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

taken from inhabitat.com

taken from inhabitat.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

Anascopic & Katascopic – distribution vs centralisation

permanentcrisis.blogspot.com

permanentcrisis.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

Does this claim hold?

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

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

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

Distributed systems – increased resilience

perfectbluemoon.blogspot.com

perfectbluemoon.blogspot.com

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

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

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

I am of course referring to the USSR.

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

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

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

The EOS compromise – a holonic system

renewableplus.blogspot.com

renewableplus.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pragmatic foundation

100646,xcitefun-robocup-1

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

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

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

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

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

Normative basics

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

Advertisements

What will 2015 bring forth?

earthlights2_dmsp_big

By Enrique Lescure

2014 in hindsight, what now?

2014 was a year dominated by social entropy.

The Syrian civil war spread into Iraq, making the Islamic State a new unrecognised government in the heart of the Middle East, spreading atrocities from Aleppo in the west to Baghdad in the east, and contributing even more to the tragedy that the destruction of Syria represents.

In eastern Ukraine, a similar type of conflict has emerged, this time with indirect and direct involvement from both the West and the Russian Federation. This war is centered around nationalism and competing geo-political interests, and those suffering the most are the civilians.

In Africa, the Central African Republic and South Sudan were both fraught with sudden outbursts of civil wars, in the case of the former temporarily turning the CAR into a failed state, leading to ethnic clashes between groups professing to Islam and Christianity. Boko Haram, the despicable terror group of northern Nigeria, have intensified their campaign against the Nigerian state.

The year was however – also – characterised by a continued green revolution in energy generation, a continued automatisation process and a growth in 3D printing, the nano-revolution and engineering pursuits, which can prove interesting in shaping the outlook of the world until the 2020’s and beyond.

So what interesting things can happen in 2015?

The Greek Elections; or “the collapse of the European Union intensifies”

grexit_477701130Greece is holding their elections on Sunday the 25th of January 2015, ahead of schedule, caused by the failure of the Greek parliament to elect a (ceremonial) president.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has disconnected it’s currency from the Euro.

Are those two events connected?

Yes, there is a very serious reason why Switzerland has moved towards a floating Franc. In 2010, following the world financial crisis, Greece was forced to borrow money to pay debt to the banks to which they owed money, de-facto entering a state bankcruptcy.

State bankcruptcies are nothing new for Greece. During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, Greece has suffered debt defaults five times. This would have been the sixth. The reason why I write would is that the Greeks have not been allowed to default on their debt, because that would damage the credibility of the entire Eurozone, and result in a chain reaction where speculators would move against the Euro.

In 2010, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel de-facto became the EU president, as she moved towards sanitizing the debts of the southern European states (amongst which Greece was the worst), in return for massive austerity packages from these countries, which unsurprisingly led to increasing unemployment and dissatisfaction. In the last Greek election, in 2012, the left-leaning party SYRIZA (an amalgamation of many parties to the left of the Greek social democratic party PASOK) became the second largest party of the Greek Parliament.

This time, on the 25th, SYRIZA can very well win the elections and form a government. The party has threatened that if Greece is not allowed to move away from the austerity package and have the debt renegotiated, they will move away from the Eurozone.

How would cash-strapped Greece leaving the Eurozone and declaring default hurt Europe?

Firstly, those affected will be the banks that Greece owes money to, and the governments will probably make up for their losses by even more austerity, since banks are considered “too big to fail”. This will most likely add fuel to the sentiments that the established parties and governments in Europe are more identifying themselves with financial institutions and the wealthy elite, than with ordinary middle and working class people – which could create more room for dissatisfaction, dissent and even violent reaction…

Secondly, the Eurozone is not primarily an economic project, but a part of a political process. The European Union is formed according to a functionalist principle, where the founding fathers of Europe realised that there was little popular support amongst the masses for European federalism.

David Mitrany

David Mitrany

Functionalism as a model, envisioned and described by amongst other people the Romanian-born social scientist David Mitrany, establishes that European integration should take the easiest possible route, much like how water is moving around rocks to flow down to the sea.

The European Union began as the Coal & Steel Community of 1946 – 1957, upgraded itself to the European Economic Community of 1957 – 1993, and became the European Union by the Maastricht Treaty of 1993. Each of these changes brought a deeper economic integration. The European Monetary Union is a complement to the European Union, which is aiming at harmonising monetary policies. The next logical step would be integrated financial and taxation policies, but this has failed to materialise, mostly because the political capital of the European Union was exhausted after the introduction of the EURO and the expansion from 15 to 27 member states in 2004-2007.

The European electorate was not that keen on the increased political influence of the European Union, illustrated by the failed referendums in France, the Netherlands and Eire during the 00’s. When the crisis of 2008 hit, there was no identification with the European Union amongst the masses, and when the economy failed, the European leaders quickly moved to access the interests of their own economies. So the European integration project is rapidly losing momentum, and will continue to stay weak so long a new stable equilibrium is not reached.

It is very possible that Tsipras (SYRIZA’s leader) is going to be far more moderate than the worst doomsday sayers predict, but his electorate wants results, and if the current malaise trods on in Greece, people will become increasingly radicalised and maybe either move to the far left or to the far right Golden Dawn.

