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.

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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

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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.

The issue of identity (III) – Civilization as a meta-identity, Consumeristic Individualism

fab_tree_town_sml3

by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

In part I of this series of articles, I briefly mentioned Consumeristic Individualism, as I defined the dominant ethos of our era. To be able to define it, we must start to talk about a part of our collective identities that we all know about, yet few of us recognise – namely civilization. So, the issue at hand is: What is a civilization, and what is a civilizationary ethos? And how can these forms of definitions aid our undertaking?

What is a civilization?

urofthechaldees

A civilization is arguably the largest form of meta-identity that forms around collectives of people. Such an identity is generally not awarely pursued by its participants, like for example religion (or to a lesser extent: culture). To a large extent however, civilization tends to go be affected by culture, ethnicity, religion and linguistics.

The shortest possible definition of a civilization would be that it is a cluster of identities that have formed and are influenced by the same world-view. Fully fledged, the civilization provides the framework under which people are assembling reference points for positioning;

  • Their roles in society.
  • The meaning of life.
  • Sources of authority, legitimacy and morality.
  • Family relationships.
  • Human interrelationships.
  • Relationships between social classes and hierarchies.
  • Social Justice.
  • Expected rights and duties.
  • Expectations on life and the future.

It can be argued that this web of position points superimposes a reality on society which determines how many options and alternatives people have to express themselves. There have existed many civilizations during recorded history, and we have seen a large diversity of cultures and worldviews transpire before our eyes. Here below is a small graph I’ve made on the evolution process of civilizations until today.

World Civ Tree

The cosmology of traditional civilizations

ancient-egypt

You all already know this, but it is worth reiterating. Traditional civilizations – no matter whether they were Western, Eastern, Amerindian, Middle Eastern or South Asian – were built primarily on a worldview stressing collectivist survival values. These civilizations were bio-physically characterised by a dependence on producing food, of which over 95% was needed to sustain the producers of food – the farmers. The remaining twentieth of resources was utilised – either by trade or coercion – to support a small middle class and an even smaller aristocracy.

The values espoused by these civilizations tended to fall in the following patterns;

  • Humans were naturally unequal and of different value, depending on their status at birth.
  • Your meaning of life was to fulfill the expected ideal role of a member of your social position in life.
  • Idealisation of old age and experience.
  • Patriarchalism and paternalism, both in family life and in social relations.
  • Values excluding, repressing or rejecting groups who broke against societal norms.
  • High culture for the elites, folk culture for the rest.

If you think: “But hey, I recognise that“, that is probably correct, since many people are still living under conditions which are similar to these throughout the world (just like millions of people are still living as hunter-gatherers). A large segment of this planet’s population are subsistence farmers. Many are living in clan societies still ruled by iron-grip patriarchal traditions. Even in the most modern and cosmopolitan communities, remnants of these traditional values are still existing under the surface.

The foundations of the global civilization

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What we call “the global civilization” has grown with industrialisation, economic growth and capitalism. Originally, it was growing from the enlightenment values of the western civilization, built on the trinity of capitalism, science and representative democracy. However, these three are merely positioning points (though important pillars). I would argue that while these three institutions started to form during the 18th century, they originally formed within the context of a traditional society, characterised by an agricultural base for production.

The 19th century was characterised by a massive wave of urbanisation and industrialisation, which created both new social tensions and a sense of alienation and restlessness in society. Coupled with colonialism, imperialism and competition for power amongst the great powers of the era, this led to the period of the world wars.

While the 19th century had been characterised by a conflict between a nascent liberalism – the culmination of enlightenment era values – and reactionary forces wanting to preserve various forms of traditional (formal and non-capitalistic) hierarchies, the fast advance of society led to the prevailing social orders becoming increasingly anachronistic.

The dominant institutions of Europe were swept away by the First World War. The world economy was shattered by the destruction of the Gold Standard and the Great Depression of 1929-1939. Out of the ashes of this turbulent Time of Troubles arose two competing worldviews – marxism-leninism and fascism, and the Second World War was  fought over many issues, but on the civilizational level it was fought over what worldview should dominate the future industrial civilization.

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Consumeristic Individualism – what is it?

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While the ideological foundations of the modern western civilization (which has morphed into the current global civilization) were laid by scientists, entrepreneurs, economists and philosophers during the late 18th century, the core of our current civilization has far shallower roots than so, namely the inter-war period.

The Capitalism of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Liberalism of that era, operated within the context of a traditional agrarian society characterised by protestant work ethics (popularised by Max Weber). These values stressed group cohesion, hard work, frugality and accumulation of wealth.

It can be argued that the rise of mass media technologies, as well as group psychology techniques, gave rise to the new ethos of the western world – which today is increasingly becoming the ethos of the entire world.

I have decided to call this new ethos consumeristic individualism.

What characterises consumeristic individualism?

Formally, all humans are equal in rights. However, our worth is determined economically by our performance (or today increasingly, attractiveness) on the labour market, and socially by our popularity. This popularity is determined in increasingly large intensity by our social status, which is determined not only by financial wealth, but also by appearance, education, experiences and possession of trendy status items.

Unique-Designs-Painted-on-Nike-Shoes-by-Daniel-Reese-4These items are characterised not only by their appearance, but by what they tell about their owner’s supposed character, status and popularity.

Thus, humans are not consuming out of greed primarily, but out of their search for the expression of their individuality. This process, that the individuality can be commodified and acquired through the possession of objects, is a form of psychological magic thinking reinforced since childhood by mass media.

Mass media is under consumeristic individualism largely focused on reaching both the largest possible audience and finding target audiences. Due to commercial funding of the regular programmes, there is not only a large degree of marketing in most media avenues, but also a lot of hidden marketing inside the programmes themselves. This constant exposure to subliminal messaging instills a desire to belong, especially as the mass culture of the modern age, enjoyed in solitude before bright screens, also has created an age of mass loneliness.

Most human beings still crave togetherness and belonging, and most are acquiring it, but many human relationships are formed around the context of a culture of consumeristic individualism, and these relationships are reinforced by the frameworks established by fictional worlds and lifestyles designed to express a certain form of character or social position (no matter if you are a hiphopper or a hipster, you are actively participating in subcultures created to market certain values).

It can be said that most lifestyles are beginning as counter-cultures to revolt against the dominant culture, but that they eventually are appropriated by the market and turned into commodified lifestyles reproduced through media.

The problems with consumeristic individualism

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It can be said that worldviews help us find a purpose, but they can also limit our ability to view the world.

When it comes to consumeristic individualism and its attachment to western civilization, it is connected partially to the great mythos of our culture, namely the idea that we live in an era where history has ended. The apocalypse has been. The new world has been born after RagnarökDemocracy triumphed in World War Two and at the end of the Cold War.

Now, all there is for us is to realise ourselves by acquiring our identities and playing the increasingly diverse repertoire of roles available and mass produced for us.

Of course, we do know that what I above wrote is not true, but we are expected to act within that framework of thoughts. Thus, we are encouraged to resisting the injustices we see (to not speak of ecological issues like climate change) by changing our individual consumer patterns, and then refer to that as responsibility.

