This post is about some related thoughts: bias in media, the relationship of society and nature, and the issue of democracy in terms of our present capitalism.
– – –
Based on my experience and research, I think it’s fair to state that NPR isn’t liberally biased… or, at least, not in any clear sense… but such assessments, of course, depend on how one defines/perceives ‘liberalism’. I’d argue NPR is as mainstream as can be found in that they mostly present a status quo view of the world. I suspect if you were to ask most people seen in the mainstream media (reporters, pundits, politicians, talking heads, etc) and they gave you an honest answer, most of them probably would agree with the types of views that are regularly presented on NPR.
(This ‘mainstream’, however, isn’t the same as the everyday experience and values of the average person. If you want to find something closer to a liberal bias, look at the stated opinions of the majority of Americans.)
Here is an example from NPR. The other day, there was a panel discussion. It was about business use of and government management of public land. As I recall, there were three guests, all mainstream types including someone defending the interests of big business and criticizing too much regulation. They had the typical disagreements one often hears in the mainstream, but they were all basically on the same page about the terms and focus of discussion. For certain, it wasn’t a liberal panel. It was just the old school journalism where two sides of an issue are ‘neutrally’ presented by the host, although done in the non-antagonistic ‘let’s all get along’ style typical of NPR.
Most interesting is what was lacking, specifically in terms of those who claim a liberal bias. Among the guests, there was no left-winger of any variety nor anyone who might agree with left-wing positions; no communists, socialists, Marxists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-primitivists, left-libertarians, hippy environmentalists, deep ecologists, Goddess-loving pagans, social justice Christians, indigenous people, community activists, etc. Among the guests invited, there was no discussion of the poor and minorities most impacted by pollution and environmental destruction, no discussion about the alternatives to our present capitalist system, no discussion about how our society is turning into inverted totalitarianism. The officials/experts who were invited as guests framed the discussion narrowly. It was mostly framed as government regulation vs private profit. there was also some slight secondary framing of local people vs non-local corporations. Framings that were mostly or entirely ignored included: communities vs globalism, public good vs individual good, living ecosystems vs natural resources, humans as part of nature vs humans as separate from nature, etc.
The basic discussion was about how to maximize resource procurement while minimizing environmental destruction. And the basic assumption was of opposition and conflict, of win/lose scenarios where those who lose the most are ignored or rationalized away. There was neither an environmentalist conception of the human species living sustainably balanced within the earth’s biosphere nor a religious belief of humanty as caretaker of God’s Creation. The focus of the discussion was ‘management’ and so the implication was how do we best control and manipulate nature toward our desired ends. What was missing was the possibility of humans not creating problems in the first place that need to be managed.
– – –
I was thinking about how this opposition attitude is common in American society right now. There is the idea that for one person or group to win that others must lose. And there is is the idea that society can only be run well through hierarchies with the only disagreement being which system the hierarchy is organized according to. All of this depresses me.
My friend and I went to see the new X-Men: First Class movie. We were discussing the view portrayed of human evolution and change. It was mostly a view of Social Darwinism (by the way, I’ve always thought it odd how many right-wingers will dismiss Darwinian evolution while promoting Social Darwinism). I mentioned to my friend the thoughts I wrote about above. As a liberal, he of course agreed with me about NPR being a mainstream establishment voice. And we had a discussion on our walk home about the relationship of society and nature.
I told him about some thoughts I’ve had while working at the city parking ramp. In particular, I brought up my wonderings about what kind of vision of the world is implied by the building of large concrete structures in which to store large hunks of mobile metal.
I noticed a pigeon nesting in the ramp and I knew its days were numbered. Management seeks to block all possible nesting sites within the ramp and some of the maintenance workers find great pleasure in ‘hunting’ the pigeons who do manage to find a roost. This mentality is repugnant to me. I understand that animals and humans don’t always cohabitate well, but this situation isn’t ‘natural’ or inevitable. Parking ramps are designed to be ecosystem deserts, to be utterly opposed to all that is natural. But there is no reason to do this other than an ideological paradigm, a worldview that disallows people to envision any other possibility.
A parking ramp could be designed that gave pigeons nesting areas that would keep their poop away from cars and walkways. It could even be designed so that the pigeon poop could be collected and used as it traditionally was used (and still is used in many places) as fertilizer. This pigeon fertilizer could be used as free fertilizer for city gardens or it could be sold in order to make additional profit. That would be a win-win solution. To take this a step further, ramps (or any other structures for that matter) could be designed with habitation for all kinds of animals. Downtowns could be as beautiful to look at as parks filled with trees. And the habitat could help ease some of the environmental destruction that are causing many species to become endangered and go extinct.
What is the advantage of seeing nature as the enemy? There is no practical advantage. It actually goes against the practical benefit of the continued survival of the human species. Yes, we’re talented at ‘managing’ nature, but too often this just means destroying nature. My friend pointed out the conservative position that it shouldn’t be the role of government to spend taxpayers’ money on the liberal agenda of saving nature. My response was that neither should it be the role of government to ensure the private profit agenda of destroying of nature.
– – –
This problem extends beyond just nature. If we perceive nature as lesser than us, then our treatment of nature demonstrates how we wish to treat humans that are considered as lesser than other humans (poor, minorities, indigenous, etc) and how we wish to treat communities that are considered lesser (in terms of legal rights and political influence) than big business. To treat nature fairly is akin to the democratic ideal of treating all people fairly.
The reason I was thinking about democracy was because of an article on The Nation. Here is the article:
Reimagining Capitalism: Bold Ideas for a New Economy
And following it is my response:
Our societal problems are caused and contributed to by a lack of democracy. A functioning democracy isn’t just about votes but about participation. In all aspects of society (politics, media, business, etc), power and wealth have become concentrated while wealth disparity and political disenfranchisement grows. Early great thinkers warned against such concentration, but in recent history many wrongly thought such warnings no longer mattered.
A political democracy is meaningless without social democracy (i.e., democratic values such as in the constitution). I don’t know if capitalism’s problems can be solved or if capitalism must be replaced. If there is any hope for capitalism in a democratic society, it will be by capitalism becoming a part of democracy rather than in opposition.
The founders and other early Americans were careful about regulating capitalism. They created protectionism to defend the local economy against transnationals, subsidized presses ensuring a functioning free press available to all citizens, and defined corporations narrowly. The last may be most important. Corporations:
– were only allowed to serve a single project or product, large conglomerate corporations having been illegal.
– could only exist as temporary entities so as to not outlive the people who are responsible for creating them.
– weren’t allowed to participate in politics.
Free market is just another way of saying democratic market. A system, political or economic, can only be free to the extent people involved in the system are free. As some early Americans (Paine, Jefferson, Thoreau, etc) realized, freedom can’t exist without equality (of power and wealth, and of opportunities to fairly earn power and wealth).
Democracy only functions well on the local level where people know the people they are impacting by their decisions and actions. A market can’t be considered free when it impacts people who can’t influence or protect themselves against those (e.g., transnationals) who seek to profit at their expense (including local communities and environments). The more localized democracy becomes the more it becomes direct democracy. Elites mistrust the people, but we the majority need to stop being subservient to the elites in politics and business. The problem is that the system we have now is designed by and for the upper class.
We need a government and an economy that is literally by and for the people:
1) a modernized version of Jefferson’s agrarian democracy (meaning an economy run mostly by small businesses and a society where most people are small business owners);
2) something like what Chomsky describes with anarcho-syndicalism (where businesses are owned, controlled and/or otherwise greatly influenced by the workers and by the members of the community in which the business is located); or
3) a system closer to Germany’s model with strong unions, a publicly trained workforce, high levels of civic participation, well-funded social safety net, community banks, and protected manufacturing.
– – –
Obviously, we live in a messed up society with messed up priorities. We are still operating society according to some very old ideas about human nature, but we are facing very new problems.
41 thoughts on “Man vs Nature, Man vs Man: NPR, Parking Ramps, etc”
This has got to be one of my all-time favorite blog entry titles, Ben!!!! LOL!!!
I did a double-take on this :
As some early Americans (Paine, Jefferson, Thoreau, etc) realized, freedom can’t exist without equality (of power and wealth, and of opportunities to fairly earn power and wealth).
“of power and wealth.” I’d like to see your source for that. It is the exact opposite of what I understand. Opportunities, yes.Rights and freedoms, yes. But not equal wealth for everyone. Equal rights and freedoms is pretty much redundant with equal opportunity (and if not, then I don’t go all the way to “opportunity.”) But I believe those founding fathers understood that the end result wouldn’t be that everyone had the same amount of wealth. That would be a weird notion.
(And I don’t know what you mean by power, so I can’t talk about that one.)
Thank you for such wonderfully thoughtful blogs! You really dig in, and try to see things clearly. I much admire!
I sometimes like to make amusing titles. I do prefer titles that actually describe posts and sometimes that can be done in a fun way.
