Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Government, shmovernment - Part 4

If you can't change the world...

As you can see, I'm having more and more difficulty explaining away in my mind why it is okay for one group of people (be they the majority of people or not) to decide what is right for the rest of us.  Given this fact I'm also becoming more and more uneasy about giving another group of privately owned policy-enforcement officers the authority to arrest and detain me and to use force against me in order to enforce the laws that we all have supposedly agreed to by simply not leaving this imaginary area (i.e. "country") in which we stand.  I'm feeling less and less like this was set-up in this way to help the "little guy", or the "99%" as it were.  I'm feeling more and more like this system is set-up to make the majority a lot more manageable for the minority...or at least that this is what this system has become. Our unquestioning devotion to a system that very few of us truly understand feels very much like how we humans have blindingly obeyed the various religious oligarchs, monarchs and dictators in history.  And I don't think we need to "change the system", I really think we need to un-plug for a while and start to focus individually on ourselves and immediate families and communities and to fix our own backyards first.  We also need to reevaluate the very basis of our assumptions about the type of system we need or want to live, and want the rest of the world to be able to live as well.

To me anarchy means personal responsibility.  Worry about yourself, your children and your own backyard first.  Get your own affairs in order and be truly conscientious of your personal affects on the world around you.  If everyone did that there would be a lot fewer social problems in the world.

Admittedly this type of personal responsibility attitude is very difficult when one lives in a world where much of life's necessities are provided by a third party, not to mention a world that I think is quite destructive to most humans during their most important and formative years. We live in a world today that still by and large believes that using corporal punishment in child rearing is both effective and necessary, and that schoolyard bullying is just a natural way that kids interact. I'm wondering how much our present society skews the true essence of the human spirit.  Very few children in the Western World today have the benefit of having a parent at home full time to rear them in their formative years, and fewer and fewer children have their biological parents living together.  A large proportion of our society suffers from some sort of abuse, neglect or disconnectedness as children.  A lot of us are not getting a good start in life.  Many of us have not learned how to form positive, productive and healthy relationships. Many of us have not been equipped with coping strategies.  And then many of us are also having children of our own...  This is just a recipe for societal fucked-upedness.  So, no, we couldn't just get rid of government and not expect some serious hardship. Perhaps to start some small communities could form and show others what it is possible, but for society as a whole to reach this type of world will take generations, in my opinion.

Being the misanthrope that I am, unfortunately I think this system is going to crash long before we get our shit together as a species.  I just hope we can think about this stuff now, while we have the "free time", resources and infrastructure (particularly the internet) to flesh it out and discuss it.

The way our society is run used to get me really down. Sometimes I feel like a sane person living in an insane world and that the people at large are so brainwashed by the ideas fed to us by our education systems, media and other CLOG run institutions, that they will never live up to even a fraction of their potential as humans, and yet here I sit in a house fully connected to the grid, typing away on my computer made by slave labor overseas after having eaten a meal whose ingredients certainly were not grown nor processed by me.  So instead of complaining about how fucked up the rest of the world is, I'm going to try and "be the change [I] want to see in the world". 

It truly is the least I can do.

Government, shmovernment - Part 3

Idle hands

My paternal grandmother was a hard-working woman.  She did not waste one tin, piece of paper or scrap of food.  She was very crafty and could always make me a piece of clothing within a day or two. And while our history books would tell us about the "Dirty Thirties" as a time of misery and hardship, my grandmother looked back fondly on the times of the Great Depression; it was a time of community and efficiency; a time where most people were on an equal footing and helped one another.

How I wish I could discuss these things with her now that I am approaching middle-age... While I certainly found her a little gruff and obstinate as a child — rightfully chastising me for wanting to sit in front of the boob-tube instead of going somewhere or making something, and making me eat a strange concoction of the entire week's leftovers because nothing could be wasted — I am now able to better appreciate her wish to live well within her means and to be as self-sufficient as possible. And thanks in part to my Grandma, I am able to see how a modest amount of resources can actually be a good thing, how it can help to put us all on a more level playing field and bring us closer together with others in our community.

While technology and innovation has allowed the majority of us Westerners to leave the long days of rural life behind — providing us more free time, the time to ponder the greater questions in life, the time to allow us to peer outside the boxes of our own immediate lives in order to analyse our world from the micro to the macro — I'm beginning to wonder if some of our societal ills are actually a product of the very fact that we have too much free time on our hands.