The really big problem with consumeristic individualism – however – is that as long as we act within that paradigm, we will perpetuate a system of thought based on the idea that the meaning of life is the acquisition of an identity by material means, the idea that a person is a certain thing by wearing specific clothes, associating with certain friends, listening to a specific type of music, eating specific kinds of food or having specific sets of sexual preferences, that this is-ness determines that person’s entire identity. The danger is not so much when people are forced into specific stereotypes, as when they start to voluntarily reduce themselves to one characteristic, thus limiting themselves. With this, I am not condoning any repression of subcultures, alternative lifestyles or other minorities.

Also, consumeristic individualism is driving the destruction of the planet’s biosphere.

Yes, they say, but you can change the system through consumeristic individualism too, by choosing to consume less, second hand, bicycle and recycle your garbage, can’t you not?

Firstly, this assumes that all human beings economically are offered the same choices. Besides, human opinions are heterogenous, and for each and every vegetarian recycler, there is someone who instead appropriates a lifestyle of big macs, big bikes and the lavious consumption of new items.

Secondly, everything within the context of consumeristic individualism is fleeting and temporary, and subjected to the laws of fashion. And the only law of fashion is that nothing should last more than ten years.

Thirdly, consumeristic individualism encourages flimsiness, forgetfulness, and a view of the world where we have no past and no future, only now forever.

Lastly and most damning, as I’ve already stated in my article Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism, this current system is not going to last (it can survive, but it requires fusion power, the advent of the Singularity, asteroid mining and planetary colonisation, and that too will kill it due to abundance, besides that it most likely won’t happen within enough fast a time-frame).

We cannot base whatever we’re going to build after the collapse on values dependent upon the kind of linear, exponential-growth-based system we have experienced for the last 200 years, and not on the consumeristic values that has fed this system for the last 60 years.

We need a new set of values, which give us the right to pursue ourselves fully as human beings and not as compartmentalised fragments, as well as stress that we all – collectively and individually – have a duty to our beautiful homeworld.

Read The Ideology of the Third Millennium to see a beginning of that discussion.

The issue of identity (II), Nationalism & Separatism

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Introduction

This article will discuss the concrete and practical issues regarding identities. In the last article, as you may remember, we searched for a definition of identities, and how we can define identities as institutional projects which people keep alive by active and passive participation. In this article, we will delve into a controversial subject, namely nationalism and separatism, and how such sentiments can be addressed in a Type-1 society.

Confederalism & the Technate

EOS envisions a world where the economy is integrated, within the form of something which we call a technate. A technate is a technical administrative area, and we are envisioning it as a confederate structure in itself, which is a transparent network of information nodes about the status of the planet. The technate would not handle democratic or political issues.

Parallel to the technate, we imagine a confederate system consisting of a world confederation of voluntarily accessed democratic municipalities. These municipalities would form subject confederations which would handle their own issues but cooperate on issues they have in common. These confederacies are responsible for legislation, but a founding principle of such a system is subsidiarity (which at least formally is an ideal of the European Union).

Here is an old article which I wrote several years ago on the subject. It might contain spelling errors, so bear with it. It delves deeper into the subject.

Nation States and Ethnicities

Usually, ethnicities are defined by linguistics (though there are exceptions, like former Yugoslavia where several ethnicities share languages so similar they can be considered dialects of the same language, Italy where the Italian ethnicity is semi-divided in a north and south, and languages in the north are varying even between villages close to one another, and lastly Switzerland, where four languages are spoken but co-existing with a strong Swiss sense of common identity). Linguistics are not the only thing which defines an ethnicity. An ethnicity can be defined by common origin, religion, historical experiences and/or cultural traditions.

The shortest definition of an ethnicity is that it is an identity connected to a particular cosmology, which creates itself because people belonging to that particular ethnicity are believing that it exists and are feeling that they have a shared cultural space. To a certain extent, that is true, since ethnicities are the kind of meta-identities that can survive through generations and which often share particular cultures and habits.

I would focus on European Nation-states, since they are generally seen as the strongest and oldest nation-states on the planet, where the dominant ethnicities are often directly identifying with the state itself and some states even can be defined as largely mono-cultural (the inversion of Europe would be Africa, where the nation-states are new and weak and consisting of several ethnicities which often share nothing but a second language like English and French, and possibly a religion which a plurality of the population is embracing).

It should be noted that the nation-states preceded modern nationalism in Europe with 100-200 years, and that most European nationalisms have been formed either by partial design from nation state governments, or through opposition against said nation-state due to the oppression of national minorities.

The nation-state is ultimately working as most other states have historically done, no matter whether we talk about a democratic context, or an authoritarian. The state is a hierarchical structure administered by a management, which usually exists under the conditions of wealth and power disparity between centre and regions, and between the upper percentiles and the lower percentiles of the socio-economic distribution.

Even in democratic states, such as Sweden, there is an inherent conflict of interests between the capitol and the provinces, and even during the 20th century, northern Sweden has been treated in an almost colonial manner by Stockholm. It has not been seen as a region with unique cultures (apart from the Sámi minority) and unique conditions, but as a natural resource extraction zone which gives state-owned companies revenues which are invested mostly in the south. Since only 10% of the population of Sweden lives in the north, this can be approved by southern voters while the north slowly is depopulating due to the lack of employment opportunities and the increasing difficulty to make a living in this remote region.

In the worst cases of nation-state formation, nation states have been expanding the territory of one particular ethnicity by the forced expulsion and forced assimilation of other ethnic groups, and have even engaged in systematic murders and massacres to acquire the land and property of minorities (for example, the father of the Swedish state, Gustav I, massacred the people of Smaland for their insistence on trading directly with Europe). In at least one particular occasion, two nascent nation-states (Greece and Turkey) agreed to exchange tens of thousands of Greeks and Turks between one another, to create more ethnic homogenity.

Due to colonialism and the 1960’s de-colonisation, the European model for nation-states have become universal, and been applied to regions with different circumstances. This has created volatile, partially or wholly artificial states which the population often do no identify with. This has most recently caused the partial implosion of Syria and Iraq, which were created as League of Nations Mandates following WW1 and which do not correspond to any historical nation-states.

The rise and fall of globalization

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As globalization is turning the planet into a linear resource extraction system, the economic need for nation-states have vanished since there is a growing trans-national elite that stands above and partially beside the nation-state system. Treaties such as TTIP, MAI and ACTA is removing economic sovereignty from the nation-states and placing it in the hands of supranational actors or even megacorporations.

Thus, the nation-state in the early 21st century, as the elite sees it, is increasingly working as a tool to further the aims of economic globalization. The state should make laws that protects the rights of trans-national corporations, prevent theft of intellectual copyrights and patents, and should also provide police forces and protection of the property of trans-national corporations. Economic democracy, in the form of welfare states, should be transformed in a direction which brings more responsibility and control to the trans-nationals and to the international financial system.

