have experienced a life free from domination will increase. At the same time, the ways in which people can communicate are growing ever richer. We can’t even imagine the scope and nature of the solutions that groups of increasingly healthier humans will generate to approach social and economic problems.

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The transitional model that seems to be the most developed with the greatest number of practicing adherents is agorism. To oversimplify, agorists aim to replace the current economic system piecemeal by developing alternative relationships. As the state recedes, these alternative economic arrangements become the foundation for the future society. Obviously, “alternative economic arrangements” covers alot of territory: communes, cooperatives, worker-owned businesses, as well as more traditional business/property models insofar as they don’t require violence to conduct their affairs.

The Free State Project was an effort to overwhelm a political region (New Hampshire was eventually chosen) with sufficient “liberty minded” people to take over the government. While that effort has largely failed, a secondary effect has been the attracting of a large number of anarchists to the region. These non-political activists have had a much larger effect and are constantly spinning off new projects and media outlets. They openly commit crimes against the state (victimless crimes) and then refuse to participate in the legal process–this would be difficult or impossible except that they have sufficient numbers to fully support jailed activists.

Other, slightly more fantastic scenarios include the foundation of “free cities” which are exempt from the legal system of the larger political structure. Free cities could also result from secession or other decentralizing processes. The advantage of numerous social structures in a small geographical area is evidenced by the free cities of the renaissance, the Hanseatic league, and the modern city-states of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Monaco.

Finally, along the same lines, Sea-steading promises to, essentially, create additional geographical areas where governance structures can be crafted from scratch.

As brilliant as these ideas and experiments may be, I doubt we would even recognize the proposed forms that will exist at the end of our lifetimes. We are currently trapped in an iron age paradigm of social organization, and are unable to see the kinds of solutions that will seem obvious to future generations freed from arbitrary hierarchy. The fundamental inequality of human beings is an axiom of governance. It has been for 5,000 years. In every conceivable way, we have blown past the primitive tools and technologies of antiquity, except with regard to social organization.

The primary value of the current ideas, in my opinion, is not that they will provide us with the long term patterns that human society will trend towards. They may get us started, but more importantly, they will seed the next generation of models and experiments for social and economic interaction. These in turn, along with the current blueprints, will seed the next generation, and all of these ideas will collectively seed the next.

Each subsequent human generation will be raised in a world that is increasingly aware of alternative means of social organization and increasingly intolerant of the violent, historical forms of human interaction.

The result will be a Cambrian explosion of ideas, models and experiments for social organization and an explosion in the number of humans who’ve lived lives free (or nearly so) of institutional violence. This rapid proliferation of ideas is the analog to the rapid spread of understanding of the natural world and increase in technological innovation during the recession of religion during the enlightenment.

With the creativity of billions of minds working independently and collaboratively, locally and globally, on addressing–really addressing–the problems of human society, the greatest problems will fall beneath thousands of competing and cooperating solutions.

We can’t even begin to imagine how fantastic that world would seem to us.

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.

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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[1].

Golden Moments

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.

Related

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.

  1. [1] 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.

The Bikecast Episode #24: Getting From Here to There, The Arc of History

Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In this podcast, I continue with the theme of “From Here to There,” with a look at the big picture, the “arc of the moral universe,” and the accumulation of information that fuels exponential growth of human knowledge and the corresponding shedding of illusions and heightened moral clarity.

Download this episode of the bikecast

The bending of the arc of history, I propose, coincides with the increased ability to encode information in such a way that it can withstand the rigors of time to serve as a record for the analysis of later generations.

As ideas are encoded, copied, compared, modified and spread, those corresponding to reality and resulting in advancement and flourishing will drive out those that fail by these criteria.

As an example, even a medium as fragile as paper was enough to encode sufficient writings from the classical western world to ignite, or at least propel, the renaissance and the enlightenment [1].

