The case against advertising in public spaces

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I have previously argued that the current “western” civilization is not older than circa 1950, and that it is mainly characterised by a concept which I have termed “consumeristic individualism” (but it can equally easy be termed “individualistic consumerism“). In most traditional societies, a person’s identity is formed centred between ethnic heritage and family lines, religious belonging and profession (which most often is inherited). In the modern western civilization, identity is formed around consumer choices, which both serve to construct an identity and to create an incentive for people to both produce and consume, since consumption demands access to money, and with little ability to consume goods that signal status (cars, new cellphones, designer clothes, expensive travels, club memberships at exclusive exercise clubs), the social status of the individual is suffering.

Proponents of the current system are claiming that this current system is really what would naturally form when the vestiges of traditional social-hierarchic societies and patriarchal norms are broken down. People then tend to become ambitious consumers who naturally crave the kind of society that for the second half of the 20th century best was exemplified by “the Big Apple”. Thus, it would – according to said proponents – be an infringement on liberty to restrict the “natural development” of the consumer society.

Even when everyone knows that the current society, with its need and focus on exponential economic growth is building up wealth that is unsustainable since it depends on the destruction of the biosphere, the solutions proposed are generally that individuals should conform to other consumeristic patterns, and instead of for example travelling to Mallorca, go to an expensive ecological coffee-shop and drink a cappuchino made from expensive Nicaraguan beans. That could also serve to separate the young middle class, Homo Hipsteriensis, from the behaviour patterns of their parents (since consumeristic individualism is about a permanent distance from the culture even of the immediate forebears), and of the “unwashed working classes”, who enjoy American Idol, fast food and cheap travels to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria.

I would not, however, argue that consumeristic individualism within the context of capitalism, is equal to “human nature”, and that it in fact – like every other major culture and civilization on Earth, is largely artificially formed and then organically evolved. Thus, we need to see it not as a “passive” absence of social control, but as an environment which has been actively engineered to produce certain behavioural patterns.

TL;DR

  • Modern Western Civilization owes its existence to a fusion of psychology and marketing, namely public relations.
  • This means a continuous appeal to reach the subconscious of the public and try to make it susceptible to behavioural conditioning.
  • This conditioning, in the case of our current civilization, aims to make people buy goods and services which they otherwise would not have felt they would need.
  • Another effect is the creation of a sense of inadequacy in people, an inadequacy which can be “cured” through the appropriation of a certain ideal which is available for money.
  • The identity that is formed is also dependent on the adherence to certain consumeristic norms and to the values and fads of the group that the individual in question is trying to “mirror”.
  • We need to start to question whether people without consent should be exposed to marketing in public spaces.

Marlboro1

A short historical background

Advertisement has existed since the foundation of civilization, both in the form of notifying people of the availability of goods and services they crave, and as political propaganda. During the early 20th century, a massive socio-technological transformation occurred with the advent of mass information – in the form of film, radio, TV and telephone communications, making the world far smaller.

It can be said that two new kinds of civilizations emerged from these technologies, namely the “totalitarian civilization” and the “consumeristic civilization“. Even if this is a subject of an article which will come later on, I believe that technology shapes society more than society shapes technology (even if there is a self-enstrenghtening chicken-egg process there). The ascent of mass information technology made possible both the mass democracies and the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century. If pre-industrial leaders, such as the emperors of Rome, China and India, or old absolutist European sovereigns as Louis XVI, Charles XII or Pyotr Velikiy had access to modern information technology, their states would soon have started to resemble fascist totalitarianism.

I believe that it was a matter of time, given the way western society was structured during the early 20th century for mass media to being used to improve the market shares of companies. Another recently discovered science – psycho-analysis – was employed to pioneer more efficient marketing strategies. Two of the pioneers were Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann, who both defined the theories around Public Relations and also engaged in this emergent market as well.

Previously, before the 1920’s, advertising had largely been a question of making consumers aware of the existence of products and then try to appeal to their rational minds with a text purporting to show the alleged health benefits of for example nicotine-related products. After the 1920’s, it became more a question of appealing to the subconscious. Instead of an image of a box with cigarettes, the consumer was presented with a poster depicting an attractive female moviestar smoking Marlboro, with a minimum of text.

What had been a way for companies to gain comparative advantage during the 1920’s, developed into a full-scale MTE1ODA0OTcxNjAzMTAxMTk3civilization during the 1950’s. This was partially due to the expansion of the welfare state, which gave the western working class access to the ability to pursue the attainment of subcultural status items. Combined with the acent of Television, this meant that popular music, celebrities and choices associated with their lifestyles were emulated by millions of youths.

Nowadays, three generations have grown up under individualistic consumerism, and a fourth generation is currently growing up under it. During the 1950’s, with a population still roughly balanced between the countryside and urban centres, subcultural patterns were mostly marked by music taste, age (youths) and certain fashions in terms of clothes.

Nowadays, in the most developed and americanized western countries (the Anglo-American and Scandinavian regions), far more things have become a matter of subculturalization and consumerism. Often, we fool ourselves to believe that consumerism is just a matter of quantity and the individual, when the truth is that it has become a tool for socialization in the contemporary Western world (as well as in the most developed and urban parts of what previously was called the Third World).

Today, subculturalization has branched out to contain musical taste, fashion clothes, what exercise routines you have, what TV shows you like, what news sources you get your news from, what kind of places you travel to when you have vacation, and your political opinions. The ascension of the Internet has served to further compartmentalize reality, allowing people to build self-reinforcing echo chambers and thus homogenize themselves in smaller and smaller cliques. This has also led to subcultures creeping upward in terms of age groups – meaning that today there are entire groups of professionals who largely share the same traits in terms of taste.

The risks with this development

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There are several problems with this kind of development. There is one which is obvious and which has already caused suffering for millions of people, especially young women. Then there is another, which is less overt but which risks affecting the ability to reason and to act long-term. The third challenge is a matter of identity, and is the most subtle of these problems.

The first problem is the overt focus on beauty, youth and (when it comes to women) slenderness. The sexualization and idealization of the young female body, which is existent all over public space in urban areas, creates not only a desire to own new bikinis, handbags or cars, but also a desire in the female viewer to strive towards these ideals. Not all females are however able to conform to these ideals, and this can lead not only to suffering but to mental problems and self-harm behaviour, up to suicide.

The second problem is a matter of information. Nowadays, an average human being is receiving far more information than our pre-industrial ancestors could ever imagine to receive. Even if your awareness doesn’t know of it, our minds register and store all information regardless of its utility. This means that what we are seeing and experiencing around us, no matter if we want to be affected by it or not, is stored as memories and associators. Today, the window for advertisement to catch the conscious attention of the individual has shrunk to a matter of seconds, since people (predictably) have needed to be able to forcefully avoid the kind of information that they will not need. The massive quantity of information has forced through this adaption.

Also, the clutter of information makes it difficult for the ordinary media consumer to build up their ability to see medium- and long-term trends in terms of social development. Rather, reality turns into one giant, fluid “present“, that seemingly becomes more and more senseless. That makes it difficult to form opinions regarding social development and politics.

The third problem connects to the socializing aspects of individualistic consumerism, namely that individuality has become a matter of categories and physical attributes. If human beings are confusing external attributes with any form of inner essence (to external attributes we can count skin colour, sexual orientation and gender), and relate the consumption of particular goods and service to that purported essence, we will soon constrain the ability of human beings to grow and develop character. This uncertainty can stunt human beings and keep them in a permanent state of adolesence.

Ultimately, it also means that when people form their opinions around matters, they often will think of how trendy the opinion is to focus on, how it relates to the group the individual aims to belong, and to the subcultures shaped by mutual reinforcement from the subcultures themselves and mass media, which categorises and helps to market subcultures that originally were authentic. So for example, a Social Liberal may be supportive of actions intended to curb climate change, but doesn’t actually care about the issue itself in any other regard than that it will yield her likes on Facebook and Twitter. Likewise, a conservative might post images that make fun of public healthcare, without even having an idea of how public healthcare works in their own country. This is made possible by the subculturalization of political opinions and the construction of self-imposed echo chambers.

All these three problems, in different ways, are making it more difficult to sustain a rational public discourse (at least regarding the “public” bit). They all are making it more difficult too to focus on what our current civilization is, and why it is problematic in relationship to the planet, since everything turns into an issue about the ego, and the ego’s relationship to other egos.

Sanitizing public space

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The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo recently banned advertising in public space, and it is only to congratulate that decision.

Of course, the decision to ban out-door advertising can be accused of being “authoritarian”, “statist” or “communistic”, but in fact, it is the kind of decision that actually serves to extend the autonomy and liberty of the individual. The reason why is that most of the individuals living and visiting a city have not actually consented to be exposed to massive billboards of public advertising. They may passively consent to it, because they generally have taken it as granted. But the people of middle age European cities generally passively consented to (and cheered) the display to severed heads impaled on poles.

If people want to expose themselves for advertising, they should be able to enter malls or shops. Companies do not however have any right to try to affect the subconscious minds of people and try to condition them to certain behaviours.