This process is partially aided by technological and economic progress, which strives to maximise outcomes and streamline and effectivise production factors. However, it is also a conscious process driven by actors who envision that this kind of system will bring about world peace and possibly end in a world government. It is a general belief that since exponential growth took speed in the 19th century, that it will continue indefinetly, making us all more prosperous and enlightened and bring about a bright future for humanity.

This conscious globalization project is decaying now, with the Euro-zone being ripped apart with southern Europe in a state of depression, and with a China that is slowing down. The financial crisis of 2008 was solved by stimulus, that has failed to yield the expected growth forecasts and have merely slowed down the decaying of  a system which cannot sustain its growth.

If a relatively minor failure in the system (the collapse of an American bank due to subprime mortgages) produces the partial collapse of a currency union and several years of financial chaos, then imagine what effects the inevitable and worsening ecological collapse will cause?

Less than a decade ago, it was assumed that there would be eternal growth and that globalization would continue unabated, and that we would see a vibrant world dominated by mega-cities. That image of the future is turning less and less obvious for every passing year.

Collapse

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It can be said that the risk of collapse is ever-existing within any form of advanced social system. Vandalism, violence, crime, corruption and inequality are all serving to reduce faith in society and to make its cogs work less effectively. That is why most societies are trying to reduce these aspects of human existence in order to make life predictable so we can plan our lives for both medium- and long-term periods.

Ecological crises, induced by changing climate or over-exploitation, leads to a subsequent series of losses of complexity, meaning that advanced societies generate less resources to keep the population compliant and thus need to devote a larger share of the output to security (which means raising the taxes to increase the weight of the defensive capabilities of the elite).

What we can expect if our ecological system starts to deteriorate is an increase in support and activity amongst extremist groups, who could then rally mass support for revolution. These groups will be formed around religious, ethnic and social groups, and be fuelled both by a desire for basic human safety, as well as a chain of real and imagined injustices endured from other groups. There will also be a risk of refugee crises which would make the current displacement crises appear as mere drips. For example, one of the most sensitive countries to climate change – Bangladesh – hosts above 150 million people.

There is thus a profound risk that the primary challenge of the system will not be the ecological collapse itself, but the reaction of billions of disinherited, who – striving to survive – will threaten to overwhelm the system. This will cause a fragmentisation of humanity into smaller and smaller units which will be in a struggle for the remaining resources.

The globalized system envisioned by the elite clubs is not sustainable, and some of them know it. Yet they are so trapped within their own system that they cannot imagine an alternative.

Towards a Type-1

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If we want to move forward, we must dare to imagine a unified Earth, but not the kind of “new world order” envisioned by George H.W Bush. Instead, we must think of our species as an organism which has a profound impact on the biosphere. We must co-exist with the biosphere globally, and we can only do that through a form of global governance.

However, no kind of centralised or authoritarian system can unify the Earth, and neither can a system that accumulates all the wealth and productive forces in the hands of a super-oligarchy.

The future constitutional framework of a Terra United must be confederalistic and allow for regional variations. There should be no colonies, mandates or occupied territories.

The basis for confederalism – Voluntaryism

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I – Constitutionalism. The constitution is not established to regulate forms, but to tell what basic human rights and duties there are within the Confederation. Municipalities who want to join the Confederation must follow the tenets of the Constitution. As EOS envisions such a constitution, it would consist of individual human rights (values) and the general broad aims of society (to support and strengthen the conditions for life to flourish on Earth). One of these conditions can not be used to legally motivate the violation of the other.

II – Subsidiarity. The Confederation would only be responsible for the Constitution, as well for social issues that require global coordination, in cooperation with the Technate. Issues which are regional or local will be handled on their respective levels, which the goal being that decisions should be made as close to those affected by them as possible.

III – Voluntaryism. Municipalities must voluntarily accede to the Confederation for the association to be legitime. Those who do not want to be a part of the Confederation would not be forced to partake, and are free to form relationships with confederate municipalities. The only exception to that are entities which are violating the Constitution. If a municipality inside the Confederation is violating the Constitution, and is not heeding calls to stop with it, its status as a part of the Confederation will become null and it will be excluded.

IV – Sub-confederacies formed on voluntary basis. Instead of forming sub-confederacies primarily on an ethnic, geographic or historical basis, they will be formed and dissolved on a continuous voluntary basis. The current nation-state system is based around the Westphalian idea that borders should not be changed. As we have seen numerous examples of groups not being happy with their political units (for example Catalonia, Flanders or parts of northern Italy) and wanting to join other political units or form new ones, we have seen that this often leads to conflicts with the central government – which for the most part is concerned with self-preservation.

Our proposal means a liquid form of political border delineation, where borders are changed peacefully when the people of a region sees it that they want change. This would mean that if parts of Northern Sweden wants to change affiliation to Finland, it should be able to be arranged relatively quickly. The same for infected border issues such as Crimea, but also of nations like Chechnya and Tatarstan.

It also means that groups that strictly speaking are not ethnicities, like for example retirees, students, members of subcultures or supporters of ideologies can have their own municipalities and even break free and form their own confederations. Ethnicity is just one of the meta-identities that people generally adhere to, and we must allow for new cultures to emerge peacefully and strive for their own fulfillment.

V – Non-geographical political entities. Not all entities within the Confederation would have territory. Some of them would simply be associations of people who make political decisions for themselves while they physically are living in a geographic entity to which they do not belong politically. This would allow fourth world peoples, and small minorities to have representation and be heard.

Potential downsides

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One thing that can be interpreted as a downside of this change in how political entities are structured is that people would likely opt more often for border changes and forming confederations, which can be confederations that stand on a loose ground institutionally and have a low sense of legitimacy, especially since we have several generations of disconnected, rootless humans that might form confederations dedicated to beverages, comic book figures or funny hats.

Another potential problem is that this can actually increase conflicts, especially in border territories or in multi-cultural entities where the people have been used to live under states with a low sense of legitimacy but with enough firepower to keep emotions sober. This would especially be a risk if the system utilised is direct or participatory democracy.

Therefore, it is advisable that a change towards such a confederate system envisioned in this article is gradual and happens during a long time. Human civilization wouldn’t collapse if this proposed system – or something akin to it – is not introduced immediately. Unluckily, the same cannot be said of the ecological situation.

Enrique Lescure, Sequence Director of Relations, the Earth Organisation for Sustainability

The issue of identity (I)

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Individual human beings are ill-suited for survival in nature. It takes a long time for a human being to grow up, the pregnancy period for human females is stretching for three quarters of a year. We lack fur, claws and venom. Old natural philosophers claimed that we compensated for that with reason. However, while reason has seldom prevailed (inquisitions, witch hunts and sacrifices of hearts by obsidian daggers are marking most of recorded human history), humans have always gathered together in communities. The community can more easily defend the young and the elderly from predators, and effectivise the gathering of resources to prepare for the hard seasons.