You did a double-take, did ya? I can answer at least part of what your asking, but maybe you’ll have further questions. I picked out those three names on purpose and so I have justification for why I made such statements.
1) Paine –
He is the most central example. Paine wrote about one of the most egalitarian visions I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’ve read various works of his, but I haven’t read all of his work. The most clear example I recall offhand is his ‘Agrarian Justice’. In that work, he discusses the issue of inequality not being the natural state of man and that it needs to be remedied. I write about Paine’s views in some of my other posts:
2) Jefferson –
From An American Dilemma by Gunnar Myrdal (pp. 8-9):
3) Thoreau –
I used that quote (along with some other quotes) in a post I have about Thoreau:
By the way, I didn’t claim these people were demanding equal wealth, but they were criticizing vast inequalities. Equality is just an ideal we aspire to. Like all ideals, they can never be achieved as absolutes (theological debates aside). The problem with the idea of equal opportunity is that it’s often used as a way of making equality a mere theoretical construct unrelated to the real world lives of people. A claim of equal opportunity is meaningless if it consistently and disproportionately distributes results to the same groups of people. It’s not about attaining perfect equality. It’s simply about attaining the most equality that is possible within the constraints of reality but not the constraints of social status quo.
To understand some of my criticisms, you might find the following helpful.
Here is Sheldon Richman who is a left-libertarian. Despite being associated with the Cato Institute, he makes arguments very similar to Noam Chomsky:
I guess we’d have to be really specific, Ben. Equality OF WHAT!! I don’t know about Thoreau’s political beliefs so I won’t comment at all about him. But as far as I know, the equality which mattered to the founders of the US was equality before the law. “All men are created equal” didn’t mean that everyone had equal athletic ability, or musical ability, or equally acute vision, or that everyone should have equal amounts of food in their pantry, or the same clothes. It meant equal ONLY with respect to rights and the law.
As I understand the matter, anyway. That is the only equality i believe is worth aspiring too. There is nothing “natural” about inequality. It is the natural state. We are all unequal in most ways, aren’t we? Enforced unnatural equality is the basis for many a “dystopia” story……
I realized there is no way I could respond to you in a short comment. So, I made my response into another post:
I must admit I have a negative response to your response. You criticize my position and simultaneously admit you don’t know much about what you are criticizing. I bring up data in my defense. What is your response to that? You call my value of equality dystopic. So, I bring up even more data. What is your response to that? You don’t respond. You don’t offer any data. You just criticize without any reason of knowledge behind your criticism. You just for personal reasons don’t like equality.
As far as I know you, you seem like a nice person. But come on. WTF! If you don’t know something about a subject, then don’t criticize someone who actually does know something about that subject. Capiche?
Anyway, what is up with this dystopia bullshit? I’m not talking about equality as some absolute ideal that would be implemented through an authoritarian government. Equality is just a basic value of all social democracies. There is nothing crazy about it. Yes, we can’t perfectly achieve equality, but neither can we perfectly achieve equal opportunity. Perfection is the enemy of the good. We should strive for equality (in the social democracy sense, not the dystopic fiction sense) even though it’s an endless effort.
I don’t think you really understand what equality is. It’s not an abstraction. It’s a relative concept, but some societies are relatively more equal than others. And those socieities have relatively fewer social problems. What you don’t understand is that equal opportunity can’t be separated from equal results. One only exists to the extent the other exists.
Take Germany for example. In terms of wealth disparity, they have more equality than the US. In terms of economic mobility, they have more equal opportunity than the US.
That is just a fact of life. I’m sorry that you seem lost in abstract ideals and fearmongering dystopic visions.
If this is how you normally act toward that which you disagree with, there is no point in you commenting on my blog anymore. I don’t mind disagreement, but I do expect disagreements to be fair and reasonable. And if someone is wrong, I expect them to have the moral courage to admit they were wrong.
Until you respond to this comment, you are banned from my blog.
One thing that particularly irritates me is that you a more left-leaning person are defending right-wing talking points. The one thing that conservatives have been good at is controlling the narrative of the mainstream media and of public debate. It is irritating that many on the right are more concerned about rhetoric than facts. But what irritates me more is that there are plenty of people on the left that are brainwashed by this propaganda and will defend right-wing ideologies against other left-leaning people.
It reminds me of a recent video of Maddow and Uygur.
The latter pointed out a GOP strategy of getting Democrats to attack their own. I just don’t know why those on the left play into the right-wing game plan. I don’t care about the Democrats. I’m just talking about all of those who are real liberals (i.e., real social democrats who believe in social democratic values such as equality).
If Americans, especially liberals, stop believing in the potential for greater equality, we will stop striving for it. The results are inevitable: increasing wealth disparity, increasing concentration of wealth among the richest of the rich, shrinking of the middle class, decreasing social/economic mobility, increasing social problems, etc. It’s so predictable that it isn’t even funny. The ultimate outcome is the destruction of democracy itself.
OM, that is what you are unwittingly promoting. Wake up! The nightmare of the Reagan era is over. It’s time to stop reliving the trauma and thus re-creating it. If even smart leftys like you are as clueless as you act in the comments here, then we are fucking doomed.
Ben, I do apologize — for getting involved in conversations I have not the time to deal with adequately once they are underway. It’s a very bad habit, and this instance will make me far less likely to keep doing that.
I didn’t see that I was CRITICIZING anything. I ASKED for your definition of equality and said here are two (of the) possible views a person might have, one of which I agree with and one of which I don’t. Sorry if that seemed to be criticism of you in particular.
And now you are implying that I am brainwashed. Huh??? First of all I am not left-leaning or right-leaning. I am off that spectrum. You’ve made a TON of assumptions about me and my views…..None of which are correct….. And made a bunch of accusations about what my views are and how they are “fearmongering” etc. I really didn’t expect that of you.
So I don’t even know how to respond. Since I don’t have time to tell you all of your assumptions which are incorrect, and what my views actually are, and what they are based on, I guess I’ll go silent.
But, to reiterate, I was not criticizing anything. I was inquiring about your views. I actually know a lot more about all this than you give me credit for or that I immediately throw in someone’s face; I was endeavoring to be humble….. since I know what I don’t know….. Guess it backfired.
I am not “unwittingly promoting” anything….Nor wittingly, either. I am inquiring, and attempting to reach some clarity between our views, even if they are different….
Keep on keeping on, what you say is valuable; your willingness to dig deeper is extremely valuable. I regret that discussing these matters is not high enough priority in my life to give them adequate attention comparable to yours.. They are indeed a high priority, for the world, and there will be a time I jump in with both feet. It isn’t now, apparently.
With high regard,
I’m sorry to be so negative, but I was being emotionally honest. I perceived as ‘criticism’ in your comparing my views with dystopia stories… and I don’t know how else I could have perceived it. Did you genuinely think you’d get a positive response from me by making that comparison?
I get frustrated. I spend tons of time reading, studying and researching… while at home, while at work, often even while hanging out with friends. It’s what I do. My whole fucking life has been dedicated to it. When I put forth a view, it’s usually based on hundreds of hours, sometimes more, of careful research and analysis.
It’s frustrating to have my views challenged in the way you did. I wouldn’t have minded if you had countered with facts or sources of your own. I wouldn’t have minded if you had spent the time to look at the facts and sources I offered. I realize you probably didn’t have the time or energy. If that was the case, you should have softened your views and simply stated you were unsure, leaving it at that. If you challenge my views, I can promise I will challenge your views. I don’t take challenges lightly. If you question me as you did here, you better be prepared for an all-out debate.
From our various discussions, I know you are smart and are informed about other issues. None of us knows everything about everything. Something I strive for and expect in others is intellectual humility. If you don’t understand my view or the info it’s based upon, then I’d advise you to hold back on the dystopia comparisons until you understand further. I found it rude and offensive. For certain, “dystopia” is a very serious charge to bring against someone’s views.
The views I present are based in the views of those I mentioned plus others. Take Adam Smith as another example. Along with these others, Smith saw inequality as a problem that went beyond mere opportunity or rather that the problem of one was part and parcel with the problem of the other.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, ch. X, p. 111:
“The whole of the advantages and disadvantages of the different employments of labour and stock must, in the same neighbourhood, be either perfectly equal or continually tending to equality. If in the same neighbourhood, there was any employment evidently either more or less advantageous than the rest, so many people would crowd into it in the one case, and so many would desert it in the other, that its advantages would soon return to the level of other employments. This at least would be the case in a society where things were left to follow their natural course, where there was perfect liberty, and where every man was perfectly free both to chuse what occupation he thought proper, and to change it as often as he thought proper.”
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter II, Part 2:
“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation.”
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:
“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
Click to access V18N2P143_156.pdf
It’s not a matter of all these various people agreeing on the proper solutions. My point is that the basis of my views, inequality, isn’t a new idea in American thought. In fact, it originates in the earliest great American thinkers. You may disagree with my take on inequality, but you can’t honestly disagree with the fact that my views are based on early American sources. On this particular point, I’m indisputably correct.
