I've been searching for this article and its author for years. What great timing that I finally found it in the Wayback Machine! It's one of the most important articles I think I've ever read, because it crystalizes perfectly what I consider the proper attitude to the domain of conspiracy. Here's an excerpt:
Almost all that is dismissed as conspiracy theory today is really only good or poor attempts at writing history in our own time. But why is it that when we are talking of the histories of whole different places in whole different times, we easily accept that this or that group of powerful people made this or that important event happen, yet when it comes to histories of our own time and place, we automatically reject any suggestion of any group of people making any important event happen? Throughout history, every important event always has some group of people behind it, and these events always offer revealing meanings about the kind of societies in which they occur. It is the same today.
I give this article the highest possible recommendation.
Gary Chartier talks about the need to free oneself psychologically and emotionally before one can even free others. This dovetails with my thoughts on an inwardly-looking anarchism, one that sees society at large as only one half of the project. We need to become balanced people before we can effectively advocate for the balanced society that is amenable to voluntarism. Gary even goes so far as to identify love as the ideal basis for anarchist activism.
It is so gratifying to see this maturity of thought from the anarchist sector I consider my closest allies. Let this powerful presentation start the conversation on how we prosecute this next era of the struggle against privilege. If this presentation is representative of the topics discussed at the recently concluded AgoraI/O conference, then I really missed out, and will be there with bells on next year!
Viewing Public Sector Unions Through the Lens of Class Theory
I support the public sector unions opposing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's agenda. While I'm neither a fan of government nor the civil service, it's clear that the so-called lavish benefits and salaries public sector unions defend against Republican encroachment represent not entrenched privilege but merely the last vestiges of a minimally fair employment deal. The last forty years have seen this deal eviscerated in the private sector, and it is only in comparison to the current paltry influence of contemporary labor that public sector unions seem pampered. One need not single out individual teachers to critique public schooling, for instance - in any case, the idea that a school teacher is grifting me provokes involuntary laughter.
As a Wobbly, however, the ideology of class struggle informs my activism on labor. Solidarity is never unconditional, as my friend Chris Lempa pointed out to me in a letter. True common purpose in the struggle against bosses must be framed in terms of legitimate class theory in order not to degenerate into the business-as-usual, reformist, junior-partner-in-the-ruling-class unionism that has prevailed since the Wagner Act. And so while I support public sector unions in this conflict, I find it difficult to place them in the traditional model of class struggle.
In the private sector the class dynamics are clear: workers and bosses can be easily seen as in zero-sum competition. One gains at the expense of the other, the prize is effective control over the means of production, and the players line up along the party whose control they favor. Customers and suppliers represent the third parties who, while not powerless in the equation, tend to deal with the organization as a whole on a voluntary basis. The adversarial relationship is more centered inside the organization, and market pressures from the third parties are accepted as a given. Much of the decline in labor power has arisen from capital's superior marketing of the narrative that union gains come at consumer losses.
I've often felt that my political principles are merely the application of beliefs and ideas that I hold on a deeper and more fundamental level. This quote does a better job of stating the relationship between the individual striving for spiritual understanding and the political striving for liberty than anything I've ever written:
Entities within your culture are fond of saying that humankind is made in the image and nature of the Creator. What image do we think of? What image comes to mind when one thinks of the Creator? That is a key question, and central to those who seek faith. For if a Creator is sought that is angry and punishing, righteous and full of justice, then we gaze at a part of ourselves, and if the Creator is gentle and nurturing and all embracing and unifying, then we gaze at a part of ourselves. Since there is a mystery, there is a choice to be made concerning one's attitude towards that mystery. Those who feel instinctively that the Creator is an unifying, loving and nurturing Creator are those which discover faith in one way, that is the positive path of polarization through service to the infinite One and to other selves, the images of the infinite One. Those who choose to see the creator of judgment, righteousness and law, are those who wish control, control over the life, control over the self, control over others, that there be no surprises, but that all be reckoned ahead of time, safe and tidy. This is the path of separation. We are aware that we speak to those upon the positive path of polarization, and so we will address faith in its positive sense, that is, that faith does not begin with faith in the self, but faith in the Creator. (Hatonn, February 3, 1991)
I saw this video on Chris George's blog and it is truly remarkable for its application of evolutionary psychology insights to our present society. Of course, Reason is going to favor arguments that make markets seem desirable and socialism undesirable. But the way in which evolutionary psychology and human scale play into this question can be extended in several directions. On the one hand, markets are good at producing material wealth efficiently, but they aren't good at making people feel secure and connected to their fellow man in the way our hunter/gatherer ancestors did.