While some market libertarians and objectivists primarily are seeing the human beings as atomised individuals who choose to buy and sell property on a market, property originated as a concept gradually over time. In early communities, of which there are still examples of in the Amazon and in Indonesia, as well as in the Arctic parts of Russia and Canada, there is often not a developed concept of property, and even those who are skilled at for example making tools, are not trying to sell their tools, or making it a precondition for barter. Instead, the entire community is operating like the kind of society proponents of gift economics would want to see.

During most of human existence, human beings organised in sedentary hunter and gatherer societies (it has irked me for years that everyone seems to assume that people were building villages first with agriculture, and that everyone were nomads before that).

It stands clear that humans do not only group together in order to survive, and that only if there were the means, all humans would become staunch individualists who would either make war against one another (as Hobbes said) or become firm believers in the powers of the market and to each’s individual responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Humans group together not only because we had to, but because we like to (generally speaking).

What I want to write about in this article is how we do to connect to one another, and how this force which has allowed us to form civilizations, also have served to destroy civilization and create massive human suffering, and how we can move forward with our identities in the context of a future Type-1.

Connections

Most humans instinctively assume that other humans think and feel what they do, and can empathise with the suffering and joy of others. However, our ability to empathise is generally limited, and we feel more strongly for people who we either have grown up around, or who are reminding of us (share our experiences). While human communities in the natural state rarely exceed 200 people, the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies amassed a surplus that allowed humans to organise in larger groups.

Nevertheless, while you might live in a city with over 20 million inhabitants, the likelihood is that you live within a personal bubble consisting of 100-200 people (or fewer) who you know and have most of your interactions with. Likelihood is also that most of those people are either family or friends, and that most of them are sharing your social position in life and have a similar class background as yourself. The freedom to choose your acquaintances is larger in a big city than in a small community, but this might actually serve to increase segregation and create micro-environments where most participants share the same values and norms. The same process can be seen on social communities like Facebook where people generally are adding friends and acquaintances that share their onlook and their cosmology.

Generally, social groups can cover an entire spectrum from egalitarian (a group of friends hanging out on a coffeshop), authoritarian (patriarchal family structures) to totalitarian (religious and political sects). Often, an individual can be a part of 2-3 or more social groups at the same time, with differing levels of devotion.

Institutions

Luciafirande i Adolf Fredriks kyrka under ledning av Karin Bäckström/ Lucia celebration in the church of Adolf Fredrik under the supervision of Karin Bäckström

Institutions do not live their own lives – they exist because humans by their actions and beliefs perpetuate their existence and value what they can gain from them. When the institution ceases to motivate people to act to perpetuate their existence, the days of the institution are numbered. This can explain everything from the inevitable death of the childhood streetcabin club to world-changing events like the collapse of the USSR.

All formal human arrangements, states, churches, social etiquette, marriage customs and family relationships within the context of a specific culture, can be explained as institutions.

I would say there are three types of institutions.

Unwritten institutions, which are agreed upon a priori without definition, and which often determine how humans are supposed to act under social conditions (for example the Law of Jante in Nordic countries, or the American Dream in the US). These institutions work to ease tension in society and establish rules for social encounters between human beings, and often arise organically.

Administrative institutions, such as companies, bureaucracies, states, associations, churches and clubs. These institutions exist to legislate, organise rules and execute collective human action. These institutions are most often hierarchical and are existing to manage aspects of human existence.

…and…

Value institutions. These institutions are traditions perpetuated through repetition over generational boundaries, and are connected to a cosmology that ties a group together. In this category, we will find everything from clans and sects and followers of The Yankees, to ethnicities, religious groupings and entire nations. These institutions serve to establish myths and anchor these myths through rituals, in order to strengthen and rejuvenerate group identities. Often, such identities are formed around groups who share similar physical or linguistical characteristics.

What is an identity?

Identity is connected to Cosmology (the issue of meaning of life). The identity serves as a way for the human being to identify herself in relationship to her peers and to Cosmos itself, and to create a sense of meaningfulness that connects together a group of people, both horizontally and over the generations. It is arguably the strongest force in the life of a human being. It has motivated people to sacrifice themselves, not for their close blood relatives, but for abstract ideals and people they have never met or would never have met.

The evils of identity

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The human propensity to form identities have (I would argue) defined what it is meaning to be human. Our art, our literature and our music has been created both within the context of specific identities, and partially influenced these identities (just look at the huge influence that Shakespeare had on the emergence of British culture). On the other hand, identities have often been used as tools and motivation to separate the in-group from out-groups, and then annihilate the out-group (often by physically killing its members).

While the human tendency to form collectives which are the size of a large extended family (200 people), and these have engaged in competitive fights to the death with neighbouring collectives, the tendency to form group identities based on religion, political opinions, ethnicity or even sport club affiliations have generally worsened conflicts. Moreover, they have motivated generations of ordinary people to die for rulers and despots for no gain for themselves or for human civilization (on the contrary, wars have generally only helped the elites of the warring societies, while the ordinary folks have suffered).

Another very bad effect of the formation of group identities have been the persecution of outsiders, no matter if the outsiders are people who don’t share the prevailing political consensus of the day, or if the outsiders are of a religious minority or simply are born with traits seen as bad by the dominant consensus. Women, LGBT people, ethnic minorities, the poors and various groups of untouchables can witness of the effects of social exclusion, which are crippling not only to their own lives but to the general progress of society. Even schoolyard bullying is a sort of infancy state of this kind of we-vs-them exclusion.

A third very bad effect is the kind of accepted social coercion that makes people accept and contribute to the continuance of traditions such as genital mutilation of children, animal cruelty, cruelty or disregard for poor people, racism, forced marriages, marriages with close relatives, abuse of children, clan conflicts and machismo, and also jingoism and nationalism. These identity-related prejudices can hamper and even threaten the long-perspective survival of a society, and work to limit and oppress the participants in that identity.

A world without identities

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Some people on the left side of the spectrum in this country (Sweden) have claimed that abolishing identities and value judgements (“being rich is better than being poor” for example) is the right way to go to create an inclusive and egalitarian society. Of course, they do not envision that people would not have any traditions or culture, especially not as they are very active within and in cooperation with certain groups of identities, in order to form and shape rainbow coalitions for groups in society that traditionally have been excluded in one or another way.

In terms of working to abolish identities, we can claim that the undisputed master of this is the cultural entity we can refer to as “McWorld”, the homogenizing forces of globalization, free trade and financial integration, which is replacing – on a rapid pace – local cultures.

On one hand, this process has led to a cultural renaissance as cultures encounter, merge and mix together.

On the other hand, however, this has led to the continuous destruction of society’s fabric – the identities. While identities in themselves always appear, modern society has a general cosmology which can be described as consumeristic individualism.

While in traditional societies, the meaning of life was seen as perpetuating the traditions and values of your ancestors, and to play the role in society that God (or the natural order) had made you born in, in modern society this has been replaced with a new cosmology. This new cosmology is based on your attainment of identity through the consumption of experiences. This means that humans are supposed to strive after possessing trendy products, travelling to foreign countries, partying and ascribing to identities through their choice of clothes and music.