I understand you mean well. I initially held back from responding negatively. But when you didn’t respond after awhile, I realized I wasn’t willing to just let it drop. If it hadn’t been for the dystopia accusation, I probably would’ve responded differently. That really got under my skin. Those were fighting words.
As for my accusations against you, I would say two things.
First, I was mostly just pissed off at you. If you had been less confrontational, I would’ve been less confrontational. If you had simply asked questions without making accusations, I would’ve simply answered your questions without getting defensive. I’m easily agitated when it comes to things like this. It’s best to not push my buttons unless your prepared for the almost inevitable reaction.
Second, I was being careful in how I was speaking about the left and right. Going by my definitions, you are definitely left-leaning in your general attitude. Your views of emphasizing equal opportunity are actually more libertarian, although seemingly more right-libertarian than left-libertarian (which is relative, of course, since even right-libertarians are fairly left-leaning in their own way). You may not like to be categorized and labeled. That is fine as far as it goes, but categories and labels are real things. According to my definitions, you seem to be a “liberal” or strongly predisposed in that direction, at least in the psychological sense (based on psychological research which is a whole other topic).
Now that you’ve responded, the ban on your commenting is lifted. But I suppose you likely won’t feel very open to commenting. I’m a simple person in these matters. If you don’t want to see my aggressive side, don’t make accusations as you did. Just don’t do it. You can provide commentary and offer questions… but once you step over that line, be prepared for the consequences. Truth is more important to me than even friendship. When you challenge my sense of truth, you are challenging the core of my being. As a typical INFP, challenging the core of my being is no small matter. Challenging my sources or my ideas is one thing, but you must understand that my values are who I am. I would defend my values to the death if it came to that.
Thank you for not ban-ishing me!
The day has gotten away from me today, and I might have to respond in chunks. Let’s see what I can do, and how long a comment can be!
One important thing we have in common is that truth is more important to ME than friendship, also. Has been as long as I can remember.
I want to touch on various topics, in random order:
Categories and labels can be useful but when applied to PEOPLE they actually inhibit truth, clarity, and understanding. Surely you know that just because I might share one or two or three particular views of a group, doesn’t mean I share all of them. Politically, I probably can find a similar view with ANY group. You really don’t know jack shit about WHO I am politically, because I don’t talk about my deep, whole viewpoint.
So I object when you say:
“According to my definitions, you seem to be a “liberal” or strongly predisposed in that direction, at least in the psychological sense…”
I would not object if you said “You have said various things which I attribute to a group of people I label as liberal, so you have certain views I label as liberal.” In fact you did say that, but I’d have preferred if you limited your label to what I said, not a global characterization of “your views.”
I reiterate that I am not categorizable, but some of my views are shared with various groups. Some of my political views are so far out I do not know of ANYONE who shares them. My most fundamental views are like that.
I really emphasize that I think dealing in political labels and categories is counter-productive to seeing truth, and obscurative rather than helpful. I make this comment about many of your blog posts.
You might check out the work of Kevin Bowman for some insights into the profound differences in worldview which labels can hide. http://web.augsburg.edu/~bowmank/
and the paper I am mostly referring to,
Click to access IntgrlFinCrisAbs.pdf
MY COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOG
Thought you might want to know my motives for commenting on your blog from time to time. Not to argue with you, (I still maintain you took me to be confrontational when I wasn’t even talking about your views) but to support you. You really help people think outside the box, and I want to do my small part to help more people pay attention to your blog — even when I disagree with something you say — and I figure commenting will help.
I also like to raise questions for you, from time to time. Not to say YOU’RE WRONG but to suggest you look at something more deeply, or see things from another angle. At the times I think I see something you don’t. That was my basic goal re the concept of “equality.”
ME AND FOUNDING FATHERS
The FF said a lotta things I don’t agree with, some of which you’ve quoted. Just because I cited them for something, doesn’t mean that I will agree with any quotes you turn up from them which are more like your views than mine. That isn’t an argument which carries any weight with me, that a FF said xyz. I just find it handy when their views and mine coincide!
So yes, I have no quarrel, and never did, with your claim that your views have sources in early American thought. That however carries no persuasive power, to me.
I haven’t looked back at what I said, but I did not INTEND to apply that to YOUR view. I ASKED about your view. I MEANT to say that a certain view, which I described, seemed to point toward results which I and others would characterize as dystopian. I did not know whether that was YOUR view or not. That’s why I asked.
I think I’ll post this before some internet gremlin gobbles it, and continue in another comment.
“Categories and labels can be useful but when applied to PEOPLE they actually inhibit truth, clarity, and understanding. Surely you know that just because I might share one or two or three particular views of a group, doesn’t mean I share all of them. Politically, I probably can find a similar view with ANY group. You really don’t know jack shit about WHO I am politically, because I don’t talk about my deep, whole viewpoint.”
Don’t play such silly righteous game with me. Oh yes, you are fucking special. There was never another person just like you. Give me a fucking break.
If you knew anything about me (which would be easy to do just by reading my blog), you’d know I often speak of political ideologies in terms of psychological research. It would be very very strange if you were to test as psychologically ‘conservative’. Psychologists define these terms very carefully and your general attitude fits psychological ‘liberalism’ and it’s correlates.
“I really emphasize that I think dealing in political labels and categories is counter-productive to seeing truth, and obscurative rather than helpful. I make this comment about many of your blog posts.”
Some categories are useful and some aren’t. That is why I use useful categories. To be blunt, people who dismiss all categories out of hand are either naive or ignorant.
By the way, I was looking at the site you linked and I noticed another paper by the same author:
Click to access KSDTFabs.pdf
“A growth model that endogenizes human capital formation helps to explain why high initial inequality is harmful for subsequent growth in developing countries. Sectors ranging from most to least skill-intensive interact for the creation and diffusion of technologies. The model shows that highly unequal developing countries will likely have sectors that are not linked by positive knowledge spillovers. Diffusion is thus inadequate for self-financing of human capital and economic growth. The model is particularly instructive for the divergent growth experiences of the High Performance Asian Economies (relatively low initial inequality and high subsequent growth) compared to Latin America.”
That is basically what I was arguing. If a society doesn’t begin with basic equality, then that society will fail in providing basic equal opportunity. Inequality just leads to more inequality. Equality can be theoretically separated from equal opportunity, but the two can’t be realistically/pragmatically separated. I’ll always favor reality over theory every time, no matter how principled others may think the theory is. An abstract theory that can’t be applied is meaningless.
“The FF said a lotta things I don’t agree with, some of which you’ve quoted. Just because I cited them for something, doesn’t mean that I will agree with any quotes you turn up from them which are more like your views than mine. That isn’t an argument which carries any weight with me, that a FF said xyz. I just find it handy when their views and mine coincide!”
I really don’t care. I didn’t write this post to persuade you. It was you who were responding to what I wrote, not the other way around. I presented my views about the founding fathers before our discussion began. The founding fathers were relevant because I was responding to an article that was about America, ya know the country the founders founded based on their own ideas and values.
“So yes, I have no quarrel, and never did, with your claim that your views have sources in early American thought. That however carries no persuasive power, to me.”
You criticized my presented view claiming to have a more correct understanding.
“I’d like to see your source for that. It is the exact opposite of what I understand.”
You judge my views that I claim are based on sources, but when I provide those sources you claim to not be persuaded by such sources. If you don’t care about my sources, why did you challenge my claim of sources?
It’s up to you to defend your criticisms. You criticized my views of the founding fathers. When I brought up the proof that my views were actually based on the founding fathers, your response is to dismiss the founding fathers and to try to change the subject. You didn’t respond to the fact that you were originally wrong about what you thought you knew about the founding fathers (and other early American thinkers). I won’t back down until you are intellectually honest in admitting you were wrong.
LOL! i suspected you might respond that way to the first part of what I said. Oh well.
I am up to my ass in alligators at ANG at the moment, and much of the rest of my life is on hold, including responses here.
Yes, I was wrong in thinking the founding fathers had (what I would consider to be) consistent views on certain matters….
That was the tiny stone in my shoe that was irritating me. That is all I needed to hear. All the rest is just interesting discussion. I’m not claiming to be right about all of this. I’m certain I’m largely clueless. But when I’m clearly right about some single point, I just want a little acknowledgement… and then we can carry on… or not.
In particular, I won’t claim as much certainty about most of the names I’ve brought up. The only early American I’ll claim some basic confidence in understanding would be Paine. I’ve read biographies about him and I’ve read many of his works. I’m no expert, but I have a basic sense of who Paine was and what he was envisioning. If not for Paine, I probably wouldn’t give a flying fuck about the founding fathers.
I haven’t felt very inspired in recent years. But Paine was able to break through my growing cynicism. It’s easy to think that the world is just the way it is. What Paine showed me was that there were two paths created at the beginning of our country. Most Americans took one path, but the other path still exists. Even though it’s a bit overgrown, it’s still there.