You can either see this insecurity as a flaw in the human being or a flaw in the economic system that correlates highly to a right-leaning or left-leaning perspective on the human condition. But the core question remains: is an unfettered embrace of globalization sustainable from a psychological point of view? Markets are good at allocation and wealth creation, but if they hamper happiness and flourishing then they can only be said to be "working" in a very narrow sense.
Libertarians must not only educate people about market economics but also recognize the market's limits. A thick approach to libertarianism can, in fact, give us guidance on the kinds of extra-market values we must work towards - values which markets are utterly incapable of providing but which nevertheless determine the health of a society.
Tonight I advanced another step in my ethiopian cooking odyssey by finally pulling off one of my favorites: shiro wat. The big problem has always been the key ingredient: mit'in shiro, a staple powder made from roasted chickpeas, fava beans, peas, and other legumes, mixed with berbere. I ordered some from this place, but I didn't want to wait, so I modified a recipe I'd found and just used chickpea flour. It turned out so well that I wanted to share it with anybody else who'd find it interesting.
Believe me, this is easier than how you really make it.
Many on the right assert that elitism is an approach to social problems that recognizes inherent differences in individuals. Elites belong in leadership positions where their natural talents can be used to best benefit society. Most people are not cut out for responsible positions within the social apparatus, according to their argument.
Understood in this narrow sense, I do not find elitism dangerous as an abstract analysis. Indeed, there are a vast variety of competencies inherent in people, whether through their choosing to develop them or whether they come "naturally" (whatever you think that means). That some should gravitate to a place where their talents are best used is not a problem; it is a core purpose around which we associate.
The problems enter in when a mere measurement of talent distribution is expanded into an individual or group identity. Without elitist pretensions, there is no need for a purposeful elevation of the more competent over the less. There is no need for institutional structures that maintain elite predominance. Why go to great lengths to stress differentiation between non-elite and elite if those differences are obvious?
Ever since I started this blog I've occasionally referenced something called "the Law of One", and I have received questions on what that actually is from time to time. Several concepts from this blog, including "social memory complex" and "6th density", are from a body of work available from L/L Research known alternately as "The Ra Material" or "The Law of One". These are transcriptions of conversations between a member of L/L Research and a claimed disincarnate entity calling itself "Ra" that occurred by means of trance channeling. Today is the thirtieth anniversary of that initial contact, and I've written a congratulatory letter to Carla Rueckert and Jim McCarty, the surviving members of L/L Research, which you can find here.
I have a history with channeled material. During my childhood my parents were very interested in so-called "new age" thought generally and the Edgar Cayce channellings from the early 20th century in particular, and when I was in middle school I began to develop an interest in reading them. I had had some personal experiences that inspired a curiosity in spirituality and had parents who encouraged it. Cayce gave tens of thousands of deep trance psychic readings that resulted in countless cures that cannot be explained by any modern science. However, interspersed throughout those healing readings were other pieces of information. There was all sorts of stuff about ancient civilizations and technologies, past lives and reincarnation, and attempts to explain the nature of the human condition beyond what we experience on a day to day basis. I became enthralled by this window into a larger reality, part science fiction, part metaphysics.
Effective activism means understanding the nature of our many problems
A core problem with contemporary leftism as it is often pursued is that it has no sense of the boundaries of its project. Casting it in the most reasonable light, it tends to make the entire world and every person's soul its political mission. After correctly identifying thought systems that lead to undesirable consequences, leftists often try to frame their activism in terms of "abolishing patriarchy" or "ending racism". Because they believe these thought systems are at the root of the problem, it is natural to assume an attitude of attacking them.
Much like wars on victimless crimes, these attacks must be directed at people, since the ideas only exist in the mind. Individual human beings are often rejected in totality rather than merely rejecting their bad ideas. After all, individuals are sovereign within their own minds, and there is little power to force the adoption of values onto another (setting aside the countless problems with using force). The only real non-violent sanction one has against the beliefs of another is ridicule and withdrawal, which the left certainly employs often.
The question the alternative left poses to the mainstream and/or orthodox left is not whether these strategies are just - certainly, the defense of free association is a vital liberal tactic for non-violent social discipline. Sacrificing free association utterly endangers liberalism. Rather, its critique centers around the effectiveness of the tactic. Rather than a universal application of leftist ideology to every aspect of life, a lighter touch is suggested - not to let bad ideas and practices off the hook, but to better inculcate values conducive to sustainable social progress.