Society is oriented towards youth and towards performance and possession. This intrinsic materialism of the modern cosmology has probably contributed to mental illness and depression amongst many people.

However, the greatest problem with consumeristic individualism is that it fits like hand in glove with the paradigm of the debt-based financial system. For if people are brought up within a cosmology where they (feel that they) must ascribe to the possession of lifestyle through the possession of products and fashion, they will invest a large part of their income into status products which can showcase who they are to the world – thus driving the continued growth of the system, until it inevitably crashes.

A challenge for the future – towards a Type-1

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Eventually, if we (as in humanity) do not destroy ourselves through nuclear war, human-created pathogens or initiating a sixth great mass extinction, we will form a planetary civilization, a Type-1 on the Kardashev Scale. There are two great challenges for such a civilization, the first being the practical on how to ensure that all human beings can live within the identities they feel affinity for, while having their human rights respected and protected. The second is how we can find a common cosmology which can bring this future civilization a sense of purpose, while also serving to protect the planet’s environment and value the rights of all human beings to strive for fulfillment.

This is the challenge for the future, and in subsequent articles I will try to define how EOS have proposed a framework for the tools we can use to answer this challenge. This is what EOS Umea hopes to help develop with a study circle we will launch in the spring of 2015.

Enrique Lescure, Relations director of the Earth Organisation for Sustainability

Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism

"Caging Humanity" by Don Davis

“Caging Humanity” by Don Davis

Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I would like to use this article as a continuation of my previous article, Reality? What Reality?

The subject however would be what differentiates an organisation that is moving towards a post-capitalist discourse, such as EOS, with organisations based around anti-capitalist views, to which we can count everything from Marxism-Leninism to the Alt-Globalization Movement and #Occupy.

Or put more eloquent: What is the difference between an outlook based on science and one rooted in emotional resentment.

What do we mean by Capitalism?

Capitalism, like all words that evoke emotions, has as many definitions as there are proponents or discontents. These definitions are not singular ideas framed around the concept, but are drawn from competing cosmologies which often are mutually hostile.

To take two extremes, we can look at the Market Libertarian position vs the Marxist definition.

The Market Libertarian definition, to which we can also count the Objectivist definition, is that capitalism is productive human action, free individuals that agree on whether they want to buy or sell products and services on a free market. Ideally, all markets should be free and unregulated, and this would produce – per the theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo – the highest possible level of human well-being. Capitalism in short is individuals making free decisions. All cases of repression and poverty do not stem from inherent flaws in the market, but either from individual weakness (something which proponents of this worldview tend to be quiet about since that position would alienate potential followers), or (more usually) from regulations of the market.

The Marxist definition is that capitalism is a specific system of production, based around a hierarchical concentration of wealth and power. This system has succeeded similar systems in the past, such as Slavery and Feudalism. What separates Capitalism from Feudalism is that while Feudalism is centered around Land, Capitalism is centered around Capital – the concentration of possessions. The Capitalists are providing capital to start up companies, and strive to pay as little money as possible to the Labourers, who are those who are producing the actual value (see the Labour Theory of Value). Thus, the profit of the owner(s) represent (according to Marx) a theft of the productive potential of the labour force.

Capitalism will eventually, according to Marx and Engels, have so many contradictions that it will lead to an inevitable worker’s revolution and a system based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will develop into a classless society where all the means of production are owned collectively by the people.

It says itself that two so wildly divergent cosmologies would appear as monstrous before one another.

The Cosmology of the EOS

What is Capitalism, according to the EOS?

It is a form of socio-economic system built on the intrinsic need for exponential growth.

The goal is to maximise profits for capital owners, and is made possible by fractional reserve banking (sorry Austrians), which allows credit for investments and production that can grow the size of the economy. This leads to increased standards of living for most people, even though those who already have the most access to capital are those who benefit the most.

The problems with this system is that it relies on maximising exponential growth in a mostly closed economy, the planet Earth. This will eventually exhaust the planet’s ecology, unless the system invents ways to create abundance (which ironically also would make Capitalism obsolete). However, given how stark the situation currently looks, with the energy crisis, climate change, soil depletion, freshwater depletion and a mass extinction looming on the horizon, our best hope is to actively pursue ways to move away from exponential growth.

Why Post-capitalism is inevitable

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Everything is transitionary, and even if society today does not develop much in a year, you can safely be sure that society has changed dramatically during your life-time in comparison to how it looked when you were born, no matter what decade on the 20th or 21st centuries you were born in.

Moreover, humanity has existed as a species for 200.000 years. Agriculture was invented 12.000 years ago, and industrialism and modern capitalism co-evolved a little bit over 200 years ago, which is 0,1% of the course of the entire human history on Earth. To claim that Capitalism is a universal truth much like gravity and never will be replaced by another system is rather an emotional than a fact-based statement.

In fact, what we can say for certain is that Capitalism will be replaced within the next two centuries, and that there are three possible scenarios for how it can evolve into something else.

What is Post-capitalism?

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Post-capitalism is not a vague concept like Communism. In fact, it is even simpler.

Post-capitalism is whatever system of production and distribution that succeeds Capitalism. It is not intrinsically better than Capitalism, nor intrinsically worse. It is simply put a society which do not longer fulfill the criterion for Capitalism, namely exponential growth, either because it has found other ways to generate wealth and well-being, or because it has exhausted itself to the point that only survivalism is an option.

Since we – as a planetary organism – have followed the general trajectory of Limits to Growth, we can be sure that a lot of us would experience Post-capitalism firsthand during our lifetimes, which may – if we fail to take action – be an experience we would like to avoid.

There are three alternatives for the future, I would line them up with the least likely first, and then proceeding down to two feasible alternatives.

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I. Fusion power, asteroid mining and space colonisation solves all our problems, thanks to American and Chinese governments and mega-corporations. This leads to such an abundance that Capitalism is gradually replaced with Post-capitalism, either through institution of basic income and cooperation from progressive elites, or through a struggle from the masses to achieve that future. Eventually, this will lead to a post-monetary society.

Unlikely, not because we lack the capability to initiate those changes, but because the inherent unsustainability of the current system is so large, and these new techs are so underdeveloped that we would probably reach a collapse before they are profitable. When that happens, resources will be moved towards security rather than innovation, and we would end up in…

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II. A global ecological collapse, that will lead to a global socio-economic collapse and a collapse of living standards across the planet. This will lead to such a collapse that there will be a massive loss of complexity in society, as more people will have to focus on survival rather than producing economic, cultural, institutional or scientific value. In short, there will be a new dark age.

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III. A conscious transition towards a post-growth society. This would mean that we on all levels, as human beings, strive to establish sustainable relationships with our surroundings. On the micro-level, it could mean urban farming, recycling, seasteding and rewilding. These acts would however not be enough to counter the second scenario if we do not reverse monocultures, the dependency on fossil fuels and the institutions which exist today which are built upon the idea of limitless exponential growth. Eventually and if successful, these grassroot networks of conscious individuals and groups can form a global civilization of human creativity, which can achieve the first scenario.