I once heard a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast reference a book called Guns, Germs and Steel; I don't remember if this was according to Western history or the Maori themselves, but apparently in the book it talks about how the Maori once lived solely on the land formation that is now called New Zealand and had an abundance of resources; since resources were plentiful this meant that the Maori had free time, and so they began to perfect tools and processes and individual Maori were able to specialise (i.e. become doctors, teachers, etc...)  They also became more competitive and violent. At some point a group of Maori decided to move to a smaller island and since this splinter group now lived in an area where resources were much less diverse and more scarce, they literally had no time or energy to waste on fighting; as a result they became a peaceful culture, that is until some of the New Zealand Maori caught up to them....

So while my initial impression of the saying "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings" was linked to images of a teacher chastising a mischievous child — insinuating that the child should be out tending fields or doing their homework rather than being an organic and inquisitive ball of wonder and energy — I am now thinking of it in a different way: I'm thinking that it might be a warning that if you have free time then chances are you aren't tending to your own affairs. 

Just ask The Stones...

Our societal structure is predicated on the ideas of entitlement, justice and recompense.  I also think people confused the concept of the right to the pursuit of happiness = a right to happiness.  Always.  Many of us seem to be under the impression that if something bad happens to us, or if we are inconvenienced in some way beyond our personal control, then someone should pay.  Many of us feel that we have the right not to be inconvenienced: "I deserve to have my own piece of land, with no interruptions, so if any other human in my vicinity dares to make noise on a weeknight, I am entitled to be able to call a police officer to take care of the matter with the threat of force and incarceration behind them to ensure that my neighbour obeys."

The promise of the state is that we can control others who wrong us and we can "make them pay", but in a state of nature, without the structures of a "justice system", the only thing you have control over is your own attitude: You can't control outcomes and you can't control others; the only thing you can control is your reaction to them. And that's a tough pill to swallow sometimes (believe me, it's a pill that has been stuck in my throat for almost 4 decades.)

I believe that an anarchistic, non-statist and voluntaristic society will mean that nothing can be taken for granted and, yes, it will mean dealing with inconvenience: You may have to interact and take into account people you don't particularly like or want anything to do with; there will be that one hold-out who will foil a plan by a group of individuals working towards a common goal; your neighbour might be an inconsiderate prick that makes noise all hours of the night and there may not be a security force with guns (i.e. police) to stop him or her at a moment's notice.  Not everything will be "what you want when you want it."  Our lives will be less predictable. More organic. More like nature.

Last summer I was sitting in a local small town pub and I read an old news paper clipping posted on the wall about why the main road in the town is not a straight line through town — it actually jogs over by a couple meters to the west, just south of another major crossroad.  The reason for this jog in the road was that when it was being built there was one farmer who did not consent to having the road bisect his property.  And I'm sure that sucked for everyone else in the town, and I'm sure that farmer might have been ostracised by some for being a hold-out and not thinking of the will of the majority. but people had to suck it up and deal with it. And they did, and the town still prospers and is expanding to this very day, even with a crooked road.

Freedom means that you are free from control, therefore true freedom means that you yourself cannot control others. You are not always going to like what other people do, so freedom also means that you can't always get what you want. In a free world sometimes shit just happens and sometimes life sucks. Period. Move on.

Government, shmovernment - Part 2

Living to live

Another issue I see with statism is that it removes us from being our own providers.  It makes us reliant upon it. It literally makes us "children of the state". It reminds me of how dogs and cats retain much of their puppy and kitten-like behaviours when they are domesticated; when we supply them a consistent and seemingly limitless supply of food, shelter and belly rubs, they no longer need to express their true natures.  Not only that, but — as I've seen Cesar Millan (aka The Dog Whisperer) demonstrate on his show — the remedy for many canine psychological issues is to provide them a level of activity that their bodies and brains have evolved to support. A dog's body and mind is built to do things like hunt, find and maintain shelter, evade predators, find a mate and raise young, yet very few pets get that level of activity and challenge in their lives.

In one episode of his show, Milan helped to rehabilitate a dog by taking him to a farm to herd sheep.  This city dog had never encountered a ruminant in his life, but the instinct to herd them was so natural; and you could see the amazement on the dog owner's face...  In other episodes Millan would give a dog their own little backpack to bring on walks, or a cart to pull, which could both be used to give the dog more weight to carry — thereby giving him more exercise and tiring him out, and giving him a job, a purpose.  Doing things like these would help fix a whole host of doggy issues, from chewing up the furniture, to running around in circles, to getting aggressive with other dogs.  And I have no doubt that our own human societal ills have a lot to do with our separations from our true natures and the types and levels of activities that our bodies and brains were made to handle.