My claim is that, once an idea is captured on a sufficient number of decipherable media, we can guarantee that it will have a chance at future evaluation. Thus, the idea that knowledge comes from favoring evidence from the physical world over the conclusions of of human reasoning survived in the writings of Aristotle. When brought back to the west, the truth value of Aristotle’s proposed manner of understanding the world swept back into widespread acceptance aiding the rediscovery of the scientific method.

Now, the premise that “all humans are equal” has gained evidentiary as well as moral grounding and has been encoded countless times in countless media. Wherever/whenever the ideas of human equality encounter societies in which a sufficiently frustrated majority are held captive to a supposedly superior minority, the traditional forms of social organization will not stand.

The ideas and evidence for the sustainability and societal superiority of equality, freedom, and nonviolence have been established, encoded, and distributed so widely that they will survive any purge or dark age that could possibly occur (may it never be!). This underlies my claim that, after some number of collapses of the dominant violent power structure(s), these ideas and the history of the implementation (and more often and disastrously, their non-implementation) will provide a sufficient basis for non-hierarchical societies to form. Once this process begins, it will be subject to the exponential growth that successful technologies and organizational structures undergo in human society.

Even today, with imperial collapse looming, these notions are rapidly spreading because of their clear practicality and liberating nature. Each additional person who examines these ideas and sees their role in a just and non-violent world becomes a vector for these ideas in their communities.

Hopefully, they will spread widely enough quickly enough. There are always cries for an increase in violence and an increase in the disparity of power between the rulers and the subjects. When the current social structure fails, there must be a critical mass of people calling for an end to dominance based social orders. If this is not the case, a new hierarchical society of some sort will be built on the ashes of the old, and the process will begin again. This next time, however, there will be an expansive, highly redundant and variably scoped set of records, accounts, and ideas for future opponents of hierarchical social orders.

Sounds Like the Arc of History is Really Damn Long

I understand this doesn’t sound hopeful. With the majority of the west believing in God and the necessity of violent hierarchy for social order, the peaceful world that we imagine seems impossibly far away.

It may be so. However, these types of societal changes tend to explode out of kernels of social enlightenment. I talk about this more in the next podcast (I think), but the span of time between the first meeting of abolitionists and the end of slave-states in the western hemisphere is less than 100 years. The time between Martin Luther proposed the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms
and governments with the separation of church and state as a founding principle was less than 200 years.

An additional hopeful factor is the degree of popular buy-in that is required for societal change. It’s very small. There’s no need to convince everyone that, for example, all people are equal and that, therefore, slavery is immoral. All that’s necessary is to get the state to stop subsidizing slavery. The cost of controlling a human being is extraordinary. Without the police, military and legal system providing support at community expense for slavery (i.e. without a slave-state), slavery quickly ends.

The majority of white people in the early 19th century were likely neutral or in favor of the continuation of slavery–after all, if slaves were freed, social upheaval and eventual societyal collapse were inevitable (sound familiar?). Nevertheless a combination of state self-interest and the spread of abolitionist ideas by a small-but-growing group of clear-eyed human beings brought about the end of the western slave-state.

Without a state providing coercion, mandatory religious affiliation is also impossible. It’s prohibitively expensive for the church to compel an entire population to participate in their activities–the cost far outweighs any tithe that could be stolen. For this reason, a society without a state sponsored church doesn’t experience religious homogeneity.

When the idea that the church and state should be disassociated was first put into practice, the majority of people probably would have been in favor of a political mandate that their particular religion be the one true faith in a legally compelling way. Again the small but growing sentiment that governance should be divorced from superstition was able to prevent the state from supporting a particular church, ending compulsory religion.

The arc of history is clarity driving out illusion. It’s the replacing of false beliefs that lead to stagnation and despair with truths that lift up, ennoble and invigorate all of humanity allowing for increasingly complex and beneficial technologies and modes of social organization to be put into practice. This process is rapidly accelerating and cannot be stopped. It’s simply a question of “how long?” No matter what the answer, it’s too long.