So… when we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability are evaluating the future, we can see three different types of Post-capitalism take hold. What is important for us is not the labels of a socio-economic system, but that the system in question fulfills the criteria of being able to create and distribute wealth while not destroying the foundations of that wealth, our beautiful planet.

Post-capitalism vs Anti-capitalism

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While protests and direct action oftentimes are necessary in order to create the foundations for political change, we cannot let primitive emotional responses take over our approach. Anti-capitalism is per definition such a primitive emotional response, and oftentimes built not only on noble emotions such as compassion and solidarity with disenfranchised groups in society, but also on ressentiment and puritan moralism.

Ressentiment and puritan moralism are gateways to absolutism and totalitarianism, and are unacceptable deviations for a movement such as the EOS.

Of course, it is true as anti-capitalists claim that Capitalism in itself bears a responsibility for the situation we are in, as the current ecological crisis wouldn’t exist if not for the exponential growth system. But it is also true, as pro-capitalists say, that without Capitalism and Industrialism, we would live in feudal societies with very low standard of life and probably worse social conditions.

However, we don’t owe Capitalism to let it continue to exist only because it allowed an unprecedented standard of life in the western world during the 20th century.

Anti-capitalist attitudes are unproductive for a movement like the EOS, since we cannot preoccupy ourselves with real or perceived injustices. Instead we must move on to discussing how the transition to the unavoidable post-capitalistic society should work out, and how we all humans would want that society to provide for, and what it can provide for.

Ultimately, a large role will have to be played by progressive-minded capitalists who have realised that we are moving towards an abyss. These brave individuals, who have realised that we are moving towards an ecological collapse, are a huge asset for the future, because their influence can be used to a great extent to assist with the transition.

Summary

Post-capitalism is inevitable, but it is up to us all to steer the process in such a manner that we don’t end up in a situation that no one in their right mind would want.

Reality? What reality?

Cosmos

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Ultimately, there are two constants in the existence of sapient life: The self and the exterior of the self. We can refer to “the self” as “the mind”, while everything exterior of the self (from unconscious bodily functions to far away galaxies) can be referred to as “reality”.

Our body interconnects our minds with reality, through sensory stimulus and the need for nutrition. However, we are not born (or arguably able) to understand what reality is. It can have something to do with us being evolved not for understanding the mysteries of the Cosmos, but rather for surviving and procreating on the African plains.

Anyway, here we are, operating a civilization that we ultimately are ill-equipped to understand by virtue of our biology, and trying to make sense of the complex world we are finding ourselves in.

There are several tools for understanding reality, but the two most utilised have been Mythos and Logos.

Mythos is a way of ascertaining reality by forming a comprehensive world-view which often is normative, meaning that it is focused on mending the gap between the material and moral realities, and to establish a meaning with life. We won’t really focus on Mythos for this article, but preoccupy ourselves with various ways of understanding Logos, and of the arguably damaging effects of neo-subjectivist ideas.

I am talking, to an extent, about the discourse of the conflict between hermeneutics and positivism, and about what separates The Earth Organisation for Sustainability from The Venus Project and many of the “RBE Organisations” which have plopped up during the last few years.

What is science?

Most human beings are to an extent employing science when they determine which way is the best way. It can be everything from cooking, building treehouses and gardening, to arranging furniture and making music together with your friends. In short, science is not in itself complicated.

Science is to make judgements out of experience and test results, rather than from opinions, biases or authority, and then be open for that new and improved information can be available, rather than to prefer the old information.

Of course, it should be stated that scientific fields are not testing randomly, but are building on what previous generations have made and are employing mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering principles and various research methods, as well as peer reviews and standardised reporting techniques to establish a transparent and secure process for attaining new knowledge and be able to apply it within various areas.

The foundation

For science to work, there must be several conditions met. Experiments must be falsifiable, meaning that they must be possible to conduct and repeat under controlled conditions, and that they must be open for criticism based on science. Moreover, the experiments must be possible to repeat by researchers who have vastly different biases, and yet yield the same results. Also, the process must be open for examinations by other experts in the same field.

Moreover, if there are several possible conflicting interpretations for events, then the usual manner in which how to proceed has been to first look at the most simple explanations, rather than to move to wildly divergent scenarios.

Positivism

The traditional way of studying natural sciences (or “hard science”) has been to follow this process and learn new experiences from it. Positivism, as the underlying “scientistic” norm has been referred to, have several weaknesses, which have been addressed both amongst adherents to positivism and to critics, usually from the New Left academic environment, who formulated different types of scientific methodologies (one of which is Hermeneutics, which is very questionable itself as a methodology).

What I however want to criticise with the RBE movements is not Hermeneutics, since the RBE movements seem to originate from a idiosyncratic fusion of youth disillusionment, New Age, Conspiracism and The Venus Project rather than from New Left Academia.

The problems with the RBE Cosmology

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I would argue that the biggest enemy currently of the RBE movement is the RBE movement itself, or rather the over-enthusiastic followers of RBE concepts, who seem to understand science as a substitute for religion. Let me explain my position with this illustrative image from above.

While I do not doubt that most RBE followers genuinely want to help the world, there is a problem which I have spotted amongst many vocal RBE followers, and that is their ignorance of the scientific method, as well as (even more sadly) a disinterest in the scientific process.

I have seen RBE followers share Wilhelm Reich, Nassim Haramein, Drunvalo Melchizedek, David Icke and other conspiracy theorists uncritically, and whenever such posts are erased from the EOS Facebook group, we are accused of censoring information and of being authoritarian. I have seen RBE followers being drawn into anarcho-primitivist groups, new age groups and antisemitic conspiracy groups.

It can almost seem like when the foundations of reality are changed, everything passes, and people stop using their critical faculties to disseminate information.

But this does not only pass for false information. It is troubling as well when it passes for true information or information that has a scientific basis.

I would be very worried if tomorrow EOS would get 200 new followers, who all would profess a nearly religious faith in the teachings of our movement, and the current EOS director (no offence, Dr. Wallace 😉 ). Equally troubling it is when people profess blind faith in Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking or any other contemporary figure within mainstream science.

To some extent, a lot of people have shown a predisposition for a need to believe in something.

Anyway, often times, we have heard that the reason that we do not work together with some specific other RBE associations (for example, The Venus Project), is that we are petty and have “big egos”. The people framing such criticisms seem to either be surprised by our reply or ignore it, but our reply is the following:

We cannot know whether or not a RBE is working before testing out the principles locally.”

Jacque Fresco himself is evidently a positivist, at least to the point where he affirms that the scientific method is the foundation for TVP. However, there are several problems with TVP, firstly that Jacque has achieved a guru-like status within the organisation, and secondly that there are no other scientists or engineers apart from Jacque within TVP, and also that most of the followers of TVP seem to have this nearly religious belief that a RBE certainly will solve every problem with everything imaginable, and that all issues of scarcity will be removed permanently (Limits of Growth beg to differ).