I just discovered the RAW Illumination blog that carries on and promotes the philosophy, attitude, and perspective of one of my very favorite authors and thinkers, Robert Anton Wilson. There's a great interview with Douglas Rushkoff on his book "Program or Be Programmed" which I reviewed here. However, this transcription of Robert Shea's speech upon accepting the Hall of Fame award from the Libertarian Futurist Society for the book he co-wrote with Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, is quite gratifying to me. It provides comfort for the long, hard slog of being intellectually free and curious, not so much as some demonstration of autonomy as a will to self-definition and self-discovery. The final paragraph is powerful:
We say in the novel that the original Illuminati were dedicated to religious and political freedom and that this secret organization somehow became perverted so that in recent centuries the Illuminati had become a vehicle for a monstrous authoritarianism. Thus the myth of the Illuminati is an archetype for every political movement, from Lenin's Bolshevism to Reagan's Republicanism, that has promised people greater freedom while loading them down with more government. People can be fooled in this way because they are not sure what freedom is. Freedom is a word whose meaning has been worn away by overuse, like a coin that has passed through too many hands. We need to be clear about what it means to us when we use it and maybe not use it quite so much, but use other, more precise words instead.
It is natural to look for meaning in tragedy. History, myth, literature all represent means by which humans attempt to come to terms with the dark sides of our experience and to find something valuable in it, so that the tragedy was not for naught. The motivation is not simply to avoid similar tragedies in the future, but to give ourselves a sense that we understand what's going on, that all this isn't just a huge chaotic mess from which we will never be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We seek comfort as much as insight.
It is not natural, however, to fit tragedy into an ideological narrative. Ideology doesn't originate within us but arises from our acceptance of a narrow system of thought to which we attempt to conform. So complex events and nuanced actions must be shoved like a square peg into a round hole in order to validate the black and white ideological approach in our gray shaded lives. But we adopt ideological approaches for similar reasons: to give ourselves a sense that we can explain it all, that if we can just achieve the world prescribed by the ideology, such tragedy will never occur again.
The attack on Representative Giffords is now being portrayed by many as an outgrowth of the "climate of hate" surrounding conservative politics in general and the Tea Party movement in particular. The assassin would never have attacked this congresswoman, many claim, if there wasn't a poisonous undercurrent of anti-government sentiment. While an individual is responsible for his or her actions, we have a responsibility also to preserve a civil discourse and ensure that loose cannons do not employ our rhetoric in the service of violence.
It's been almost two years since mutualist Shawn Wilbur left the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. While I hated to see him go, his stated reason for the departure was unimpeachable to my mind. Wilbur felt he could neither articulate what brought the Alliance together nor see any way in which the disagreements within the Alliance were able to be overcome. How could the Alliance accomplish real work without real consensus? In what sense are we allies if we have fundamental disagreements that merely get glossed over?
At the time, Allies were debating the proper reaction to an inflammatory essay that had been written by a non-left libertarian. This debate turned into a crisis: one left libertarian denouncing the other as out of bounds and beyond the pale. As all parties stood their ground, things digressed into nasty insults and accusations that mainly exhausted us. It got to be surprisingly ridiculous, but what surprised me the most was the fact that, of all people, Wilbur - the one who likely understands the historic trajectory of this movement more than anybody else, and therefore would have the most to say about where all this is headed - was the one to leave.
Among Wilbur's arguments, as I understand them, was the absence of any way to resolve the dispute to everybody's satisfaction. The Alliance had always been a vague and inarticulable one, grounded in shared tendencies but no shared principles that had ever been made clear, let alone binding. Add to that the concept of ALL being a place where "we all agree to disagree" and you have the basis for neither ideological commitment nor ideological boundaries. Personal attacks were all anybody had, because there was no shared premise of alliance, and I imagine Wilbur couldn't see the point of continuing to associate with such a meaningless brand. If all we were going to do was be an online club of likeminded malcontents, why bother winning this fight?
I haven't weighed in much on Wikileaks because everything I'd write has been written by better writers. Readers here shouldn't need to resort to wild speculation as to my position: Wikileaks is in the absolute right on each and every matter, and the government as per usual in the wrong. Cablegate is just the latest in a series of heroic and perilous pantsings administered by Assange et al. The weakness of the lumbering, bureaucratic monolith of the U.S. government is exposed for all to see if they choose; it remains to be seen whether Americans care.