Posts Tagged ‘ non-violence

You Are the Security Threat

If you concede that sound weapons may exist, may be permitted to exist, then sorry, but you must also accept and understand that they may one day be used against you, just as satellites and drones peer through your curtains as readily as they peer through the curtains of Kabul, just as the Total Information Awareness machine minds read your blog as happily as Vladimir Putin’s tumblr. . . You will often hear civil libertarian types say that the police should not act like soldiers. Why not? They are. —IOZ

This has been on my mind alot lately. There’s a growing awareness of the secret that is foundational to the existence of violence-based social systems: that the technologies and techniques of state power will be used against all enemies of that power–foreign or domestic. Additionally, the enemies of power aren’t limited to armed foreigners, but include anyone who calls into question any aspect of the corporate-state system and its various crimes against the wider population.

Glenn Greenwald has a good piece up related to the topic

It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.

At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.

To take this thought one step further: at the root of this view is the ability to compartmentalize violence and the moral schizophrenia that enlightenment philosophy has only just begun to disassemble. The idea, with humanity since the beginning, that violence in general is harmful to society; but violence carried out by the leader, the patriarch, the king, the parent, the husband, the police, is a necessary part of social order.

Enlightenment philosophy, at least for the purposes of this post, is premised on the equality of human beings and opposed to the various magical hierarchies that have historically been used to divide human kind into dominant and submissive classes. Its growth has pushed back against the general acceptance of slavery, oppression of women, non-personhood of children, and even against the unchecked power of the ruling class–though these last checks have proved temporary and fleeting.

With growing coverage of the state’s response to peaceful protest, both here and abroad, it seems that we’re on the cusp of grasping the universal nature violence. Militarized police forces are leaving America’s ghettoes and the drug war for awhile to beat and cage the white and middle class enemies of the corporate state. For the first time in 40 years, we’re being reminded that the “average citizen” is no safer from the state–should he/she decide to challenge its power– than the urban poor and “illegals” against which the police state was supposedly constructed.

“Austerity measures” combined with the corporate strangle-hold on any avenue of independent, decentralized wealth creation will push increasing numbers of people into direct opposition to the existing system. The state response is escalating in brutality and frequency and will prove asymptotically similar to the tactics previously used to occupy foreign countries.

The mainstream response to this process, repeated endlessly by state licensed broadcasters, will be continued excusing of any and all abuses. Hopefully, enough people will have been exposed to a framework of non-violence to form a critical mass of discernment which can demand a final and total dissolution of the instruments of centralized violence.

The majority opinion, I imagine, remains that no penalty is too great to inflict on those who push back against authority. My hope is that within the growing minority who understand the irrationality and danger of that view, a complete understanding of violence can be fostered; reform of violent institutions isn’t the answer, abolition is what’s required. Anyone who tries to carve out an exception for armies, parents, spouses, or police, is–perhaps unintentionally–an ally of the forces that prop up the historical and existing dominance-based social paradigm and an enemy of civilization.

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.

Download this episode of the bikecast

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 #7b: Human Futures, Inevitable Ideas

Picking up where episode #7a left off.

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If DNA-human life survives and spreads outward into the wider universe, it will be subsequent to the shedding of superstition, the embracing of the moral equality of all humans, and the end of violence as a means of social organization. I have high hopes that this will be the case. Pessimism about the ability for humankind to evolve into a non-violent social organism is understandable, but short-sighted. The recognition of the value of human life in and of itself and the categorization of “others” outside the tribe as human is literally hundreds of years old on a planet where mammals have existed for hundreds of millions of years and humans for tens or hundreds of thousands. Human consciousness and self-awareness is increasing rapidly and the mechanistic superstitions pushing back against that growth are slowly falling away.

It is entirely possible that the project of a sane, rationally organized global society will take numerous generations and collapses in social complexity to come to fruition. The foundational ideas–reason, evidence, non-violence and it’s corollary, freedom–are thoroughly and increasingly documented. In any context, they provide a striking contrast and unbeatable alternative to superstition, illusion, dominance and hierarchy. While the rear-guard action of reactionaries might last centuries, this is, viewed objectively, a very short period of time.