I find comforting the thought of this path not taken. We may never take it (or, like Lincoln and Roosevelt, only take a few steps down it), but just the fact that we could take it softens my hardened heart.
I’m no moral exemplar. I have no justification in being righteous. I don’t know. I just get tired of it all. For this reason, someone like Paine amazes me. Even when he was surrounded by violence and oppression, surrounded by enemies and naysayers, Paine just kept on keeping on. He had his vision, a very down to earth vision at that. He had a simple certainty that diverse people could work together for the common good… a crazy idea, eh?
The government isn’t the enemy. We are our own enemy.. and, as such, we can be our own saviors. A democratic government is simply a representation of this collective vision of humanity. Not a people divided into ethnicities, religions and countries of origin… no, a people united, a world united. Paine understood that the oppressors oppress because we the majority let them. As long as we maintain this attitude of victimhood, it doesn’t matter if government exists or something else exists (anarchism, primitivism, etc). Even indigenous people knew severe oppression at times even without any central government. All that is needed for oppression is someone to oppress and others to be oppressed. Government has no monopoly on violence and power.
The form of government (the ideology, the theories) doesn’t ultimately matter. Any institution is simply made up of people. That is what any anarchist worthy of the name should understand. Anarchism only exists through a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone) because anarchism can never be a permanent anything. Anarchism is merely an agent of change, but it isn’t the results of that change. The best anarchism can do is create an environment of constant change, constant becoming, constant unrest. The government doesn’t need to be taken down for anarchism to do what it does. Anarchism at its best is sneaky and subversive. Anarchism from without will always fail, but anarchism from within is unstoppable.
There is no final victory, no final solution. Anarchism means refusing to be contented with or maybe even concerned about victories and solutions.
A good example of anarchism is Jesus. He didn’t come to bring a kingdom on earth. He submitted to the state in saying to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Anarchism is most powerful when it seems most weak and is most weak when it seems most powerful. Anarchists should learn this lesson well.
MORE ON MY COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOGS
“I get frustrated. I spend tons of time reading, studying and researching… while at home, while at work, often even while hanging out with friends. It’s what I do. My whole fucking life has been dedicated to it. When I put forth a view, it’s usually based on hundreds of hours, sometimes more, of careful research and analysis.”
Yes, and I admire that, and it’s one of the reasons I pay attention to what you say, and wish others to pay attention also.
And my own views are based on rather extensive research also, (it does seem to be somewhat relevant that I’ve probably had about 30 more years as an adult than you have, assuming you are about 40; I forget, you might be much younger…..) and I am pretty conscientious about stating my level of certainty about any view I put forth. But sometimes I am not so conscientious about that, and appreciate having that called to my attention. I guess that might be part of the “intellectual humility” you “strive for and expect in others.” I too strive for and expect, or hope for, that.
I continue to see it as quite complex and many-layered. I actively disagree with some of what you quoted from Adam Smith. I see that Nature creates a great deal of inequality. It is inequalities mandated by law, or enforced outside of law by those who use force, which disturb me, not Nature’s inequalities. It is inequalities which result from force, from dishonesty, from fraudulent dealings, from unequal enforcement of laws and unequal protection by laws, which disturb me.
I do not resonate with many of the “equalities” others seem to regard as desirable, as I think they are un-natural and require actually the violation of the rights of some people (i.e. those “equalities” carry the price of initiated force against some people.)
OTOH I recognize that there are a huge variety of sources of the inequalities I don’t like, and some of those sources are quite subtle and indirect. Hard to tease out, and even more challenging to try to rectify wihout violating someone’s rights.
I think most of the thinking about inequalities I see around the world these days is hopelessly shallow wrt seeing the true causes, and the remedies proposed I see as often going to result in far worse inequalities, down the road.
I haven’t read enough from you yet to REALLY know where you are in all that. At least, you are pretty open-minded, and you do your research, and your views grow and mature and develop over time. That’s more than I can say about 99.9% of others.
I’m glad it’s an issue you are addressing. Thanks for listening to my views. And thank you for being SO clear about how you want to be dealt with. Makes life easier.
Not all costs and benefits can be monetized, but capitalism (whether free market or not) almost entirely by design excludes anything that can’t be monetized. This is less of a problem with small communities. Hunter-gatherer tribes, for instance, were more widely spread apart so the actions of one community were less likely to impact other tribes. Similarly, early small agricultural communities caused less large-scale problems. But in todays world of industrialization and globalism, impacts are non-local and the human mind isn’t evolved to understand or care about non-local impacts or the strangers elsewhere impacted. I don’t see how a free market can solve this problem inherent to the limits of human nature.
Some costs and benefits are collective such as fire prevention. A private for-profit company couldn’t solve this problem nor could you get everyone to voluntarily agree to a single solution. A collective solution has to be forced on all because the dangers and costs of fires, especially wildfires, impact everyone in a community. A fire can spread from house to house and from community to community. Fires don’t know property boundaries. If not for government, who would bear the costs and implement collective action to do control burns and watch over vast areas of wilderness to spot fires before they spread?
Also, what about long-term costs and benefits such as with local ecosystems? And what about the extremely non-local costs and benefits of the entire biosphere? Pollution doesn’t know property boundaries or national boundaries. We all collectively share the same water and air and we share even many of the same food sources such as seafood. The challenge with environmental costs and benefits is that they’re usually only seen after decades or centuries. A problem prevented may have no short term benefits, but if not prevented it may have massive long-term costs.
As an example, the President Carter helped create the EPA. The reason it was created was because there was little monetary incentive for companies to solve the problems of pollution and environmental destruction. Much of the costs were invisible to everyday experience. Even scientists didn’t know all the potential problems with pollution, but they knew enough that prevention was the wise course despite there being no immediate and apparent benefits. One of the pollutants decreased was lead and the benefits to this weren’t seen for decades. It was only until recent research that scientists could see that the decrease of lead helped to vastly decrease the violent crime rate. No one could’ve predicted this, but problems like this need to be prevented for the very reason we don’t understand them. It’s the precautionary principle.
This issue is complicated with the inherent conflict between transnational corporations and local communities. What monetarily benefits a company such as mining often doesn’t benefit the local community. And the costs of the companies actions may not be seen until years or decades after the company has moved it’s business elsewhere or maybe even has gone out of business. Who is responsible for those costs?
When indigenous people experiences diseases introduced by foreigners… when the water supply is polluted or the wildlife scared away causing the indigenous to be no longer able to sustain their traditional lifestyle… when industrialism leads to poor health because of pollution and malnutrition, who is responsible for the costs to individuals and communities? How does a free market monetize the costs and benefits that are collective and long-term?
I’m reminded of an example that Derrick Jensen used. He was describing this particular community that was established before there was a large federal government and when people mostly solved their own problems. The first settlers killed and scared off the Native Americans living there. The people who live there and own the land are the descendants of the people who stole the land originally. The same Native Americans still live in the area among the people who still possess their stolen land, the people who are descendants of those who killed their ancestors and destroyed their way of life. The creation of such an ownership class is inherently built upon violence and sustained through oppression. All of that violence and oppression happened before big govt.
This story has been repeated a million times around the world. Right now as I write there are indigenous people being exploited and oppressed often by big business or sometimes by small business owners that settled on the homeland of the indigenous. Early settles used the principle of property rights to steal land because they believed/rationalized that he who makes use of the land has the right to the land. This was based on the concept that land in it’s natural state is worthless. This bias continues to this day. We are only beginning to understand the value of health ecosystems to ensuring water and air is clean, things we normally take for granted without considering the costs and benefits.
All these problems I speak of have their origins at the beginning of civilization. The problems of pollution and environmental destruction, malnutrition and disease became apparent the moment people left behind the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and formed permanent villages which became city-states which became states which became empires which became our present industrialized globalism. Indigenous people have perfectly healthy teeth until they are civilized and start eating a grain and sugar based diet. Capitalism or statism then offers the solution of dentistry, but capitalism and statism are part of the social condition that caused the problem in the first place. That relates to wildfires as well. We have to control nature in order to build stable societies and economies, but that control leads wildfires to become larger than they would ever have become naturally. So, once again, businesses or governments have to create solutions for the problem created by the entire system. All of civilization is the solving of problems that civilization created and every solution creates further problems.
So, the fundamental problem is civilization itself. The human species and human communities, ecosystems and the biosphere didn’t evolve under the conditions of civilization. Civilization has only existed for a few thousand years. Civilization has developed faster than evolution can happen. This has led to the extinction of massive numbers of species and the destruction of massive numbers of cultures.
The further problem is that civilization has created massive concentrated populations which are in themselves unnatural and which preclude natural solutions. We humans are a clever species, but it’s our cleverness that gets us into trouble. We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, but fundamentally we are driven by the same non-rational impulses as any animal. The difference is that no other species has ever had the power to destroy nearly all life on the planet.