  1. [1] I note in the podcast that many of the scrolls that survived burning, theft and entropy are lists of works that no longer exist. For example, there are 123 recorded plays by Sophocles, only 7 of which survive. Only 1/3 of Aristotle’s work survive to the modern day. Oh, and Archimedes was not cataloged there, but his writings were also mostly lost.

I also included the audio from this clip in the podcast. This guy–I have no idea who he is–may be a transhumanist. He’s a little over the top, but I find myself striking the same notes many times.

The Bikecast Episode #23: Getting from Here to There, Global Guerrillas

I’m more concerned about the state of transition – how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? This transitional state could last anywhere from decades to thousands of years. I largely agree with your stance when it comes to a stable society of rational, kind, post-religious humans. But getting there will be hugely difficult.

This comment kicked off a number of days of thinking about “Getting From Here to There.” Transitioning from violently coercive social structures founded on superstition and bigotry to a society of peers with no person in institutionalized control of another.

I don’t have a strong opinion about the exact course of events, but it’s interesting to think about and it’s pretty amazing the scope and depth of ideas–some actually being put into practice–that exist around the various levels of this topic.

I say, “various levels,” because the transition can be examined on all levels, from the personal to the global. How did “we” get from monarchic governance to corporate governance or from slave states to a world in which overt slavery is, mostly, abhorrent? How did we transition from a species in which females were owned by males to one in which female equality is the majority opinion worldwide? These event have narratives with individual, local and global scopes.

In most respects, I believe we’re mostly swept along by events, like a kayak in a flood stage river. We can make very small local choices that affect our disposition relative to the current of events, but we have very little control over the big picture.

I’m convinced that the destination is a “society of rational, kind, post-religious humans.” This end is inevitable given continued human existence–for more detail, check out Episode #7a: Human Futures, The Race Between Complexity and Chaos and Episode #7b: Human Futures, Inevitable Ideas.

At the level of global events, or the factors that, with or without our consent, will move us from here to there, I feel comfortable making a handful of predictions and outlining some likely scenarios. As far as the likely institutions and types of human organizations that are in existence or will come into existence throughout the emergence of a non-hierarchical society, I’ll point to some ideas and existing movements that make sense to me. As to the long term, I have some strong opinions about the aspects of present-day humanity that will explode into full expression and those that will fade away, never to return.

I hit on all these topics and more in the next couple bikecasts.


Download this episode of the bikecast


Just before recording the first “From Here to There” bikecast, I stumbled across an interview with John Robb and his blog Global Guerrillas.

John’s claim to fame is that he predicted the failure of western military tactics to secure Iraq and Afghanistan for western purposes. He did so in the language of modern business: he claims that guerrilla groups are using

open source organizational models (drawn from the software industry), networked super-empowerment (freely available high tech tools, network information access, connections to a globalized economy), and systems disruption (the targeting of critical points on infrastructure networks that cause cascading failures) to defeat even the most powerful of opponents, even a global superpower.

He further claims that the western powers will be compelled to engage in radical austerity measures by the holders of sovereign debt. This is the model imposed on Argentina after their financial crisis and, more recently, on the bankrupt government of Greece.

These austerity measures will require the weakening and removal of social safety nets, police “protection” and other state services. Into this vacuum, something most go. Either it will be . “the predations of gangs, militias, and corrupt bureaucracies” or locally organized communities providing their own essential services and engaging with the rest of the world on their own terms–as peers rather than subjects or citizens.

This sounds alot like the ideas of agorists, mutualists, and syndacalists who favor worker controlled businesses, unregulated interactions between free agents, and a networked, prosperous humanity–in contrast, for example, with primitivists or survivalists who favor isolation and heavy armament during any coming societal upheaval.

From my limited exposure, I don’t believe John Robb is an anarchist and his political views are fairly conventional. However, he’s one of the most mainstream voices I’ve heard who is aware of and speaking about the reorganization of the western world that will inevitably come. Of those voices, he’s one of the even fewer hopeful voices that understands that the disintegration of a state has little to do with the well being of its subjects, so long as a critical mass is practically and philosophically prepared for the transition.