As proponents of the paleolithic diet will tell you, the human body is still made to eat what homo sapiens ate back when we were hunter gatherers.  Our diet has changed greatly since the agricultural evolution, but our bodies have not evolved to adapt to these changes and some believe that this plays a large part in physical unwellness from which we Westerners suffer.  It makes me wonder if our psychological unwellness also has a lot to do with the fact that our minds, and the way that they function, are still based on the needs of the hunter-gatherer, fending for themselves in the wilderness.

I'm thinking there might actually be something to be said about "the hard life".  Back before the advent of electricity — or perhaps at least before the advent of large-scale automation — people used to truly live to live.  You had to grow your own food, make your own clothes, build your own house, fix your own machines and tools, and you barely had the time to do anything else. I also suspect that our homo sapiens bodies and minds still expect this level of activity, but because we don't engage in so much physical exertion and mental attention anymore we develop all sorts of psychological and physical dis-eases.

Today we work to live: Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at jobs where we do pretty much the same thing day in and day out — many of us working for companies whose product, service or end goal is of no personal interest to us — just so that we can squirrel away enough money to be able to retire, and finally "live life" in our 60s or 70s.  So not only do most of us have very sedentary jobs where we sit all day, but we are also doing tasks that, after a while, require less and less of our concentration.  This societal construct has disconnected us from the ebbs and flows of nature, from having to anticipate and adapt to organic change, and it has also disconnected us from one another; I believe that this disconnectedness plays a part in why many of us suffer from physical and mental dis-eases.

I feel that our bodies and minds need to be preoccupied and invested in the things we do day to day.  I think it is very important to truly understand, appreciate and witness the ends to your means; to see a progression to an end goal; to appreciate the changes and nuances when you do it again in a year or decade's time.  A lot of us don't get that from our daily jobs.

Our bodies are also built for far more physical activity than most of us actually exert day to day.  We were built with bodies to allow us to hunt animals for their meat, to search and gather fruits, to hike to the river for water, to gather wood for a fire.  With the advent of agriculture this need was filled by working the fields, raising animals for their meat, milk, eggs, wool, gathering materials to use for fueling stoves and and small scale machinery.  We now delegate these tasks to farmers, grocers, builders etc...

When it comes to suggesting a life without the state one often encounters questions like: "Who will pick-up my garbage?" "Where will I get a steady stream of nutritious food that I know is safe for me to eat?" "Who will provide heat, water and power to my home?" I think these are very good questions, and I also think that being directly involved in these things is actually essential to our physical, psychological and societal well-being.

What you can't see is hurting you (and others like you)

I think the idea of centralisation on many levels is wrong — be it in the governmental or corporate sense, or in the way that we humans all cluster together in densely populated cities.  Not only do I dislike centralisation due to the imbalance of power its structure provides, but because it also leads to waste and inefficiency. So in addition to my theory that being directly involved in the supplying ones own self with the necessities of life is essential to our psychological well-being, I also think it may be essential to our planet's well-being as well.  I'm certain that we wouldn't waste nearly as much if we actually had to deal with our own waste, grow our own food, produce our own energy, make our own clothing, etc. And many of us already acknowledge that the system is broken, but we also cling to the idea that it is better than no system at all, when the truth is the system has never worked, it just seemed to work because we all agreed en masse to ignore the bigger picture.

Sure, a couple of men in jumpsuits come by every week and pick up our garbage, but they are really just putting it in a pile out of sight somewhere, a pile that is nonetheless hurting the surrounding environment and wildlife.  And while our government helps to ensure a steady flow of subsidised fuels to power our vehicles and appliances — not to mention the oil used to make the plastics that are integral to our various electronic gadgets and myriads of other consumer goods — we conveniently ignore the oil and gas industry's negative effects on the environment, not to mention its negative effects on the people who live/lived in the countries from whence they came. Hell, we even send our own kids to die in these countries to ensure our CLOG's continued presence there! And while we are able to buy fairly brightly coloured, vitamin-rich, blemish-free fruits and veggies from around the world at our supermarkets, we often forget about the energy expended to grow, process, ship and store them for us — costs that far outweigh what we actually pay for them — and by buying them we are also supporting an industry that is willing to toy with the very fabric of our food's genetics, not to mention how the food industry has been known to interfere with the governments of some of the countries that grow them, often putting the citizens of said countries in harm's way. And while we have relatively uninterrupted and ubiquitous access to electricity, for the most part we are getting it from fossil fuels or nuclear power — two industries that cause their own serious and sometimes irreversible changes to our environment and who have less-than-favourable track-records when it comes to safety.