“It seems to me that the social function of anarchy is merely to facilitate a transition of power from one archon to another. Nature abhors a vacuum and the absense of rules and rulers simply sets the stage for the appearance of new rules and new rulers. The question is then whether or not the new rules and rulers will be better than the old ones.”
“How much really needs to be private for us to be free—our thoughts, our toilet, our bedroom, what else?”
Click to access 007-cunliffe-erreygers.pdf
“The cause of the inequality, we speak of, must be sought in history, and be regarded as having its root in Providence, or in human nature, only in that sense in which all historical facts have their origin in these. [ . . . ] Historical research, we apprehend, will be found to justify this instinct, and to authorize the eternal hostility of the reformer, the advocate of social progress, to the priesthood. How is it, we ask, that man comes out of the savage state? In the savage state, properly so called, there is no inequality of the kind of which we speak.”
“We have been accused of proposing to rob the rich of their estates, and of proposing to do it by physical force. We think we have shown, in the foregoing, that ours is no scheme of robbery and plunder. We have planted ourselves on the Christian idea of man’s equality to man, and on the innate sense of justice, which belongs to all men. What we have demanded, we have demanded in the name of Justice. Show us, that what we demand is unjust, or that it is not in accordance with natural right, and we have nothing more to say. Perhaps, however, that to some, who accuse us, the justice of our propositions is their greatest condemnation. There are people in the world, at least it is so said, whose chief apprehensions are, that justice may be done. We will hope, however, that these are but few, and that their number is daily diminishing.
“With regard to physical force, we have not much to say. We see an immense system of wrong everywhere established, and everywhere upheld. [ . . . ] But how can he become thus free? How can the huge system of accumulated wrongs, under which he now groans, be overthrown, and a new and better system introduced and established? Peaceably? We would fain hope so; but we fear not. We are well assured of one thing; that the reform party will not be the first to take up arms. It will proceed calmly and peaceably, but energetically to its work. It will use no arms but those of the intellect and the heart. It fixes its eye on Justice, and marches steadily towards its realization. Will the conservatives yield up peaceably their exclusive privileges? Will they consent that justice shall be realized? If so, there will be no war. But we think we know the conservatives too well to believe this. A party that could collect together in this city, by hundreds, to mob a poor itinerant lecturer, and by thousands to consult on demolishing the post-office, because the postmaster insisted on obeying the laws, we do not believe will suffer the reform party to proceed quietly to the realization of its hopes. The proletaries will never resort to physical force; but that the masters may, for the purpose of keeping the proletaries in their present condition, we must believe, till we have some evidence to the contrary.”
You point out that the ideal of equality if made into an imbalanced and extreme ideology that is literally forced on an entire population can lead to dystopian results. I countered that this is potentially the case with any ideal and so it’s unfair to blame dystopia on any single ideal. Even anarchy if taken to the absolutist extreme would lead to a dysfunctional society.
A further point I’d make is that one could argue that our society is already a dystopia. It’s pointless trying to dissect the nuances between equal opportunity and equal results when in reality we have neither. In terms of rights, we must understand that our rights are directly built upon centuries of corpses of those who had their rights denied (and the descendents of these corpses are often, as we sit here arguing, still experiencing prejudice and oppression). Those who have gained power and privilege (which includes us all) often conflate this injust system with what they perceive as their ‘rights’. So, in remedying the injustice, there will always be those who will righteously complain about their loss of ‘rights’ (just like the whites who complain about the loss of Western values and fundies who complain about the loss of religious influence).
It’s true that trying to change the present dysfunction may just lead to other unforeseen problems. That is actually an argument that can be used to support my position. I’m not a radical which is why I’m wary of radical visions. It’s utopian visions (such as some anarchist theories) that are most likely to lead to dystopias. This could have been said of Paine’s proposal back when it was first proposed, but by today’s standards Paine’s proposal is relatively moderat compared to many of the anarchistic proposals. We Americans have already successfully implemented some social reforms that are very similar to parts of ‘Agrarian Justice’.
As for anarchism, I prefer Chomsky’s view of anarcho-syndicalism for the very reason that it’s more moderate (more reasonable, more practical).
First, Chomsky is more moderate in general in proposing reform within the present system rather rhan seeking radical change through all out revolution. I wish to avoid revolution for the same reason I wish to avoid the collapse of civilization. My anarchist inclinations are what make me distrusting of ‘solutions’.
Second, I don’t know what is Chomsky opinions about Paine, but it does seem there is some kinship between their attitudes toward American society. Both saw potential good that, although not pro-government, isn’t absolutely opposed to government. They aren’t starry-eyed dreamers. Related to this is the comparison between the US and Germany. In Germany, the working class maybe isn’t as empowered with as much liberty and equality as desired by Chomsky and Paine, but it is a large step in that direction. Germany is an example of how practical and how beneficial to society an be policies that help average citizens. This is reality, not mere speculation.
You admit that it’s a complex subject. If that is the case,why do you assume that there is always or usually a clear distinction between equal opportunity and equal results?
For example, take poverty. Are you suggesting we should take a social darwinism perspective which blames everything on the poor? So its just ‘natural’: inferior genetics, inferior culture, inferior parenting? If so, I must point how overly simplistic and outright prejudiced is such a view. Poverty includes worse conditions from malnutrition to pollution which impacts brain/cognitive development. Also poverty is partly a product of centuries of racism and oppression. Given these facts, how can rhetoric about ‘equal opportunity’ have any realistic meaning to the poor? In giving special education to children who often are poor, is this about seeking equal opporunity or equal results? Or is it about both?
Are the rights of the well off being infringed for helping the poor? Or are the rights of the poor being infringed upon by a well off class who benefits from the continued oppression of the poor?
My concern about equality is simply an extension of my valuing truth. I don’t have any absolute answers. All I wish is that we as a society could at least acknowledge the fact that these problems exist. As long as we continue in denial, the status quo will continue.
This is why I feel frustrated and why I have little patience with those who fear facing these harsh realities. If you can’t understand this view I present and if you don’t value that which is at the core of my values, I would hold little hope of our relating well and I would feel little motivation in trying to relate well. As such, either we find mutual understanding and respect or we part ways.
I had some additional thoughts while walking home from work.
I’m not a fan of the founding fathers out of some form of ancestor worship. In fact, I used to be indifferent about the founding fathers. Then, as I learned more about them, I often felt some combination of shame and anger. But, fortunately, I discovered Paine and I finally found a reason to be proud to be an American.
Many of the founding fathers were plutocrats. They opposed the monarchy not because they were against the power it held, but because they wanted that power for themselves. In place of a monarchy, they just created a different kind of hierarchical structure where wealth instead of crown became the symbol of power.
Even so, not all the founding fathers were blatant and unrepentant plutocrats. Jefferson and Franklin were more sympathetic to those outside of the plutocratic class. But only Paine really embraced the radical vision that our country was founded upon… because he was the person who first and most clearly formulated that vision (which included his being the first to refer to the colonies as a united country and his being the first to formulate a bill of rights that became the basis of the US bill of rights; also, which included his words being read by Washington and US soldiers on the battlefield during the Revolutionary War).
Without Paine, there probably would be no America. Yet few Americans know about Paine. I don’t remember learning about him in school. I’ve seen tons of documentaries about the founding fathers, but Paine almost is entirely ignored in these documentaries. Paine doesn’t even have a statue in DC. When lists of the founding fathers are made, Paine is almost always excluded. American leaders and elites don’t want to admit to the debt they owe to Paine and his radical vision. They’d rather his name be erased from the history books, except that trotting out a quote of his every now and then can be useful for purposes of patriotic rhetoric.
Paine didn’t just make me proud to be an American. He made me proud to be a human. Paine’s vision wasn’t just for Americans. Paine was offering his vision to the entire world. He wanted revolution to spread like fire from country to country.
That is why I care about the founding fathers.
Also, it isn’t about admiring the noble history of our country’s founding nor is it about seeking to confirm my opinions through support of respected authorities. No. What matter is that there is a vision at the core of our country, a vision that has never been fulfilled. Maybe this vision doesn’t matter to you, but it matters to me and it mattered to those early Americans who fought and died for the sake of that vision. If not for their sacrifice, we wouldn’t now be here discussing the matter.
That vision, despite seemingly dormant at times, has never died. It’s the very heart of our entire society. It’s the very heart of the modern world. It’s often obscured, but it’s there throbbing to break free from the chains of the past. The revolution never ended. It is still going on right now, going on all around us, within us. America will never escape it’s grasp.
I don’t know what it means. I will tell you this much. Once this vision has a hold of you, you will never see the world the same again. I’m not a hopeful person. I’m about as pessimistic as they come, but that doesn’t matter. It isn’t just about idealism. If I believed in prophecies, I would declare that Paine’s vision is a prophecy. That vision will come true or else this country will be crushed upon it like a ship hitting a shoal. It can either be a prophecy of hope or of doom. I’m just fascinated by it, for whatever it’s worth.
