Thursday, May 26, 2011

Benevolent Path

The path leading to the best societies humans can create – the democracy demanded by free people – will not involve coming together as a mass to confront, overcome, and take over the power of the plutocrat overclass. The benevolent path will be the dispersing of nation-states and mega-scale societies into a proliferation of locally-oriented 'neopublics' that will live in accord with their local situation (as in permaculture) and the basic principles of true democracy (as most humans did for thousands of years before the advent of large-scale agriculture and organized religion). In this way the r/evolution will be more social than political, and more like the Mayan evolution (the people letting go, moving on, "localizing," as the centralizing elites fade away) than the French revolution (where the rebels chopped off the king's head and made themselves king).

The global world cast by modern western corporate capitalism is inherently plutocratic and anti-moral -- it can't be made good through policy tinkering or 'reform.' The way forward is along a different path. Hopefully there will be a global coming together as a mass to understand that modernity, as a way of organizing societies, is down the wrong path. And hopefully, building on that understanding, there will be a worldwide migration of people from the wrong path of modernity onto the benevolent path of true democracy. And hopefully as many communities as possible will keep up good, mutually beneficial relations with each other. And hopefully widely-scattered communities of like-minded people will maintain relations that help individuals be the people they want to be. But the path to democracy starts at home, which is to say in the local communities where individuals live their everyday lives. We need to break down and deprogram our reflexive dependence on the far-flung social, economic, and political structures of modernity, which are constructed and managed to maintain and extend an immoral system of power concentration, and re-root our societies with and among people around us on the same path.

People are already starting to do this (in Transition Towns and Common Security Clubs and Resilience Circles) and it is well within the fundamental freedom and power to create society that is our human light. It won't always be easy and it certainly won't be "convenient," but the creation of localized, true democracy communities will be the benevolent path through the crashing-down-around-us wreckage of modern western society.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Modernity as a cultural system

Modernity and capitalism are fundamentally the same thing.

Continuous growth/expansion/colonization are at the root of modernity; capitalism is the engine and the power that makes it go. The attempts to make modernity work without capitalism are doomed to fail as contrary to the nature of modernity. But the 'proper' capitalist form of modernity is doomed as well -- by its own logic. The "growth" upon which it depends is a ponzi scheme – it can't go on forever – finite resources cannot sustain infinite growth – and, like a shark, when capitalist modernity stops moving, it dies.

Capitalism and plutocracy are fundamentally inseparable.
Plutocracy – government by and for the wealthy – is the form of government that goes along with capitalism as a form of social organization. When capitalism 'works,' it produces plutocratic government. Capitalism -- the organization of society so that money makes money -- could not exist in a real democracy because it necessarily concentrates money and power in fewer hands. That's how capitalism works – it concentrates power in the hands of the small percentage of people with the most money. And the fact that capitalism functions in the interest of a non-democratic minority is why it can exist only if the majority of citizens are bought off or stupefied with drugs and flashing lights.

Modernity, capitalism, plutocracy -- it's all of a piece and it's all coming to a dramatic end. Twenty years ago, it might have been accurate to say we were speeding toward a cliff with the accelerator on the floor. At this point, in 2011, all four wheels are over the edge. We're airborne. The question now is how to survive the wreck. And how to make sure the people in charge of causing the wreck are not in a position to wreak more havoc. The plutocrats trashed the globe with their industrial-financial ponzi scheme. As it collapses, they lose their power. The democracy demanded by free people doesn't take power from the plutocrats and does not assume the power the plutocrats lose. Instead, it constructs new, beyond-modern societies in which the kind of power plutocrats wield does not exist – it constructs true democracy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Realism bites

A common response to progressive or utopian ideas is "That's not realistic." Witting or not, the "realism" underlying this perspective is a crucial strategy for protecting the power of the powerful. In our modern capitalist society, realism protects the power of the plutocratic overclass, the small minority of the population that controls a disproportionate amount of the wealth, and thereby comes to dominate and profit from more and more aspects of our society and everyday lives. And if "realism" does THAT, I think people who believe in democracy will agree that realism bites.

The realist, in any given society, is expressing the "common sense" that keeps the powers that be in power. On what authority is there a limit on what humans working together could possibly do? The "authority" is ultimately a restriction of imagination cultivated by the forces of societal inertia and power protection. Restricted imagination is the flip side of an unquestioning faith that the way we are now, or could be with some key reforms, is pretty much all we can be. Together, restricted imagination and naive faith create the delusion that we are not free, that we are pre-limited in what we can possibly do. So it's really perfectly obvious that "realism" functions to protect the authority of the status quo; anything that would challenge the arrangements by which the powerful wield power is to be considered impossible, unimaginable, not "realistic." Realism draws a line in the sand and says we are not free to cross it. That's authoritarianism!

(Another point worth noting about the "that's not realistic" response is that by changing the focus of the issue from 'what would be better' to 'what is possible,' the realist is effectively conceding that the "unrealistic" idea proposed would be an improvement if it was "realistic." Either that or he's obscuring, perhaps unintentionally, a deeper, more profound question of the morality of our politics and society and everyday life. [The question being whether the way we are now is the best way to be, or whether there are other, perhaps radically different ways we could be and survive and have better, more free and responsible lives.])