This also puts the kind of environmentalism that preaches that we need to change consumer behaviour by consuming in an intelligent manner. That environmentalism is kind-hearted, but is naïve in its relationship to the existing civilization. In short, they tend to view the current world that we have today as a result of the consumer choice, rather than to view the consumer as a concept created artificially within the context of the current civilization.

We need to transition towards a sustainable future, characterised by devotion to Life on Earth, empathy towards all living beings and enlightenment. That means that we need to build up an education system and a society that strengthens individual character and mental resourcefulness, builds on autonomy and ability to understand and master knowledge, and which is centred around an inclusive and life-focused culture.

It takes at least three generations to build a civilization, and in order to save the Biosphere, we not only need to stop the current civilization from devouring it, but also build a new civilization. That requires several pro-active steps and the evolution of a new culture within the context of networks that we build up and support.

But it also must mean political steps in order to curb and restrict aspects of the current civilization. These steps must be designed in a manner that they respect individual choice and autonomy.

I can not however see how limiting clutter from the public view is a breach of individual autonomy.

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A 48 hours recipe for suicide

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Recently, I had the opportunity to read this article published on the Qetema website. I found it both interesting and unnerving, as it clearly defines one of the persisting problems with “the RBE spectrum”. I struggled with myself regarding whether or not I should reply to the article in question – but have decided positively so after voicing my concerns with the young people I have talked with inside the Qetema group. They asked me to write this article, and since I’ve already criticised the notion that Greece could become “the world’s first RBE nation”, I thought it would be fair to provide a more elaborate and formal criticism of the idea.

The Short notes (TL;DR)

On Resource Based Economics

~ We do not know whether a RBE would work or not.

~ Many RBE followers seem to believe that their proposed system is a sort of console cheat mode for economics.

~ RBE;ism ultimately bears an uncanny resemblance to pre-marxian forms of communism.

On Greece

~ For many reasons, Greece is ill-suited to become a Resource Based Economy.

~ For many reasons, turning a country into a RBE in 48 hours is insane.

~ Examples of autarkies

On Resource Based Economics

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The Earth Organisation for Sustainability does not and have never identified itself as an organisation promoting what Jacque Fresco coined as a “Resource Based Economy” (RBE). What our goal is, is to investigate the opportunities for how to establish sustainable management of the Earth’s resources, and we are curious on the long-term prospects for the application of a transition to post-monetary socio-economic systems. You can read about our research and transitioning proposals here.

The main difference between us and the majority of the organisations promoting what they call “RBE”, is that we remain very skeptical of any claims and want everything to be measured, verified, applied, tested and criticised. Many of the organisations promoting the RBE concept are however claiming that the world can be switched to a RBE almost instantaneously and with little to none negative effects.

Also, a RBE would not only solve all sustainability problems and social problems, but would prevent most accidents from happen, eliminate most diseases, make most people happy and create an abundance for everyone, so high that resources almost wouldn’t have to be measured.

Much of this heralds from Mr. Fresco himself, who generally promotes his concept through focusing on the many claimed positive effects of a post-transition society. It should be noted that Fresco – before he promoted the Resource Based Economy concept – pioneered a concept called Sociocyberneering, and there he used more technical and narrow terms (which I personally find more agreeable since it makes it easier to understand what his organisation wanted to achieve, but which I understand do not serve to attract as many followers).

What then is a RBE?

If you ask a dozen or so RBE followers, you will know less of what a RBE is than before you asked. You will probably hear

The Venus Project

The Venus Project

about it being “the right thing since the Earth belongs to everyone, not a select few”, and be presented Gimp-rendered image files with quotes by old Native American chieftains. You will hear about Tesla and free energy from vacuum. You may hear of spirituality and Yoga. You may hear of living in communes and veganism, and of banking conspiracies. You may even hear that Jesus did not exist and that RBE is a return to the faith in the pagan mother goddess. You may hear of the flower of life, of promoting arts and poetry and culture.

However, one thing which soon comes clear when it comes to RBE followers (who mostly are young people with idealistically glowing eyes), is that they truly view the RBE concept as a manifestation of everything that is good, righteous and expresses their identity. RBE can be three different things to three different indivduals, but needless to say it will solve all the problems of the Earth, all injustices and do away with them within a few months (Jacque Fresco said something akin to a decade in his Stockholm lecture).

So the main issue is, what does Jacque Fresco claim that a RBE is?

The answer can be shortly summarised as: A computer-administered planned economy.

The system would work in a manner that there is a global computerised system that monitors the total amount of resources on Earth. From that, Fresco assumes that there would be more than enough resources for everyone to live like a millionaire today (surveys by organisations such as the Club of Rome, the Footprint Network and other environmental organisations beg to differ), and that all that is lacking is sufficient planning. The Venus Project has to my knowledge never conducted a planetary survey, which makes me curious on how they have established that the level of resources is sufficient to establish a RBE.

Needless to say, the EOS agrees with TVP that a global planetary survey of resources is necessary, but we believe the way in which TVP messages their concept has created several unintended problems. By focusing on attractive 1950’s style retrofuturism and on inventions rather than the surveys and the physical information, TVP has ensured that they will not for the foreseeable future be accepted in academia. On the other hand, they (and TZM, which in many ways are making themselves even more problematic) gain followers within the precariat – young people from developed nations or from middle class background who have a trouble entering the more and more perilous and uncertain environment of the labour market. The RBE concept provides escapism and a vision of an alternative world.

In many ways, the RBE movement cluster is a cybernetic-age equivalent of the Utopian Socialist movement of the first half of the 19th century. The similarities are too many for it to be a co-incidence, and can be listed below here:

* An emphasis on the vision of a society where all problems are solved.

* A belief in philosopher kings (Tesla posthumously, a cult of personality around leading RBE figures).

* A mixture between pseudo-scientism (a fetischisation of science) and beliefs in alternative science (while Fresco has never claimed to support free energy, PJ Merola of The Zeitgeist Movement has purged high-ranking TZM members who’ve contested alternative cancer treatments).

* A willingness to move away from established society and form communes.

* An unwillingness to organise stable movements or commit full-heartedly to the projects, inside emphasising liquid organisation and positive emotions.

* A belief in that RBE:ism is a recipe to create a society where all ills are immediately cured, and that we under a RBE could both live in an earthly paradise but also provide everyone with basically everything they want.

With this, I am not saying that RBE:ism as a concept is doomed, but that these six features inside the RBE movement are the main things that hampers it and virtually ensures that it continues to see much noise but little actual activity. An emphasis on positive emotions, arrogance and the deification of individuals serves to limit the scope of followers and make them ineffectual.

Greece

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If you have read the article published on Qetema detailing Greece, they claim that Greece has a third choice apart from the knife and the gun seen in the picture above, and that is to switch towards a post-monetary system immediately, claiming that any adverse effects will be smaller than the false choice exemplified. This would mean that Greece totally would forego money and instead move towards a RBE where all resources are administered directly and managed in a rational scientific manner. The author of said article claims that this would create a better life for the Greek people and also showcase exactly how well a RBE would work.

I would counter these claims by pointing out the main problems here below, starting with a historical argument, moving towards a structural one and finishing with providing examples of economies with roughly the same level of natural resources as modern-day Greece, which either by ideological reasons or by economic reality have undergone a transition towards an autarchic, self-sustainable management of their resources.

Greek History for the last 3000 years

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The earliest civilizations emerged around the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Bronze Age, Crete was a centre of trade and commerce in the Mediterranean, providing a hub where resources could be traded. In many ways, civilizations such as Crete, Egypt and the Sumerian states where resource-based economies, in that food and raw material management was centrally planned by theocratic governments. However, due to human overexploitation of fragile East Mediterranean eco-systems and probably natural disasters as well, a collapse occurred during the end of the Bronze Age, leading to depopulation and a massive loss of complexity.

The Greeks did eventually recover enough to create the civilization of Classical Greece. This recovery did not occur because that Greece as a region recovered economically. It was largely deforested, with eroding soils and unable to feed its own population (which for obvious reasons was smaller than today’s Greek population). Thence, from the 8th century BCE and onward to Alexander the Great, the Greeks colonised the shores of the Mediterranean sea, competing with the Phoenician trade networks and acted as middlemen between the various cultures populating the coastlines. If the Greeks had been land-bound and utilised their own resources, their population would have shrunk, and we would today not have known of Athenian philosophy and culture.

During the 15th century, Greece was overrun by the Ottoman Empire, and was ruthlessly exploited. The Greek cities turned into villages, the peninsula was plagued both by tax collectors and highwaymen (who were considered, and often were to an extent, Greek patriots fighting for the liberty of the Greek farmers, reduced to serfs under Turkish rule).

When Greece emerged as an independent nation in 1830, it found itself with a very poor economy and little in terms of infrastructure. The country almost immediately went bankcrupt, and has suffered several more defaults during the relatively short history since the Battle of Navarino guaranteed Greek independence. Left on its own and without any externa support, modern-day Greece would have resembled neighbouring Albania in wealth. What guaranteed that Greece would develop into the 40th largest or so economy of the world was largely the interests first of Great Britain and France, which saw the geostrategically important position of Greece visavi Turkey and Russia, and then of the United States, which largely subsidised Greece during the Cold War.

