Category Archives: Philosophy

Herd-Mediocrity and The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

The Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is committed to mediocrity. In fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism celebrates it. Everywhere the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism reigns supreme, mediocrity follows, due to the fact mediocrity is the order and the criterion of any type of hierarchy founded on the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Indeed, as Nietzsche states, under such rubric “one and all [is] adjusted…to the most dubious mediocrity”.1, as the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism concerns itself, foremost, with the propagation, the celebration, and the production of mediocrity, in and across, the stratums of everyday life and socio-economic existence. The reason is due the fact that mediocrity is most profitable and the most obdurate socio-economic substance any socio-economic formation or narrative can fashion for itself.  Meaning, mediocrity increases capitalist profit and the chances of duration, longevity, and resilience, pertaining to any ruling power.

Mediocrity is a congealed, unyielding, mass of citizens, intolerant to social change, novelty and liberty in the sense that mediocrity wants its own suppression, enslavement, and homogenization, which any ruling power can readily accommodate easily. Mediocrity is a herd, according to Nietzsche:

It is a bulbous mass stringently against [differences] of all kinds. [That is,] conservative…par excellence, slow to adopt, reluctant to let go, and [highly] enduring in the midst of …tremendous change and mixture of elements. Mediocrity [is]… consolidated and solidified [around a grounding] truth. [Its herd is always mediocre and solid.2

In this regard, for Nietzsche, herd-mediocrity is “inertia…[where] the middle… is considered the highest and most valuable”3 in the sense that this middle-of-the-road “herd mentality is forever directed towards stand still and [its] preservation”.4 And, due to this fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is dead-set on manufacturing, maintaining, and celebrating mediocrity of all types and kinds in its attempt to preserve and profit from its totalitarian supremacy.

Moreover, mediocrity of all types and kinds is where capital accumulates in the greatest number, as mediocrity is the dictatorial center, the average median and middle, which houses the greatest number of generic people, thus, the greatest sum of potential capital; i.e., surplus value. Mediocrity is profitable. It is the most generic and the most average; therefore, mediocrity, atop of being obdurate and unyielding to any type of change, is also the biggest reservoir of untapped capitalist profit, hence, the increasing emphasis and focus by bourgeois-state-capitalism, on averages, medians, and generic middles etc., that is, the dictatorship of the middle and/or the dictatorship of mediocrity. For example:

In its effort to maximize profit and its supremacy, the logic of capitalism ever-increasingly propels itself towards the lowest common denominator, [in search of maximum profit], where capital, authority and legitimacy is most robust, concentrated and abundant, namely where the majority resides. This means that all types of commodities are increasingly trite, pointless, disposable and/or identical. Whether politically and/or economically, all commodities are increasingly purged of substance, rareness, spirit and/or individuality so as to mimic the average stereotypes of the median majority. The lowest common denominator, located in the most basic average general median, is the most profitable, the most powerful and the most fixed position with the parameters of [bourgeois-state-capitalism].5

Consequently, mediocrity is the most inflexible form and profitable form the general-population can be fashioned into. And, this is exactly what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, which is imprinted upon all the stratums of everyday life, does and/or attempts to do, at all times and in all spaces in and across of the capitalist-system. As a result, mediocrity personified, exterminates heterogeneity, plurality, and diversity, through maudlin, sappy, popular tastes and generic ways of life, which, in fanatic fashion hunt, trap, and asphyxiate, all that is truly different, novel, heterogeneous, plural and post-modern. The goal of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is to produce, disseminate, and propagate, endless rounds, stops and starts, of fashionable mediocrity; i.e., profitable mediocrity, which can again breed ever-new rounds of profitable mediocrity, ad nauseam.

Profitability breeds profitability. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. And, mediocrity can only see, believe, and understand its own kind, namely, universal mediocrity as “herd-[mediocrity] seeks [only] to preserve one type…itself”6, and more importantly, it “hates those who detach themselves [from it]…[and thus it] turns the hatred of the all…against them”.7 Therefore, mediocrity only celebrates its own kind in a sort of lame over-excessive jubilation, such is what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism does, or attempts to do, through its omnipresent spectacle, showered onto the general-population and the art-world. The point is to captivate and manufacture herd-mediocrity long enough in order to siphon capitalist profits out of this herd-mediocrity, all the while placing these capitalist profits into the hands of a state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

Consequently, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism “presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than ‘that which appears is good [and] that which is good, appears”.8 This omnipresent positivity is then channeled into capitalist consumption whereupon commodities connected to the herd-majority, and a sense of belonging to this herd-majority, are designed to embody this omnipresent positivity, which is manufactured by the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism through its controlling media-outlets, star-personalities and incessant, bourgeois-propaganda.  Hence, the primary reason why the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism has to be smashed, deconstructed, and fragmented beyond recognition since the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism endlessly promotes mediocrity ad nauseam, namely, a type of bourgeois-capitalism mediocrity, which ultimately, stifles innovation, creativity, plurality, heterogeneity and the flourishing of post-modernism. Namely, the progress, plurality and diversity stemming from all the independent micro-narratives interweaving the island-pockets of post-modernity, dotting the capitalist-system.

According to Nietzsche, meta-narratives lack verity and grounding truth. They are imposed onto the world so as to make sense of it, a meta-narrative “decides the character of appearance, [namely] reality”.9 However, for Nietzsche, there is “no limit to ways in which the world can be interpreted”10, because as Nietzsche states, “underneath it all…there is no grand unity…[all] is perspectival appearance, whose origin lies in us. To this extent…the denial of …a truthful world, [or] being, is…the only way of thinking”.11 The reason is due to the fact any meta-narrative lacks universal validity in the sense that any meta-narrative is an illusory manifestation of the will to power in its attempt to establish and impose its own despotic dominion on the world.

According to Nietzsche, “it is our needs that interpret the world…[that is] our lust to rule”12, which imposes meaning and sense onto the world. And, out of this will to power, meta-narratives like the Enlightenment and bourgeois-capitalism have developed and encroached upon western civilizations in a authoritarian manner. They have been utilized to build despotic dominions, both conceptual and material, pertaining to how the general-population thinks and acts within society.  Without meta-narratives, according to Nietzsche:

An infinite plurality of perspectives [awaits]…[as] there are not facts, [or truths, to hold us]. Everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive [and a matter of] our opinion. What man things is nothing but what he himself has imported into them… [via his or her] will to power.13

In effect, for Nietzsche, plurality, flux, incommensurability, and partial incomprehensibility is the underlying human condition in the sense that humans can never possess a complete comprehension and mastery over reality, phenomena and/or situations. They understand only partially from the finite limits of their positional perspectives, which are forever fleeting, due to the inherent flux and existential anarchy of existence. All that meta-narratives do is impose a one-dimensional interpretation on events and phenomena, impeding plurality, heterogeneity, and the flourishing of post-modernism so as to flatter a totalitarian point of view, that is, an arbitrary/artificial meta-narrative designed to monopolize interpretation, power and knowledge.

For Nietzsche, such overarching perspectives, like the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, are designed to cultivate converts, namely, a herd of followers. Meta-narratives, like bourgeois-capitalism, require converts; i.e., believers, in order to establish their despotic dominion over reality. As a result, these converts are forced to exercise a certain level of self-denial and deception, on others and themselves, in order to manifest the plausibility and effect of truth, pertaining to the illusory universal verity of the ruling meta-narrative, in this case, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

For Nietzsche, any “truth is…the consequence of an illusion”10, derived from its particular perspective; i.e., narrative, and believers must learn to deny their internal disbelief and impose the “artificially built chimera”14, both on themselves and others, which in essence, is all that a meta-narrative is, namely, a chimera. That is, a perspective arbitrarily and artificially imposed and applied to the world and reality, which is inherently without universal verity, other than, “as a tool of power [exercised by] the will to power”.15 Subsequently, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is but an arbitrary/artificial conglomeration of wills to power, forming one giant will to power, designed to despotically impose an arbitrary/artificial order on the variability of phenomena, reality and socio-economic existence, devoid of any verity other than the accumulation and monopolization of power in the hands of a select few.

Moreover, according to Nietzsche, “for every age and every new type of [society] …new truths…[new] delusions,…new values”16 are enunciated, for which the general-population must learn to abide by and accept as timeless verities. It is in this regard that the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism transforms the general-population into an obedient, docile, herd-mediocrity, reflecting its bogus verities and baseless beliefs. Initially, “the program of [bourgeois-capitalist] Enlightenment…was the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy. [Yet] knowledge, which is power, knows no obstacles [and has resulted] in the enslavement of men [and] compliance with the world’s rulers”.17 As a result, the Enlightenment, through its meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, cunningly continues to exercise totalitarian control and domination over mankind, which is forced to increasingly accept and internalize a false, one-dimensional, abbreviated world-view imposed upon it. Herd-mediocrity is a product of this imposition and enslavement.

Indeed, once established, according to Nietzsche, “the herd…consolidates its mediocrity and always goes against everything new and exceptional. The power of the herd [and its] institutions,…[is meant to] grind the unique into uniformity and turn it into herd”.18 Herd-mediocrity is the essential substance and reason for the longevity of bourgeois-capitalism and its ever-accumulating profits. It provides the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy of bourgeois-capitalism with a bottomless reservoir of available and exploitable, capitalist profits while simultaneously providing the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism with an endless procession of religious, capitalist converts, ready to sing its praises. It is in this regard that, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, “in service of the present age, [the] Enlightenment [has] become [the] wholesale deception of the masses”.19 Through its cherished meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the Enlightenment turns “the evolution of the machine…into…the machinery of domination…[wherefore] technical and social tendencies, [now] interwoven, converge in the total schematization of men”.20 And, the end result is mediocrity, profitable-mediocrity, the most treasured output of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, that is, herd-mediocrity.

The meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is a machine, an ideational comprehensive framework, both material and conceptual, where all questions, problems and/or situations have their black and white answers/interpretations, yes and no procedures, where, all social-ills have their easy-fix solutions and scapegoats. And once, ingrained and programmed into the general-population, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism wreaks havoc in and across the everyday life of the workforce/population, grinding it down into an ironclad herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, which can only serve capitalist profitability and bourgeois-capitalism-authority, all the while leaving the workforce/population confused, dumbfounded, brainwashed and/or socially embittered.

Notwithstanding, the consolidated red-thread weaving this herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, is the red-thread of the Enlightenment, that is, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, whose underlying “prime directive is forever to maximize the accumulation and extraction of …capital, by any means necessary…as soon as possible”.21 Consequently, herd-mediocrity is the primary product of the red-thread, that is, bourgeois-capitalism, not the other way around. In fact, without the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the herd becomes post-modern, plural, poly-rational, and fully heterogeneous, devoid of bourgeois sensibilities, tastes and/or any overarching bourgeois status quo. When post-modernism reaches its nth degree, post-modernism will as well reach the pinnacle of its development, maturity, diversity, plurality and heterogeneity, which can only mean the total deconstruction of bourgeois-capitalism. Without the red-thread of bourgeois-capitalism, total insurrection, and the realization of full-fledge post-modernism, pure, simple, and unadulterated, devoid of any overarching authority and/or unified logic, other than, the poly-logic of multiplicity, plurality, heterogeneity, and pragmatic egalitarianism, whereupon all decision-making-authority is shared in relative equal measure.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols, Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 75.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 461.
  3. Ibid, p. 159.
  4. Ibid, p. 162.
  5. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016).
  6. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 161-162.
  7. Ibid, p. 157.
  8. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983) p. 12.
  9. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 149.
  10. Ibid, p. 326.
  11. Ibid, pp. 13-15.
  12. Ibid, pp. 267-269.
  13. Ibid, pp. 327-328.
  14. Ibid, p. 302.
  15. Ibid, p. 266-267.
  16. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  17. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) pp. 3-4.
  18. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  19. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) p. 42.
  20. Ibid, p. 35.
  21. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural- Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016.).

Jordan Peterson and Social-Darwinism

I do not normally respond to people I have respect for, and consider, on most counts, a genuine activist, but I have to take issue with Mr. Rancourt’s recent article about the validity of Jordan Peterson’s notion of dominance hierarchy.

The reason is because there is a myopic, narrow-minded bias to Jordan Peterson’s theory of dominance hierarchies, a bias which supports the bourgeois status quo and attacks all things or theories which might lead to positive, radical, social change.