In the end, the ideas of reason, non-violence, and human equality are the most survivable and, at the rate they are growing, it won’t be long before they are ascendant. I believe this ascendancy and the technological explosions that will follow will out pace entropy–at least in the short term and eventually who knows? I link again a cool related Azimov short story–read it! 😉

Thanks for listening!

The Bikecast Episode #5a: State Destruction of Social Organization

My latest ramble, starting on, 4/20 spilled over into two other bikecasts. In the first, I’m attempting to stake out a pattern I’ve been noticing alot lately: reliance on the state is back-firing in numerous ways.

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Show notes Episode 5a:
Here are the stories behind my brief “today’s headlines” segment:
More raping catholics. This guy is a real gem:
More thieving liars from the financial sector (I’m not actually sure this is the story that inspired the comment, but close enough):

In Texas, California, and probably 48 other states, money is tight. Everywhere, programs are being defunded and are in danger of vanishing altogether. The people that depend on these services are/will be left in truly dire straights. Yet constant pressure exists for the various levels of government to move additional services out of the community and into the public sector.

When such a move happens, the organic institutions involved with the service vanish and dependence on the state becomes, over time, complete. When the state becomes incapable of continuing the delivery of the service, as we will see increasingly as the economy continues its collapse, the remnant institutions of civil, voluntary society will be hard pressed to resume their previous roles.

Organic societal structures, due to their voluntary nature and respect for the wishes of the people involved, take time and trust to develop and thrive. This gives them tremendous strength and resilience. When they atrophy or are actively dismantled, it takes time for them to develop again.

Parallel to this concern is the nature of state prohibition/permission. Here, the issue is the drain of time and resources involved in moving a political agenda in a given direction. “Winning” a political battle means that the resources of the advocate group will be entirely expended protecting against political reversal. Even then, the decision can always be overturned, returning the advocates to their previous state without the advantages of the voluntary structures that had aided them.

As an example, I talk about a fictionalized* version of the temperance movement. The social issue they sought to impact was alcoholism and the attending blights of spousal and child abuse and abandonment. For many decades, this various components considered part of this movement preached sobriety, made sobriety a pre-condition for mutual aid membership, lobbied schools to include alcohol awareness in the curriculum, and even physically protested the activities of bars by “entering saloons, singing, praying, and urging saloon keepers to stop selling alcohol.”

At some point, various groups began to depart from civil means of dissuading people from drinking and switched instead to the force of law. This activity culminated in the 18th amendment. We know now, of course, that all the millions of hours of lobbying, rallying, begging and pleading for this amendment was undone less than 15 years later.

Imagine if all those resources had been directed at getting to the root of alcoholism, alleviating the conditions that give rise to it and spreading the practice of rewarding sobriety in friendly societies, mutual aid organizations, trade unions other voluntary, community accountable organizations.

Of course, during the 100 years leading to prohibition, people had a very primitive understanding of the mind and the components of and influences upon human nature. It was a far easier task to rally support for the violent smashing of people and businesses trading in booze than it was to seek to understand the behavioral and societal factors involved in creating an alcoholic. Current efforts by whole hosts of advocates for or against this and that demonstrate that people’s understanding remains primitive. Although the science is there and well established to recommend a non-violent course, it remains simplest to advocate force as a means of solving social problems.

Besides the opportunity costs, there are also the side effects of using violence. The most obvious of these is the spawning of more violence in the form of modern crime syndicates. In addition, the victims of the outlawed substance are treated as less than human and become frequent victims of state violence. Federal enforcement techniques such as additon of poison to  commercial ethanol killed around 10,000 people by prohibition’s end.

*I realize my example has more than a few holes in it. For example: it’s not like there aren’t people running around preaching sobriety, maybe more now than ever–I’m not a meticulous fact checker, it ain’t that kind of bikecast. My point is that the resources interested in controlling the public ills related to alcoholism were strong enough to manage a constitutional amendment–I can’t even imagine what topic would garner that kind of support now. It could have been turned to a million different compassionate, human respecting means of providing help and care for alcoholics and their victims.