While Greece undoubtly has resources, it does not have enough resources to supply its current population within its borders. The article claims that the oceans, in this case the Aegean, contains “abundant resources”. The truth is that the eco-systems of the sea are on their way to collapse faster than the eco-systems on land, and most of them are in a state of terminal decay. Now the article writers can claim that Greece can supply itself in terms of aquaponics, kelp farms and solar energy, but to create such facilities require technology and knowledge which would make Greece dependent upon trade, and thus exporting the food they have to obtain technology. Otherwise, they would have to produce the technology internally, but that would reduce their ability to produce food which is needed to sustain the population (I advise the RBE:rs to play the excellent text-based game Stalin’s Dilemma).

RBE if applied on a national level.

If a RBE would be applied on a national level, it would mean that all food production, industrial production and infrastructure would have to be centrally managed, at least during the transitional time. Since Greece lacks the computational power to move towards a cybernated system, that would mean that the current Greek bureaucracy (and the Greek political leaders) will be tasked with managing the economy and making decisions on guesstimates. This would create bottlenecks of inefficiency and also mean that a lot of people will lose the control and/or ownership of resources – leading either to emigration or to political resistance.

Also, Greece is very much a service-based economy (tourism), which is not accounted for (or as much needed) in a RBE. Therefore, a large part of the Greek economy will cease to exist.

Current examples.

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There are currently several economies of the world which to a lesser or larger degree are managing their national economies according to principles where they measure resources and needs, and where the state rather than taxing off the population are making their revenue by exporting resources.

The two best examples of the current day world are North Korea and Cuba. I will focus on Cuba, since North Korea is largely directed towards using their resources to feed a bloated conventional military force, thus neglecting food production (in a country already ill-suited to produce food) and thus causing repeated famines.

It could be said that Cuba, on the other hand, is not aiming to embargo itself, but have partially been victimised by a recently lifted embargo by the United States. On the other hand, many aspects of the Cuban economy are not functioning overtly well, and the country lacks access to spare parts and modern technology. On the other hand, however, Cuba is today self-sustaining when it comes to food production, though ordinary Cubans do not experience an abundance of food.

If a Greek transition towards an autarchic economy with focus on self-sustaining food production is established, and we say that it is “successful” in regards with providing people with food, housing, power, medicine and other necessities, it would most likely resemble Cuba – which has a living standard that is considerably lower than modern Greece (even post-crisis), but on the other hand offers people more social security (on a considerably lower level).

Summary

The problem with RBE:ism

The problem with RBE:ism

It is theoretically possible to create a cybernated society managing its own resources within a limited geograhic territory on the planet. However, claiming that a “RBE” can violate the laws of physics and be applied with the same results in Greece as in the United States is populism at best and delusions at worst. Countries are of different size, have different environmental and geographic characteristics. It can be claimed that the larger a country is, the more educated its population is, and the smaller it is, the more resources would be available for every citizen.

That of course ignores the fundamental truth that we – as humans – cannot separate our countries from the planet. We are all into this together, and we all must transition together.

However, the EOS strongly discourages any at all attempt to convert a state into a cybernated economy tomorrow.

Firstly, we have not tested cybernated economics on any grand scale yet, or be able to attest to the positive and adverse effects of the implementation.

Secondly, we believe that the best road towards transition is an organic one, characterised by the emergence of holonic networks that share their successes and failures according to Open Source-principles and with a broad variety of different methodologies that allow us to access why experiments succeed and fail.

The RBE:ists currently are generally delving into a state where they choose to ignore relevant studies regarding history, the world’s resource base and problems encountered in transitions and with human reactions, instead preferring to draw a blank slate over all our experiences and listen to the encouraging words of gurus and visionaries.

It is my conviction as one of the founders of EOS and the organisation’s current director that our road must be one where the burden of proof lies on our shoulders that our transition models work, that we must meticulously test our alternatives on local settings and with computer simulations, that we must seek and find compromises and that the best road forward is one that is inclusive but also transparent and firmly rooted in empirical science.

Currently, RBE:ism is sorely lacking in all these regards, and that is but one of the reasons why we do not call ourselves a RBE:ist movement.

On the meaning of Life

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By Enrique Lescure                

Introduction

Our current civilization does not any more even try to answer what the meaning of life is, though there are three implicit answers. The first answer is “success”, the second answer is “happiness”, and the third answer (which dominates within academia and culture) is that life is “meaningless”. The two first answers are entirely focused on the individual’s role in life, and the third answer is more related to our lack of a common civilizational project.

Do we even continue to try to answer the question of the Meaning of Life? Or is there nothing less left but to focus on one’s own life to avoid staring into the Void of meaningless?

I would argue that the emphasis on individuality and nihlism that underpins much of (post-)modern western culture is slowly degrading our concept of past, present and future, and relieves us of a core that can fill our identities with meaning. On the other hand, spiritual and attempts at holistic explanations of existence have most often resulted in oppression and exclusion of individuals from the common ground of existence.

I believe that we need to transform ourselves into a new culture (like many others within academia and within the culture sector). But this process I believe needs to be profoundly based on construction of a new base for human identity – what it means to be a human being on this our Earth, rather than deconstruction.

I would argue that instead of trying to understand the term “meaning of life” in a rational manner, we should try to reach it through experiencing life, and that rather than Life standing on the fundament of a Meaning with a big M, any meanings in the Cosmos – no matter what they are and how you choose to pursue them – is but a part of the greater kaleidoscope of Life with a big L.

The basis of existence

epicroad.com

epicroad.com

From the dawn of our ancestors when they first stood up and looked towards the stars, humans have been more than just economic creatures. Early tribal societies (of which many still are existing on the planet) imagined the world as imbued with spiritual meaning, and consisting of more than just the world that our five senses could monitor. Shamans could access the other-dimensional realm through chanting and hallucinogenic drugs like Ayahuasca (banisteriopsis caapi). This allowed them to gaze into their own minds in an altered state, but also opened up the opportunity for human imagination and therefore the opportunity for culture to develop.

Today, science have revealed real and hypothetical dimensions which we could not have imagined half a million years ago, like the sub-atomic Quantum world which forms our existence but yet does not adhere to the Einsteinian theories of General Relativity, and like the hypothetical string dimensions. We have also realised just how small we are in comparison to the Universe.

Early human beings had no sophisticated tools or scientific teachings to guide them. All they had to judge their reality was their minds and what they could see around them. Since most human beings work on the basis of a Theory of Mind, where they ascribe to other individuals the same emotions and thoughts as themselves. Some researchers mean that Theory of Mind explains the origin of the first religions. When the tiger ate children for example, it was not interpreted as the tiger being hungry, but that the tribe had wronged the tiger in some way, by for example either over-hunting in the area, or by not making the correct rituals.

The same for natural phenomena like lightning, volcano eruptions, fire and earthquakes. These events were seen as a sign of displeasure, and soon the early humans came to imagine that there existed spiritual beings which interacted with them and held tremendous powers. These beings became angry or pleased with how humans acted. In many ways, the morality and Super-ego (Freudian term) of the collective consciousness of the tribe came to be associated with these spirits – which eventually turned into more or less antropomorphised deities.

The meaning of life in primordial societies (which we can study because there still are existing stone-age cultures on Earth), was largely centered around the idea that there was a spiritual world, inhabited by animal spirits, nature spirits and ancestors, and that the delineations between these groups were fluid. These realms could be accessed by shamans and those initiated in the mysteries, and could also make contact with people through dreams. Therefore, it followed that the meaning for the individual was to live in balance with his or her local environment, and to act for the survival of the group.

Spiritual Pessimism; The Traditionalist outlook

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Civilization has existed on Earth for 12,000 years, but only for the last third of this period do we have any written records, which makes it difficult to access what cultural and mental processes that happened during the 8.000 year transition between hunter-gatherer societies and city-states with strong central governments, cadres of bureaucrats and developed state religions, which we arguably can find both in the early Egyptian, Sumerian and Harappa civilizations. The author Robert Graves has hypothesized that during this period, matriarchal and patriarchal cultures were in a state of conflict, and that the mythologies we learn about in Latin classes are derived from this conflict, though his views have been criticised due to conflicting archaeological records.

By the time that written language had been established in the Middle East, in India and in China, there was already a shared mythos of loss and sadness (JRR Tolkien partially based his fantasy mythos around early mythologies), and all cultures – no matter whether Greek, Aramean, Mesopotamian, Iranian, Indian and Sinic – were centered around the idea that reality was a process of near-constant degeneration. Originally, humanity arose in a Golden Age, when we lived in harmony with nature and with the Gods, did not have to work, and all humans were morally upright.

Either through an act of Original Sin (Christian and Islamic interpretation) or through the unstoppable tide of time (Hinduism, Eastern Teachings), we started to degenerate and separate ourselves from the divine and spiritual reality. All traditional Eurasian cultures were built on the dichotomy of Spirituality vs Matter, where the first was seen as pure and the second seen as filthy. There was also a latent conflict between Civilization – which was seen as ordered, masculine and patriarchal – and Nature, defined as chaotic, feminine and matriarchal (an inversion of the hunter-gatherer’s reverance of Mother Nature and feminine spirits).

feudalThe agricultural civilizations of pre-industrial Eurasia were also strictly hierarchical, and not only in an economic sense. Human beings were being seen as being of different spiritual quality due to their heritage. Kings and Nobles were seen as spiritually superior beings to warriors, which were seen as spiritually superior to commoners. The lowest social status was either given to peasants (as in Europe) or merchants (as in many eastern cultures).