First and foremost, Mr. Rancourt’s experiments in critical pedagogy at the University of Ottawa, were revolutionary and showed us, on the radical left, what a post-bourgeois education-system would look like if bourgeois-capitalism collapsed. And, more importantly, Mr. Rancourt’s experiment in critical pedagogy showed us on the radical left that such an anarchist education-system can work, and work quite well, given the absence of the bourgeois-academic-system and its tyrannical bureaucracy. For this, Mr. Rancourt deserves genuine praise.

However, Mr. Rancourt’s  experiment in critical pedagogy broke the fundamental rule of the bourgeois-university; i.e., “intelligence is obedience and obedience is intelligence”, and for his radical transgression, Mr. Rancourt faced the full blunt of bourgeois-fascism, both from his former employer and the bourgeois-justice-system. If Marx’s famous statement, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various way, the point, however, is to change it”1, applies anywhere, it applies to Mr. Rancourt’s courage in persisting with his experiment to its conclusion, regardless of consequences.

Notwithstanding, I have always found that those in the hard sciences, if they happen to make the jump into radical political philosophy and social activism, tend, after their initial radical left-wing splash, to drift towards the far-right of the political-spectrum, depending on the individual. An extreme, but poignant, example of this tendency is Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose radical politics for social luddite revolution, in a characteristic black and white dichotomy, a dichotomy stringently engineered and honed for success in the hard sciences, eventually led to Mr. Kaczynski’s calcification into radical cynicism and a type of authoritarian, right-wing, program of action. All of which happened after he encountered the plurality, flexibility and nihilism found in the humanities and certain strands of political philosophy. In effect, departing from the seemingly secure grounds of the hard sciences, and discovering, according to Paul Feyerabend, that “anything goes”.2 Mr. Kaczynski hardened himself, over time, into a political killing machine. One just needs to read Mr. Kaczynski’s literature, most recently his book, Anti-Tech. Revolution, to get a sense of his rigid, despotic, authoritarianism.

Of course, I am not saying Mr. Rancourt is anywhere close to being this out of touch, but Mr. Rancourt, has slowly drifted to the right of the political-spectrum, as of late, whether, this is his gentle support of Iran, Vladimir Putin, or most recently, Jordan Peterson. The basic point of radical left politics is to do away with authoritarianism in all its shapes and forms, from an Iranian dictatorship to the bourgeois-capitalism of the United-States.

Subsequently, contrary to Mr. Rancourt’s recent article with Jordan Peterson, we are fundamentally dealing with a proponent of Social-Darwinism. That is, a form of Social-Darwinian-Ideology, which is, in my estimation, only designed to serve and buttress the bourgeois status quo and the bourgeois-aristocracy, as rightfully legitimate and worthy of their positions, academic and/or otherwise; specifically, that their most esteemed bourgeois-aristocratic members are worthy of their elevated positions in and across the dominance hierarchy.

Contrary to Mr. Peterson, the fact is that any honest intellectual, looking at our society today, can factually see that the best and brightest do not always, or if ever, occupy the upper-echelons of any contemporary dominance hierarchy, academia, politics, business, sex, etcetera. In actuality, today the reverse is the case in the sense that we see constantly that the best and brightest are being left behind, or are forced to remain on the lower rungs of bourgeois-society, scrounging for their existence while the system favors and promotes an obedient herd-mediocrity at every level. That is, those individuals who best subserviently, ideologically, and obediently buttress and propagate the bourgeois status quo, towing, with certain docile obedience, the dominant ideological tenets of bourgeois-capitalism, bourgeois-academia, bourgeois-elites, and the overall, bourgeois status quo.

I would argue that Mr. Peterson is one of these obedient bourgeois-ideologues, who cunningly, playing the outsider for the cameras, has cultivated for himself a disenfranchised herd of followers whom he is now trying to appease and put back into bourgeois-subservience via his brand of pop-psychology. Indeed, this herd of followers was susceptible to Mr. Peterson’s Social-Darwinism because most people have never encountered “real” radical left-politics in the classroom, other than the lame centrist-liberalism, which is now peddled as hip and edgy on University campuses. Subsequently, one of the reasons for Mr. Peterson’s recent popularity is that the bourgeois-university has persistently, for 35 years or so, been purging radical academics from the sanctified halls of its universities in favor of obedient, docile, neoliberal, bourgeois-cogs, which readily defend and peddle bourgeois-academic-mediocrity and the bourgeois status quo ad nauseam. How easily we forget that Einstein did most of his ground-breaking physics as an outcast, an outcast of bourgeois-academia, which essentially forced Einstein to moonlight as a physicist by night and a patent-clerk by day. And not much has changed today in and across bourgeois-universities.

Clearly, Jordan Peterson is one of the proponents and ideologues of the conventional bourgeois status quo in the sense that the man was at the center of Canadian bourgeois-academia for some 20 years or more. He resided in the comfortable womb-like center of conservative bourgeois-academia, wallowing in its profitable-mediocrity. He was a tenured professor, a protector of the bourgeois scientific tradition, an upper-class Torontonian, a right-wing, anti-communist crusader etc., bent to prevent the liberalization of Canadian universities and its student body. This is a man who has endlessly championed the fundamental rule of bourgeois-academia: “obedience is intelligence and intelligence is obedience”. What a shocker! Now Peterson is taking this bourgeois-academic-principle to the masses, evangelizing the uneducated and the narrow-minded educated about the transformative powers of obedience, the legitimacy of bourgeois-authority, all of which is being filtered into the minutia of our everyday lives. Clean your room, stand up straight, trust your western bourgeois-governments and myopic scientific results, and please, salute all bourgeois-aristocrats higher-up on the dominance ladder for they are your social better and your emblems to socially emulate etc.!

Mr. Peterson is the equivalent of a bourgeois-conservative’s wet-dream, a throw-back to 1930s social engineering. The man is against all forms of radical social change and social mobility which might threaten the current rank and file of our bourgeois dominance hierarchies. Everything new and different is bad, everything tradition, bourgeois, and homogenized, is good. He, in fact, alleviates bourgeois-aristocratic anxieties by vindicating their pathological greed, their lust for power, and their down-right selfishness by arguing that whatever one’s station in life, or in society, be it upper, or lower, in a dominance hierarchy etc., is fundamentally based on Darwinian natural selection. So straighten-up and fly-right, bucko! Because you and your neighbor, whatever your positions are, in and across the dominance hierarchy, are rightfully warranted by Darwinian natural selection. Therefore, inequality of all types and kinds is valid, legitimate, and more importantly, biologically necessary for our species’ survival. This type of logic is pure, ideological, nonsense, which reeks of 19th century crackpot, Social-Darwinism.

Indeed, surrounded by hapless ignorant sycophants, Mr. Peterson is fond of quoting Nietzsche, as if Nietzsche’s work reflects Social-Darwinian-Ideology. However, Nietzsche is not a proponent of Social-Darwinism. He is against Social-Darwinism and stated as much on more than one occasion. Nietzsche would shriek in horror at Peterson’s proposition that a dominance hierarchy is legitimated on the Darwinian grounds of natural selection.

In fact, to the contrary, Nietzsche argued that across western civilizations and western cultures, it is the most mediocre of our species which are the most apt to succeed in reaching the top of bourgeois dominance hierarchies because these herd-animals embody and represent the most enduring, conservative, and brutish characteristics of our species; i.e., the inhuman and the average. Their propensity for the inhuman and averageness gives them an advantage over more evolved humans.  As Nietzsche states, “mediocrity always goes against everything new and exceptional [since] the new is always against the herd. The [herd] grinds the unique into uniformity and turns it into herd”.3 However, it is the job, according to Nietzsche, of the herdsman “to retain…the herd, flatter it, work with [it, in order to] consolidate its mediocrity”4 and direct it against any exceptional uber-mensch.

Jordan Peterson is certainly Nietzsche’s herdsman and has always been so. He is not an uber-mensch since, according to Nietzsche, an uber-mensch is an individual deserving of our admiration because this individual extends and expends, him or herself, over the abyss, living creatively, solitarily, and differently against the parameters set by herd-mediocrity. Ironically, the uber-mensch is both without followers and constantly subjected to the cruelty of the herd and the herdsman. For Nietzsche, “it is the object of herd education [via the herdsman] to create in the herd member…a definite faith concerning the nature of man”5, wherefore, “inertia…[and] the middle is considered the highest and the most valuable”.5 In a nutshell, this is Mr. Peterson’s whole academic project: (1) to solidify the bourgeois status quo while championing herd-mediocrity as the highest and most valuable attributes, when climbing any bourgeois dominance hierarchy; and, (2) Peterson’s academic project consists in marshaling the vindictiveness embodied in herd-mediocrity against all that is different, plural, and exceptional, namely, all that is not generic, average, and a part of the bourgeois status quo, namely, all that reflects post-modernism.

Let’s have a little fun:

If, for argument sake, we accept Mr. Peterson’s theory and ludicrous claims concerning the fact that only the most powerful; i.e., the best and the brightest of the human species get to the top of a dominance hierarchy, sexual or otherwise, then, why is Mr. Peterson bemoaning, according to his own deluded conspiratorial perceptions, the rise of the radical left in academia (which is, in fact, totally the opposite). That is, why is Mr. Peterson bemoaning the rise of another red-specter haunting the nooks and crannies of western bourgeois-civilization, when, by his own theoretical admissions, this red-specter would constitute the product of natural selection; i.e., the scientific fact that the cream always rises to the top. And, if Marxism and communism is the cream, then natural selection shall give onto Caesar what rightfully belongs onto Caesar. In effect, his own Social-Darwinian-Ideology can be utilized to vindicate the rise of communism, Marxism and/or the rise of radical liberalism in academia, including the rise of political correctness. The fact is you cannot apply, in any deterministic fashion, biology to socio-economic conditions, hence, the fact Jordan Peterson’s theory of dominance hierarchy is bourgeois-ideology in disguise, and a fallacy. Because, if natural selection is the fundamental arbiter of any dominance hierarchy, then whatever rules during any historical period; i.e., slavery, paternalism, homophobia, racism, sexism, even Nazism etc., by Jordan Peterson’s own theoretical musings is deserving of our praise as that which is most legitimate, most worthy, and most apt for the continuance of our evolution at that particular time in history.

Jordan Peterson’s popularity as some sort of socio-cultural phenomenon is strictly a matter of the fact that he flatters the upper-echelons of the bourgeois-aristocracy, namely, his musings on natural selection flatter, and vindicate the exploitations, the religious illusions, and the ideological bourgeois-fetishisms of a conservative-aristocratic demographic, including their low-brow acolytes. Peterson tells these bourgeois-aristocrats, with confidence and boldness, that they are worthy of their elevated positions and social status because natural selection has made it so. This is their cross to bear as superior beings. After-all, it is the bourgeois-aristocracy which gives Jordan Peterson air-time in the mainstream-media. Few socialist theoreticians are given mainstream air-time like Peterson, despite the fact there are many socialist theoreticians who run circles around Mr. Peterson, possessing far more deserving research and theoretical outputs. In fact, these socialist theoreticians, for the most part, have been relegated to obscurity and marginality by the bourgeois status quo and bourgeois-academia. The fact is Jordan Peterson is first and foremost a conservative bourgeois-ideologue, the lightning rod for a low-brow right-wing fad, propagated by elitist bourgeois-aristocrats to piss-off the left, make a little money, and reassert their conservative, regressive mind-sets. The tragedy in all of this is those segments of the workforce/population, which have swallowed the cool-aid and who, in the end, will be left footing the bill for such a spectacle.

The fundamental message, in the end, which Jordan Peterson peddles like another Doctor Phil, is that what happens to you in life is your own doing. Granted, Peterson states life is brutish and a war of all against all, but ultimately, where you end up in the grand scheme of things, according to Peterson, is the result of your own choices and individual actions; i.e., free-will. And free-will, for any philosopher is contestable. For Peterson, there are no bias bourgeois-institutions, no global economic reasons, no cultural reasons, or for that matter, no other scientific biological reasons, for the things that happen to a person. In the final analysis, according to Peterson, what happens is your own fault, for better or for worse. The world only cherishes and remembers the winners, the higher species, not the losers. Is Bill Cosby a higher species? Is Harvey Weinstein a higher species? Is Donald Trump a more evolved species?

These depraved sub-humans occupy, or have occupied, the upper-echelons of the bourgeois-aristocracy for decades, comporting themselves as the brutish savage Mr. Peterson so eloquently champions. Yet, are these the creatures young men should emulate! Is this natural selection at work, sifting and separating, the strong from the weak? Dominance hierarchies may be strictly based on deterministic biology in the animal kingdom, namely, hierarchy may be founded solely on natural selection in nature, as Darwin stipulates, as animals are at the mercy of their natural instincts, but humans are not, despite being a type of mammal.