It would make more sense if we all provided power and water to our own selves, instead of connecting all of our homes to antiquated grids of pipes and power-lines stretching over thousands of kilometers. I recognise that this might not be possible for some individuals because of the geographic or meteorological challenges of where they live, and this may seem harsh, but maybe, just maybe, we should be more closely examining whether we should expect to be able to live in some of the places that we currently do, at the same level of comfort that we currently do...  

Most of us Westerners expect to have an uninterrupted supply of clean running water and electricity, and houses where there are enough individual bedrooms for all, plus an extra one for guests, at least one full bathroom with a sink, bathtub, shower and toilet, one or more vehicles, heating in the winter, heated water ...and this is the basic ideal for most.  Most people would also like a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a TV in every room, individual bedrooms for all family members plus one for guests, high speed internet, not to mention an ever changing wardrobe of clothing, and and ever changing roster of electronic gadgets.  Most of us Westerners would also tell you that everyone in the world should be able to live at this level and it should only go up from here.  We seem to ignore that we Westerners make up a small fraction of the world's population (I've read its around 20%) and yet we use more than half of the world's resources.  (As usual I am repeating; I have no way to know if these figures are true, but I have little reason to doubt them at the moment.)  If we take these figures to be true, one does not have to be a math wiz to figure out that the world doesn't have enough resources to allow us all to live at this level.  So if we accept that the inequalities in quality of life between the Western world and many of the developing nations of the world is wrong, if we truly believe that rest of the world should be on an even playing field with the first world, and if we continue to organise ourselves the way we are in the West, that will mean we Westerners will have to scale back our level of comfort, not simply raise the rest of the world to our level.

And yes, this might mean an end to things like large-scale world travel, as well as international exports and imports.  We might all have to make due with what we can gather and grow on the lands in our immediate vicinities.  Millions of people throughout history did just that, and we present-day humans also have the benefit of the knowledge of modern science to assist us in living a level of self sufficiency that might not have been possible only a century ago. And that doesn't mean we can't share/co-opt various duties with others, in fact I should hope that we would barter and trade or even create a local exchange trading system.  This both gets us away from relying on the illogical fractional reserve banking system, but it also reconnects us with the people in our communities.

Government, shmovernment - Part 1

Ack!  If I don't post this now, I never will!

Admittedly this not exactly my most coherent post; I feel it's a bit disjointed and repetitive at times. I find the ideas I am trying to express are interconnected in so many ways that I'm not sure how to wrap it all into a clean piece, but I have been picking over it for over a year and I feel the need to finally post this sucker.   Every time I try to "buckle down" and finish this post I just wind-up adding more to it.  I also have other ideas I want to express in future posts that link back to my ideas on statism.

I'm at the point where I feel the need to finally post something and maybe I can flesh this out some more at a later date.  I'm also breaking this into parts to save you all the long read.


In this modern era we are lulled into the idea that we can live in this near-utopia, where everything will be automated and mechanized, that all needs and wants will be quantified and processes will be perfected and tuned to the point where things are done in the most economical, equitable and in the least harmful manner.  We needn't ever worry again about where our food comes from and whether it is processed safely.  We needn't worry about having access to medical care should we fall ill. We needn't concern ourselves with the maintenance and safety of infrastructure.  We needn't concern ourselves with protecting ourselves from those who wish to do us harm.  We needn't worry about who will care for and educate our children while we work. We needn't worry about having the money and facilities to take care of us when we are old and gray. And we will do this using a system that is accountable to us, the people, through the power of our vote.

This is the promise of the State.

And I used to truly believe this; I believed that if we really had a transparent government with a true system of accountability and no private corporate involvement, and that if our scientific and technological research and development was truly driven by the quest for innovation as opposed to maximum profit, and if we were all well educated and well fed with access to "free" healthcare, then the end result would be a near-perfect society.   And even though I never suspected I would ever see such near-perfection within my lifetime, I at least saw it getting progressively better over time with the hope that eventually the rest of the world would follow suit. But I'm beginning to see some faults in these ideas. I'm leaning more and more towards the idea that a voluntaristic/anarchistic societal model is the most logical and ethical way to (un)organise ourselves, and that ultimately statism is wrong. 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?)

My first misgiving about the statist utopia goes back to my post about absolute power: I have my doubts that any government or law enforcement system can exist without eventually caving to nefarious interests.  When a small minority controls the necessities of life for the majority there is always the temptation to take advantage of that imbalance. And if anyone has to campaign for your vote and persuade you to put them into power, then inevitably there will be a twisting of the truth. And if you employ a third-party watch-group to provide oversight into governmental affairs, then the bribery and influence of the power-hungry is then focused towards that very watch-group.