It can be seen as moving against the Christian and Islamic doctrines of equality before God/Allah, but many pre-monotheistic social beliefs survived the ascent of Monotheism. The touch and saliva of the French King was thought to cure Leprosy and Blindness for example, and this ritual during the coronation of Reims was held as late as the 18th century, when the world stood ready for the Industrial Revolution.

It can be said that the world-view of traditionalist societies of Eurasia was based on a dualism between spirit and matter, masculine and feminine, and that the meaning of life for the individual was to fulfill their assigned role in the community, and for the community as a whole to adhere to the moral and spiritual values of the Tradition. This was however seen as partially futile, since the world was headed towards more and more spiritual degeneration anyway. At the end however, the world would be burnt by a Destroyer (Jesus/Isa in Christian/Islamic eschatology, Kalki in Hindu myths), and reborn as a pure spiritual place where the minority of survivors would live in harmony with the Divine Principles.

Thus, the world is seen as imperfect, tainted and impure, and humanity is seen to be on a degrading journey towards lower and lower levels of spirituality.

Optimism; The Modern Vision (1648 – 1945)

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It could be said that modernism was born after the destruction of medieval Europe, and died after the Second World War, which were two events that have served to define what we today know as “the Western Civilization“. During the latter half of the 17th century, Religion had exhausted itself in Europe – both as the foundation for political ideologies and as the value system. This was partially due to the growth of the wealth of the urban burghers and traders at the expense of landed and ecclestial nobility – but would most likely not have happened if it wasn’t for the Wars of Religion which had been fought since Martin Luther’s Reformation.

These Wars transformed Europe, both ideologically and socially. They were extremely destructive, and saw to it that the population of Central Europe imploded. Out of the ruins emerged a new order with centralising nation-states, absolute monarchies and a reversal of the roles of Church and State. During this era, the mechanical and scientific revolutions began, as well as the beginning of Enlightenment Thought.

The world was increasingly seen as an automated clockwork, and not a process directed by an intelligent Creator. Animals and plants were seen as operating and self-replicating machines, and were deprived of any spiritual or moralistic meanings – and more and more areas became the subject of scientific inquiry. The world was fragmented into academic disciplines, which were increasingly separated from one another. As this process continued through the generations, it gradually transformed Western Civilization from the medieval Christian values towards the modern outlook, the trinity of Science, Liberal Democracy and Market Liberalism. 904f23b4cdf1ddd143fc3b42a96f82d9

Characteristic for the outlook of these values was a sense of Optimism, that we were going to use reason and our mental faculties to solve all social problems, and that this would inevitably turn into a united Earth ruled by progressive values, as outlined by amongst others H.G Wells and Karl Marx.

This world is basically the world envisioned by Buckminster Fuller and by TV Series like Jetsons and Star Trek, the world of flying cars, mega-skyscrapers and pristine modernist landscapes, where people are living homogenously in sleek habitats which are designed for a maximum of comfort. It was partially realised through public housing in the Western World and throughout the old Eastern Bloc.

The meaning of life according to Modernism was to transform the world into a Utopia, and to eliminate all social ills and achieve the highest possible standard of life for all human beings. Marxism-Leninism and Fascism were both modernist ideologies which revolted against the Liberalism which had been dominant during the 19th century.

Nihilism; The Post-Modern Nightmare

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

Already Friedrich Nietzsche warned that the focus on rationality and scientific enlightenment could lead to a loss of meaning of the human existence. Collectively, this process came into fruition during and following the World Wars, when human beings were slaughtered on an industrial level (in the US, Vietnam played a bit of the same role at a latter phase). Post-modernism rejected the idea of continuous progress, and even the very definition of progress. But while deconstructing the progress paradigm, Post-modernism offered no constructive alternative for human existence, or the human relationship with society and with existence.

While the existentialists have offered Liberty of Choice (in a “meaningless world”) as a credo, the main message of our rihannaCivilization is (of course) not that humans should rebel against the institutions, but that they should (implicitly) strive towards certain ideals, not for society as a whole to live by, but for themselves. These implicit ideals are bombarded into our minds through city billboards, neon signs, TV, Radio and the Internet, and are centered around the Cult of the Celebrity.

This “individualistic consumerism” is based around the life opportunities of human beings in societies with large middle classes, and is targeted towards the creation of life-styles which people adopt as their identity. This means that a person’s identity inside Western Civilization is defined not out of the person’s relationship with themselves, with their community or with reality, but rather from their relationship to commodities and brands.

In terms of a wider meaning, it is implicitly stated that the society we are living in today has largely reached its final form, and that the struggles which are left are emancipatory – to include oppressed minorities inside this middle class (which becomes evermore and more fictious as the debt bubbles are growing and growth is stagnating). In terms of revolutions in other countries, the implicit purpose of these revolutions according to the ideals professed by our civilization is that these countries and cultures should move towards Individualized Consumerism and become a part of what will one day become a one-world civilization.

Our message; Life is meaningful

Nathan Spotts

Nathan Spotts

Imagine for a moment a Universe with no life at all. Only a frozen void, stars strown around too far from one another, and lonely rocks whirling around slowly throughout space, existing for no one to ever see or experience. No emotions of love, passion, only an eternal lonely coldness.

Then, on one barren world, in a single driplet of water, something happens…

Life is meaningful, because it offers us the opportunity to create ourselves. It offers us the opportunity to grow, to learn, to spread our wings and fly. Without life, there would be no experiences, no emotions, no culture, no myths, no songs. Nothing. There would be no diversity of living beings. There would be no joy in sunrises, in strawberries, and in the stars strown above the sky – many of which also have beautiful worlds where friends we have not yet met are living.

The Universe is not barren. It is very likely that it is teeming with Life, an eternal symphony of a Billion worlds. Or, we might be alone in the Cosmos, but that only makes Life the more valuable if that was the case. Thenceforth, we must protect worlds with Life, and carry them like our children.galaxy_collision

Life is the most wonderful, most valuable thing in all of Cosmos, and it is its own meaning. The meaning is to branch out, to grow, to spread Life where there is none, and to turn barren worlds into beautiful Terras and Gardenworlds. It is valuable because it offers us the opportunity to exist, to feel, to think and to create. What turns life “ugly” and “meaningless” is not Life in itself, but the way in which we have created abstract cultural and social values to limit ourselves, while in truth we should create our values around Life.

We have – as an intelligent Civilization and as intelligent, empathic beings – one responsibility. And that responsibility is to create around us the best possible conditions for Life to flourish. It is unworthy of Humanity to destroy the planet, in the service of maximising economic growth. To deplete our fresh water reservoirs, destroy the eco-systems, erode our soils, murder the Oceans, spread mono-cultures and disturb the climate on Earth.

We are incredibly powerful beings today, and we have the capacity to create a sustainable civilization on Earth. But first we need to have a value system that puts Life in itself as the foundation of our existence. We can learn about and explore Cosmos, and in the future we might even meet other races from beyond the Stars. At the end, we might find ourselves as a part of a Milky Way Galaxy filled with advanced civilizations that all represent a wonderful diversity that goes further than what human imagination could fathom.

The meaning of being human should be to guard Life, to create the conditions to make Life flourish, and to enjoy Life, because Life is beautiful.

And there does not need to be an abstract meaning beyond that.

On Anarcho-Primitivism; or “why we need a civilization”

Wizards, 1977

Wizards, 1977

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

“why can’t we fight and win, Mommy?”
“Because they have
weapons and technology.
we just have love.
” ~ Quote from Wizards, 1977.

Sometimes, it feels like I shouldn’t need to write some posts. Yet, evidently, some posts have to be written, since there apparently are ideas floating around that can be picturesque and charming when applied to arts, morality tales, philosophy and spirituality, but would undoubtly sow confusion the moment someone starts to seriously advocate these ideas as a correct way of thinking, not only for oneself but for all of society, we will start to get into trouble.

I am of course referring to an ideology known as “anarcho-primitivism”, which from a shallow glance can appear deeply sympathetic, but which intellectually and ideologically is a dead end.

Culturally however, anarcho-primitivism has had influence both within academia and within popular culture. My personal take on the issue is that anarcho-primitivism is interesting as an intellectual experiment, but an actual programme to change the world based from anarcho-primitivism would resemble a trainweck without a wheel on the swamps – which I suspect is one of the deeper meanings.

Reason and passion

Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century

Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century

Culturally speaking, European civilization (which later would evolve into the western civilization) stood at a crossroads in the early 19th century, with one boot in the feudal past and one in the industrial future. It is probably well-known by everyone that the 19th century saw two political conflicts erupt – one regarding ancient privileges contra increased political representation (semi-egalitarian), and another regarding the economic rights of workers and poor people, leading to the evolution of parliamentarism and trade unions respectively.