Also, Peter Kropotkin observed the principle of mutual-aid at work in nature and in direct contrast to Darwinian natural selection, wherefore animals among themselves and among each other, according to Kropotkin, would collaborate for their mutual advancement, survival, benefit, and support. That is, these species, supposedly at war, could be seen helping each other in an altruistic manner climb the dominance ladder together. Such examples are endless; thus, maybe Darwin got it wrong, and animals as well can overcome the brutality of natural selection.

The fact is humans construct all sorts of hierarchies based on all sorts of premises and principles, not just some mechanistic law of Darwinian natural selection. Moreover, not all humans construct hierarchies. Some live communally, sharing in relative equal measure. There are no biological imperatives which determine a dominance hierarchy. Socially speaking, sometimes there are hierarchies, sometimes there are not, and sometimes we, as humans, alternate between various hierarchies simultaneously. In a hair-dresser’s domain, he/she rules, but in the classroom, you rule if you are the educator etc.

Even anarchist horizontal hierarchies are possible for the human species given the right socio-economic conditions like the overthrow of bourgeois-capitalism. Consequently, not being deterministically governed by dominance or natural selection a society can rid itself of any form of dominance hierarchy and has done so throughout history. There is no deterministic biological imperative by which we, today, must live under the thumb of a bourgeois-aristocracy, academic, political, economic etc., if we so choose.  And, more importantly, the overthrow of bourgeois-state-capitalism, contrary to Jordan Peterson, may very well be more progressive, more in tune with natural selection, and an overall better emblem of justice than the current myopic, narrow-minded, bias, bourgeois-justice we are currently forced to live with. In sum, decision-making-authority can be equally shared, in relative equal measure, among all citizens. Money and capital can be distributed equally among any citizenry etc., dominance can be defined in a multiplicity of manners. We do not have to subscribe to Mr. Peterson’s authoritarian definition of dominance.

Jordan Peterson argues for a singular dominance hierarchy solely based on some sort of might equals right biological imperative, wherefore, the most powerful get all the sex they could ever want, and the weak are relegated to obscurity and the dust-bin of history. Subsequently, maybe its high-time we jettison Jordan Peterson’s ad hoc Social-Darwinian-Ideology to the dust-bin of history, and let the chips fall where they may, and while we are at it, why not do the same with bourgeois-academia, bourgeois-aristocracy and bourgeois-capitalism, and, once again, let the chips fall where they may.

  1. Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”, The Marx-Engels Reader. ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1978) p. 145.
  2. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 163.
  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  4. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  5. Ibid, p. 159.

Just How Much Do We Love One Another?

On the day of the Parkland massacre, Valentine’s Day, I made a decision, one long in the making since my days as a Philosophy student and instructor nearly fifty years ago.

I had been for decades outwardly idle — “submissive” would be a better word — while watching the world be shaped by people’s interests in certain things (mainly about making money, buying lots of guns, going to church, and feeling good about themselves) and by their equally selective lack of interest in certain other things, such as logic and vigorous, intelligent debate about our connections to one another, and our impacts upon the larger world. I had been told many times by many people that logic, history, science, studies in the foundations of ethics, and reading in general “Just aren’t my passions.”

But inwardly, and quietly, I had been, all those years, observing, reading, and writing much in my journals, and sharing my findings only a little, until recently. My fateful decision was to do this:

I sent a long and significant letter (a small book) to important distant friends the day after that student massacre. As a direct result, predictably as the sun’s setting, I have been cast from their lives.  I wrote that letter for the general reasons I will state here and for the particular reasons given within the letter itself. The letter explained why I made the decision I did, to speak up in a written document rather than in airy personal conversations in which words and meanings are neither understood nor remembered because minds are heated and fogged by fire and smoke, driven more by the dragons of our reptilian hind brain than guided by the light of our brain’s more recent developments. Knowing the trouble I could cause, and the price I might pay, I did so against the urging of everyone whose opinions I faithfully sought. I must live or die with that decision that was, necessarily, my own. As my remaining and now increasingly lonely days permit, I will offer the substance of my cares, concerns, and reasonings to anyone interested, but will not demand, nor even ask, anyone to be actually interested. As my mind is my own to make up, so too it is for each of us to do the same. And like it or not, the implications of that fact have been, and will continue to be, global.

Right or wrong, but with my shingle out for open written debate, I now have much to say about many things, after living a long life of learning and traveling the globe—and being publicly silent, too circumspectly careful, about the most important things. I have been outwardly quiet lest I be branded the cause of “personal offense” and ejected from family and polite society by people who wrongly think I do not love them—all because I argue that Proposition A is false or that Decision B is illegal and fundamentally unethical, for complex reasons no one “has time” to read about or the depth of education to understand (being too busy making money and raising a family, and feeling great about doing so). I have tried to be accommodating and polite and unobtrusive. I have been taken to be an odd combination of “very smart,” “highly useful” —and “duly deferential” to executive decisions that time and again have proven to be fatally wrong. Thus, I have concluded that I have been making an exceedingly terrible mistake of my own.

I had always been asking myself, “How much do we really love one another? Enough to study hard and seek the truth about what we are doing to each other?” My hypothesis, now confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt, was that something horrible has gone wrong in our society that now manifests itself as the outward symptoms of a virus whose periodic outbreaks blood-stain the pages of our entire history. I claim that we do not love our children, nor one another, nor future generations, quite enough to find out the implications of what we are doing—or failing to do. Decades of thinking and searching out the facts (and trying to falsify my own theory about which I have been publicly silent for most of my life) have led me to this conclusion:

This world has been shaped by our frequent and mysterious lack of curiosity about what is true, the implications of our presumptions, and equally by our manufactured ignorance and enabled arrogance; in other words by our lack of interest in genuinely understanding ourselves, our fellows, and the world. As of this day, I have ceased to acquiesce in the face of narcissistic power that 1) assumes—and now literally asserts—that only its own feelings and decisions matter and that, by direct implication, mine own do not; 2) seeks out the company of only like-minded people; 3) seeks to threaten, ignore, or muzzle anyone who begs to differ; and 4) does not know the difference between a fact and a feeling nor between a rational argument and verbal abuse.

In the interests of “getting along with each other,” because we claim to love one another, we have, in fact, chosen to act in ways that permit aggressiveness, ignorance, and malignant narcissism to be reinforced and rewarded in our children and among those to whom we believe we must submit in order to “keep the peace,” “enjoy life,” and “earn a living.” We all think our children are important, most important, in our lives, and that it is their personal happiness (and our own) that is most important. But the trouble is this: Everyone believes this, but it could not possibly be true. Family A’s children cannot really be more important than Family B’s children, however truly important everyone may be. But as this false belief is acted upon across a society, poisonous consequences show themselves.

Because everyone thinks their children are special and must be treated “carefully,” and that their bosses must be treated with extra special deference lest they lose their jobs, a global situation develops in which no one, no individual person, is willing to take responsibility for the reinforcement and enablement of ignorance and egomania, showing itself in the proliferation of weapons, the perversion of religion, the election of Trump, and the perpetuation of sexual and economic predation by many of the most powerful people in the world, people who have in fact risen to power precisely because we each have done our part, deferentially, to allow it all to happen. There is a private, though never a public, cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, and we fail to see that just about everyone is doing this. Doing what? Refusing (out of fear of personal harm or lust for personal gain) to stand up and blow the public whistle against “BS,” that is, against corporate fraud, financial predation, money laundering, tax evasion, racist hatred, religious bigotry, manipulative lies, all manner of political corruption, and invincible ignorance with its contempt for higher education and a sneering suspicion of anything that smacks of literate and scientific intelligence.

My short answer: All of us need to learn the poisonous patterns of pseudo-argument and see them for what they are: strategically ill-motivated substitutes for coherent reasoning, all intended for two destructive purposes: manipulating an intellectually defenseless audience and, if one can pull it off, deceiving oneself to anesthetize the conscience while shifting responsibility. Introductory logic textbooks catalog the jungle of formal and informal fallacies, often identified by their Latin names, and antiseptically defined. They are all symptomatic of a diseased and thoughtless desire, not to get at the truth, but avoid it, or should it be necessary, to confront it, grab it by the throat, and drown it in the nearest bathtub.

“Molly coddling” is the generic term for respecting another’s “feelings” (even our own) above a respect for truth, rationality, and the avoidance of the growth of self-delusion. Turning our backs to the facts, we forget that facts bite us in the ass—in due time. If every employee submits unquestioningly to their bosses, our bosses come to believe that they cannot be wrong and increasingly grow arrogant and presumptuous about their powers, knowledge, skills, and wisdom. They then rationalize their stroked “feelings” (enabled by their parents, peers, shareholders, or underlings) as proof of their ethical superiority and command of reality. Financial “success” adds pragmatic fuel to the “confirmation” that they are right, just, good, and deserving of all they have. Underlings buy into the whole story of how their bosses make a fortune and, in so doing, become not only more tolerant of abuse but wish to imitate what they see as “leadership” behaviors.

Hence we have the likes of Michael Cohen, Sam Nunberg, and half of Congress, who outwardly bow to Trump as their “Mentor,” for example, while Roger Stone asserts that he saw Trump as a nice piece of “horseflesh” to back and exploit in a “race” to advance a personal agenda. Hence we have Weinstein and his “Director’s Couch.” Hence we have the NFL issue a threatening directive about what will constitute “patriotism” in their players. Hence we have a Mark Zuckerberg who has been neither able nor willing to understand the power and the implications of the global machine he has been building, how malefactors could exploit its “mere tools” to turn countries inside out and upside down by hitting targeted ignorant people who lack even the vestigial powers of rational analysis that would help them distinguish news from propaganda. He claims his “virtue” created his “success” by “connecting people globally” and “sellings ads” that selectively target them (more often than not with malice aforethought). Devils and the Lords of Mayhem are often not who we think they are. They are brilliant but selectively thoughtless people who seek to “impact the world” and garner “personal wealth” and thus “make the world a better place.” Still, the executives of “Cambridge Analytica” (a name itself reeking of arrogant pretension) do win the award for being the creeps of the century, for being exactly who they appear to be in surveillance videos.

Education and non-egoistic thoughtfulness take a distant back seat to ego and money and the building of one’s dream home and career and family. Genuine mutual human respect, thoughts about how our individual beliefs and actions impact society when likewise acted upon by others, and the humble willingness to admit we might be factually wrong about a whole lot of things, begin to rapidly shrink—or are stillborn in our childhood. We see the ultimate corruption of politics, of business, and of familial relationships in which the scientifically ignorant, the fundamentally incompetent, the ethically bankrupt, and the psychologically diseased seize power and wield it over others to the ultimate detriment of everyone. Historically, this has been the fatal formula for the rise of autocracy, fascism, oligarchy, tribal conflict, the collapse of countries, and the outbreak of war—all of which we thought we were trying to avoid in the first place.

Someday, the power of ignorance, arrogance, and malignant narcissism may learn that it only exists, and persists, because too many people have acquiesced in silence, fearfully or greedily or naively, but utterly mistakenly.  Meanwhile, our purported “love of one another” is proving, yet again, to be nothing of the sort.

Conflict Theory and Biosphere Annihilation

In a recent article titled “Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts“, I pointed out that existing conflict theory pays little attention to the extinction-causing conflict being ongoingly generated by human over-consumption in the finite planetary biosphere (and, among other outcomes, currently resulting in 200 species extinctions daily). I also mentioned that this conflict is sometimes inadequately identified as a conflict caused by capitalism’s drive for unending economic growth in a finite environment.

I would like to explain the psychological origin of this biosphere-annihilating conflict and how this origin has nurtured the incredibly destructive aspects of capitalism (and socialism, for that matter) from the beginning. I would also like to explain what we can do about it.

Before I do, however, let me briefly illustrate why this particular conflict configuration is so important by offering you a taste of the most recent research evidence in relation to the climate catastrophe and biosphere annihilation and why the time to resolve this conflict is rapidly running out (assuming, problematically, that we can avert nuclear war in the meantime).

In an article reporting a recent speech by Professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, whose research led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate CFC damage to the Ozone Layer, environmental journalist Robert Hunziker summarizes Anderson’s position as follows:

The chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare.1

But if you think that sounds drastic, other recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.2

So, if we are in the process of annihilating Earth’s biosphere, which will precipitate human extinction in the near term, why aren’t we paying much more attention to the origin of this fundamental conflict? And then developing a precisely focused strategy for transcending it?