Like Paine’s impact on me, many Americans have been inspired by his writings. Lincoln was an admirer of Paine. Without Paine, there may have been no abolition of slavery. Go a little further on in history and it’s easy to see Paine’s mark on many eras from the Populist to the Progressive to Civil Rights. Social Security, for example, seems to have been the first attempt to implement part of Paine’s proposal in ‘Agrarian Justice’. Roosevelt, along with signing the Social Security Act, created a Second Bill of Rights which would’ve extended Paine’s first version of the Bill of Rights (unfortunately, Roosevelt died shortly after his proposing the Second Bill of Rights and so it wasn’t passed). Roosevelt apparently was trying to fulfill Paine’s vision. But, like Paine, no one ever mentioned the Second Bill of Rights when I was in school. That’s what I get for growing up during the Reagan Era.
Progressivism wasn’t an invention of 20th century elites. Paine was centuries ahead of his time and he was the complete opposite of an elite. It was just that it took a couple of centuries for an influential elite like Roosevelt to take Paine’s radical anti-elitism seriously.
As I find myself repeating, I’m a pessimist rather than an idealist. It’s because I’m an epistemological anarchist that I’m wary of anarchy made into a political ideology. And it’s also the reason I’m attracted to progressivism. There is no contradiction here. Progressivism isn’t ultimately a hopeful vision. What progressive reform implies is that plutocrats if left to their own devices will accrue power and wealth to the plutocracy… power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
What is interesting is that for most of history government was supported by conservatives because in the past conservatives were the pessimists. An optimist has no use for government. It’s the capitalists who are the optimists while those who doubt privatized power seek to balance it. Capitalists believe an invisible hand will magically solve all problems. Many anarchists also fall into the trap of superficial optimism believing an idealized human nature will solve all problems. I’m not unsympathetic to hopeful idealism, but experience has taught me to not be blinded by it.
Paine proposed government solutions not because he believed in the government, but because he distrusted the plutocracy more than he distrusted the government. Paine was hoping for a real democracy. Sadly, that wasn’t what was created. Instead, the plutocracy took over the government and replaced one oligarchy with another. Only something like Paine’s (or maybe Jefferson’s) plan for America could have prevented the establishment of a plutocratic ruling elite. But maybe it’s not too late to turn it around. We as a country came so close with Roosevelt. Maybe a new Roosevelt will arise to defend the rights of the average American.
If you truly believe in equal opportunity (even if you still feel uncertain about ‘equality’), you would be unwise to dismiss what I’m writing about here. Eliminating or weakening the government won’t create a morally worthy anarchist society. The problems we face are too great for that. The plutocracy is no longer limited by government. The plutocracy is now globalized through transnational corporations that have more power and influence than most developing countries. We either take back our government or else we might as well just give up. There is no other choice… well, besides Jensen’s hoping for the collapse of all of civilization. If more anarchist solutions are to be created, it will come with the assistance of rather than in opposition to democratic government. That is what makes Chomsky so brilliant. As the most intelligent and well informed anarchist alive today, he understands that juvenile fantasies about revolt against the system won’t lead to positive results.
We Americans don’t presently have anything even slightly resembling equal opportunity. Most of us Americans are wage slaves (if we are lucky to have a job) whose only opportunity of ‘democracy’ is to vote with our very few dollars (while the super rich poor, who are our employers/masters, pour millions into political campaigns, lobbying, think tanks, astroturf, and media conglomeration). The children of the rich inherit their parents wealth just as once sons of kings and barons once upon a time inherited their parents power (wealth just being the new symbol for inherited power). While rich kids are rewarded for the ‘success’ of others, poor kids are punished for the ‘failure’ of others. But, in reality, the whole game is rigged. ‘Success’ and ‘failure’ are meaningless when the winners and losers are decided before the game begins.
Either you believe in equal opportunity or not. Either you are with Paine or you are with the plutocrats. Pick a side… or be a spectator… I don’t give a fuck. Whatever you decide, I just wish you would base it on an appraisal of the stark reality we all face. Pretending we live in a free society won’t make it so. Even if Paine’s vision forever fails, it’s better to fail in facing reality than to succeed in dreams disconnected from reality.
“We are still operating society according to some very old ideas about human nature”
That’s just it. Especially when we consider that society is a manifestation of ‘human mind’
I don’t know if you paid attention to my posts ‘Revolution I’ and ‘Revolution II’, if you had, you’d have seen a considerable leaning to anarcho-xxx, the ‘xxx’ there is cos I didn’t choose how the post-revolution society would be. However, I’ve taken those posts down currently though I can put em back up for you cos you’re a David like me
I did read some of your recent posts. But you posted so much recently that I can’t recall offhand which ones I read. If you put up those two posts again, I’ll read them.
I’ve had some attraction to anarchist ideas of various types. Derrick Jensen’s anarcho-primitivism is interesting, but I don’t know what to make of it in terms of where humans are at the moment.
I just now realized that the statement about “old ideas” could be taken at least two ways.
First, if the old ideas aren’t working, then maybe we need new ideas. What those new ideas might be would be speculative, but obviously the present state of affairs can’t continue on for much longer until we either change or change will be forced upon us.
Second, the ideas that have dominated Western Civilization in recent millennia are only relatively old and maybe we need to look even further back to find some really useful ideas. All societies have their origins in indigenous societies. Even Westerners were once indigenous. The idea of national and/or cultural imperialism is a relatively new idea.
Ah, now yer gettin’ into some GOOD stuff!! Last fall I had my head taken off, spun around, and replaced on my neck, by the book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, and the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. And an article by Jared Diamond The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html. Don’t be misled about the Ryan book. It is as much about economics and politics and basic human nature as about sexuality.
All of those sources explore, in various ways, the downsides of the advent of agriculture in humanity’s life — without the “try to go back” views of the anarcho-primitivists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-primitivism
It is radical to question the general view that human history has been unmitigated progress toward “the better.” These sources do, but without any slick solutions. In fact, Ryan and Jetha very poignantly acknowledge we’re all in a tough situation together, and the best we can do for now is be kind to one another, with compassion for our collective suffering.
I too tend toward anarcho-something-or-other, but of course of a totally non-violent nature. But I come at the whole thing from a spiritual perspective, of what might be the appropriate way for spiritually-realized humans to relate to one another and to non-awake human beings? as a starting point. So it all gets rather complex.
But I was happy to hear you both have some leanings toward [my interpretation:] questioning the basic structure of political relating…..
So, Ben, you said
“Civilization in recent millennia are only relatively old and maybe we need to look even further back to find some really useful ideas.”
and I would like to underline that 6 times, and say the Ryan-Jetha book is a GREAT jumping-off point for such a “look further back” for useful ideas. (Further back than 10,000 years of agriculture/civilization. THEN read Diamond, (or maybe vice versa) and then the Quinn book (I heard the audio version.) They are all very different, but they’re lookin’ at the same elephant, methinks. An elephant I never, before last fall, even contemplated existed!!!!
“All of those sources explore, in various ways, the downsides of the advent of agriculture in humanity’s life — without the “try to go back” views of the anarcho-primitivists.”
My problem with anarcho-primitivists such as Derrick Jensen is that, despite all the suffering and destructiveness, I neither want to personally experience nor do I wish upon others the collapse of civilization. It doesn’t sound fun at all.
Collapse of civilization is a very simple answer which would ‘solve’ the problems of civilization by eliminating the source, but there are some problems. If civilization doesn’t collapse or doesn’t collapse quickly enough, who would be willing to try to force a collapse? Why do they think they would be successful? And what about all the massive suffering that would happen in the process? Even if it was successful, how would all traces of civilization be eliminated across the entire globe? And what would restrict civilization from rising again?
Obviously, civilization is problematic. One central issue is that civilization is built on agriculture. It’s fascinating that vegetarianism is a response to the suffering caused by a farming culture while simultaneously only being possible because of a farming culture. Anarcho-primitivists believe the solution can’t come from the same level as the problem. Maybe so, but there are two ways to go. A different ‘level’ can be found by recreating an indigenous hunter-gatherer lifestyle or can be found by civilization developing beyond its present model.
“I too tend toward anarcho-something-or-other, but of course of a totally non-violent nature. But I come at the whole thing from a spiritual perspective, of what might be the appropriate way for spiritually-realized humans to relate to one another and to non-awake human beings? as a starting point. So it all gets rather complex.”
Yes, complex. 🙂
I have an idiosyncratic view on this issue. My views on anarchism relate to my views on liberalism. I find it interesting that data shows liberals, at least in the US, are the most interested in compromise and moderation. Radicalism, not liberalism, is the opposite of conservatism. Similarly, anarchism isn’t necessarily the opposite of authoritarianism. Anarchism, like liberalism, is first and foremost a general attitude, a way of looking at the world, a way of understanding human nature. Both anarchism and liberalism can potentially operate under any system (because they aren’t any single system), although of course it wouldn’t be equally welcomed in all systems. Anarchism is the means, not the end or not any specific end. I might take it even further and say it isn’t really the means either.