One struggle which however also was highly visible (though decidely less bloody) than the other two was fought in the realm of culture, and formed around whether the world should be conceptualised through reason or emotion. During the 18th century, following the collapse of medieval Christendom during the wars of religion of the preceding two centuries, the Age of Reason blossomed. This trend in science, literature and aesthetics was partially a result of the end of the Reformation in 1648 and the mechanical/scientific revolution spearheaded by the likes of Galileo and Newton.

The Age of Reason cultivated several literary and cultural concepts still in use today. The foundation of the enlightenment was the idea that the methodologies of the mechanical revolution could be applied on social and political issues of the day. Instead of viewing states as mystical entities ruled by God-ordained sovereigns, the 18th century philosophers increasingly came to see the state as a social contract and as a machine devised to achieve certain aims, much like a clockwork.

This was a culmination of a trend which began with the likes of Descartes, Newton and Locke, who transformed the view of the world from the work of an inscrutable Creator who worked through miracles into a clockwork, de-mystifying reality, replacing mysteries with science and reducing the world from a living embodiment of God’s creation into matter which reacted and worked according to predictable mathematical and chemical patterns.

When the de-mystification had destroyed the ideology of Divine Right which governed Europe’s absolutist

A modern example of the

A modern example of the “noble savage genre”, James Cameron’s Avatar, 2010

monarchies, it was just a matter of time before France flared up. During the late 18th century, a trend towards embracing passion and the storms of the heart had flared up within enlightenment thought, embodied both by the philosophy of Rousseau and by the growing “noble savage” genre which celebrated triumphs on both sides of the English channel.

During the Revolutionary Era of 1776 to 1815 and beyond (towards the Greek Revolution of 1823 and the French July Revolution), the ideology of Liberalism (a product of Age of Reason-thought) was fuelled by a deep-seated passion. Leaders like Robespierre and poets like Byron were all burning with indignant passion and defiance, and struggled for largely the same ideals, namely the overthrowing of tyrants and the expression of the will of the people. As late as during the latter half of the 19th century, revolutionary leaders like Garibaldi were still drawing air from the same tendencies.

During the period immediately following the Bourbon restoration in France (1815), reactionary and conservative authors, composers and painters started to create a discourse where reason and enlightenment was seen as depriving the world from its true meaning – a spiritual and mystical meaning which could not be understood with intellect, only with emotions. The Middle Ages, previously seen as “the dark ages”, were glorified and seen as an age when magic, honour and spirituality prevailed. This trend affected most of Europe deeply, and resonated deepest of all in Germany.

It should be noted here already that it is not to me intrinsically a matter of reason versus passion, as for example this anti-nazi cartoon tried to convey, but rather that there have been historical periods when people due to technological and social trends have come to view reason and passion as being in conflict with one another. This today holds true for example for the New Atheists, of whom some tend to view passion in itself as a negative thing, and for some sci-fi authors who tend to hold predominantly the same worldview (one example is Robert Sawyer’s Quintaglio and Hominids trilogies).

Speaking of nazis, the second time when movements started to emerge that questioned reason and progress was during the 1910’s, 1920’s and 1930’s. The second half of the 19th century was not only a golden age for technological innovations, economic growth and urbanisation (and also for colonialism, racism, growing social inequality and genocides not to forget), but also for a conviction that the world was definetly moving towards a better, more advanced and more progressive society. Sci-fi authors like Jules Verne and H.G Wells were highly popular.

The First World War shattered this reality, and fragmented the ordered world indefinetly moving towards greater prosperity. In its stead came a world which was highly contested between various groups, ranging from ultra-progressives to ultra-reactionaries. Fascism and National Socialism had different roots, but came to be expressed through similar rhetoric, namely a sense of abandoning “bourgeois individualism” and becoming as one with the Nation, to be able to be released from alienation.

Alienation as a concept started to become popular in the 19th century, but its usage exploded in the early 20th century. A sense of being lost dominated many societies, and entire cultures searched for new identities to be re-baptised and reborn in. These tendencies are however not excluded to the industrial era, and has been prevalent in all high cultures (otherwise religions like Buddhism and Christianity would not have emerged).

The United States liberated Western Europe from Fascism, and in many ways came to inherit the Western World. A society more culturally cohesive than Europe, which had sustained far less damage by the world wars, had managed to preserve the optimism of the late 19th century, and even build on it.

The breakthrough of mass media, the successful social revolts of the 1960’s and the inability of the US army to win 937613_f520the Vietnam War did however lead towards questioning of the ideology of constant progress. In Europe, this questioning had led to the birth of totalitarian, far-right and far-left movements. In the US, the response was a loose libertarian-leftist subculture more directed by fashion and by memes than any political leaders or even political movements.

The green wave, which came to influence Europe during the 1970’s and 1980’s, began in the US during the 1960’s. The green wave, like any other wave, was of course influenced from many roots, and its seeds were taken up by many movements and individuals. Awareness grew that industrialism and emissions had many negative effects on the environment. Two books worth mentioning from this era are Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, which both have been hugely influential.

The roots of anarcho-primitivism can be found in the US.

The anarcho-primitivist case

anarcho-primitive

Anarcho-primitivists argue that the main problem in the world is human civilization itself. With that, they mean that civilization is intrinsically opposed to life on Earth and is only capable of destroying and wrecking eco-systems. Human development is a hubris that will end with civilization exhausting Earth and then collapsing, hopefully leading to a humans yet again embracing nature and establishing egalitarian societies.

According to anarcho-primitivism, pre-civilisationary societies are generally egalitarian, have little violence and healthy social environments characterised by inclusion and no sense of alienation. Like in some forms of marxism, alienation is a tremendously important concept within anarcho-primitivism, and denotes the human sense of being alienated from the genuine natural existence.

Anarcho-primitivists are divided into two factions. While being a small movement (or rather trend, since anarcho-primitivists tend to be organised in mainstream green organisations or in leftist organisations), most anarcho-primitivists are peaceful and claim that civilization will collapse by its own right. A small minority are doing violent direct action, either individually or through groups, though it is significantly rarer today than in the 90’s, which were a sort of heyday for violent direct activism.

The case against anarcho-primitivism  ~ Why we need a civilization

index

Anarcho-primitivists are correct in the matter that our current civilization is unsustainable. However, there is a broad generalisation on their part that civilization in itself will automatically develop along a linear course towards collapse, and that there is nothing we can do apart from abandoning civilization as a concept that can salvage us. I will address this point later, but now I will move towards anarcho-primitivists who argue for violent resistance in order to overthrow civilization and establish an egalitarian gatherer society.

Firstly, there will soon be nine billion human beings on this planet. When agriculture and civilization was first born in the Middle East 12.000 years ago, there were around 10 million human beings on the planet. For all what it was worth, that was probably the upper limit during that time. If we are generous, we can say that the planet is warmer today and therefore (if we disregard environmental destruction) we can perhaps feed 25 million people today would we all live as hunter-gatherers.

This would mean that most of humanity today would starve, and while a few humans always will be suicidal, humans in general want to maximise their own chances at survival. Therefore, even if we disregard the ignorant (or worse; callous) assumption that the abolishment of civilization will usher in a golden era of tribal egalitarianism, we can safely presume that humans in general will try to survive.

Therefore, no matter if civilization is overthrown by anarcho-primitivist revolutionaries or “collapses” as predicted by anarcho-primitivist philosophers and ideologists, billions of humans will die, and humans will actively struggle against the abolishment of their infrastructure (which provides non-lethal water, warmth, cooling, healthcare, vaccinations, food and – to paraphrase Zizèk, and so on and so on).

I do in fact part agree with the anarcho-primitivists that civilization can collapse. It has evidently happened before that many high cultures have experienced a collapse, or what scientists call a loss of complexity. This is the key however, a collapse of a civilization does not mean that all technology and infrastructure disappears. Most of us who are alive now have experienced the collapse of a civilization during our lifetime, namely the fall of the Soviet Union (which thankfully was a relatively bloodless collapse). While infrastructure, industry and buildings indeed started to suffer decay in a few regions, what happened was instead a transition towards new economic and political modes.

Maybe the anarcho-primitivists rather have a situation where the infrastructure suffers collapse as a vision or model? I would argue that experiences from that type of collapse, which we also have modern examples of, rather resembles Mel Gibson’s The Road Warrior than Kevin Costner’s Dances with the wolves.

Nowadays, there is a growing club of failed states, where infrastructure is helplessly decaying, where hospitals are Somaliaturned into fortresses and where the market for AK47’s are growing. Somalia. Yemen. Congo. Libya. Syria. All countries where society has fractured and where a massive loss of complexity is experienced.

Anarcho-primitivists perhaps would argue that this kind of collapse is symptomatic of “Civilization”. However, according to anarcho-primitivists, the fall of “Civilization” is in itself symptomatic for “Civilization”.