The answer to these two questions is simply this: the origin of this conflict is particularly unpalatable and, from my careful observation, most people, including conflict theorists, aren’t anxious to focus on it.

So why are human beings over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere? Or more accurately, why are human beings who have the opportunity to do so (which doesn’t include those impoverished people living in Africa, Asia, Central/South America or anywhere else) over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere?

They are doing so because they were terrorized into unconsciously equating consumption with a meaningful life by parents and other adults who had already internalized this same ‘learning’.

Let me explain how this happens.

At the moment of birth, a baby is genetically programmed to feel and express their feelings in response to the stimuli, both internal and external, that the baby registers. For example, as soon after birth as a baby feels hungry, they will signal that need, usually by crying or screaming. An attentive parent (or other suitable adult) will usually respond to this need by feeding the baby and the baby will express their satisfaction with this outcome, perhaps with a facial expression, in a way that most aware parents and adults will have no difficulty identifying. Similarly, if the baby is cold, in pain or experiencing any other stimulus, the baby will express their need, probably by making a loud noise. Given that babies cannot immediately use a cultural language, they use the language that was given to them by evolution: particularly audibly expressed noise of various types that an aware adult will quickly learn to interpret.

Of course, from the initial moments after birth and throughout the next few months, a baby will experience an increasing range of stimuli – including internal stimuli such as the needs for listening, understanding and love, as well as external stimuli ranging from a wet nappy to a diverse set of parental, social, climate and environmental stimuli – and will develop a diverse and expanding range of ways, now including a wider range of emotional expression but eventually starting to include spoken language, of expressing their responses, including satisfaction and enjoyment, if appropriate, to these stimuli.

At some vital point, however, and certainly within the child’s first eighteen months, the child’s parents and the other significant adults in the child’s life, will start to routinely and actively interfere with the child’s emotional expression (and thus deny them satisfaction of the unique needs being expressed in each case) in order to compel the child to do as the parent/adult wishes. Of course, this is essential if you want the child to be obedient – a socially compliant slave – rather than to follow their own Self-will.

One of the critically important ways in which this denial of emotional expression occurs seems benign enough: Children who are crying, angry or frightened are scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as food or a toy – to distract them instead. Unfortunately, the distractive items become addictive drugs. Unable to have their emotional needs met, the child learns to seek relief by acquiring the material substitutes offered by the parent. But as this emotional deprivation endlessly expands because the child has been denied the listening, understanding and love to develop the capacity to listen to, love and understand themself, so too does the ‘need’ for material acquisition endlessly expand.

As an aside, this explains why most violence is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources. The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need. And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs. In essence, no amount of money and other assets can replace the love denied a child that would allow them to feel and act on their feelings.

Of course, the individual who consumes more than they need and uses direct violence, or simply takes advantage of structural violence, to do so is never aware of their deeply suppressed emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met. Although, I admit, this is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs. Consequently, with their emotional needs now unconsciously ‘hidden’ from the individual, they will endlessly project that the needs they want met are, in fact, material.

This is the reason why members of the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family and the Koch brothers, as well as the world’s other billionaires and millionaires, seek material wealth and are willing to do so by taking advantage of structures of exploitation held in place by the US military. They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids who were never loved and do not know how to love themself or others now.

Tragically, however, this fate is not exclusive to the world’s wealthy even if they illustrate the point most graphically. As indicated above, virtually all people who live in material cultures have suffered this fate and this is readily illustrated by their ongoing excessive consumption – especially their meat-eating, fossil-fueled travel and acquisition of an endless stream of assets – in a planetary biosphere that has long been signaling ‘Enough!’

As an aside, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism. Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

If you want to read (a great deal) more detail of the explanation presented above, you will find it in Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

So what can we do?

Well, I would start by profoundly changing our conception of sound parenting by emphasizing the importance of nisteling to children – see Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ – and making ‘My Promise to Children’.

For those adults who feel incapable of nisteling or living out such a promise, I encourage you to consider doing the emotional healing necessary by ‘Putting Feelings First’.

If you already feel capable of responding powerfully to this extinction-threatening conflict between human consumption and the Earth’s biosphere, you are welcome to consider joining those who are participating in the fifteen-year strategy to reduce consumption and achieve self-reliance explained in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ and/or to consider using sound nonviolent strategy to conduct your climate or environment campaign. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

You are also welcome to consider signing the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.

As the material simplicity of Mohandas K. Gandhi demonstrated: Consumption is not life.

If you are not able to emulate Gandhi (at least ‘in spirit’) by living modestly, it is your own emotional dysfunctionality – particularly unconscious fear – that is the problem that needs to be addressed.

  1. Robert Hunziker, “There Is No Time Left“, Dissident Voice, February 19, 2018.
  2. Robert Hunziker. “Insect Decimination Upstages Global Warming“, Dissident Voice, March 27, 2018.

Creating Right Relationship

Within many areas of contemporary life there is a growing momentum for fundamental change. Inequality and injustice are being resolutely challenged and environments in which Right Relationships can evolve are being consistently and powerfully demanded. The establishing of right relationships is a principle hallmark of the unique times we are living in, it sits alongside those other perennial values of goodness: justice freedom and sharing. Perennial qualities that have been held deep within the hearts of humanity for eons though consistently denied and not expressed.

Our current modes of living are characterized by certain dominant ideals: competition; reward and punishment; and desire being some of the leading players. Individually each of these creates divisions; collectively they form an interwoven barrier to all forms of right relationship, a barrier that at times seems impenetrable. Such habitual ways of living are rooted in a view of human nature which maintains that humanity is inherently competitive and selfish, and that desire for personal gain, pleasure and power is not only inevitable but is actually a positive thing, driving personal development and collective gain. Devotees of this view hold that without such motivating forces most people would be overcome by lethargy and do nothing – and then where would we be?

This argument, ardently promoted by the patrons of the socio-economic order, encourages the adoption of values and ways of living that are not only detrimental to the well-being of human beings, it is utterly false. Humanity is a group; we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is a fact all of us know or sense to be true, however faintly. Mankind’s early survival depended upon the ability to work collectively, and so it is again now. We must learn to cooperate once more, to build sharing into our lives and to cultivate right relationships with one another — across national boundaries, race, religions and gender, within ourselves and between humanity and the natural world.

Exploitation, prejudice and intolerance in whatever form constitute the antithesis of right relationship. This destructive, violent trinity occurs in all parts of the world; flowing primarily from ignorance, poverty and inequality it is perpetuated by the current economic system and the architecture of democracy, which revolves around money and big business. Right relationships are corrupted when excessive wealth and power reside in the hands of a privileged elite, such imbalances cultivate false notions of self-worth — high and low – feeding the destructive duality of dependency and entitlement.

Right relationship within all areas of society depends upon a number of interlocking values being in place, complementary colors that when made manifest result in harmony. Social justice is essential and this requires that equality be established: equality of opportunity; gender and race equality, equality before the law, and equality within systems of democratic governance — where equality should be inherent but is often absent. Tolerance and understanding are also required, tolerance of differences, of alternative views, beliefs and practices; tolerance of the unfamiliar, tolerance of ‘the other’, of mistakes and of failure (something education and many parents need to adopt); the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know’, and to thereby allow the brain to be quiet.

The pressure to succeed, or at least not to fail, is colossal, particularly amongst young people who face enormous pressure to adopt the all-pervasive material values, which champion individual success and stigmatize failure. This pressure is a major obstacle to the creation of right relationship within oneself and with others and is a primary cause of stress and anxiety. Fragmentation adds to the internal disharmony, which flows out into the collective atmosphere in which we all live, feeding social tensions and divisions, denying peace – or rather shattering peace, for, free from disorder, peace eternally IS.

Collective harmony relies on there being right relationship with all living forms and the complex ecological patterns of life of this most beautiful world. In order to establish this, the way we live needs to fundamentally alter. In developed nations and increasingly in developing regions, life for many has been reduced to a materialistic game of consumption and hedonism, and both are as poisonous as each other. Consumerism is the root ingredient in the global catastrophe that is climate change. Sold as a way of life by its chief benefactors, it provides a hollow imitation of happiness called pleasure and builds an addictive prison of dependency and attachment in which mental illnesses and environmental abuse proliferate. Through the agitation of desire on which its survival is dependent, discontent, disharmony and disease are caused and maintained, all of which deny the manifestation of right relationship with oneself, with others and with the abundant earth.

If social harmony, peace and environmental integrity are to be brought about, right relationship within the individual is essential. It all begins, and indeed ends with us, with the way we live our daily lives; the way we think, speak and act. Actions that proceed from a position of selfishness and attachment trample on right relationships and result in conflict and suffering; when harmlessness and responsibility are the guiding principles harmony arises. The recognition that humanity is one is the primary requirement for change; the realization of this fundamental fact will light a fuse of truth and clarity that will burn away all that is false, all that divides and all that denies right relationships.

For His 200th Birthday, Honoring Marx As An Activist

In 1888, Marx wrote, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

On this 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx we focus on Marx as a political activist, rather than what he is best known for, an economist and philosopher who wrote some of the most important analyses explaining capitalism and putting forward an alternative economic model.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” He believed political change stems from the history of conflicts between people who are exploited against the people who are exploiting them. This exploitation leads to conflict and revolt. Marx posited revolution as “the driving force of history.”

The root of the political struggle for Marx was the economic system creating a struggle between classes. This conflict has varied throughout history; e.g., the serfs vs. the lords in the Feudal Era, the slaves vs. their owners in the era of slavery, and today between workers and their bosses or capitalists.

Iconic picture of the 1848 revolution in Berlin. Unknown artist. Public domain.

Marx Was a Political Activist Working to Change the World

In an interview with Immanuel WallersteinMarcello Musto described Marx’s political activism, noting:

For all his life, Marx was not merely a scholar isolated among the books of London’s British Museum, but always a militant revolutionary involved in the struggles of his epoch. Due to his activism, he was expelled from France, Belgium and Germany in his youth. He was also forced to go into exile in England when the revolutions of 1848 were defeated. He promoted newspapers and journals and always supported labor movements in all the ways he could. Later, from 1864 to 1872, he became the leader of the International Working Men’s Association, the first transnational organization of the working class and, in 1871, defended the Paris Commune, the first socialist experiment in history.

Wallerstein adds that Marx played a major role in organizing people on an international level and that “Marx’s political activity also involved journalism…. He worked as a journalist to get an income, but he saw his contributions as a political activity. He had not any sense of being a neutral. He was always a committed journalist.”

At 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government, he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844.

In 1848, Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto.  “The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first International where he was active in organizing the International’s annual congresses.

Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships like the former Soviet Union that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the state, but which class controlled the state. A society can only be socialist if power is in the hands of workers themselves.

Photo: Dean Chahim/flickr/cc)

Our Tasks: Expose Inequality, Create New Economic Systems

Marx’s critique of capitalism focuses on how it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth. Marxism was seen as extinct after the Reagan-Thatcher eras and the end of the Soviet Union. But, now after nearly 40 years of neoliberalism, the inequality of deregulated global capitalism has made the occupy meme of the 99 percent versus the one percent a factual reality.

The Independent reports on Marx’s anniversary:

Unsurprisingly, several decades of neoliberalism have been the greatest testament to how a deregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw, siphons wealth to the top 1 per cent or even 0.1 per cent. Recent figures show that the wealthiest eight billionaires in the world (whom you could fit into a people carrier) have as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population, or some 3. 5 billion people. Astonishingly, the equivalent figure was the 62 wealthiest billionaires in 2016. Back in 2010 it was more than 300. This is how rapidly wealth is being sucked up to the top – this may be termed the vacuum-up effect as opposed to the myth of trickle-down economics.

In the United States, three people hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of USians “have zero or negative net worth.” That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination. In some US corporations, the CEO earns more than 1,000 times the average worker; i.e., workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as the CEO makes in just one year.

The contradiction between extreme wealth and widespread poverty and economic insecurity, between the efficient production of goods and services and the refusal to share the prosperity created by efficiency, and between the use of natural resources and the destruction of the planet and enormous threats of climate change are leading people to see the failures of capitalism.

In 2017, the National Review reported that a poll found as many as 40 percent of people in the U.S. “now prefer socialism to capitalism.” A 2016 YouGov survey found that respondents younger than 30 rated socialism more favorably than capitalism, 43 percent vs. 32 percent. “Socialism” was the most looked-up word on Merriam-Webster’s site in 2015. “Socialism has been near the top of our online dictionary look-up list for several years,” said editor-at-large Peter Sokolowsk.

