Monday, July 1, 2013

Meditations on Subversiveness, Volume 1

The following document is not intended to be an academic article or a reserve of privileged knowledge, and as such shall contain no citations. Ideas, once shared with others are no longer the exclusive 'property' of the person who thought them, and as such, declaring any individuals 'authors' of this work or ideas therein would be nothing short of preposterous.

It is therefore declared that this document was written by everyone in the Collective Consciousness, and this document is hereby declared to be released into the public domain in perpetuity.
 -Everyone, January 2013


Only by accepting the limitations of science can we appreciate how important and necessary it is. Science can be understood as 'using experimental research methods in order to find out more about the world and how it works'. Science can therefore bring us closer to the answers of many of life's important questions.

Science works on an additive model of knowledge that is constantly refined and reworked in order to get closer to 'truth'. (in theory, anyway In practice, some scientists are less flexible than they should be, and are thus working against the condition of openness to new thought required by science). What this means is that if a scientist comes up with a model of rules to explain a phenomenon, this model must be subject at any time in the future to testing and revision, and if the model cannot answer for certain conditions, it means that the model requires improvement, or else must have the irrelevant parts discarded (not erased, merely set aside until which point they become useful again). As such, science does not hold any knowledge as sacred or immutable - the knowledge is only as good as the utility that can be gained from it.

An example of scientific progress can be explained as follows:
A long time ago in ancient Greece, the philosopher Aristotle wrote that objects of different weights will, when dropped, fall to Earth at different speeds depending on their weight, because heavier objects are attracted more strongly by the Earth's gravity. He did not, however, test this hypothesis (statement relating to science). Later, the Italian mathematician Galileo did test it, and found it not to be true. What this meant was not that Aristotle was lying, but that this particular statement of his needed to be updated. Methods of science will take this update into account and present Galileo's argument over Aristotle's, judging it to be superior because it holds more explanatory power.

What Galileo was able to explain was that the force of drag explained why some objects fall to Earth faster than others far better than the weight of the objects. Drag is air resistance - when an object falls to Earth, it falls through air, which resists the movement and slows down the object. That is why objects have a property called a terminal velocity - the fastest that such an object can fall to Earth, as at the speed of terminal velocity, air resistance counteracts any further acceleration. To indicate just how wrong Aristotle was, think of this as an example:

A skydiver (person who jumps out of a plane or helicopter with a parachute) can reach a top speed of about 160 km/h if he holds his arms and legs up in the air while falling.
This same person (so no difference in weight can account for the speed) can fall at 230 km/h by changing the angle of falling to be shaped like an arrow - this means that air will not slow the person down as much.

Religion and anarchism

The original message of the great religious teachers to live a simple life, to share the wealth of the earth, to treat each other with love and respect, to tolerate others and to live in peace invariably gets lost as worldly institutions take over. Religious leaders, like their political counterparts, accrue power to themselves, draw up dogmas, and wage war on dissenters in their own ranks and the followers of other religions. They seek protection from temporal rulers, bestowing on them in return a supernatural legitimacy and magical aura. They weave webs of mystery and mystification around naked power; they join the sword with the cross and the crescent. As a result, in nearly all cases organised religions have lost the peaceful and tolerant message of their founding fathers, whether it be Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed.

This should not serve as a reason not to be spiritual or religious yourself, but a reminder to distrust powerful organisations that take advantage of human desire for spiritual counsel by taking your money, organising wars, abusing women by campaigning against abortion rights and legitimising the power structures of patriarchy and government.

Society and suffering

There is no transcendence to be found in suffering. Suffering is to be avoided wherever possible. If presented with the argument that suffering makes a person stronger, not only is it  perhaps that it assuredly does not, but that even if that were true, strength and power is not what one needs, but vulnerability, sensitivity and empathy so that others may suffer less. What suffering drains is motivation. Motivation is that which you need to be energetic, passionate, helpful, optimistic, kind and productive. A motivated person achieves far better than any person that does not care. Suffering makes a person desensitised and in order to cope with the horror of it, people become apathetic -they lose the ability to have strong and passionate feelings, as there is so much pain. The result is that the person no longer wants to try new things - they are no longer motivated.