There are indeed examples of societies where economic collapses and crises led to a greater deal of solidarity between the citizens, like for example in Argentina when workers during the 2002-2003 currency crisis occupied factories and continued to produce goods. The type of collapse envisioned by anarcho-primitivists however is in itself a far more reaching variation of the type of collapse experienced in countries in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

A summary of the practical arguments against the feasibility of anarcho-primitivism could be that anarcho-primitivism ignores the population issue (a population in the billions are dependent on a high-tech civilization to provide for them) and also that the collapse of civilization won’t mean that people suddenly lose knowledge of technology – especially not martial technology. This all means that a collapse will rather mean that the current civilization will be replaced by a less complex culture characterized by more brutish social relations.

However, this answer – while it repudiates anarcho-primitivism as a practical answer – does little to deprive the primitivists of the moral high ground. After all, are not anarcho-primitivists defining “Civilization” in terms of how it distorts human nature rather than the buildings and infrastructure?

The allure of Eden

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The human being lived in blissfull ignorance, sheltered in a bountiful garden where everything was flowing with abundance. Alas, she ate the forbidden fruit and was cast out of Eden, judged to toil and suffer within the shackles of human society.

Eden. The lost world, and the lost innocence.

The moral claim of anarcho-primitivism is alike that of the myth of that fabled garden. The lost unity with God’s presence is replaced with the lost unity with one another and with Nature. The moral imperative is that we are impure because we are believed to have rejected our animalistic roots and embraced enlightenment.

Very much alike fire-and-brimstone preachers, anarcho-primitivists are condemning humanity, that we need to suffer so a few elect shall be able to turn to their natural sense of unity and wholeness with nature. This longing is as much an internal psychological need as an ideological conviction. The problem with primitivism is that the primitivist does not only believe that they themselves would be happier living in a cottage collective without electricity and running water, but that everyone would be happier with that, and that all humans deep inside want that.

This idea is not unique for anarcho-primitivism. The longing for lost innocence and childhood follows throughout human history and have formed the basis for many teachings.

Apotheosis – the answer of EOS

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The anarcho-primitivists do not really believe that we can stop destroying our planet, nor do many of them really want to try. The reason why is that if we humans prove capable of doing so, the hated concept of civilization will also survive, and thus negate the core tenets of anarcho-primitivism (that we must repent).

Thus, anarcho-primitivism offers no answer on how we should move forward from the crisis that we have allowed our current socio-economic system to place us all in.Cheering_crowd_in_a_concert

We, The Earth Organisation of Sustainability, on the other hand, believes in the human race. We believe that we have the power to take control over the situation and transition towards a sustainable future. We believe that humanity can and will ascend towards a Type-1 civilization, and that we will accept that what we do today will affect the evolution of Life on Earth for millions of years. We believe that we will transcend towards a civilization where we have grown to realize that what truly matters in the Universe is Life, and Life-bearing Earths.

There is nothing which we cannot do.

We can and we will solve the social problems on the planet. We can and we will end the wars. We can and we will create a world where all human beings and all communities can live in dignity, liberty and diversity within what the Earth can provide. In this world, anarcho-primitivists can and will have the freedom to live in their communities according to their ideals, and also have the freedom to choose to leave their communities.

Anarcho-primitivism rejects human culture, human curiousity, human questioning and human personality, instead opting for us abandoning our humanity and returning to nature. But is not our humanity ultimately derived from nature itself, and a testament to nature’s ingenuity and diversity?

What we want is for humanity to make a choice.

A choice to form a sustainable civilization on Earth, that can provide all humans with a good quality of life, autonomy, diversity, human rights and freedom to realise themselves. And we believe that humanity is ultimately capable of transcending, and that we will continue to transcend, beyond the stars.

And our light will reach the farthest star.

On direct democracy

maremonti-istra.hr

maremonti-istra.hr

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

This is a continuation of my thoughts regarding the previous article, but this time focusing on democratic and political participation within political frameworks. My reasoning herein is based both on practical and normative frameworks. I am however well aware that I will move deep into normative territory for this post, and therefore – to not be accused for inconsistency later on – I will hereby state that structural organisation of the direction of the public political will is partially dependent on the concrete situation that we are/that we will face within a certain amount of time. Therefore, what applies under an ideal state of dynamic equilibrium may not apply during times of emergency (and I would argue that we are entering such a time of emergency).

One such issue, is the issue of being able to make decisions quickly. While quick decisions may not be anchored in the civil community, they can be necessary under conditions such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and volcanoes. It could be argued that the crises of climate change and the destruction of eco-systems, soil and freshwater represents a very slow but persistent on-going disaster, and that – politically speaking – we may even be in need of temporal arrangements that are more centralized and organises larger groups of communities than before. This can in itself be problematic however, since the scars of emergency measures are difficult to heal and near-impossible to remove.

This post is intended to be far happier than that, and discuss how I think constitutional and political systems ought to be organised.

The issue of scale

tech.co

tech.co

When asked upon what my ideal country is, being an active member of EOS and so, I usually half-jokingly state that it is San Marino. The reasoning of course is not based on ideology, economic or social policies or even the kind of democratic system the Sanmarinese people are using, but on size.

I believe that the size of polities have both quantitative and qualitative aspects that can probably be measured.

The reason why is that your vote is mattering more in a smaller political context, in terms of what influence you have as a voter and as a member of the citizenry. Mathematically speaking, you have far more influence over the political future as a member of the Swedish electorate than as a member of the electorate to the European Parliament, or as an American citizen voting in US federal elections.

Size can also be understood in terms of space, in this case geographic space. For example, if your government is located in a capitol far away from you, it is likely that it would focus more on the regions adjacent to the capitol region, rather than peripheral regions. It is also more likely that elites are drawn from urban regions where the government is located, due to proximity to the power-brokers themselves and to the institutions that create a new elite generation.

A third factor is that communitarianism is completely impossible within political contexts that consist of hundreds of millions of people. When I travelled to Russia in 2003, there was an insurgent attack against civilians in the North Caucasus region. Our Russian hosts did not mind it very much, and reacted much like how Swedes react to earthquakes in Turkey and Greece. This does not imply that Russians are defective, but rather that humans in general are predisposed towards emotional investment with those that they view as closer to themselves.

That also holds true of items and projects that people engage in. One example is how well the Israeli Kibbutzim system worked in the early phase of its history, contra the atrocious results of the Soviet Kolchoz system. In the Kibbutzim, volunteers driven by an ideological conviction and unified by a common identity struggled together to form cooperatives, whereas the Kolchoz system was the result of farmers being forced to give away what they’ve worked for themselves to the state, and then being forcefully relocated into collective farms which had no freedom in determining their own identity, and no freedom of movement.

A smaller example is for example youth halls in vulnerable neighbourhoods, that constantly get vandalised. However, when the youths partake in the construction or renovation of the youth hall, it is more unlikely that it will face vandalism (at least for that generation of youths).

What we can see for a pattern here is that the commitment of people is growing when they are allowed a greater opportunity to participate in processes that shape their lives.

How to disinherit enfranchisement

Parliamentary and Republican democracy as concepts did not emerge overnight, but gradually evolved during the 19th century, with landed, religious, political and moneyed elites gradually releasing more and more power to parts of the public to determine policy. Despite that, elites have still a key to keeping power and be able to project their interests before the interests of the majority, by forming electoral systems that serve to cement their rule and to channel in potential or real opposition into the mainstream of power rejuvenation.

I could write a lengthy segment about that, but I prefer to instead share an excellent youtube video which describes some of these processes.

On another note, indirect democracy and party structures in themselves are problematic from a democratic perspective. The reason why is, like it has been pointed out before by Tiberius Gracchus, that an elected representative can vote against their own promises in an election when they are in power. One recent example from Sweden was when Fredrik Federley, a popular and intelligent young Centre politician, made statements and speeches which indicated that he would protect integrity on the Internet and prevent legislation that would increase surveillance.

In 2008, two years after being elected to the Riksdag, the elective body voted on a highly unpopular law which would subject cellphone conversations and mail exchanges to

frihetsveckan.se

frihetsveckan.se

storage by the Radio Interception Unit of the military security (FRA). Federley intended to vote against the law, but rescinded at the last moment (if that was not a political theatre), and then voted for the law, despite having ran a successful personal campaign two years before intending to protect the personal integrity of his voters.

The same can be applied for Obama and his promise of an executive decision to close Guantanamo Bay (which still is running, six years into his presidency).

Some actions, such as a vote or an executive order, which at first glance seem easy to pass through, are shown to be difficult – while other decisions, such as carrying through unpopular international agreements, seem to be near inevitable. Right now for example, the US and the EU are negotiating a massive free trade agreement (TTIP), of which we are none the wiser about the details. A few charming tidbits indicate that this agreement will contain a clause that will give corporations the right to sue governments if governments install regulations that will hurt the profitability of the corporations – in short placing corporate profit interests above popular will.

Some things, such as human rights, ecological concerns and core values have to be placed over popular will at all times. However, corporate profits can hardly apply to that club. Rather, the issue of corporate profits reminds of the idea that the state should subsidise prostitution so everyone can have sex. Profits are not a right, for the sake of Gaia!

Anyway, this rant aside, we can see that electoral cycles and parliamentarism are hardly a guarantee to popular sovereignty. Governments and politicians are more often than not left unscathed by the breaks in their electoral promises, especially not since major issues like the FRA law or TTIP often enjoy bipartisan support both from the centre-right and from the centre-left. Such agreements can almost only be delayed by mass protests, but soon reappear under other names.