In 2014, David Harvey, a top Marxist academic, wrote, in Seventeen Contradictions And the End of Capitalism, that the extreme contradictions are leading to major transformations:

“It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play.”

How will that change occur? The answer is in part up to what those working for change do. Youssef El-Gingihy writes in the Independent of one likely possibility:

The transition of capitalism to an alternative political and economic system will likely play out over a protracted period, even if it is catalyzed by revolution. Much in the same way that feudalism evolved into capitalism through the dual industrial (economic) and French revolutions (political), in which the bourgeoisie superseded the aristocratic order preceded by the 17th-century English civil war.

We see the slow transition in process with the development of a myriad of economic democracy projects that give workers control of their employment through worker cooperatives, give communities control over their development through land trusts, give people direct control over budget decisions through participatory budgeting and democratize banking through public banks. These are some efforts to create an economy that serves the people without limiting control to workers, whose numbers are shrinking due to automation. Many of these new economic models are in their early stages of development.

Marx believed that:

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

The lessons of Karl Marx show that our tasks are to heighten class conflict by exposing the reality of abhorrent inequality and create new systems to replace failing capitalism.

Crisis in Consciousness: Change and the Individual

Our society is besieged by a series of interconnected crises. Millions of people around the world know this and are crying out for change, for a different way of living, for justice, peace and freedom.

Political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the like, are apparently incapable of responding to these demands; they do not understand the depth of the anguish or the complex interconnected nature of the problems. Instead of presenting new possibilities and working for peace and social harmony, they do all they can to maintain the divisive status quo and act in accordance with the past. But life is not static, it cannot be contained within any ideology – religious, political/economic or social – all must change to accommodate the new. And ‘the new’ is now flooding our world, stimulating change, demanding response and accommodation.

The world and the individual are one; for substantive change to occur this basic fact must be acknowledged; responsibility for the world rests firmly with each and every one of us. If we are to heal the planet and create harmony in the world change is imperative, but it must first of all take place within the individual. Over the last 40 years or so a gentle, yet profound shift in attitudes has indeed been taking place within large numbers of people; the increased level of social-political participation and in many nations revolt against historical injustice and suppression testify to this development. Whilst this is extremely positive, urgent and fundamental change is required if the many issues facing humanity are to be overcome and a new way of living set in motion.

What are the crises facing humanity: The environmental catastrophe and war conventional and nuclear – global poverty, inequality, terrorism, the displacement of people, and, festering beneath all of these, the socio-economic systems under which we all live. These issues, and they are but the most pressing, are the effects of certain ideals and conditioned ways of thinking; they are the results of the underlying crisis, what we might term the Crisis in Consciousness, or the Crisis of Love. Not sentimental, emotional love, but love as a unifying force for liberation and change. Love as the Sword of Cleavage, as the exposer of all that is false, unjust and corrupt in our world.

‘Society’, large or small, is a reflection of the consciousness of those who constitute that society; it is formed by the values, relationships and behaviour consistently and predominantly expressed by the people within it. Such expressions are to a large degree the result of socio-psychological conditioning, poured into the minds of everyone from birth by parents and peers, friends and educators, the media and political propaganda. This conditioning pollutes the mind, distorts behaviour and creates a false sense of self. It colours every relationship and forms the corrupt foundations upon which our lives are set. From this polluted centre, filled as it is with selfishness, competition, nationalism and religious ideologies, action proceeds and the divisive pollution of the mind is externalized. Where there is division conflict follows, violent conflict or psychological conflict, community antagonism or regional disputes.

For lasting change to take place, for peace and justice to flower, we must do all we can to break free of this inhibiting conditioning and in so doing cease to add to the collective pollution. The instrument of release in this battle is awareness: Observation and awareness are synonymous. In choiceless observation there is awareness – awareness of the values, motives and ideals conditioning behaviour. In the light of such awareness, unconscious patterns are revealed, and through a process of non-engagement can, over time, be negated and allowed to fall away.

Realizing unity

Through competition, fear and ‘ism’s of all kinds we have divided life up; separated ourselves from the natural environment and from one another. The prevailing economic system encourages such divisions; individuals are forced to compete with one another, as are cities, regions and nations. Competition feeds notions of separation and nationalism, ‘America First’ and Brexit being two loud examples of countries, or certain factions within these countries, following a policy which they mistakenly believe to be in their nation’s interest, meaning their economic interest. Such divisions work against the natural order of things by strengthening the illusion of separation.

The natural environment is an integrated whole, humanity is One and an essential part of that whole; the realization of unity in human affairs, however, is dependent upon social justice, and this is impossible within the constraints of the current economic model, which is inherently unjust. Neo-Liberalism is a major source of the psychological and sociological conditioning which is polluting the mind and society; creative alternatives that challenge the orthodoxy, which proclaims ‘there is no alternative’, must be cultivated and explored.

New criteria need to be established for any alternative economic model; the acknowledgment that human need is universal and should be universally met, and that nobody ‘deserves’ to live a life of suffering and hardship simply because of their place and family of birth. Sharing is a key principle of the time; it must be placed at the heart of our lives and of any new socio-economic structures. Not just sharing of the natural ‘God-given’ resources of the world, but of space, ideas, knowledge and skills, all should be distributed based on need, not bought and sold based on wealth and power. The recognition that humanity is one is crucial in bringing about the needed transformation in consciousness; sharing flows quite naturally from the acknowledgment of this fact and by its expression encourages a shift in attitudes away from the individual towards the group, thus strengthening social cohesion and unity.

Sharing, justice and freedom are vibrant expressions of Love and the Crisis in Consciousness is itself the consequence of a Lack of Love. Like virtually every aspect of life, love has been perverted, distorted and trivialized. Love is not desire, it is not dependent on anything or anyone for its being: Love is the nature of life itself. Remove the psychological clutter and Love will shine forth, bringing clarity and lasting change, within the individual and by extension society.

Post-Modernism Does Not Go Far Enough!

Post-modernism does not go far enough. It has not overturned all meta-narratives and fully established its essence, that is, a multiplicity of micro-narratives, achieved through a radical “incredulity toward metanarratives”.1 Consequently, post-modernism has yet to realize the post-modern society, that is, a patchwork federation of localized, decentralized and horizontalized micro-institutions, founded on a litany of microscopic, ideational-comprehensive-frameworks, where no-one fully dominates and terrorizes over the others. If post-modernism can be defined as a socio-economic framework where “there are no criteria”,2 where “there is no longer any…[overarching] system of rules”,3 and where “there is no [universal] sensus communis”,4 then, post-modernism has only partially succeeded. The reason being that the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism continues to weave all the seemingly, independent micro-narratives, or language-games, together, into a cohesive whole within a totalitarian bourgeois-capitalist dominion.

In effect, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism homogenizes and unifies the diversity and the multiplicity of micro-narratives into a totality. That is, a totality which post-modernism seeks to abolish and/or overturn. As a result, post-modernism has not realized its raison d’être; i.e., “a federation of municipalities, cooperatives and autonomous-collectives. That is, a plurality sharing, in egalitarian fashion, decision-making-authority, ownership, knowledge, and the sum of capital”,5 where “all… positions [or narratives] are equivalent”6 and no-one micro-narrative “imposes itself upon the others, [and] sets itself up as dominant…[while] reducing…multiplicity to silence”.7 So, the reason, this patchwork federation has not come about is that post-modernism has not pushed itself to the Nth degree. Namely, it has not activated its pragmatic methodology, pragmatic deconstruction; i.e., that “imaginative activism…used in various [manners for]…de-sedimentation”8, namely, the physical and mental deconstruction of the grand-institutional structures, which have grown out of and enshrined the various Enlightenment meta-narratives within their constitutions and daily operations.

Post-modernism has interpreted the world, but it has not sought to truly change it, that is, to act upon its conclusions with a certain pluralized authority. Therefore, the result has been both a refortification of the Enlightenment and its modern hierarchies, and a furthering of the convoluted minutia of arbitrary rules and regulations designed to maintain a bourgeois aristocracy and an outdated, bourgeois-capitalist status quo, which, in fact, today, impedes intellectual and material advancements. In effect, these sets of arbitrary bourgeois rules and regulations have no actual validity and are solely designed to enforce an outdated bourgeois-capitalist status quo, through a litany of irrational divisions, which serve no other purpose other than impeding intellectual and material advancement, because these advancements embody and promote collectivism, egalitarianism, and the overthrow of the capitalist-hierarchical status quo. Today, any “grand-narrative has lost its credibility”9, yet the grand-narrative of bourgeois-state-capitalism, as socio-economic savior, continues to persist and weave the litany of independent micro-narratives into a cohesive totality by force, by money and by machination.

Notwithstanding, after post-modernism there is no valid, or legitimate, arguments for not establishing financial equality, collectivism, and total social egalitarianism, due to the fact that “there is not a single—logic—that underlies all…domains”,10, meaning that all micro-narratives have legitimate claim to resources, moreover, including the fact that such an egalitarian redistribution of resources would in actuality maximize opportunities for intellectual and material advancement. Bourgeois-capitalism and bourgeois-ideology impede the intellectual and material advancement of the human species because bourgeois-capitalism and bourgeois-ideology “silence people…forbidding them to speak [if they are not bourgeois-capitalist]. As a result knowledge and knowledge production [is not]…free”.11 It is curtailed within a bourgeois-capitalist framework, which excludes many participants and points of views, due to their anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist tendencies.

After post-modernism, there is no such thing as the legitimate ownership of capital, money and/or private property, as in actuality, everyone has legitimate claim in relative equal measure, upon all property, all capital, and all money, and moreover, should all have access, in relative equal measure, to all property, all capital and all money etc., due to the fact that, “knowledge is obtained by a multiplicity of views rather from the determined application of a preferred ideology”.12  That is, because “there is no meta-language…[which can] ground political and ethical decisions”,13 then, all micro-narratives, or micro-languages, have legitimate claim, in relative equal measure, upon all socio-economic resources within society, due to the fact that there is no legitimate, rightful, universalized position for equitable judgments, that is, “there is no stable system to guide [and legitimize] judgments”.2. Hence, the counter-point is to encourage, promote, and build a plurality; i.e., “a complex and heterogeneous historical process [and framework]”14 which will maximize intellectual and material advancement by permitting equal access to all socio-economic resources in relative equal measure. Increasingly, it is evident that this vital heterogeneity, which can maximize intellectual and material advancement, demands the overthrow of bourgeois-capitalism and bourgeois-ideology, due to the fact that “a free society…cannot be based on any particular creed”,15 that is, it cannot be based on overarching domination of bourgeois-capitalism and bourgeois-ideology.

If all micro-narratives have equal claim to resources because there is no overarching, universal, timeless truth and meta-narrative by which to judge, and if many active micro-narratives means maximum intellectual and material advancement, then any individual claim to segments of private property, capital, knowledge and money, as somehow rightfully belonging to a singular individual and/or any small oligarchical group, is moot, illegitimate, irrational, and fundamentally counter-productive to intellectual and material advancement. If “there is no common measure”16 by which to allocate resources, legitimately, justly, and fairly, and according to the post-modern point of view, there is no such common measure, then every micro-narrative and individual has legitimate claim to all socio-economic resources in relative equal measure, due to the fact that there is no underlying verity by which to deny resources for some and not others, and due to the fact that any unequal allocation of socio-economic resources impedes intellectual and material advancement.

Ultimately, all the bourgeois-capitalist canons; i.e., private property, individualism, hierarchy, greed and profiteering etc., are fictions, phantasms imposed upon society, illegitimately, both to impede its collective development and truncate its population, to keep it enslaved, both materially and intellectually, in confusion, delusion, nonsense and poverty, against its will and against its better nature. That is, its better nature being, namely, egalitarianism, monetary equality, collectivism and the sharing of resources, in relative equal measure. Consequently, in line with Jean-Francois Lyotard, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is maintained, expanded and traversed with terror “the exercise of terror…[commanding all to] adapt your aspirations to our ends—or else”.17 Bourgeois-capitalism is totalitarian in nature, “it is unjust…[its] majority does not mean large number, it means great fear”,18 fear in all its forms, such as “imprisonment, unemployment, repression, hunger, anything you want”19 in the sense that the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism “does not respect…plurality”,20 but only its version of unicity.