So while the idea is supposed to be that the government is "for the people, by the people" and that it is the responsibility of the people to hold their governments accountable, I think I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that the system is actually working that way right now.  And does anyone really believe that it will ever change when the same interests that run our government, make our laws and enforce our laws are the same interests that sell us things and feed us TV advertisements and non-news, not to mention the same interests that provide us our education and paycheques?  Some might argue that we need a revolution, but if it takes an uprising of the people to make their government listen to them, then does that sound like democracy is a system that really works as a voice of the people in the first place?  Sometimes listening to people defend the need for government feels like a battered spouse making excuses about their abuser: "Well, I know he lies and spends most of my tax money on wars and paying-off his rich CEO buddies, but he pays for my kid's doctor visits and schooling and I feel safer knowing he's there to protect me from all the scary criminals and terrorists out there..."

While it is true that during almost every type of crisis we can pick-up the phone and have police officers rush to our aid, the downside is that we are also giving a bunch of strangers and their corporate heads — whose directives, motives and processes are not decided by you and me — a dangerous and unbalanced amount of power.  We also allow corporate interests to have a disproportionate say in the formation of the very laws to which we are all supposedly subject — laws that are so complex that we need a third party who has devoted years of study on said laws to translate and interpret them for us in court, after we've already supposedly broken them... (Wha?)  And while we like to think that most lawyers, judges and police officers are impartial, fair and altruistic individuals, the truth is that they are mere mortals who live in the same "gotta get what's mine" society that the rest of us do; they have quotas and numbers to meet in one way or another and can always justify doing some not-so-fair-and-just things to other human beings while using the same "just doing my job/I've got bills to pay and mouths to feed" excuse that the rest of us use in our own jobs. Just ask the police officers involved in the Toronto G20 debacle; I'm sure that for the most part the humans in those policy-enforcement uniforms are very well-meaning and fair-minded individuals, but within a hierarchical structure, and using the power that we as a society supposedly have consented to give them through the "social contract", they can do some terrible things to their fellow humans simply because it is what their bosses told them to do.

Some would say that the reason why governments get away with what they do today is because people in general are too lazy or wrapped-up in their own lives to hold their elected officials accountable.  I don't disagree with that, but isn't that evidence in itself that democracy doesn't work?  Do believers in democracy think that one day the general populace is just going to become magically interested and informed about political affairs?  Voter apathy is a rather convenient state of affairs for those who wield political power, is it not?  I don't know about you, but I am quite uncomfortable with the fact that the same mega corps that profit from our consumerist society also have links in government.  Not only that, but most of us spend the majority of our lives working for such corporations, then we leave work and indulge in one of the many diversions that these same corporations feed us, giving us very little free time to focus on the problems with our CLOG-run societies.  And as we plunge toward an ultra-technological age I don't see much if any movement by Western governments to truly assess and address the effects of modern media and technology on people.  There is also no denying that some very important news stories that are critical of the CLOGs of the Western World and their activities seem to get buried in the infotainment fluff pieces and scare stories du jour.

I could go on, but for a much more well worded piece on how the promises of a Utopian society are often used and twisted in order to profit the unscrupulous among us who tend to seek high positions of power, I recommend watching this short video titled The last word on Utopia by James Corbett of corbettreport.com.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain

I also take exception to the idea that just because the majority of people vote a certain way this therefore means that the rest of us have to be subject to their decisions for X number of years.  Twain pretty well sums up my feelings about the majority of people:  Lets face it, the peoples of the Western world at large can hardly be described as being the most informed, logical and critically-thinking in history, and yet these are the same people who are supposed to decide who is going to run things for all of us?  No thanks.

And why should anyone have to live their lives the way that the majority thinks is best anyway?  Who made that rule and, for that matter, who cares?  Some would say "well if you don't like it, feel free to move to another country", as if it is in any way logical that just because a baby pops out of a vagina within some imaginary boundaries that some white men "declared" to be such-and-such country centuries prior (whilst conveniently ignoring the existence of  the peoples already living on those same lands) thereby means that the baby is automatically subject to rules that some men wrote down in some book.  Again, "says who?"

I believe that this automatic, involuntary association with the state is wrong and totally goes against the idea that we are free people living in a world that is run by the consent of the governed.  When did I get to consent to this, and how did I consent?

For examples of some people who are asking these questions of their governments and informing them that they no longer consent, you might consider reading my post on the ideas of freemen, sovereigns and natural persons.