By purporting to put a boundary at the limits of the possible, "realism" plays a significant role in maintaining our unfree way of life in which a vast majority of the people are trapped as credit-serfs and wage-slaves in a dead-end, materialistic, authoritarian society, ruled by a plutocratic overclass that is trashing the globe and treats the vast majority as resources for wealth extraction and power concentration (rather than as human beings equally deserving of using their freedom and power to think, talk, and work with others to organize their societies and lives as they best see fit in voluntarily-associating groups of like-minded people). (It seems indisputable that the plutocratic overclass doesn't treat the majority of citizens the way the golden rule demands; in other words, the plutocratic overclass does not act in accord with the basic principles of morality and democracy.)

Whatever is defining a boundary of "realism" is exactly what needs to be exorcised, uprooted, critiqued, and rejected in favor of freedom over authority. In a free society, there will be no distinction between realism and idealism, and people will intentionally avoid being tied down by status quo concepts of what is possible.

Once you see that your sense of what is realistic is a product and captive of the powers that be, you are free to move on. And only by freeing your sense of the possible, understanding that our way of life is just one of innumerable possible ways of organizing human life, can you see your way back to the clearing from which all possible paths, including true democracy, start.

[Afterpoint 1: Is there any good reason for people who believe in democracy to fight with the plutocrats and their spitlickles over the boundary of what is "realistic"? Instead, maybe we should accept the boundary they lay down and then move to other side! Leave them behind in the only reality we democracy-believers will define as not possible: the status quo reality where we are serfs and slaves in an authoritarian society run by and for a plutocratic ruling class!]
[Afterpoint 2: Sometimes people appeal to "human nature" as some sort of realism block on the human ability to create better societies. It is important to recognize that appeals to human nature are not really argument – whatever someone means by human nature is only his "faith" that humans are some particular way, beliefs he will assert are "just so" even though he cannot back them up with reasoned argument applied to convincing evidence. The fact is human beings have always been too different, too diverse, both within and across populations, to claim that the kinds of societies we could possibly construct are somehow limited by some underlying, inescapable "nature." Any argument that cites human nature as a limit on the human capacity to create free democratic societies is bogus and a strategy (witting or not) to avoid dealing with the profound moral questions at the root of our way of life.]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Light, Language, You, and Utopia

1. Most people spend most of their time talking to themselves in their head. Most of the time, that's what "thinking" is – talking to ourselves as we navigate our ways through our daily lives.

2. When you're talking to yourself, there's a you doing the talking, and another you that you're talking to – two yous (and more, actually).

3. The sliver of space and time between the you doing the talking and the yous you're talking to is the point where being human intersects with light, the point where what makes us human makes us human.

4. The human intersection with light (that which makes us human, that which fills the spacetime slivering our yous) is linguistic, language-based, and therefore, by definition, a group activity.

5. By living a language as part of a group, we live light, we construe reality as a spacetime using light and language. There is necessarily a language of light embedded in human ways of life, typically implicit, deep in the background of everyday life and consciousness. But if enough of us determine to accept the responsibility, we have the freedom and power to create new languages of light – new spacetimes, new realities.

6. Particular languages of light and the spacetime realities they construe depend on the group ways of life – the language of living light – of particular groups of people.  Opening up benevolent-path spacetimes depends on the language-practice of people living benevolent-path ways of life.  (Light, language, and way of life are inseparable, inherently inter-constitutive; their necessary link is what makes humans human.) The benevolent-path way of life that will open up benevolent, even utopian, spacetime realities, is what can be called "true democracy," a form of society based on freedom, responsibility, and good will in which any governing is done by and for the people being governed in any particular situation.  It's really a simple, 5-step moral system of freedom and responsibility that opens a path to a utopian way of life:

At birth, every human being is equally deserving of respect and equally deserving of a society where she or he can live a good life.

Good citizens and decent people live by the following principle of morality and freedom: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or your children or mother or whoever you care most about in the world. The golden rule demonstrates that morality ("the way a person should act") is SOCIAL; it's about how you treat other people and the extent to which you consider how your actions will affect other people.

With golden rule-morality as the starting point, the ideal political form is what can be called "true democracy," which is to say that people govern themselves – any governing is by and for the people being governed in any particular situation. Wouldn't you want the opportunity to participate in any decision that affects you? The golden rule demands we extend that right to all. And that is true democracy.

Within the open-honest-thoughtful discussions that make up the political process of true democracy, good citizens and decent people will consider the good of everyone affected by the decision to be made, as called for by the golden rule. If people try to argue for a course of action based on selfish self-interest, good citizens and decent people will recognize and critique such positions as anti-democratic.

Live and let live; look kindly on people, both generally and specifically; feel free to find and create ways to be happy and enjoy life any way you can without hurting or infringing on others.

We have the freedom and the power to create true democracy. We just have to believe in it, and then start finding ways to enact it, especially in cooperation with others who are on the same path. It won't always be easy, but it's the right thing to do. And the resulting societies, as the products of the democracy enacted by free, responsibility-assuming people, will be ongoing utopias – the best societies free people can create at any given moment.