Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On the power of doing nothing: a message for OWS

Where is OWS now, after more than a year of “occupation?” Providing charity and humanitarian aid to victims of industrial weather events, buying the debt of morons who purchased the American dream before reading the fine print—working diligently to relieve the machine of its human burden so that its gears remain intact and operational.  

This from Daniel Quinn:

"As everyone knows (especially revolutionaries), hierarchy maintains formidable defenses against attack from the lower orders. It has none, however, against abandonment. This is in part because it can imagine revolution, but it can’t imagine abandonment. But even if it could imagine abandonment, it couldn’t defend against it, because abandonment isn’t an attack, it’s just a discontinuance of support.

It’s almost impossible to prevent people from doing nothing (which is what abandonment amounts to).

But won’t the powers that be try to prevent people from doing nothing? I can imagine them trying (but I honestly need help imagining them succeeding)."

The door to the prison has been open all along.  All we need to do is walk out.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anarchy and the will to power

Humans, as social primates, are sensitive to power differentials that are always present in group situations. The fact that all humans possess this natural sensitivity, the fact that human history since the agricultural revolution (that is, all of “history”) has been a protracted tale of violence and conquest, and the fact that modern-day consumer capitalism follows an amoral “dog-eat-dog” prime directive, suggests to many only one possible conclusion: humans are driven by a will to power. We are power-hungry both as individuals and as a species.

I would like to suggest a slightly different perspective. The will to power, rather than reflecting an entrenched feature of human nature, reflects instead a response to the social architecture of the technological order and the direct threat to personal autonomy posed by its systems of authority and control.

At least two million years of (largely) egalitarian and (mostly) peaceful society preceded the post-agricultural power-orgy with its chronic warfare and genocide, widespread slavery and oppression, and perpetual political intrigues. Lust for power can’t exist in any meaningful sense until a power structure is in place. This is commonsense logic. Without the division of labor, the isolation of knowledge, and a hierarchical organization of authority, we are left with a severely limited notion of power.

Power implies an operative system of authority. Sure, you might be bigger and stronger and have more friends, but in an egalitarian society, without the ability to permanently restrict my access to needed resources or my ability to provide for my own life needs (or my ability to sneak up and kill you with a poison arrow when nobody is looking), you might be able to temporarily affect my comfort, but you can have no real power over me. It is only with the emergence of artificial hierarchy, when I become dependent on the operation of technology that itself depends on the hierarchical ordering of social relations, that I can be subject to another’s power.

And the will to power itself, according to this view, is a reaction to the absence of egalitarianism, not a latent drive to control other people. It reflects a desire to maintain personal autonomy in the presence of those who would limit it. I want to be the boss, not so that I can enjoy some kind of pleasure in the power to boss other people around, but so that I can be free from having to obey the commands of others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The progressive media has been making a lot of noise about the same-sex marriage initiatives that were passed during the last election cycle, as if the legal recognition of gay marriage (or the legal recognition of anything else, for that matter) is some kind of victory. So now there are more states in which non heterosexual people can enter into coercive government-recognized bondage with each other, and this is a cause for celebration? 

Isn’t the legalization of gay marriage just a further broadening of government control? I forget, why is it again that I need government validation of my relationship with another person if it is truly based on mutual freedom of association?  

Let’s be clear about this: marriage is an institution that derives directly from the historical ownership of human beings. Its modern variant as a legal contractual bondage agreement merely obscures the master-slave relationship behind an economic curtain and a veil of mutual autonomy-annihilation. We should be working to eliminate all legal mediation and all systematizing of human relations.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kung POW!

Things aren’t always what they seem, of course. Take a familiar illusion caused by the way that light bends through water as an example. I remember reaching for a colorful pebble in the bed of a clear mountain stream when I was a young child and being shocked to find that the bottom was farther than it appeared and the rock was nowhere near where I thought I put my hand. My grandfather told me that his mother’s people understood about this illusion, and to compensate for the distortion they would hold the tip of their fishing spear under the water, and gage their aim by where the tip appeared to be instead of where it really was.

Events may appear transparent at times. There is a seductive illusion that our perception is actually enhanced by the smoke and heat of civilization. And then we immerse ourselves in the stream and find that we are all victims of a lethal foreshortening.

If corporate industrial mass society was a Chinese restaurant, I would be a suicide bomber with a jones for Lo Mein.