As a result, any bourgeois-institution or dominance hierarchy which disseminates, endorses and/or promotes individualism, capitalism, hierarchy, selfishness, private property and ironclad unity, is fundamentally anti-advancement, and, in fact, willingly participates in impeding intellectual and material advancement; i.e., the betterment of the human species. Therefore, any such bourgeois-institution, or dominance hierarchy, should be utterly deconstructed, destroyed and/or abolished, on the valid and legitimate premise that these bourgeois-institutions and dominance hierarchies impeded intellectual and material advancement for the greatest number, by limiting access to socio-economic resources. That is, by the very fact, these bourgeois-institutions deny, stifle and impede intellectual and material advancement and all rightful legitimate claims by the multiplicity of micro-narratives for collectivism, egalitarianism, and equality in the allocation of socio-economic resources.

The point, ultimately, is to reconstruct these outdated, senile bourgeois-institutions along collectivist, decentralist, horizontalist, and anti-capitalist forms of socio-economic organization. Based on the fact that because there are no legitimate meta-narratives and/or universal truth-claims, any bourgeois-institution, or dominance hierarchy, which states otherwise and/or acts otherwise, is in actuality working against intellectual and material advancement and the democratic multiplicity of micro-narratives. These outdated, senile, bourgeois-institutions and dominance hierarchies are impeding socio-economic and intellectual development. These anti-advancement bourgeois-institutions and dominance hierarchies are impeding development due to the fact that they are working against — and in contradiction of — socio-economic plurality, that is, the basic factum that progress and “knowledge need a plurality of ideas”21 in order to achieve maximum penetration and development. And, the fact that to achieve maximum intellectual and material development requires the redistribution of socio-economic resources to everyone and every micro-narrative in relative equal measure.

Therefore, these senile, bourgeois-institutions and dominance hierarchies are categorically ripe for pragmatic deconstruction, that is, a type of material deconstruction, which is valid on the premise that there are no acceptable, valid reasons and arguments for the promotion of individual private-ownership, individual property, individual wealth, and financial inequality, on the basis that these bourgeois-capitalist principles impede the intellectual and material advancement of our species by severely limiting plurality and diversity; i.e., the necessary plurality and diversity needed for maximum intellectual and material advancement.

Consequently, this rampant bourgeois-homogeneity and push towards a totalizing bourgeois-unicity, we currently see across western bourgeois-capitalist societies and within bourgeois-institutions, bourgeois-media, bourgeois-law, bourgeois-politics, bourgeois-academia etc., is purging these domains of variation, difference, and alternative points of views, which, according to Feyerabend, “is to be expect in [bourgeois] totalitarian surroundings”.22  Such purges of variation, difference, and alternative points of views across the senile institutions of bourgeois-state-capitalism are primarily perpetrated via terror, both psychological and real, that is, by force, a force derived from an unstated ultimatum, “say or do this, or else you’ll never speak [in this domain] again”.23 This is a form of violence, “by laws, by peer pressure and by financial machinations”24 etc., which have gradually drained, stopped, and eliminated all plurality in points of views from any decision-making-authority and position of power. The result has been the impediment of intellectual and material advancement in the name of an outdated, senile, bourgeois-capitalist status quo, which is increasingly ossifying itself into hierarchical rigidity, drastic financial inequality and socio-economic stagnation.

Subsequently, any bourgeois-institution, which is constructed and designed to propagate and maintain an outdated, senile, bourgeois-capitalist status quo, at the expense of intellectual and material advancement, should be radically deconstructed, destroyed and/or abolished on the very basis that these bourgeois-institutions and dominance hierarchies prevent intellectual and material development by denying collectivism, egalitarianism and equal access for all. That is, bourgeois rules and regulations should be defied, smashed, and broken at every turn due to the fundamental fact that these institutional bourgeois rules and regulations impeded intellectual and material advancement in the name of private property, individualism, bourgeois hierarchy and bourgeois money. These bourgeois rules and regulations should be usurped, including the bourgeois-institutions and hierarchies based on them, because these bourgeois rules and regulations are simply in place to sustain a divisive, out of date, bourgeois-capitalist status quo at the expense of genuine socio-economic plurality, advancement, and betterment. The basis for such a vast pragmatic deconstruction of bourgeois-institutions is the fact that “there is no ontology…[and] no [underlying] rules”25; we have no basic universal guideline to live by, thus, to limit decision-making-authority strictly to a minority comprised in a small, tightly-knit, bourgeois-capitalist status quo and aristocracy, is detrimental to the survival of society and the advancement of the human species.

According to Paul Feyerabend, “language can be bent in many directions…[because] understanding does not depend on any particular set of rules”;26 as a result, “a single…world-view is going too far”.27 It impedes intellectual and material advancement since these bourgeois rules and regulations deny collectivism, egalitarianism, and accessibility; i.e., the very essence of intellectual and material advancement, which is grounded in diversity and plurality. These bourgeois rules and regulations should be pragmatically deconstructed, destroyed and/or abolished, beyond any ability to re-establish these bourgeois impediments which hinder advancement and egalitarianism. Because, as Feyerabend states, “interesting possibilities are removed [when institutions] firmly [insist] on the status quo”,28 while denying the existence of all viable progressive exceptions; i.e., diversity, plurality and multiplicity.

What does this mean? This means that all institutions or dominance hierarchies should be horizontally reconstructed so as to permit maximum participation in decision-making-authority by as many micro-narratives and/or individual subjectivities as possible as “knowledge needs a plurality of ideas”.16  Consequently, bourgeois-politics, bourgeois-law, bourgeois-education, bourgeois-media etc., should be radically opened-up to radical plurality, diversity and multiplicity. Namely, a litany of point of views and collectives, each with an equal amount of decision-making-authority, unencumbered by rigid rules and regulations, able to fashion and refashion rules, regulations and institutions at will pending on the situation. In effect, we can only “be just, case by case”,29 guided by the idea of maintaining plurality so that democracy, participation and accessibility is fully maximized and spread over as many micro-narratives and individuals as possible.

This means that the federal bourgeois-state-apparatus should be abolished, destroyed and pragmatically deconstructed due to the fact that it only acknowledges, promotes, and positions select members of the upper-echelons of bourgeois-capitalism within its hierarchy of decision-making-authority. Moreover, this means that bourgeois-law should be abolished, destroyed and pragmatically deconstructed due to the fact that bourgeois-law only cherishes bourgeois forms of existence; i.e., individualism, bourgeois-property, bourgeois-money, bourgeois-hierarchy and bourgeois capital etc., at the expense of the majority of micro-narratives that traverse across the workforce/population. Finally, this means that bourgeois-education should be abolished, destroyed and pragmatically deconstructed because the majority of bourgeois-education instructs and promotes bourgeois obedience, bourgeois consciousness, bourgeois hierarchy, bourgeois arbitrary rules and regulations. All of which impede intellectual and material advancement by denying a multiplicity of valid perspectives and points of views, by which to develop new knowledges, technologies and new solutions, all on account that these perspectives and points of views break with the bourgeois-capitalist status quo. As Feyerabend states, “humans cannot have complete knowledge. There are too many things, too many events, too many situations”,30 as a result, any intellectual and material advancement of knowledge and life must permit the participation of “many different maps of reality”31 within decision-making-authority in order to maximize the possibility of advancements. And, any bourgeois-institution, which run contrary to this demand for plurality, which by this definition is all institutions serving bourgeois-capitalism, are in violation of the primary imperative of the human species. That is, the innate biological imperative and drive, housed in the species, commanding an “overall mastery and comprehension of phenomena”,32 as soon as possible.

For this reason, bourgeois-education and, in general, bourgeois-institutions need to be opened-up to variation, with loose rules and regulations, designed to maximize democracy, participation and accessibility. For bourgeois-education, this means loose standards and criterions pertaining to the completion of degrees and educational competences. In effect, the plurality of multi-varied individuals and micro-narratives must be allowed to enter and exit, at will, the post-bourgeois-capitalist-university without set time-limits. These multi-varied individuals and micro-narratives must be permitted to change and collage courses and educational disciplines at will in order to attain their degrees.

Nothing must impede intellectual and material development in the sense that as Feyerabend states “there are many ways of ordering the world”33 and each must be given the opportunity to democratically participate in the intellectual and material advancement of our species. Limiting accessibility and allocation of socio-economic resources in relative equal measure for the greatest number ultimately limits opportunities, capabilities and possibilities for intellectual and material advancement. In short, clinging to the bourgeois-capitalist way of life is increasingly clarifying the basic fact that this mode of existence is inhibiting intellectual and material development because it denies contributions by the vast majority who are forced decision-making-authority in the name of bourgeois-hierarchy and a bourgeois-capitalist status quo.  The crux of intellectual and material advancement requires collectivism, egalitarianism and maximum accessibility for all, which is exactly what is being suppressed by the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. That is, “liberty is full only at the moment when the power of the representatives [of bourgeois-state-capitalism] is suspended and given back to the represented, [i.e., the people]”.34 Only then, is plurality, diversity and accessibility capable of being fully realized, which includes the prospect for maximum intellectual and material advancement.

All told, all standards and criterions must be made ultra-flexible, ultra-adaptable, and ultra-democratic so as to maximize open-participatory-democracy and decision-making-authority across a maximum number of people living, existing, and accessing the post-bourgeois-capitalist-university and, in general, post-bourgeois-capitalist-institutions. The point is to accommodate the variability of people and narratives entering and living through the post-bourgeois-capitalist-university and, in general, post-bourgeois-capitalist-institutions because knowledge “is not one tradition, it is many”35 and the maximization of accessibility by all sorts of different people and narratives leads to the maximization of mastery and comprehension over phenomena. The point is to accommodate maximum variability, plurality and participation at all levels of the post-bourgeois-capitalist-university and, in general, post-bourgeois-capitalist-institutions, due to the fact that, in actuality, there are no “universal measures of excellence”;36 as a result, the more points of views participating in decision-making-authority, the more chances of intellectual and material advancement. The point is to facilitate, enable, and accelerate intellectual and material advancement, by removing as many barriers as possible to intellectual and material development, meaning the dissolution of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

In sum, bourgeois-capitalism, the last meta-narrative of the Enlightenment, and all its individual tenets, such as individualism, bourgeois-hierarchy etc., must be jettisoned and abandoned at all levels of human existence, at all levels of everyday life and at all levels of education, law, politics, and institutions etc., because bourgeois-capitalism impedes intellectual and material advancement, by denying the tenets for maximum intellectual and material advancement. That is, the tenets of collectivism, egalitarianism and accessibility for all, in relative equal measure; therefore, nothing bourgeois, or capitalist, must survive the consequences of pragmatic deconstruction. Absolutely nothing! As bourgeois-capitalism must be reduced to its rightful place and its true legitimate position, as just another perspective, way of life, and mode of production, consumption, and distribution, among many:

No invention is ever made in isolation, and no idea is, therefore, completely without (abstract or empirical) support….then the step back [from unicity into plurality] is a step forward,…away from the tyranny of tightly-knit, highly corroborated, [collusionary bourgeois-capitalist] systems.37

Such a move is a step-forward, a step towards maximization, diversity and equality for the greatest number. It is a step-forward into an open-participatory-democracy devoid of class-divisions, race-divisions, gender-divisions etc., in service of collectivism, egalitarianism and maximum accessibility for the greatest number.

Therefore, only when post-modernism attains its nth degree and becomes fully pragmatic; i.e., a pragmatic application of deconstruction, will the last stains of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism be wiped clean from all senile, modern institutions.  Only when post-modernism becomes fully radicalized, and pushes through the remaining meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism haunting civil society will the essence of post-modernity realize itself with maximum clarity. Then, will we be finally free of the tyranny of bourgeois-unicity and be “given [real] equal rights, equal access to education and…[real] positions of power”38 as post-modernism is incomplete and demands its essentiality, namely, plurality, equality and accessibility for the greatest number, ASAP!

  1. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition, Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) p. xxiv.
  2. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 16.
  3. Ibid, p. 9.
  4. Ibid, p. 14.
  5. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016) 25.b).
  6. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 74.
  7. Ibid, p. 102.
  8. Jacque Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) p. 350.
  9. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition, Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) p. 37.
  10. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 202.
  11. Ibid, p. 127.
  12. Ibid, p. 32.
  13. Ibid, p. 105.
  14. Ibid, p. 28.
  15. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 238.
  16. Ibid, p. 132.
  17. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 50.
  18. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition, Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) p. 64.
  19. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 99.
  20. Ibid, p. 99.
  21. Ibid, p. 98.
  22. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 138.
  23. Ibid, p. 138.
  24. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition, Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) p. 46.
  25. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975)  p. 195.
  26. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 65.
  27. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 257.
  28. Ibid, p. 245.
  29. Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming, Trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) p. 53.
  30. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 205.
  31. Ibid, p. 256.
  32. Michel Luc Bellemare, Treatise on Logical Reason, (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2017) 5.g).
  33. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 166.
  34. Jacque Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) p. 323.
  35. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. (London: Verso, 1975) p. 242.
  36. Ibid, p. 223.
  37. Ibid, p. 116.
  38. Ibid, p. 238.