Prison as a punishment is abhorrent because it encourages violent aspects of behaviour to take precedence over empathy and sensitivity, in order to survive.

In order to flourish, society must align survival and sensitivity, not put them at odds with each other. Society must make an effort to avoid selecting for brutality (artificial selection, cf. war, prison, capitalism).

Discourses are broad categories of ideas, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours associated with a subject. They explain the context into which such entities fit and how they are organised. This article undertakes discourse of anarchism by calling several other discourses to attention and discussing them.

It is important to understand, that while discourses are shared by society to a greater or lesser extent, what they mean to you as an individual will always be 'filtered' through your own experience. Their subjective meaning to you will not be equal to what everyone else thinks, and this is necessary for you to have subjective experience in the first place.

There is no universal moral code that should dictate human behaviour. There is no universal standard of right and wrong. Our morals and values come from us and belong to us, whether we like it or not, so we should claim them proudly for ourselves, as our own creations, rather than seeking some external justification for them.

Morality has been externally justified for so long that today we hardly know how to conceive of it in any other way. We have always had to claim that our values came from something external to us, because basing values on our own desires was labelled evil by 'moral law' preachers. Today we still feel instinctively that our actions must be justified by something outside of ourselves, something 'greater' than ourselves, if not God, then by moral law, state law, public opinion, 'justice',  'love of man' . We have been so conditioned by centuries of asking permission to feel things and do things, of being forbidden to base any decisions on our own needs, that we still want to think we are obeying a higher power even when we act on our own desires and beliefs.

It feels so good to be justified by some higher force, to be obeying 'justice' and upholding moral law and 'fighting evil' that people get caught up in their roles as moral enforcers and forget to question whether the idea of moral law makes sense in the first place.

So much bloodshed, deception and aggression has already been perpetrated in the name of right and wrong. The bloodiest wars have been fought between opponents who each thought they were fighting on the side of moral truth. The idea of moral law doesn't help us get along, it turns us against each other, to contend over whose moral law is the 'true' one.

A system of ethics might be preferable to the 'moral law' as described above. It is my contention that humans learn, both culturally and instinctively, from a very young age what is 'right and wrong', but then learn to discount that knowledge because of 'moral law'.

So to go back to the rather simpler way of thinking, one way to approach ethics is in the following way:

1) no harm
2) the most possible good
in every situation.

To unpack it, 1) is: never act in such a way that increases the likelihood that anyone will suffer.  This is the first 'rule', however, if you think about it, it is more like common sense than a rule. The thought 'do unto others as you would have them to do you' descends from this line of thinking, but I believe that it is more important to do no harm than to act the exact way you would choose others to act upon you (which might be harmful).
2) is a bit more complicated, but see it like this: You as a human being have the means, in many situations, to improve the lives of others. This can be as simple as having a kind word for somebody, or as difficult and complicated as raising a child from birth to adulthood. This 'rule' thus suggests the following to you: look at your situation and decide whether you have the means to help the person, and if you do, then help them. A person might truly not be able to afford to give money to a beggar even if they appear to be rich. The point is, this person is not obliged to help. The only thing that person is obliged to do is not harm. However, if this person does have the means to help and does so, that is a testament to the ability of people to help each other.

It is my hope that some day, the majority of people will be able to take responsibility for themselves yet still be interdependent on one another's kindness and helpfulness. It is my belief that capitalism makes it harder for people to help each other rather than easier, as it rewards selfish behaviour such as hoarding, intrusive advertising, and competition over co-operation.


Do you enjoy being controlled by others who don't understand or care about your wants and needs? Do you get anything out of obeying the instructions of employers, the restrictions of landlords, the laws of magistrates, people who have powers over you that you would never have granted them willingly?
How did they get all this power, anyway?
A potential answer is Hierarchy.
Hierarchy is a value system in which your worth is measured by the number of people and things you control, and how dutifully you obey those above you. You're afraid to disobey those above you because they can bring to bear against you the power of everyone under them, and you're afraid to abdicate your power over those below you as they may end up above you.