TTIP is essential, you understand. Economists estimate that it can increase the GDP of the European Union with 0,5%.

What do we suggest then? Revolutionary councils?

Direct Democracy, City-States and Cantons

Catalan Independence Rally In Barcelona

To reconnect to the first segment of this article, I would strongly recommend that we move forward as suggested in The Design with a confederational approach. While we do not suggest the break-up of nation-states, a good idea to strengthen the sovereignty of the citizenry would be to perhaps focus more on regions and cities, and less on huge political entities, divesting more power locally or regionally.

This can also cause problems of course. For example, education and healthcare are today so complex and resource-intense endeavours that small entities may be unable to deliver good quality. The solution would then be for local units to move these aspects up to the regional or sub-confederational level (to not speak of that how EOS sees it, healthcare would be managed through the technate, and education at least partially through the technate, which of course would be based on similar de-centralised principles).

What we can see before us is a world consisting of various type of political entities. Republics, city-states, communes, cantons, condominiums, collectives, regions,

inhabitat.com

inhabitat.com

confederations, sea nomads, virtual nations, micro-nations and even constitutional monarchies. A diverse, colourful world where a multitude of differing social models are tested out simultaneously.

We imagine that many of these entities would employ forms of direct democracy, where all the citizens have a direct seat and a vote in the legislative council. Of course, there would be politically elected officials presiding the legislative council, but their role would mostly be to enact the decisions of the legislature (as a side note, in my home city of Umea, northern Sweden, the municipality has recently decided to abolish the opportunity of citizens to write sign lists for citizen proposals).

Some would claim that direct democracy would create a wild, uncontrollable situation. People can vote in all kinds of insane things, such as free ice-cream or to establish Europe’s largest homeopathic hospital. People, they argue, cannot be trusted with political power, since they would only vote short-sighted and for their immediate needs.

If we look at Switzerland, however, where referendums are generously employed, we can see that most of the referendums become clear victories of the Nay-side. I believe there might be several reasons behind that. Firstly, public opinion is generally more cautious and less active than the activists writing platforms for political parties. Secondly, politicians are often driven by personal ambition, and aim to change laws not only because they believe it would be good for society, but also because of their personal legacy. Ordinary citizens generally do not think about their personal legacy when voting in a referendum.

Constitutionalism

Another problem can be when a political legislature wants to repress a segment of their population, or members of another legislature, or wants to prohibit free speech, imagemovement or violate personal rights. After all, almost 40% of the Germans voted for Hitler in 1932 (the first election, not the second). Sadly, religious bigotry, sexism, racism, psychopathy and exploitation have existed in human societies for millennia, and EOS (unlike TVP for example) do not ascribe to the ideas of Descartes and Skinner that human behaviour can be engineered into anything by the environment. The human condition is one of being able to hold on to ideals and failing to adhere to them, of both love and war.

Therefore, to have a wildly divergent confederational structure demands that all the differing groups adhere to one constitution. This constitution would not be based on forms of legislatures, but on common principles and core values. Groups that don’t want to follow it have the choice of not opting in, and those who violate it can very well be kicked out of the Confederation (there are a few problems with that which I would probably address in a future post).

A flawed beta-version exists in the form of the old NET charter.

Pan-terranism

Our main idea is not to see a world of warring city-states, but an umbrella of thousands of local and regional authorities joined together by sub-confederations that in their turn

evolo.us

evolo.us

form the basis for a world conderation – a United Earth. Why would this be necessary? The answer lies in the Constitution. There needs to be a body that oversees that all the members adhere to the principles of the Constitution. The World Confederation would not necessarily have any other tasks at hand.

The Confederation would probably never consist of all of the planet either, since it is built on voluntary agreements. But if the technate works and expands throughout communities, the confederation would naturally expand too. Of course, a community can choose to not be a part of the confederation while being a part of the technate, and the other way around as well.

Communities should be able to link up however, wherever they happen to be, and then form their own sub-confederations.

Pan-terranism is not the same as a global federation or a New World Order, which as concepts generally are built on the idea of a unipolar centre, governed through a power pyramid of military, corporate and financial power, which is imposing an iron grip over humanity. Rather, Pan-terranism as an ideal is a vision of a horizontal alignment between autonomous entities which each contribute valuable parts of the collective experience that is humanity. Within the Terran Technate and the Terran Confederation, there could be room for a diverse variety of cultures, sub-cultures, ethnicities, collectives and experiments.

Green Anarchists, Amish and Deep-greens may prefer to live in rural, non-technological pristine societies, while transhumanists might want to live in floating city-states or orbital stations. Both needs can be fulfilled simultaneously within the same political framework.

Some people might prefer to live in sexually liberated zones where they walk around naked, while others might want to adhere to stricter norms.

Some would like calm communities, while others would want to live on eternal night clubs.

Some would be nomads, others would be dwelling in virtual worlds constantly.

And some would of course live in towns, villages and cities which look virtually identical to today, but which are ecologically sustainable.

If you don’t like your community, there would always exist a community where you would fit in. And if you don’t want to be a part of the Terran Technate and the Terran Confederation, you would not have to.

Of course, we would not be able to realise this vision within our life-time, but we are convinced that the world is moving in our direction, technologically and politically.

But sadly not fast enough at the moment.

On de-centralization and distribution: The arguments for a holonic system

taken from inhabitat.com

taken from inhabitat.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

One of the major differences between EOS and the so-called RBE organisations, is that EOS aims very strongly for de-centralisation of power. During the time we studied the texts from Technocracy Incorporated, we often had feisty debates where the issues were anascopic vs katascopic systems. The people we debated it claimed that the future must be based on katascopic systems for a post-scarcity society to work.

EOS, or NET as we were named back then, argumented that distributed systems held a larger degree of resilience, and also allowed for people to better be able to contribute in accordance with their talents, creativity and limitations. We were told that was an anascopic way of doing things. We are also arguing that is applicable to democratic and political participation (chapter 5, pg 14, The Design).

So what is this debate about, and what does the terms mean? That is what this article is about.

Anascopic & Katascopic – distribution vs centralisation

permanentcrisis.blogspot.com

permanentcrisis.blogspot.com

During the early 20th century, it was generally assumed that the world was moving towards more and more centralisation and mass production, which was correct at that time. That was also seen as highly desirable, since it allowed for more production and more efficiency. This process culminated in the establishment of the world’s first (industrial) command economy, in the USSR in 1927.

The main principle for this type of economy, no matter if it is a mega-corporation or a stalinist state, is that there is a hierarchical pyramid consisting of echelons of decision-making, that distribute requests to subdivisions which then carry out the production orders. You are familiar with it from most classical corporations.

According to the proponents, this model allows for the effective coordination of large resources, that can be pooled into massive projects that in scope can dwarf that what smaller organisations are undertaking. Also, it would allow resources to be effectively distributed to the subdivisions so they can undertake their aims.

This same principle applied for the old hydraulic empires (chiefly Egypt) during the Bronze Age.

Does this claim hold?

Arguably, like everything else, the answer is both yes and no. Large, centralised organisations are effective at mobilizing resources and achieving grand quantitative results. It takes shorter time for a country that is utilising a centrally planned economy have become industrialized somewhat quicker than countries that have been employing a more market-oriented approach (it is only when countries have achieved an industrialized state that planned economies start to lag behind). Mega-corporations are also today the largest holders of resources on the planet aside from the financial institutions and banks (though some mega-corps, namely within the tech business are experimenting with less centralised models).

On the other hand, the centralized model holds many flaws as well. You all are well-aware of the short-comings of the command economies of the old Socialist Bloc, which do not need to be reiterated here. The same problems, to a smaller extent, are existing within large, centralised mega-corporations. For example, a classical problem for the management of subdivisions is that funding is often reduced if the subdivision is not using up its entire share of money from one year’s budget, which can incentivize the acquisition of new chairs or computers for the department, despite that it would not represent any tangible upgrade. Since corporations – unlike countries – tend to run at a net profit, that is not one of the major problems (the major problem has not so much to do with centralisation as with externalities and effects on the economy on the macro-scale).

Ultimately, it is a case of what effects we desire.

Distributed systems – increased resilience

perfectbluemoon.blogspot.com

perfectbluemoon.blogspot.com

One of the most centralised systems in the history of the Earth was the Incan Empire, basically a command economy (a hydraulic empire minus the hydraulic part), where all decisions were left to the divine figurehead – the Sapa Inca, or God Emperor. The Empire commanded armies of tens of thousands, maintained a road network through the Andine mountains that stretched for thousands of kilometres, rivalling the Roman road network, and had a highly developed and centralised bureaucracy.

The Empire fell when 150 Spaniards under Francisco Pizarro captured the Sapa Inca in Cajamarca in 1532.