Tribalism, Reason, and the Challenges Raised by Global Neoliberal Capitalism

This is not an ordinary review or even rehash of George Orwell’s 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism.” Rather, it is a reflection on and attempt to expand and re-contextualize the ideas expressed there with comments directly relevant to 2018. Orwell’s main points—the varied and ubiquitous nature of irrational groupisms (which he calls “nationalism”) and how they distorted judgment in the context of 1945—serve less as a direct focus than as a springboard to related considerations.

First, I do not use “nationalism” in the broad sense Orwell does. In its place I use the less-specific “tribalism”. Merriam-Webster defines this as “strong in-group loyalty”; its negative characteristic, extreme Othering, or strong out-group aversion, deserves emphasis. Of course, disparaging “nationalism,” or using it to stand in for other contemptible groupisms (as Orwell did) in 1945, can hardly be second-guessed.

Nationalism had to that point certainly demonstrated its capacity as a powerful and destructive form of tribalism—often with an attendant strong out-group aversion. It deserved, and deserves, condemnation for its irrationality and monumental crimes. However, it also deserves criticism for its modernist derivation—or, for what it says about modernism, for the lows to which modernism could be taken in the formation of irrationalist elitist-serving, and, in crucial ways, anti-modern political innovations. (This is one sense in which some postmodernists are right: the successes of irrationalism in the modern era, not its overcoming, is a core problem of the current world, despite the often interested, black-and-white simplifications to the contrary by really existing modernists.)

I will address one “nationalism” (or tribalism) discussed by Orwell, “color feeling,” (without prejudice regarding the other forms he mentioned, which other writers might find entirely worthy of comment) because it relates directly to contemporary political tribalisms collectively known as identity politics, which is problematic and contributes to the politics of the moment across the West. Other than that, I will follow the Orwell’s main idea in my own direction. A consideration of Otto Neurath’s (and Ben Franklin’s) take on rationality (always pertinent to tribalism and Othering) follows the comments on “color feeling.” Then, I take up a related look at the origins of black-and-white thinking. And finally, I will turn to the recent revival of nationalism (of a sort Orwell might have given some positive account); how it relates to what are called globalization and neoliberalism; and the seemingly odd alliance of Democrats and neoconservatives against a version of such nationalism in the US.

Mr. Orwell—writing principally, of course, about the English—calls “color feeling” an altered form of “the old-style contemptuous attitude towards ‘natives’,” putting “a belief in the innate superiority of the colored races” in place of a similar, older belief about one’s own group. Orwell said this attitude of “transferred nationalism” (in this case, reversed but fundamentally unchanged tribalism) “probably resulted more from masochism and sexual frustration than from contact with” what Orwell refers to archaically as “Oriental and Negro nationalist movements”—a reasonable judgment about the sometimes romantic portrayals of Third World national liberation movements during the Cold War.

In Frantz Fanon’s 1952 book, Black Skin, White Masks, the Antillean revolutionary echoes Orwell, expressing nothing short of contempt for the line of reasoning Orwell called ‘color feeling’. Rather than tribalism and ‘color feeling’, Fanon said the purpose of the politics he envisioned entailed “nothing less than to liberate the black man from himself.”1 He derided then-novel forms of tribalism taken up by others, purportedly with the needs of Third Worlders foremost in their minds. Using as an example “former governors or missionaries,” Fanon said “an individual who loves Blacks is as ‘sick’ as someone who abhors them.” His focus was on liberation, not veneration. Toward the end of the book, Fanon took another shot at the sort of thinking that goes under the title left-wing identity politics today (leading with a passage from Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire about the uselessness of “poetry from the past”): “The discovery that a black civilization existed in the fifteenth century does not earn me a certificate of humanity.” And Fanon’s liberatory thinking extended to everyone. “There is no white world; there is no white ethic—any more than there is a white intelligence. There are from one end of the world to the other men who are searching.” He wanted, as he invited others to seek for themselves with him, to invent himself into the future, not to seek his identity in the past. He considered this very much part of both individual and collective liberation. The importance of these passages, and of Orwell’s comments, are to be found in consideration of the sort of racialized thinking, tribalist thinking, bubbling up today on both the left and right, one feeding off the other.

What Orwell derided in 1945, and Fanon in 1952, modern left-wing identity politics embraces enthusiastically. I say left-wing identity politics to distinguish it from right-wing identity politics, which are often expressed in terms of traditional forms of nationalism and racism. Left-wing identity politics are often expressed in non-traditional inverted forms of nationalism and racism, or, sometimes, what Orwell called “transferred nationalism.” I also refer to left-wing identity politics as distinct from identity analysis. Determining how different forms of identity seem to intersect, complicating the detrimental impacts of social hierarchies for some compared to others, may serve an analytical goal. Too often, in the hands of real actors, identity analysis is deployed to justify the social and ideological inversion of social hierarchies as a political goal. (Michael Rectenwald, when he was still a left Marxist, discussed this in a helpful manner.) Embracing identities, rather than seeking liberation from them, is probably just as “sick” today as Fanon considered it sixty-six years ago. Today, of course, in a world increasingly saturated with some form of identitarianism, ‘color feeling’ is fully embraced on the liberal-left as cutting-edge progressivism. Fanon’s idea of liberating “the black man from himself” comes off as entirely, if confusingly, Euro-centric, colonialist, and racist precisely because in today’s terms the two options available, the only two options, are to elevate identity, to “respect” it, or to deride it. The idea of being liberated from identity is not just taboo; it is outlandish. In fact, to challenge the notion of celebrating identities is already in the eyes of some a sign that one has moved to the right (which, in some cases, appears true). How can it not be when so countless ideas and conversations today refer at least implicitly to ideological tribes, and that to apparently leave one is, ipso facto, to join the other? This suggests a species of black-and-white thinking, a matter to which I turn more generally.

Original incentives toward tribalism were probably complex and varied. However, one clear encouragement must be black-and-white thinking (as distinct from thinking that arrives at dialectical conclusions). In a 1999 paper published by the American Psychological Association, the writers declare that Chinese ways of dealing with seeming contradictions result in a dialectical or compromise approach—retaining basic elements of opposing perspectives by seeking a ‘middle way.’ On the other hand, European-American ways, deriving from a lay version of Aristotelian logic, result in a differentiation model that polarizes contradictory perspectives in an effort to determine which fact or position is correct.2

The writers essentially claim that Westerners reason until contradictions are eliminated—observing a sort of law of noncontradiction—while the Chinese feel comfortable considering a more complex final picture. These tendencies apparently arose as cultural adaptations millennia ago. More individualistic pastoral life-ways promoted “a strong stance in communication styles, resulting in stronger polarization.” Rice cultivation, on the other hand, “may have encouraged the expression of moderate statements.”3 The inclination toward black-and-white thinking—what might be called mental tribalism—directly relates to a tendency to create polarized groups.

And how do individuals gravitate to one or the other of these camps? By reasoning, of course; and reasoning is our most advanced form of decision-making. But is the reasoning we think about really a departure from pre-modern modes of decision-making? I’d like to think so. Calling this into question implicitly, Ben Franklin joked: “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”

This might be more than a joke. Writing a century later, the Austrian philosopher Otto Neurath looked critically at rationality. Neurath determined4 two basic things in this regard. One, reason is, uncontroversially, one of humanity’s decision-making means. Two, more controversially, reason compares to older forms of decision-making such as religion and magic. Neurath said human beings need to make decisions quickly, often in the moment, and so often rely on limited information, and when faced with gaps in information or reasoning, resort to traditional notions or modes of judgment. He said, echoing Franklin, that many people practice “a pseudo-rationality bent on convincing others of the justice of their choices.” Neurath claimed it was wishful thinking to believe that we could build a “rational home from scratch while inhabiting a contingent lodging.” He used other metaphors to make his case. He saw that rational-aiming men “were seamen on a ship destined to continuously renovate their leaking vessel at sea, in the middle of storms and tempests, with no hope of ever docking the truth.” In a similar vein, Neurath felt that decisions “would never cease to entail a measure of uncertainty and men would always err in the forest of Descartes, without any hope of ever exiting it.”

But how do black-and-white thinking and the primitive nature of really-existing rationality relate to nationalism (not the general sort discussed by Orwell, but the more specific sort)? I already mentioned nationalism’s modernist pedigree. Nationalism proved a useful compromise with, not a transcendence of, pre-modern forms of in-group devotion and out-group demonization. Nationalism sought a new (or, renewed, newly focused) reason to include and exclude on seemingly rational grounds as a means toward overcoming pre-modern social systems. (Or, today, to some extent towards overcoming liberalism, as a degraded or antiquated answer to liberalism’s perceived and actual failures.) Nationalism meshed with a tendency of (particularly, wealth) power in the Enlightenment to oppose it going ‘too far’. A central focus, or manifestation, of this tendency, was the preservation of the state, the Leviathan, towards wealth-defense via wealth-power’s partial and always tense retreat from direct power and behind the rule of law.5 As we have seen, nationalism meant in-group devotion on a mass scale and in a manner suitable to both modernity and the needs of powerful groups. The social contract has served, particularly after the French Revolution, as a license for elite interests with nationalism as the vehicle. But of late, that arrangement changed as some capitalist interests have begun to transcend and lose interest in both the social contract and the nation-state.

In the wake of this, others have found nationalism in the street and picked it up. And what kind of nationalism is on the rebound? Is it the kind that attracted and inspired people in the developing world a half a century or more ago? Is it the sort which provides a framework for people seeking their own way forward against elite models judged harmful? Or is it an uglier form like that which brought much of the world to ruin in Orwell’s day? The answer is probably not simple. It appears to be all of that at once. We have all seen the images of recent marches of right-wing tribalists in Europe and America. The participants often do not shrink from open and clear emulation of the exact hypernationalists Orwell’s England helped to destroy. But as George Friedman, and others, argue, much of what we have seen is not the return of fascism (though there has been some that, at least symbolically), but of a more defensive nationalism not unlike that which found favor with everyone from the liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as Third Worlders eager to stake out their own path to modernization in the 20th. This sort of nationalism is more like “patriotism” of Orwell’s sort. Patriotism, he said, is a “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.” Friedman refers to this type of nationalism in his description of its recent revival:

The nation-state is reasserting itself as the primary vehicle of political life. Multinational institutions like the European Union and multilateral trade treaties are being challenged because they are seen by some as not being in the national interest.

In other words, people are reacting to the steamroller known as neoliberal capitalism and its demolition of the “Chinese walls”, in this case, European and US national borders and sovereignties, standing in its path. This virulent form of capitalism leverages state power—or, certain sectors do—to institute and guarantee its own power and expansion while at the same time discouraging populations from looking to the state to protect itself from the visibly harmful effects of that expansion and power.

In a recent interview, Harvard economist Dani Rodrik explained that globalization has torn societies apart, as evidenced, he said, by increasing inequality, as well as increased “social distance” within societies (between those few who benefit from globalization and the majority who do not), and the final severing of corporate interests from the well-being of the communities where they once resided but have long since transcended. Rodrik added that the nationalist backlash against this has been mostly of the “right-wing ethnonationalist” variety. The reason for this, he claimed, is the “left has been missing in action and that the center-left and the social democrats [the New Democrats in the US, and New Labour in the UK] have essentially been complicit in many of these changes since the 1990s.” It should be no surprise that many people would react to this in the manner most familiar to them, with Orwell’s patriotism, if of a more right-wing sort for the reason Rodrik stated.

Relatedly, Marine Le Pen’s economic program could have been written by Bernie Sander’s economic advisor, Stephanie Kelton. James Petras writes (on May Day 2017, no less!) that Le Pen supported a “Keynesian demand-driven industrial revitalization,” increased taxes “on banks and financial transactions” and fines for “capital flight”, as well as “direct state intervention to prevent factories from relocating to low wage EU economies and firing French workers”, among other policies. In other words, she intended to do for France what the New Deal did in part for the US (and what many hoped Sanders would do again): help the population and discipline capitalists—as distinct from the neoliberal model in which the population is disciplined and the capitalists are helped.  But, of course, we all know Le Pen was the grubby, far-right throwback while her finely-coiffed and ultimately successful political opponent, Emmanuel Macron, was the champion progressiste facing down dark nostalgias (represented by the likes of Le Pen) on the shining path to a splendid neoliberal future. Except, as it turns out, and as was clear at the time, Macron the non-nationalist/non-fascist is the very champagne-soaked ultra-neoliberal, austerity-enforcing, NATO and EU fanatic Petras claimed him to be. In other words, he is not precisely an alternative to fascism, but is certainly an enemy of French patriotism of the Orwell kind.