Anarchism can potentially use any means to various ends. Anarchism is dependent on the situation. This is something that both Jensen and Chomsky understand, but that many right-leaning types (including those claiming to be anarchists) don’t understand.
“PEOPLE WHO READ MY WORK often say, “Okay, so it’s clear you don’t like this culture, but what do you want to replace it?” The answer is that I don’t want any one culture to replace this culture. I want ten thousand cultures to replace this culture, each one arising organically from its own place. That’s how humans inhabited the planet (or, more precisely, their landbases, since each group inhabited a place, and not the whole world, which is precisely the point), before this culture set about reducing all cultures to one.”
The danger of anarchism isn’t an opposing ideology like statism or fundamentalism. The real danger any anarchist faces is the temptation of trying to turn anarchism into an ideology.
Many right-leaning self-identified ‘anarchists’ claim Chomsky isn’t an anarchist because he refuses to take an oppositional position. Chomsky believes we have to start from where we are. Eliminating the state would simply empower big biz and big religion. The state is necessary even if only as a stepping stone. The issue is how to get from here to a more anarchist (i.e., more socially democratic) society. Imperfect as it is, the minimally democratic government we have does give us some basic influence to create change. A violent revolution, on the other hand, would likely just lead to the destruction of democracy which would be replaced by an authoritarian government.
Thomas Paine wasn’t an anarchist. But, like Chomsky, he believed that a central government was a necessary evil for the time being. And, like Jensen, he saw agriculture as the central problem. Paine realized the problem wouldn’t solve itself because modern humans were no longer living in a natural state. He understood that we first have to create a level playing field. Wealth, land and power have already been redistributed over centuries of oligarchy. That unfair advantage wasn’t going away without direct intervention. Simply idealizing about and making inspiring speeches about equal opportunity wouldn’t create a society that actually had equal opportunity. Without some basic equality as a starting point, there can be no equal opportunity to strive for.
As you see, my views on anarchism dovetail with my original argument.
I wanted to add a comment about the sources you mentioned.
I don’t think I’ve heard of ‘Sex at Dawn’ and sadly it isn’t available as a Kindle version. I’ll keep that book in mind and maybe I’ll come across a copy of it.
I read Ishmael some years ago. I have a friend who really liked that book. I’d have to read it again to recall it in detail, but I remember the basic worldview portrayed.
I’ve come across Jared Diamond before. I don’t know that I’ve read anything by him, but I think I saw a documentary based on one of his books. The article by him you linked presents an analysis similar to that of Paine’s argument in ‘Agrarian Justice’.
I’ve put them up.
I’m not familiar with anarcho-primitivism but I think anarcho-syndicalism is similar to the small society system we discussed before?
I’ve flirted with anti-establishmentism for sometime (more prominent in secondary school) and Thoreau only made it more sexy. But, it must be said that I like Thoreau only see such a system for very developed man
“I’ve put them up.”
Yes, I’m just now looking at them. In the first one, I noticed this line:
“The Revolution shall come; father v.s. son, mother v.s. daughter, no matter how far you go, it will come.”
I assume you are referencing the New Testament where Jesus says:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
In ‘Revolutin II’, you go into great detail.
Related to Jesus, you’re describing “that creeping venomous snake ‘Rule of Law’” reminded me of the Gnostics. The New Testament canon was originally created by a Gnostic in order to oppose the Old Testament. Marcion, the Gnostic in question, believed the God of the New Testament was different than the God of the Old Testament, the former The God of Love and the latter the demiurge of ‘Rule of Law’.
I liked what you said here (and how you said it):
“I hope, I hope, I can only hope, that this new world is a world for itself, a world for a world, built on nothing but itself.”
I feel what you’re saying relates to my constant dissatisfaction of ideology vs reality. Also, I feel this relates to anarchism. A distinction, though, needs to be made. Some people propose anarchism as if it would be a new form of social order or a way people should live. There is a self-negating quality about anarchism when it’s taken seriously and taken to its extreme. Anarchism often just leads to its opposite. The reason for this is because most ‘anarchists’ are basing their views on an ideological position (whether political, economic or religious) rather than on an epistemological position. Any real revolution begins within the ‘self’, within the experience of the world. I’m first and foremost an epistomological anarchist which doesn’t inevitably include political anarchism.
You seem to be contemplating along similar lines when, in ‘Revolution III’, you write:
“Up until now, the whole issue has been with man. The Revolution was never outside; it always was inside. And then, naturally, it would flow out.”
I’m not sure where revolution comes from. ‘Inside’ and ‘outside’ are slippery concepts. But it’s just that anarchism can’t be just a new social order (even one I find preferable), can’t be a new and improved ‘Rule of Law’.
Oh, by the way, your new blog design is interesting. It made me feel trippy. 🙂
Is there a particular reason for the change? Is there a revolution going on in your blog? LOL
“I’m not familiar with anarcho-primitivism but I think anarcho-syndicalism is similar to the small society system we discussed before?”
I don’t know if anarcho-primitivism would appeal to you. For me, I have immense respect for Derrick Jensen’s observations, analysis and criticisms. But I feel little desire to follow him to the world he wants. Bascially, the idea of anarcho-primitivism is that that modern civilization is a complete failure and that it will probably only get worse from here.
It doesn’t really matter to me. Like you say in your first Revolution post, I see a revolution coming but it’s for others to see where it goes. The human species might go extinct or it might not. Civilization might collapse or it might not. Part of me is rooting for the human species and even for human civilization. It’s an interesting experiment and it would seem sad to see such an interesting experiment to go to waste.
Anarcho-syndicalism is very different. It’s not a criticism of modern civilization in toto. Rather, it’s a criticism of concentrated power and hierarchical institutions, both public and private. Anarcho-syndicalism, in simple terms, is just the most extreme form of direct democracy. Those who live in a community decide what happens in that community. Those who work in a factory decide how that factory is run. Those who are directly impacted by the decisions are the ones who make the decisions.
“I’ve flirted with anti-establishmentism for sometime (more prominent in secondary school) and Thoreau only made it more sexy. But, it must be said that I like Thoreau only see such a system for very developed man”
Yeah, I think we are on the same page. Thoreau does make it sexy. He challenged everything. Neither capitalism nor government escaped his critical gaze. He was a Romantic who lived according to his dreams.
Thoreau was a rare human. And that is what many political anarchists don’t acknowledge. If all humans were this well developed, anarchism as a political ideology would be possible. But that isn’t the case. Any attempt to base an entire society on such a radical vision will inevitably fail… at least, at this point in human development. I can envision an anarchist future of various forms, but the challenge is how do we live right here and now in a society where the majority of people aren’t all that well developed, where for centuries the minority of those with power and wealth have intentionally kept the masses from developing to their fullest.
I don’t claim to know. That is for future generations to figure out, if they so desire.
However, I did have some tangential thoughts. Epistemological anarchism is about intellectual humility along with a sense of wonder. We must endlessly question and doubt.
My thoughts about epistemological anarchism relate to my interest in psychology. I care more about insights than ideologies. Any attitude, ideal or worldview is dysfunctional when imbalanced and can be made to seem dystopic when portrayed in extreme form.
I’ve been reading about research on authoritarianism. It’s very interesting and I’m in the process of writing a blog about it. One thought is that there are many cultural biases involved.
First, most people think authoritarianism as bad, but psychologically speaking an authoritarian is merely someone who makes for a good follower. As social animals, all humans are to varying degrees ‘authoritarian’ in this sense. Civilization would collapse without psychological ‘authoritarianism’. But no one wants to be called an authoritarian, including those who test high on measurements of authoritarianism. In reality, authoritarianism is only a problem when taken to an extreme and when what is followed isn’t worthy of being followed. The problem with authoritarians is that they’re easily manipulated.
Second, I realized I have never seen any research on ‘anarchism’ as a psychological predisposition. The reason is simple. An authoritarian will be violent when following a violent leader and the violence of a large movement of authoritarian followers can be very very violent. An anarchist, on the other hand, even at their most violent really can’t do much harm. In the late 1800s to early 1900s there were anarchists travelling around the globe assassinating people, but anarchists by nature aren’t good at organizing. They inevitably fail when it comes to politics. Even though they can cause trouble, they are incapable of implementing an anarchist society.
The important point is that such psychological predispositions are neither good nor bad. Anarchism among indigenous people is beneficial, but so far anarchism in the modern world hasn’t found a beneficial way to be implemented. I’m in favor of anarchism as a general attitude even as I’m skeptical of anarchism as a political ideology or movement. Modern civilization is hierarchical and thus opposed to anarchism. Yes, all the bad things of modern civilization can be blamed on ‘authoritarianism’, but likewise all that is good about modern civilization must be given credit to such psychological predisposition to ‘authoritarianism’.