Political Power, the Barrel of the Gun and all That

I believe that the only human future, that is, a future with humans in it, is one in which violence as an acceptable mode of human interaction is renounced. This renunciation will make the state, as we know it, impossible. Every power of the state rests, ultimately, on its power to “legitimately” kill its citizens. I realize that I’m repeating myself, but there seemed to be some disagreement over my claim and I thought it worth while to clarify my position and attempt to come to some understanding before I go on and make yet more outrageous claims.

I am not claiming that the only action that state agents can take against a citizen is to kill him or her. I have been fined and put in jail. I hear they have over two million people in prison, so yes, I understand that alternatives to execution exist for the government. However, I can’t imagine very many of those 2 million would have gone willingly to prison or would be easy to keep there if the death of an inmate at the hands of a policemen or guard were considered murder (which, by any objective standard, it is).

People submit to state agents specifically because those agents are authorized to kill people who resist. Nobody surrenders to mall security*.

Without the ability to drag people to jail, authorized to kill resisters and escapees, how does the state level fines? Unless they can take houses, killing those who defend themselves as they would against any other home invader, how can they levy property taxes? Without threatening employers, how do they collect income taxes?

This stands separately from the claim that they shouldn’t do these things. It’s not a novel position that they should, but it cannot be claimed that these powers ultimately rest on anything other than the power to kill people.

Everyone likes to call out state violence–well almost everyone–that they don’t agree with while justifying or redefining the state violence that they support. This argument is as old as time and has gotten humanity nowhere**.

While we may disagree about the necessity for violence to maintain social order, provide for the sick and the old, or educate the young–it is disingenuous to deny that, ultimately, agents of the state require the monopoly on violence and the “authority” to kill citizens to enforce the preferences of the ruling class.

*Actually, I take that back: there are people, broken people, who will submit to any authority figure. I submit, without evidence, that those people were likely broken by violence at some point in the past. Broken by aggressors who, explicitly or implicitly, threatened death for continued resistance. That’s a topic for the future.

**In reference to the undeniable increase in the standard of living and the no-longer-being-as-frequently-killed-to-death of huge swaths of humanity under state control: These victories resulted from a multitude of individuals sacrificing their lives and wealth to drag the state kicking and screaming out of some aspect of barbarity. In reference to the idea that, for example, not arresting homosexuals who marry (or those that marry them) is a good use of state violence: it is a good renunciation of state violence–yet another subject to revisit.

Non-violence and Political Solutions

A position of non-violence is incompatible with the idea of political solutions to social problems. The state, as we know it, ultimately has only one tool for controlling behavior, it can legitimately kill individual people. All other punishments are premised on this power. Until this is understood, the mass of humanity will remain the the impoverished slaves and servants of a tiny parasitic ruling class and will, perversely, thank them for the “safety” they provide.

If you oppose the non-violent position, then you will only ever contribute to problems stemming from violence. While you may point to a temporary victory–a political solution that “solved” a social problem–growing from the “solution” like bamboo shoots will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of resulting problems, each begging for a new political solution.

I’ve encountered alot of anger around this argument. Almost nobody, especially on the left, wants to be in a position of preferring violent solutions to non-violent. Yet how can one logically argue that support of state solutions is anything but the preference for violent solutions (answer: you can’t).

This puts the angry person in the position of having to create an imaginary world in which violence and only violence can stave off apocalyptic disaster. In this fiction, attempting, or even beginning to attempt to organize voluntarily to address social problems leads immediately to a fate worse than death–a world of chaos and violence in which everyone good dies at the hands of the evil, mad and powerful. These arguments, lunatic as they are, can be persuasive because a) no matter how horrifying real-life state atrocities are, the apocalypse is worse and b) they rely on fear, a historically reliable way of overriding rational thought and bringing debate to an end.

A novel position came up in a conversation recently that simultaneously surprised and delighted me. It is worth addressing because it is the only alternative to the fear based response. The position is that the state doesn’t need to use violence but could be reconstituted in such a way that it is a voluntary organization. In principle, how can I have any problem with that? If the state renounces violence in favor of voluntary cooperation, it will cease to be a remnant of stone-age barbarism and become a part of the future of humanity. By my definition, it would no longer be a state at that point, but I would be happy concede to calling it a state if it is ever brought into being.