A few decades before that, the Florentine philosopher and political scientist Niccólo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that large, centralised structures, like the ancient Achaemenid Empire or the Ottoman Empire, were more prone to collapse if the central authority crumbles, since these structures often force local institutions to submit. Just a few decades ago, an empire which dwarfed both the Incan, Achaemenid and Ottoman empires collapsed – not because of a foreign invasion (it was virtually unconquerable by its possession of enough nuclear arms to turn the Earth into ashes), nor because of a group of conquistadors. It fell because its ruling elite had lost their beliefs in the ideology that glued the Empire together, and were fighting for their own wealth and interests.

I am of course referring to the USSR.

The lesson of this is that centralised structures might be excellent at power projection, but power projection requires much energy and capacity, and is suitable for short-term projects. Such a project could be defined as building one billion units of a specific thing (housing, transport units, kilometres of highway), winning a war or maximising profits for the nearest three months. However, for long-term sustainable projects, or projects that drag out into increased degrees of complexity over time, centralised institutions are badly equipped to respond to the challenge.

Centralised institutions collapse if the centre is incompetently led, is destroyed by external pressure or is isolated from the main body, either by institutional limitations, by external factors or by corruption.

An alternative is to have an entirely distributed system, consisting of multiple autonomous structures that are contained within a network. However, as the history of Feudalism proves, such structures are generally unstable and prone to infighting over where resources should be utilised. What is the strength of de-centralised institutions, is their resilience. If one unit is turning corrupt, inefficient or is outright destroyed by external pressure, other units can quickly distribute the burdens of their fallen co-structure amongst themselves, and the system can thus survive more blows than a centralised, authoritarian system can endure.

The EOS compromise – a holonic system

renewableplus.blogspot.com

renewableplus.blogspot.com

There are two ways to address the issue of centralization contra de-centralization, normative and pragmatic.

The normative approach is intended to ensure that certain key values are enshrined in human interactions. Ultimately, it gives the basis for an ideological view on the world, where matters are settled in relationship to how they correspond to the values of the community, of the elites and how these values can be ensured to manifest themselves in the real world and affect the actions of individuals and groups.

The pragmatic approach is more focused on tangible results. Then these intended results can in themselves be derived from normative values, or partially or wholly affected by concerns that have little to do with normative values.

I would argue that there is seldom a totally and complete division between the normative and pragmatic approaches when constructing and forming systems, but one could differentiate between more normative approaches and more pragmatic approaches.

A normative approach in its own right is entirely or mostly devoid of pragmatic ramifications. The approach exists to exist and be unchangeable and unchallengeable. It should not take into any considerations the reality of the particular spatial or social environments it is operating within.

A pragmatic approach without any normative values embedded within it, would be completely directed towards maximising its chances for survival, unlimited by moral or constitutional limitations.

Thus, we can conclude that if we seek to initiate a constructive process, what we do must be characterised by both normative foundations and a pragmatic, sober outlook on our opportunities to make a significant impact on reality.

Dr Andrew Wallace chose to direct the EOS towards employing the Holonic model as a way to manage systems.

Pragmatic foundation

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The holonic model is adapted as a methodology for what the programming of the new generation of intelligent machines should form in terms of behaviour and processes. In many ways, it is derived from the third or fourth waves of industrialization in the same way as Fordism, Taylorism and Stalinism were derived from the first and second waves. The principle is that there is a network of autonomous nodes which are interconnected within a network and follow the same authoritative programming (as opposed to authoritarian). These nodes are autonomous and can form larger units when and if needs are arising, but can also split off new nodes when there is a need for it.

Within EOS, we believe that this model could be employed within networks consisting of individuals that aim for overarching similar goals.

Ultimately, this system would not work primarily because of sticks and carrots, but would work because it would be insulated by institutional/cultural factors which will need to form organically (as opposed to being constructed) by the limited implementation of holonic systems, where the approaches most in accordance with the stated goals, and with the experiences from implementation, will be developed on, while those forms of processes that doesn’t benefit the goals or values will be abandoned.

The holonic system envisioned by EOS is also based a lot of the cultural and socio-technological environment created by the Internet, where the goal is that all holons within the network should be interconnected by a system called “the Technate”, which in our vision basically is a common registar or mindmap of the network, the available resources and the resource flows between the nodes. Each node must also be communicating with at least another node within the network, and must be transparent.

Nodes that are going corrupt and don’t want to cooperate will be excluded from the system, but through a process where it should be entirely obvious to everyone involved why they are being excluded. Of course, the early implementations of this will fail, for reasons that we cannot foresee now. But for every failure, the system will be able to auto-correct and move ahead, which is the very point of resilience as a concept.

Normative basics

We believe that all human beings should be able to feel that they are participating in society and in a social context. Of course, that does not imply that people should be forced to partake, but most human beings naturally want to feel included. One of the damning social effects of the precariat and youth unemployment is that young people Brookwood stovea whole generation of human beings are growing up under conditions were they feel alienated from their social environment, causing resentment.

We can theoretically, if we focus all our attention on automatization, create a society where only 10-20% of the current labour power is needed. However, under conditions of maximum efficiency, this could have devastating psychological and emotional effects of the very fabric of society.

Human beings need not only to have their material needs satisfied, but should also feel that they are needed. The holonic model will allow for humans to join or exit dynamic project teams, that move together and cooperate on various issues.

Humans also have a need to express their creative potential, and small, autonomous groups give a better opportunity for human beings to express that quality, through cooperation. After all, for millions of years, the ancestors of humanity lived and co-existed in small, autonomous groups.

Summary

The Holonic system envisioned by EOS cannot be described in vivid detail, simply because systems are not formed primarily on the drawing desk, but through real-world interactions between individuals, and between the groups and the environment. There also need to be formed institutions around the structures, which ca imbue them with meaning (and from what I’ve seen, it usually takes two to four generations to form a culture). Nevertheless, with the new technology and with our need to form a sustainable world, we have the opportunity to create a culture that is truly egalitarian and libertarian.

Source: http://www.eoslife.eu/files/Design.pdf

The debate on human nature II; Human Nature in Politics

paleolithic-hunter-gatherers

By Ben Wilson

Causality and human understanding

Imagine twenty thousand years ago, leading a hunting party.

Where regular hunting spots are deserted, because the animals have moved on. A spirit has put a curse on the tribe. Desperately the shaman decides to consult the ancestors by throwing an animal bone into the camp fire. Interpreting the cracks, it leads the hunting party to a previously unexplored location. The hunting is good there and the bone reading technique is used to point to new hunting locations and it consistently works, building a relationship between man and spirits.

Fast forward twenty thousand years, we could cynically point at the narrative that our ancestors created and laugh. However a technique was devised to point them into a new direction, breaking routine behaviours. Having this technique green lit and supported by part of their cultural narrative gave the hunting party a reason and the confidence to use the technique.

If you debated against your incredibly great ancestor, you would be hard pressed if you used methodological or scientific debates. The bone technique does actually work, however the reason why is why you would disagree. You would argue about the random pattern of the bone pointing humans into areas they had not hunted. Whilst your ancestor and scoff saying it was the doing of the ancestors.

Neither fish or bird…

media_47454_en

Now let’s brings this to the modern era. Human nature is a common catch all term and the definition I would understand it as is common traits, thoughts and behaviours that all humans have regardless of culture.

It’s an interesting term and should indicate a level of fraternity between all people. There is some evidence for universal traits, such as universal body language and facial expressions demonstrated by the work of Paul Ekman. Linguistic structures are found to all follow similar structures, and a child learns language just as well being placed in any culture, demonstrated by Noam Chomsky and his less famous colleagues. However these things aren’t what the term human nature is used for.

Anecdotally “human nature” is more used as a nihilistic term to refer to an undesirable behaviour conducted by (surprise) another human being. It can also be attached to greed, betrayal, lust and general pursuit of hedonistic things. People supporting the current system of global capitalism and corporatism, use “human nature” as a rhetoric to explain the flaws of the system.

People against the current status quo will explain these flaws are behaviours created by the system. So now the nature vs nurture debate has now become a structure for a political debate.

However like a lot of contradicting narratives, the answers lies in between. For the Nature argument, environmental factors can change or suppress genes. Genetics is an ever changing field with the wealth of information coded in our DNA being shown to be more and more complex than one simple gene. So we are born with some individual differences but they are not as distinguished and noticeable as many people think about genetics. In terms of the nurture debate, animals, humans of varying intelligences and culture all respond to behavioural conditioning. All animals needing to maximise behaviours that give them the most rewards. However Jaques Fresco and some others have reduced the nature debate by removing any kind of emotional or mental rewards for behaviour. Behaviourism as a discipline has been mature enough that Humans (and some great apes) have needs than the purely material.

So both nature and nurture as a political narrative could reduce us into two different variations of meat robot. A collection of chemicals that acts only to reproduce, or an animal with no cognition pushing a lever for a reward. We must transcend these arguments, acknowledge that the human condition is mostly positive, rewarding and an experience we appreciate to live with. But it is not a black and white experience, which can be scary and existential. Once we stare this in the face, we can consider a new type of society and governance. Since “human nature” should scare us into accepting a status quo. Flaws will always appear in system, however identifying a situation and adapting it, is just as human as adapting to a situation.

Buntstifte

Ben Wilson is a young support worker from Britain who has studied Psychology, is interested in Zen Buddhism, fairness, anthropology and finding ways to make people happy.