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but beware that enthusiasm is always based on a bias. One of the reasons why we in the EOS are trying to break our own design by various simulations and tests, is that the design itself is of less importance than whether or not it can contribute positively to the future of the planet and to sustainability. We need to learn to distance ourselves from our emotional entanglements and behave like scientists.

We need to understand the scientific process.

There have been many problems with science, including elitism, dependency on multinational corporations, dependency on governments, biases connected to prejudices about social groups and a disturbing homogenity of the composition of the science corps. These issues are not addressed by throwing out mainstream science and replacing it with a wild subjectivism where people “put their faith” in various gurus.

These issues can only be addressed by teaching people the foundations of the scientific method from an early age, and learn children how to apply science themselves.

The flaws of democracy are the flaws of the market system

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

The excellent Blog Borderstone did recently outline a series of problems with democracy, related to aspects of voter behaviour and how political parties exploit that behaviour. They also suggested a few alterations to the democratic system, which would mean a function similar to the “consumer ombudsman”/”consumer authority” that would limit the amounts of “bad advertising” political parties are engaging in. I would argue that while I agree with Borderstone that there are major problems with voter behaviour, any set of solutions should really focus primarily on the voters, rather than on the political parties.

What comes first?

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This really says it all.

Democratic Elections are really just another form of a market system. The goal for any political party, or political candidate for that matter, is to scramble enough votes to be able to exert policies (and on the flopside, try to maximise the social status and the income of the participants, if we are subscribing to a more misantropic view of humanity) which benefit the voters.

To be able to achieve this, political parties should be able to reach enough voters to be able to make a difference. This means that the goal is to grab the attention of the voters. Politics is a complex subject, but to be able to gain attention, any political party must be able to generalise and comprime information in such a manner that they can attract just the amount of voters they need to be able to exert influence.

One of the great revolutions of the 20th century, was the birth of mass media and the mass entertainment industry. A typical human being in a developed economy receives as much new information daily as a farmer in the 18th century received during an entire year. While it can be argued that most of this new information is consisting of junk, it is still grabbing the attention of the individual and creates intellectual processing.

i_can_has_cheezburger_1_Thus, there is an ongoing evolutionary struggle within the sphere of memetics, to be able to occupy human minds with information. Billboards, signs, news headlines, adverts, TV channels and Internet are the battlefields of this struggle, which is about control of human psychology.

Just like in nature, evolution strives after achieving the greatest possible outcomes with the necessary, optimal means. That is for example why humans and most animals have just two eyes, because two eyes are optimal for being able to determine where is up and where is down. Three eyes could achieve the same thing, but the third eye would be superfluous (unless you’re into New Age).

Regarding mass media, which is reminding of democratic politics in more than one way, newspapers for example need to attract buyers. This has led to an increasing emphasis on things which engage people – namely celebrities and sport – which are things that humans are biologically hardwired to understand.

We might be irritated about all these “news” about which celebrities have divorced, about scandals on Ex on the beach and “infotainment” programs such as Deadliest Warrior, but ultimately it is we as a collective that are responsible for programs such as Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Biggest Loser. Certainly, many people are preferring shows like Cosmos and Vetenskapens värld, but since things like reality shows and infotainment is existing, it shows that there is a popular demand for things like that – since that is what people want.

Why do people like to consume crap?

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Because it’s cheap.

And no, when it comes to dumbed-down information (which often is flawed and appealing to emotions), it is not a question of money. Rather, it is a question of time and mental capacity. It is easier for the brain to just accept the information that gets filtered through, than to analyse it from all viewpoints and to come to a conclusion based on a combination of reason and values.

Also, it is cheap in the terms of not wanting to be proven wrong. Often, successful parties operating in a democratic system are ascribing to certain cultural or social identities with conflicting interests (I will return to that and explain why I think an ombudsman is a bad idea later), and individuals do not want to be proven wrong. People who are on the left on the political spectrum might want all social problems to be defined as environmental constructs, while hard right-leaners might want everything to be genetic. There is also this large group of voters who have low education, low ability to learn and/or very little interest of taking information.

Those people have voting rights too (and they should have that, because if not no one would take into account their interests, especially not within the framework of a free market system).

Given that, my conclusion is that the current level of political discourse is the result of popular will.

Revisit the market analogy

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The free market does not want you to take responsibility, but neither does it care about you.

It becomes very dangerous when that kind of ideology is influencing the democratic discourse. Since the 1950’s – when consumer capitalism became established, the market has increasingly come to define not only our way of working and eating, but also our identity. To a large extent, this has led to a breakdown of civic ideals in western societies, and (what Marx warned about) the commodification of the human identity. This means that we – primarily, in all aspects – are treated foremost as receptors, consumers, and not as actors with an own will.

We should really all feel very insulted when newspapers, TV channels and political parties speak to us like if we were children. They are treating us with contempt, and their view of the public is told through the quality of their programming. And to a very large extent, I would suspect that being fed information that doesn’t challenge us, nor contribute to our intellectual development, has gradually come to reduce the quality of our ability to understand information.

When democratic elections start to work after the same principles, it becomes really dangerous, since it can make the public unable to detect hidden dangers, or be able to withstand demagoguery. It can be discussed if this process is some kind of aware progress towards a society run by international elites, since an uninformed, disinterested electorate can make it easier to enact treaties such as ACTA, TTIP and MAI. Western democracies today are really run after principles where both the dominating parties (usually a left-centre and right-centre party) are striving after the same long-term goals in economic and foreign policies, and then it is of course “good” if public participation is reduced and politics as a whole are “dumbed down”.

What is the solution then?

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The course that EOS sees for the future is direct-democratic within the context of voluntary confederations. However, this remains a distant goal in the future, and even if introduced, such a system would possibly have the same problems as our current systems, and might degrade further since a direct democracy in the hands of an electorate which has learnt to constantly be fooled by messages which are directed towards children rather than adults can yield some frightening results.

An ombudsman would however be a bad idea too, as well as laws limiting what politicians might send out for messages. It would lead to constant legal proceedings, where rival parties would accuse one another before court of misleading adverts and of lying, and it can serve to destabilise societies further, when polarising issues such as immigration, climate change and economic issues emerge. Also, if the state in question has a dominating party, this party would have the resources to legally persecute their opponents, thus creating a semi-democracy or an authoritarian state.

No. The best route forward is probably to encourage people to think, to create a society where more is demanded than that we should pursue our identity through consumerism. It is paramount that both children and adults learn about scientific reasoning, and about logics and especially logical fallacies. Of course, all people would not be able to fully master these processes, but if a significant amount are, and if such behaviour is promoted amongst the public (instead of the ideals presented by Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model), then we would be a significant amount of way ahead.

This course is a very good initiation to that world, by the way.

WW3?

By Enrique Lescure, Relations Director of EOS.

The recent developments in Syria are very troubling for the prospects of world peace. Both Iran and Russia have signalled that they will respond directly by an US strike, while the USA has stated that retaliation will be taken as a reason to expand the conflict.