Alexis TSIPRAS

In the case of “the worst scenario”, a Greek expulsion/resignation from the Eurozone, Greece’s economy will probably default, leading to an intensification of the crisis. However, such a deep dip will probably on the medium term be good for the Greek economy, as it will rationalise and prices will lower to the level that the tourism industry starts to generate growth for the overall economy.

Maybe the Greeks would prefer a very painful fall and impact to rock bottom before decades of stagnation.

For the Eurozone, it will mean a definite break from the idea that the Euro as a currency regime is stable, and can lead to a new crisis. Therefore, I expect Merkel to actually try to listen to Mr Tsipras’ demands and try to reach some kind of compromise with a SYRIZA-led government. The question is what the German and Greek peoples would think of such a renegotiation?

Given that, the Tory-led government in the United Kingdom has woved to hold a referendum on continued membership in the EU if they are not reaching a deal regarding free mobility with the European Union. The reasons for this referendum are domestic and populist, and it is not unlikely – if the situation permits – that Cameron would draw back the referendum a few years before it (if he wins the elections in May). However, it signals that the consercatives are now trying to gain (back) the support of the plurality (perhaps majority) of Britons that see the European Union as a problem

The Russian Crisis, the Donbass War and Saudi Arabia

While there are still open hostilities in the East of Ukraine, the Russian actions since the autumn indicates that Russia isnovorussia_map_by_grdgryphonranger-d7ks806 aiming for a d’etente with the West, with a situation where Russia has “lost” the Ukraine as a Pro-Russian state, but the West won’t see Ukraine as a member of the EU or NATO. Meanwhile, the West has sought to punish Russia for their violations of the international order by the means of sanctions. Many European leaders, including the French president and German industrial leaders, are increasingly skeptical to the sanctions as they serve to hurt European growth forecasts as well, while the Americans are more hardline.

The Russian economy on the other hand is quickly draining its capital reserves and is seeing cuts in the civilian sector. The reason behind this is not only tied to the western sanctions, but also to the Saudi oil production figures. Saudi Arabia is involved in an own proxy war versus Iran and Russia inside Syria, and given the current volatile situation, they are ready to use their oil weapon to lowering the price of oil and thereby hurting Russia and Iran (and also the growing shale oil industry in the United States).

It will take eighteen months to deplete the Russian currency reserves, and by then Russia will be reliant on debt, with an 20141018_gdc875awful credit rating at their disposal. This can lead to political destabilisation inside of Russia and create the foundations for regime change there. However, the regime change may not be the desired from the western perspective. If Putin for example would withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and leave the separatists to their fate, he could very well face an uprising from the nationalist right.

More likely, I expect that Russia and Iran could see this as a hostile action by Saudi Arabia, and could use whatever tools they have within their disposal (short of outright military actions) to try to hurt Saudi Arabia in return.

The fall of the Islamic State?

_77350279_bru2kjdh

It won’t end the crisis in Iraq and Syria, but it will mark the introduction of a number of regional powers into the fray. It is likely that Turkey, Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia and Jordan can to some degree intervene militarily with ground forces into the theatre. Such an intervention will quickly overwhelm the IS and push them back into armed insurrection and guerilla and terrorist activities, much like how the Vietnamese pushed the Khmer Rogue back into the jungles.

The intervention of Turkey or another major Sunni power would almost certainly force an Iranian counterreaction, perhaps in the form of more regular Iranian troops and revolutionary guards being sent into Syria (and perhaps Iraq). In the worst case scenario, this could mean a regular war between Iran and one or two Sunni Powers, but more likely new armed groups will emerge under the wings of Turkish, Iranian and Saudi base territories and engage in continued fighting in the region. Nevertheless, Syria and large parts of Iraq will continue to turn into failed states for 2015, with an immeasureable humanitarian cost.

Social Entropy

apocalypse-615x345

The truth in evolution is that the more complex an organism is, the more vulnerable it becomes to disturbances in the eco-systems it is dependent on. The human civilization today, with its largely integrated world economy, is an increasingly complex web of structures, arrangements, institutions and interlinked human communities. What is happening in the Middle East and in Europe are not only the results of long-term social and socio-economic trends, but also parts of the very same trends.

These parts of the world are experiencing socio-economic and social realignments which has been working for a long time, and exploded in the Debt Crisis of 2010 and the 2011 Arab Spring. During 2015, there is a high risk that the escalation of these trends will continue on and drive through the realignment. Since many key players are trying to use this alignment to come up on top, they will serve to intensify the crises in matters that they believe could benefit them.

At least in the Middle East, we are seeing a massive loss of social complexity, throughout a large part of the Fertile Crescent, and it is possible that Syria can turn into a new Somalia, situated into the heartlands of the Middle East. This will ultimately work against Saudi Arabia, which now also faces the prospects of a collapsing Yemen on its southern border.

Ultimately, this realignment is part of a wider realignment, where the issue is whether the Unipolar “New World Order” (the American-led world) can come to terms with the BRICS about how power should be distributed internationally, and whether or not the BRICS can survive the oil crisis and China’s dampening growth forecasts.

Enrique

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

new-york-city

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.

360_khaldei_exhibit_0523

Consumeristic Individualism – what is it?

Party_Youths

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

liberation-h-kopp-delaney

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

925560-120913-catalan-protest

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

1792

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

detroit-house

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

future-city

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

United-Earth-Gaia-Orion

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

funny_hat_10

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

Newer entries »