It is our hierarchical system that teaches us from childhood to accept the power of any authority figure, regardless of whether it is in your best interest or not. It is hierarchical values that are responsible for racism, classism, sexism and such prejudices deeply engrained in society. It is hierarchy that makes rich people look at poor people as though they aren't even human, and vice versa. It is hierarchy at work when your boss makes sexual advances at you and you can't do anything about it, just as it is when police flaunt their power over you. For power does make people cruel and heartless, and submission does make them cowardly and stupid, and most people in a hierarchical system partake in both.

It would be wrong to see anarchism as a 'world order' of sorts. Anarchism is more like an orientation of self. It is taking the decision to think for yourself rather than trusting authority. The refusal to accept the 'god-given' authority of nation, law or any force as being more significant than your personal autonomy. It would be an instinctive distrust of those who claim to have some sort of rank or status above the others around them, and an unwillingness to claim such status for oneself. And finally, a refusal to place responsibility for yourself in the hands of others, to demand that each of us should not only be able to seek our own destiny, but to do so actively.

We have been conditioned over thousands of years that we need bosses and masters to control our behaviour, to tell us when we should work and when we should take breaks.
Perhaps today, in several work situations when the boss isn't looking, very little work gets done, chaos ensues when governments fall, and violence sometimes occurs when police aren't around. But are these really indications that there is no better way we could organise society?
Isn't it possible that maybe the workers don't do their work when they aren't actively being prodded because they are used to being treated in this way - they resent being inspected, instructed, condescended to by their managers, and don't want to do anything extra for them than they have to?
Perhaps if they were all working together as partners toward a common goal, rather than being paid to take orders, working towards objectives they have no say in and that aren't interesting, they would be more productive.
Perhaps not everyone is ready for such a change in society today. However, it is likely that our 'laziness' is conditioned rather than natural, and in a different environment, we may find that we don't need bosses in order to get things done.

While it is extraordinarily difficult to come up with a universal definition of an emotion such as love, which is surely represented in infinitely different ways by different cultural narratives, one may start with a biological understanding.
In this paradigm of knowledge, love is an emotion. That is to say, when you are in love, the following statements hold true:
you feel a strong attachment to a person
you desire positive outcomes for that person's intents and goals, and take steps to
maximise the happiness of the person
you feel excited, passionate and motivated, with thoughts of that person being the stimulus for these feelings
Love thus acts for humans, I feel, as an impetus to be good and to act for the good of all humanity, because the happiness of the person you love makes you happy too. Not that acting for the good of humans that you do not love cannot engender happiness, but rather that you have a direct 'reward', in that you get to feel the positive emotions because you come to regard the person you love as being an extension of yourself.
And that is the dark side to love - coming to depend on the other person to supply those positive emotions for you, even at the expense of their own emotions. This is why some relationships can start out fine but later become abusive and one-sided.
I believe a way to conquer this is to always take responsibility for your feelings. Always. It's a very tough thing to admit, but if you really love somebody, it will be better for both of you in the long term to know that you alone are accountable, in full, for everything that you feel. That way, if you or the other should feel that it is better to end a relationship, either of you has the complete autonomy to make this choice. The relationship cannot be said to be a sincerely loving relationship if even one of the people in it would be happier out of it. In that way, people who stay together despite not loving each other are undermining the power and beauty of love.
In this way I can summarise that love is a good emotion, and one of the most likely to produce lasting happiness if done well. It is vulnerable to many pitfalls along the way, especially because of how powerfully obsessive the feelings can become.
While love might be something you can feel in your body, especially your stomach, it would be helpful to see how your brain processes it. I keep referring to love as an emotion because that's what I believe it primarily is. The person you love is a stimulus for brain activity rather than the cause of it. While the mechanisms of love in the brain are extremely complicated and much research still needs to be done, here are two brain chemicals thought to be responsible for (different) feelings of love.

-Dopamine: This is the one most likely to come in first (when you start obsessing about somebody and associate multitudes of positive emotions with this person, those happy feelings are strongly influenced by dopamine. Dopamine functions like a 'reward chemical' because it makes you happy and motivated, and in this way helps you 'learn' what to do in life.
-Oxytocin: Apart from facilitating easier childbirth and rearing functions for women, oxytocin (in both sexes) promotes a feeling of trust, ease and attachment for one's mate.
In summation, therefore, love is one of the most positive emotions in the human repertoire, and one of the most powerful, too. As such, it is important for anarchists to fall in love and express it as a way of fighting against the apathy produced by the system, because of the way it can motivate people.