Neurath’s view of economics is relevant here. He avoided the Austrian tribe. He considered economics a ‘felicitology’—a study of relative happiness. He said man should be happy, not rational. It is not difficult to infer here that the supposed “rationality” of capitalist economic decisions is often no more than “a pseudo-rationality bent on convincing others of the justice of [a capitalist’s] choices.” Or, as lexicographer L.A. Rollins once put it, the invisible hand of the market is a “spook to which cowardly capitalists attribute responsibility for their actions.” Religion and magic, indeed.

But there is another angle regarding nationalism today over which Orwell might have bounded into the political breach. In the strange world of Trumpian America (strange both because of Trump and because of his mainstream opponents), the attendant rise of the so-called alt-right (old nationalism in a new bottle), and the threat that American empire might retreat, we find seemingly odd bedfellows aroused: Democratic Party-aligned liberals and progressives snuggling up with neoconservatives for a shared aversion to Trump. We know what bothers the Democrats; their star candidate (an adherent of the globalist neoliberal capitalism causing the widespread dislocation and alienation) lost. As for the neoconservatives, they hate Donald Trump not because he is race-baiting hero of the alt-right, but because, as James Carden put it, they are afraid “they could be frozen out of the corridors of power” for the duration of the Trump Administration.  (Of course, the appointment of John Bolton, also co-author or supporter of various neoconservative campaigns of deceit, as National Security Advisor, demonstrates the risk might be ephemeral.) Consummating this marriage, arguably, MSNBC host Joy Reid referred to neocon hawk Max Boot as one of her new besties; Ellen DeGeneres opened her couch to war criminal and dupe of neocons, George W. Bush; and the aforesaid Max Boot sent a love-letter to identitarian liberals confessing his “white privilege.”

In this Democratic-neoconservative fight against Trump, neoconservative Eliot Cohen, incidentally, and quite exasperatingly, leveraged the very Orwell essay mentioned here. In what he calls a modest plea for patriotic history, he cites Orwell’s idea of patriotism. He focuses on the idea that patriotism is “a devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world.” Cohen seems to like the passage for its apparent utility towards spreading dedication to American Exceptionalism. Cohen fails to note that Orwell called his sort of patriotism “defensive,” not expansive or imperialist, as it can only be in the hands of neoconservatives.

To further encourage an understanding of the disturbing nature of this coalition, a review of neoconservative behavior might help. They are quite a tribe and their resumé cannot but astonish. This group of fanatics engineered the greatest and most dangerous American propaganda operations of the late twentieth-early twenty-first centuries, which led to: the derailment of détente with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, disruption of arms control treaties and the creation of a new arms race in the 80s and 90s, and the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.6 The neoconservatives have also called for war on behalf of Israel (against Iraq and, arguably, ongoingly against others, like Iran and Syria). They highlighted the supposed need—not too long before 9/11—for a “new Pearl Harbor” to justify ramped-up US war spending and belligerence.7

If these Team B8 narratives—all, essentially, lies—were anything, they were cases of men wielding “pseudo-rationality bent on convincing others of the justice of their choices.” Choices based on untruths and which caused incalculable harm. These are the people with whom the Democrats have found common cause—because of Trump. Of course, beyond surface politics, it is not that strange that Democrats and neoconservatives might find some points of agreement. During the Cold War Democrats, like Republicans, more than once found exaggerated stories of foreign threats useful.

In any event, the anti-Trump alliance of Democrats and neoconservatives really serves to preserve and extend an extremist version of American Exceptionalism and imperial reach in the face of just the merest threat that it might be reined in. And this belligerent and greatly expansive version of tribalism, this Democratic-Neoconservative nationalism, is not being called that. In fact, it is not being called anything at all because it is mostly unrecognized or ignored.

So, what might this hodge-podge of facts and observations tell us about the subject at hand, tribalism, or what we might do about it? First, we might ask, do we construct opposites and categories less to understand than to sort and comfort? Do we know the difference? Have we missed the discontinuities as we gawk through the lens of continuity? For instance, why do new tribes, like the megatribe of Democratic-Neoconservative (trans)nationalism, arise? Why does old-style nationalism come into focus so readily while new formations seem entirely undetectable? Does our tendency to create polarized categories of ideas and people derive from a meaningfully rational process? Or, does it relate more directly to older—what we might consider primitive and irrational—social and intellectual modes?

Evaluating our reasoning processes along the lines of Neurath, we might find their similarity to religion and magic. We might begin to recognize this shortfall and exercise the ability to continually re-orient ourselves toward more genuinely rational modes of thinking. Stepping outside our tribalisms, outside our polarized manners of thinking, we may find that we have not confronted the present, nor much of anything, in a fully clear-eyed manner. Critically evaluating our cultural tendency to observe the law of noncontradiction, allowing instead for dialectical conclusions, might help to break up the mental and social reasoning processes that lead to polarization and tribalism. Instead of alternating between different tribalisms or formulating new ones (in the mistaken belief we have escaped them), we might find a way out of them entirely and know it when we do.

Instead of vacillating between capitalism and Marxism (absolute support for private property vs. absolute opposition to it), for instance, we might find a renewed interest in such nuanced political philosophies as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Mutualism or anarchism—both much closer than anything else to fulfilling basic Enlightenment ideals. Instead of alternating between internationalism and nationalism in the ongoing confrontation with neoliberal capitalism (and certain other forms of tribalism), perhaps we can find or devise structures suitable to popular power and liberation while retaining the ability to prevent their distortion to the benefit of elite interests.

  1. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press, 2008).
  2. Kaiping Peng and Richard E. Nisbett, “Culture, Dialectics, and Reasoning about Contradiction,” American Psychologist, September 1999.
  3. Michael Minkov, “Nations With More Dialectical Selves Exhibit Lower Polarization in Life Quality Judgments and Social Opinions,” Cross-Cultural Research 43, no. 3 (August 19, 2009).
  4. Neurath mostly wrote in German. These paraphrases come from Monika Poettinger, “The Uses of Rationality: Otto Neurath,” Paper presented at the 21st Annual ESHET Conference, University of Antwerp (Antwerp Belgium), May 18-20, 2017.
  5. See Jeffrey A. Winters, Oligarchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  6. Gordon R. Mitchell, “Team B Intelligence Coups,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 92, no. 2, May 2006, 144-173.
  7. Richard Perle, et al. “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies – Jerusalem, Washington, 1996 and The Project for a New American Century, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” The Project for a New American Century, Washington, DC, September 2000.
  8. Team B refers to secondary intelligence analysis groups first initiated in 1975 during the Ford Administration. Effectively, such groups, controlled by neoconservatives from early on, serve to disrupt the flow of quality intelligence to policymakers (particularly the kind that lead to moderate policies) in favor of distorted, hawkish analyses.

How Falling Down Can Lead to Waking Up

Sonoma County, California — The organic Kokopelli Farm has been my home, as well as my main work, identity, and love, for the last two-dozen years. Then I fell into a badger hole in the ground, covered by grass, on January 15 this year. I crawled painfully uphill back into the house, as if I were a baby. This unwelcome anniversary will remain in my now 73-year old body and memory.

The fall plunged me into deep reflections, followed by life-changing behavior. “You must change your life” is a poetry line from Rilke that kept emerging as I spent hours each day in bed, no longer able to provide “the farmer’s shadow” with daily walks on the land, so essential to good farming.

Growing up is not always easy, even for elders like myself, closer to my death date than my birth date. Maturing can be sparked by a sudden, unexpected incident, like falling. What to do, other than feel sorry for one’s self? How can one turn an apparent loss into a learning experience and gain knowledge from it for one’s self and others?

I began by lightening my load. I decided to give away hundreds of books, DVDs, records, furniture, luggage, dog things, etc., which I had been collecting for decades.

“I call that ‘essentializing,’ commented Alexandra Hart of Transition Sebastopol’s monthly Elders Salon, which has been happening since 2010. “Aging makes one slower, so it means simplifying and seems to require letting go of stuff.”

“We’ve noticed in the Elders Salon that loss almost inevitably brings some kind of gain,” Hart added.

I’ve appreciated the smiles of friends and strangers as they load up books and other things, taking them on a journey into their lives and homes. I’m even asked to autograph some of the 24 books to which I have contributed, reminding me that I can at least still write, even though my body has been diminished. I can still grab a pen, which is how this old-fashioned writer starts every article or book chapter, only using the computer for revisions.

The fall, though deeply painful into my vulnerable knee and neck, became a blessing in disguise. Many friends brought me chicken soup, other food, and helped lessen my isolation. I listened to their stories of having fallen, being sick, and experiencing excruciating pain. I now appreciate even more living in the small town of Sebastopol with its caring community.

Loss. Identity, Function, and Control

“Loss can be conceptualized along three intersecting axes: loss of control, loss of identity, and loss of relationships,” writes Dr. Barbara Sourkes in her book The Deepening Shade: Psychological Aspects of Life-Threatening Illness.

My identity as a farmer has considerable importance to me. I farm most days of the year. After my fall, I have been unable to farm for weeks—such a loss. Among my losses have been many basic body functions and control. I have also had to change my self-image and body-image. Being more dependent on others than usual has been a stretch. I’ve had identities other than as a farmer, especially as teacher and writer.

I’m used to having a good, solid bowel movement every morning, on schedule, which I looked forward to. Yet for two weeks after my fall I had no bowel movements and lost 15 pounds, which is 10% of my weight. What a relief when I began gaining weight and had my first bowel movements, though they came out mainly as liquid.

“When I’m physically drained, I often don’t feel like talking,” a client told Dr. Sourkes. As an introvert, though also a public person, I sometimes feel the same. Some friends have worn me down by their needs to talk, talk, talk. “I’m all talked out,” I say at times, which can make me feel like the bad guy.

My fall dramatically changed my self-image and body-image. I now consider myself temporarily (hopefully) disabled.  I notice others with canes and am more cautions with my movements, which have been limited. As my friend David Goff writes, “Falling is scary.”

Friends tell their stories

Instead of hiding my fears, I have been sharing them with friends, some of whom report their own stories. “You strike a familiar chord of vulnerability that we all face, especially in our later years,” observed body-worker Jeff Rooney. “I work with many people now older than I and a big theme is falling and fear of falling. People know from observing others that falling is often a step away from dying. A hip breaks and before you know it, the person is gone.”

Being in bed alone for hours can be boring, oh so boring. Add some pain and it can be even worse, with sleep being difficult. At times I have felt distant and even absent from this now-broken body.

“With my long illness I have had to reevaluate what I can do, which is tied to who I am,” writes my friend Janus Matthes. “Passing along our worldly goods is a positive action as we round third base.”

“I chose to embrace and not fight age and what goes with aging–less energy, more simplicity, enjoy what things truly feed my soul,” she added. “We are such a youth culture in this country. As I age, I realize we all have our day in the sun and hope the youthful generations take full advantage of their time on this most amazing planet.”

“Reflecting on my upcoming April hip replacement and the 3 surgeries I’ve had in the past 4 years has put me through many changes and changed the way I look at life, see myself and look at the world,” said my neighbor Robert Teller. “It has taken me on many journeys, altered my life style, challenged my spiritual core and offered me an inner peace that I have not known before.”

One date stands out in my recovery: Jan. 27, which was my most painful day. I’ve never contemplated taking my life, except on that day. That extreme pain, accompanied by crying and screaming, educated me about why some people commit suicide. Fortunately, I had a strong painkiller. I took it reluctantly and was finally able to sleep. Blessed Be!

One means of taking some control of one’s life as a person feels loosing it because of sickness or something else is to do what I am doing here—write it down.

So what have I been learning from my fall and the subsequent shut-in? Now I know, in my body, that one day it’s going to all be over and now I am a step closer to death. I’ve been here before, in my mind, but now I feel it in my soul and in the core of who I am.

Humans are so “fragile,” my brother Steve Bliss recently reminded me about we two-footeds. I am actually now three-footed, since I walk with a cane, to stabilize myself, but that should eventually change. “Tomorrow’s a new day,” my brother reminded me, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

This learning experience is still evolving. So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I feel suspended between the no-longer and the not-yet.

Or as the elder Doug von Koss recently quoted a Sufi saying, “We have three days to live, and two of them are gone.”