Thinking of it this way, I’m agnostic about the conflict between anarchist ideologues and authoritarian ideologues. I just don’t like ideology. In reality, human nature is a mix of predispositions to anarchism and authoritariaism. Neither side will ever win. And neither side needs to win. The problem isn’t necessarily that modern civilization is authoritarian and that we need to return to a more anarchist lifestyle, indigenous or otherwise. Maybe the problem is extremes in general and so the solution would be seeking balance. For example, the internet was created for the ‘authoritarian’ purposes of the ‘authoritarian’ US statist government. However, the internet as we now know it includes many elements of an anarchist predisposition. The odd thing is that the ‘authoritarian’ government intentionally created the internet with anarchist elements in order to create a decentralized communication network that the government could use during a nuclear attack.
As a last comment, I noticed that you mentioned several bloggers in one of your posts, including little ol’ me. I checked out the other people you linked. You sure had a long discussion on the following post:
You’ve been keeping yourself busy between your blog posting and your blog commenting.
By the way, I couldn’t see the vids cos I’m on a phone and it’s expensive anyway
Your viewing my blog on a cell phone? I for some reason find it amusing that everyone these days seems to have a cell phone. I’ve never owned a cell phone in my life. I still use a corded phone, the one I have being about a decade old.
My childhood friend doesn’t have a cell phone. We both use internet and other electronic devices, but I think our extreme introversion makes us uninterested in having a phone where people can contact us at any moment. I take it as a point of pride that I have a Kindle ebook reader and yet have no cell phone. It demonstrates my priorities in life. Reading is much more important than constantly being in contact with people.
“I take it as a point of pride that I have a Kindle ebook reader and yet have no cell
Funny thing is it’s a point of pride for them that they have social lives and cellies to help with that.
I keep a celly for security, it’s the most primary reason around my “centre of the world” cos when on the road it’s prudent to have a way to call for help. We barely have payphones now as the plenty are now defunct
Also, I keep a celly for web browsing. Everybody knows I rarely call and when I do, they’re strategic ones (I only contact when you got something to offer) and when I receive more than three calls, it’s a big party to celebrate the day (my family’s full of nuts). I don’t do the social “how are you doing?” kind of calling. It’s fairly recently that it seems my Fe’s trying to creep up on me; I like it though, it makes me more psychologically healthy
Web browsing is the reason I got one in the beginning. I always insist on internet-capable phones. Most don’t really think about that when buying and if they do have it, they don’t use it. Most just get hi-tech phones cos they’re recognized as hi-tech or they’re expensive or they’re the latest
My entire family is aware that I don’t do what young adults are interested in: parties, money, ambition, sex and I’m out of it in current affairs. What they (except my mom) don’t know is I’m more in touch with the psychological and philosophical atmosphere of the day and that’s what I’m interested in; one can be able to do or actually do something but won’t be interested. And, being in touch with such regions, one can conjecture what could happen.
I must say my life is much like the monks of old like Mendel and Francis of Assisi, Gautama too, who were triply, scholarly, ascetic and spiritual. And like a warrior’s (samurai, to be particular) in that I pride myself on my strength – mental and physical; but we all break sometimes, the psychology necessitates it. However, I do have a highly-sexed nature though sex just ends up studied (intellectualized or investigated) like everything else, 4 me
“Funny thing is it’s a point of pride for them that they have social lives and cellies to help with that.”
Are you implying I have no social life? LOL
Did you know people had social lives prior to cell phones? It’s true. 😉
“I keep a celly for security, it’s the most primary reason around my “centre of the world” cos when on the road it’s prudent to have a way to call for help. We barely have payphones now as the plenty are now defunct”
It would make sense to carry a cell phone for reasons of security. If I travelled more often, I suppose I’d own a cell phone. But I rarely travel. And, when I do travel, I tend to travel with other people who do have cell phones.
“Also, I keep a celly for web browsing.”
That is an even better reason. I wouldn’t mind having a cell phone that would allow me to do all the things I normally do on a computer, but I just don’t feel like spending the money for such a luxury.
Anyway, I have my Kindle which gives me free access to internet browsing. I can’t, of course, watch videos on my Kindle. And for some reason my email doesn’t seem to be compatible with the Kindle. But I can do general searches which allows me to read the texts and see the pictures on websites (with no color). That is good enough for most of my purposes. Plus, it’s free after initial purchase cost.
“I’m more in touch with the psychological and philosophical atmosphere of the day and that’s what I’m interested in”
That too is what I’m interested in.
“I must say my life is much like the monks of old”
I’m trying to imagine you as a monk wandering around with your cell phone. With God and cell phone, what more could a monk need? If your a Buddhist monk, you don’t even need God.
“These sources do, but without any slick solutions”
Ok… OM, I didn’t notice your comment there. I don’t like the whole finding solutions business. It’s like having a fruit with some rotten parts and cutting them away then saying “o, it’s wholesome now, you can eat it”. Or better said, it means only changing some parts while leaving the fundament. The thing is a unit, one part changes, all has to change. You change one part, not only does that part change, the relation to everything changes and mostly we try to keep some and change some (keep the economy running while we change our foreign relations, change the economy while the social psychology remains fixed which it has been for centuries, etc) – it isn’t natural. That’s why Nature doesn’t support certain evolved creatures – they aren’t well-tailored units.
I envision a revolution but one that begins with every one man. For after all, our world, as we know it, is a projection of us onto it. What is not pertinent to us isn’t perceptible to us and doesn’t exist to us. When something unknown hurts me, it isn’t that it’s inaccessible absolutely, it’s just inaccessible to my knowledge but not the human as a network of body, mind, spirit, soul (the spirit/soul split is my own thing, what I mean here is “what is human”). External revolutions don’t matter to me unless they’re expressions of inner revolutions which I designate, Revolution – I guess you encapsulated that in “seeing it spiritually”, same for me. What usually baffles me is “so what will happen when all humans are that spiritual: compassion, selfless, thoughtful, balanced in heart, mind, body?”, “how’ll the society be?”. I pride myself on wild phantasying but baffles me
“I don’t like the whole finding solutions business. It’s like having a fruit with some rotten parts and cutting them away then saying “o, it’s wholesome now, you can eat it”.”
However, a rotten fruit contains seeds and the rot creates nutrients for those seeds to grow.
“External revolutions don’t matter to me unless they’re expressions of inner revolutions which I designate, Revolution – I guess you encapsulated that in “seeing it spiritually”, same for me.”
I would point out that everything in a sense has an internal and external. Revolution may ultimately come from within, but the ‘within’ can be collective as well as individual. Maybe even societies have a within. Jung thought along these lines.
No, Ben, I wasn’t referring to Jesus. I am aware of that saying but sayings usually matter so much as a vision available to me and it is verifiable by reason and fact and also in so far as it ‘clicks’ to me. If it doesn’t ‘click’ then I’ll doubt it and examine it using perspectives and poking at assumptions made in getting to it, it goes through a long process of examination before I take any saying. Perhaps, that’s the breakdown of the ‘click’
That saying of mine came about as a result of a vision I had where it just occurred to me that such a thing was goin to happen and I’ve got arguments and fact (no matter how measly the facts I have are :-)) to back it up over time. All the things I say there are purely me. I’m aware of their similarity to others but they aren’t borrowed. There’s Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist thought there too like the concept of ‘Revolution’ but I had these before I even came in contact with these thoughts. I might have seen some thoughts somewhere and they influenced me somewhat but no thought belongs to anyone, it’s just thought, anyone can have it
I did mention external as I said “external as expression of internal”. Society having a within can’t be disputed cos if it’s components do, how can it not? How the components yield a societys within however is another matter because permutations and combinations abound.
And, I since I first read the Bible, I’ve had the thought that the Old Testament God was different from the New Testament one. I always say I go with Jesus’ God cos I don’t like the Old Testament one and against Christian one because that one makes no sense cos to me Christians have many Gods. I’ve written an essay before titled ‘Why I can’t be a Christian’, partly, my statement, partly, in response to Bertrand Russell, partly in response to Christians.
Intellectual humility involves what I like to call “honesty to the questions” – don’t provide answers like an omniscient being. Be honest to the questions; don’t act like you have an answer.
Anarchism can’t be a new social order, it’s absurd if it is thought so cos it negates itself at once. Not absurd, just can’t be, cos anarchism itself presupposes absence of such an order. It will keep building and breaking. The funny thing about true anarchism is that it can’t be defined nor expressed. As soon as it’s defined, it refutes itself. A true anarchist when asked what anarchism is will be quiet. You’ll only see anarchy in his actions and thoughts but for him to represent anarchy as an -ism would make him just another ideologue to be revolted against and make him a charlatan, simply put, it would be the highest crime for him
Yeah, I like that design. I do have a revolution going on on my blog. It’s interesting that I produced so greatly before this. I had a feeling that something would happen at my 500th post, I didn’t know it’d be this big. Significant wheels are turning in my life too, I want that to happen too