While it is certainly possible to enjoy sex with someone you do not love, there is no doubt that if you do love the person, the sex will be incomparably more enjoyable.
On a physical level, sex is contact of (certain) organs between people. I hold that the most important sex organ, however, is the brain. Sex and orgasm are likely to result in increased dopamine production, and in the case of established relationships, increased oxytocin production as well.
If done well, sex can result in many hours of ecstasy following the act, as well of a strengthening of a bond. That is why it is important to ensure that the person you're having sex with is someone that you want a stronger bond with - otherwise, unequal expectations from the participants will soon result in unhappiness.

It is really important that every sexual act you ever perform, 100% of the time, is done with the full consent of anyone involved. It is aberrant to force anything sexual upon anyone, as for sex to be beautiful and meaningful, it must respect everyone's autonomy, that is, they must choose it of their own free will. Doing it any other way undermines the beauty and importance of the act.

It is not for me or anyone else to tell you that any kind of sex is immoral or wrong if it does not violate the principle of consent. As with my point on love in the previous section, sexuality is represented in many many different ways by different cultures. If anyone tries to convince you that an iteration of consensual sex is wrong (likely examples are gay sex, lesbian sex or BDSM, but there are an infinite number of other examples) then not only are they lying to you, but they are disrespecting the potential of sexuality itself. Disregard any such advice.

Capitalism and the 'free' market

The dominant economic system in the world right now is capitalism. It is a system where money is strongly proportional to power -that is, the more money you have, the more power you can accrue. Money thus takes on a symbolic representation of being a person's 'value to society'.

This representation is wrong.

Capitalists claim money flows based on supply and demand. This would only be true if everyone held the same opinions about money and value, and everyone were equally (and well) educated in the system of economics.
Instead, what money flow comes to rely on is perceived supply and perceived demand, leading to perceived value. My point though is that value is necessarily a consensus variable and not something that exists in an objective reality to be translated into a dollar or rand value. Value can only have meaning in context. Furthermore, systems such as debt, inflation, wasted tax, planned obsolescence and exchange rates further complicate matters to such an extent that money is a very poor indicator indeed of a measure of a person's contribution to society, and an absolutely useless measure of what a person 'deserves' to receive. No other person should have the right to decide what your needs are and what you deserve.

And as for the 'free' market? This is where capitalists are most duplicitous, for it should be patently clear to even the most elementary of observation processes that the market is not free. The less money you have to start with, the less able you are to seek skills that allow you to make more, and the more likely you are, for a multitude of reasons to become distressed and dissatisfied with life, and to work as hard as any manager, CEO, doctor or lawyer does, yet never get paid as well as they, nor respected for it. This is not fair, life should not be like this. We as a whole human race deserve better.

Aberrant behaviour

One of the most prevalent images of a 'villainous' character in Western history is that of Adolf Hitler, the president of Germany from 1933 until 1945, when Germany's army lost the city of Berlin, he committed suicide. He is considered villainous because the Nationalist Socialist political party ('Nazi party' for short) was famous for its genocide of Jewish people, gay people, gypsies and political dissidents. In an extermination programme called the Holocaust, 6 million people were murdered, along with the massive death and suffering created by the war that was happening at the same time (World War 2).

Any student of history will know that this type of genocide is not unique to Germany during the war period. Indeed, certain conditions absolutely have driven people to murder each other by the millions (cf. Josef Stalin's Russia, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, Genghis Khan's military conquest of most of Asia, and many others).
What one needs to remember is that all too often, Hitler is represented as the person that did all of that.

The massive task, logistically, of killing 6 million people would require a substantial effort from thousands of other people.
Hitler may have organised, commanded and subsequently approved of the mass slaughter. But it needed to be performed  by what one might call 'ordinary people' - people, just doing their jobs, doing what they were told, i.e. a Gestapo officer could say "it is my job to rid the world of people my leader considers unworthy, and I need to get paid, so I will do that".
So the problem is not that a single man such as Hitler could be so evil. The problem is that a person with evil intentions can accrue so much power, people were forced to obey.
It wasn't Hitler they were obeying. It was power.

No comments:

Post a Comment