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While the recent gas attack in Ghouta was a horrific atrocity, the proposed US intervention is even officially resting on several reasons, one of which is “US national interest”. One could only recall the horrendous Central African wars of the 1990s, which did neither engage a foreign intervention or even much attention from western media and governments.

It is estimated that 10 million people have been killed in these separate wars. Yet they produced no international intervention. It is probably necessary that we in the future find a way to allow a neutral and general way of conducting interventions, without affecting the “precious balance of power”.

Given that, the Syrian Civil War is probably the most intensive conflict in the world today, and there is an acute humanitarian crisis.

The main issue for the involved parties can be said to be “The Great Game”, an underlying conflict between the Anglo-Saxon powers and the Russian Empire, which can be said to be over two centuries old.

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The Great Game is basically a centuries old conflict of interests regarding Central Asia and the Middle East. In its modern incarnation, it is basically an issue of oil and gas reserves.

On one side, there is Russia, which is heavily dependent on its virtual monopoly on Central Asian oil and gas, which it exports to Europe. This has come to fund Putin’s military and security apparatus, and anything which would upset this monopoly would harm Russia’s economy – perhaps leading to an economic crisis and the collapse of the Russian Federation.

On the other hand, there is America, a heavily indebted superpower which is suffering from sluggish growth prospects, a crumbling infrastructure, a social security system which would be bankcrupted in a few decades if not years. If the United States would get an inroad into the Central Asian oil and gas market, it could theoretically be used both to bolster the United States’ fading superpower status and serve to cripple their Russian rivals.

This is probably why Russia consider the prospects for a US intervention in Syria as a mortal threat, and show readiness to use military force in order to try to intimidate the United States. During these last two months, it stands evidently clear that we all are living in the middle of a Second Cold War.

This is a very dangerous situation.

Syria is an ally of Iran, and Iran is an Anti-American power that blocks western access to Central Asia from the south. Since 2003, the geopolitical situation of Iran has steadily improved, due to both the toppling of the Sunni Minority regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel War and the increasing participation in the Putin-led “multipolar bloc”.

Syria allows both Iran and Russia access to the Mediterranean Sea.

In the same time, Saudi Arabia and Qatar both desire to contain Iran and if possible weaken it, as they both fear the prospects of Iranian hegemony over the Middle East, and both have desired to shoulder the leadership of the muslim nations of the Middle East.

Many analysts believe that the toppling of the Assad regime in Syria and the subsequent weakening of the Hezbollah militia that must follow would pave the road for a war with Iran, aiming at destabilising it so a pro-western regime could take power. This would then (according to Russian analysts) probably lead to increased western influence over Central Asia.

This “new great game” is a very dangerous game, since it touches the core interests of two great powers and several regional powers. The question is whether we collectively as a species are willing to risk a great war, possibly a global conflict with nukes involved, for the issue of Syria.

The solution must be to openly discuss the great game, and for all the great and regional powers to take a step back and realise that others don’t want to the exposed to what they themselves don’t want to be exposed to. “Do not do unto others, what you don’t what others to do to you.”

The impeding resource crisis is a serious challenge for all powers. We should not primarily think of how to hurt Russia, America, China, Africa or the EU, but how to help everyone adjust to the future.

If we can separate the Syrian Civil War from the corporate and political interests to gain geo-strategic footholds and hurt competitors, we can solve it tomorrow. And the only way forward is if all assorted parties sacrifice their offensive interests visavi one another, and realise that sometimes we might need to allow odd to be even.

I also suggest that you all who read this are signing this petition. It would not mean much, but the more of us that are signing this, the clearer it would be that the peoples of the world do not desire a war.

The Catholic Church in the Digital Age

Not since the end of the Western Schism has a reigning pope abdicated. This is a significant event in the history of the Catholic Church, and it is doubtful that Benedict XVI – who always was known as a conservative – would do this to set a new example as some are speculating. While John Paul II was revered and beloved, not only by catholics but by media and liberal institutions in the west, his successor has had a turbulent and often suspicious and hostile relationship with the media. This led to his papacy being defined by the media, and all the goodwill during the JP II papacy has been wrecked. The church is in a deep crisis, defined by paedophilia scandals and allegations of corruption. All the other initiatives and policies by the reigning pontiff has been overshadowed.

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It is tempting to think that the new pope will be from the liberal faction, but that is unlikely, given that Benedict XVI (like all other popes) has strengthened his own faction at the expense of the others. The College of Cardinals is thus probably not aiming for any reformer, but possibly for a more communicative and charismatic pope rather than an insider. The problem however runs deeper than that, and the conclusion of this challenge will probably define the Catholic Church during the course of the 21st century.

The first conflict, between liberalisation and tradition, is already deeply entrenched in the Catholic bureaucracy, and the papacy would (as it always have) need to adapt to the changed circumstances. The traditionalists do for the moment hold the upper hand, but the course of history is running against them at the moment. The second conflict, which is not as much seen in western media, is the fact that the Catholic upper hierarchy is dominated by Europeans (particularly Italians), whereas the actual number of Catholics paint a population rooted in the southern hemisphere, in Latin America and increasingly Africa and Asia.

The traditional Catholic Church, in alliance with the catholic colonial powers, was brought to what would later become the Third World through colonialism and imperialism. Under the 1960s to the 1990s, it was made clear that local catholic clergy in the Third World could turn into a subversive weapon against westernised post-colonial elites. Liberation Theology has been condemned as heretical, but the foundations of Liberation Theology will prevail as long as the antagonistic relationship between the unipolar world dominated by the west and the emerging multipolar world is not resolved. If the curia would reflect actual Catholic population distribution, then the Catholic Church could gradually move from being the very definition of western culture, into becoming a church for the Global South.

This leads to another conclusion. The Church can either liberalise or third worldise. It can probably not do both and still be credible, and neither can it do neither. Ratzinger tried to do neither, and therefore he failed. It might have been possible to retard development during the 17th century, when Internet (or newspapers) did not exist. Nowadays, it is not possible. Liberalisation will probably stop a part of the decline in the west, while Third World-isation will speed up the decline in the west, but lead to increasing numbers of followers in the Third World. The current leadership of the Church, which consist of white European cardinals in their 70s, would probably resent both ways – but they would have to choose one of them ultimately.

According to the Prophecy of Malachi, this pope who would succeed Ratzinger would be the last pope, after whom the End-times would happen. Certainly, the Catholic Church is in dire straits now. But it has been in worse situations historically, and it has always rebounded. Ultimately, the Catholic Church would need to reform, but it has always reformed gradually and slowly after periods of stagnation, redefining itself to fit into new ages. It is the only continuous world institution (apart from the Japanese Emperor) which has survived until the digital era. It has survived the Roman persecutions, Attila, the Pornocracy, Frederick Barbarossa, the Mongols, the plague, the Borgias, the Reformation, Napoleon, democracy, socialism and Hitler. It will probably survive you too. But if it should survive, it must change to reflect the changed demographic of the global catholic congregation.

Enrique Lescure

Sequence of Relations Director

EOS